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Safaris in Botswana: Top National Parks to Visit

by Cris Puscas

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The leader in low impact, upmarket tourism, Botswana offers an eco-friendly approach to a true wilderness experience. 

From the abundant wildlife that can be found in Chobe and Moremi National Parks to the mokoro canoe safaris in the Okavango Delta, exploring Botswana will give you a chance to see nature at its finest. 

The low-density tourism and the off-the-beaten-path destinations could make planning a safari in Botswana a bit overwhelming. Read on to discover the top national parks to visit in Botswana, as well as when it’s best to plan your trip and what they are famous for.

Chobe National Park

elephants in chobe national park, botswana

Located in north-west Botswana, near the borders with Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, this national park is crossed by the Chobe, one of Africa’s magical rivers. Sprawling over 11000 sq km/ 4247 sq miles, it is the country’s second largest park.

The icon view in the park is seeing elephants swim across the river. In the late afternoon, large herds of elephants and buffalo come to drink at the drive.

Chobe National Park is excellent for wildlife viewing. Four of the Big Five are present and easily seen. The rhinoceros is absent, but there are plenty of lions, leopards, hippos, crocodiles, and wild dogs to be seen. The zebras and hyenas are quite common, too.

The park can be explored both on a boat and by car. Both Mokoro (dugout canoe) safaris and jeep safaris are great options to discover all that the park has to offer.

  • How to get to Chobe National Park: Boat trips leave directly from Kasane Airport (BBK), but if you combine the park with other destinations, the better choices are Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) in Zimbabwe, or Livingstone Airport (LVI). Your safari operator will tell you where to fly into as they typically include the transfer
  • Park fee per day: Adults (18 years and above) non-resident 120 BWP (13.20 USD), child (8-17 years) non-resident 60 BWP (5.61 USD), children under 8 years old free
  • Best time to visit: All year round, but August to October is the best time for the riverfront area
  • Famous for: Elephants swimming across the river, mokoro safaris

 

Moremi Game Reserve

sun setting over moremi game reserve

Photo Credit: Hammerhead27 Flickr via Compfight cc

Described as one of the most beautiful game reserves in Africa, Moremi Game Reserve is located in the Okavango Delta. Although it is just under 5,000 sq km (1,900 sq mi), it is a diverse reserve, combining woodland and acacia forest, lagoons, and floodplains.

All of the Big Five animals are present in the park and quite easily spotted. Both the black and white rhino have been reintroduced in the park, but the sightings are quite rare. Elephant and hippo sightings are abundant, while giraffes, buffalos, zebras, and wildebeest are common. Occasionally, lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs can also be spotted. The red lechwe can be seen here, as well as other antelopes such as tsessebe, sable, and roan. In the channels, the spotted-necked and African clawless otters can be seen.

One can choose a jeep safari for excellent wildlife viewing, offering more sightings than the mokoro safaris. 

  • How to get to Moremi Game Reserve: The most convenient point of entry is Maun Airport (MUB). Most safari operators include the transfer in the safari cost
  • Park fee per day: Adults (18 years and above) non-resident 120 BWP (13.20 USD)
  • Best time to visit: July to October is best for wildlife viewing
  • Famous for: Spotting the Red Lechwe antelope, Big Five sightings

 

Okavango Delta

hippo in okavango delta

Okavango Delta is one of the most famous destinations in Africa. It comprises Moremi Game Reserve, as well as several private game reserves. It was named one of the Seven Natural Wonders in Africa and was officially included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2014.

The swampy inland delta is home to both permanent and seasonal wildlife. Black and white rhinos are very rarely seen. Elephants and buffalos are very common, lions and leopards can be seen occasionally, which means four of the Big Five animals are quite easily spotted here and all of them are present. The rare red lechwe can be spotted here, as well as the wild dog. Other antelopes present in the area are tsessebe, sable, and roan.

The excellent wildlife viewing and stunning scenery are best observed on a walking safari or a mokoro safari. Of course, game drives are also a good option.

  • How to get to Okavango Delta: The easiest way is to fly into Maun Airport (MUB). Most safari operators include the transfer in the safari cost
  • Park fee per day: If you choose Moremi Game Reserve, adults (18 years and above) non-resident 120 BWP (13.20 USD); else it depends on each private reserve
  • Best time to visit: July to October, best for wildlife viewing
  • Famous for:  Spotting the rare red lechwe antelope, walking safaris, mokoro safaris

 

 

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

kalahari game reserve

The biggest reserve in Botswana, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is located in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, 250 km/ 155 mi south of Maun. Pure wilderness and an inhospitable habitat make it a unique park that doesn’t support a wide variety of safari animals. However, the sightings here are special.

The game reserve is famous for the chance of seeing the striking Kalahari black-maned lions. Herds of wildebeest, oryx, and springbok have adapted to the desert and they can be spotted walking along the dunes. Cheetahs also thrive here. With a bit of luck, it’s possible to post a wild dog, too. Other animals that can be seen here are the spotted hyena, brown hyena, bat-eared fox, yellow mongoose, and the suricate.

A jeep safari is a great way to see the animals but if you are more adventurous, opt for a walking safari. The guides will make sure you have a great experience.

  • How to get to Central Kalahari Game Reserve: The main point of entry is Maun Airport (MUB). Most safari operators include the transfer in the safari cost.
  • Park fee per day: Adults (18 years and above) non-resident 120 BWP (13.20 USD)
  • Best time to visit: All year round, but December to March for the best wildlife viewing when the animals gather around the pans in the Deception Valley area.
  • Famous for: The Kalahari black-maned lions, off-the-beaten-track safari destination

 

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

antelope in Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park is a merger of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. Most tourism happens on the South Africa side, which has excellent facilities. The Botswana side has very basic campsites.

The sand dunes in this inhospitable desert are a great backdrop for wildlife viewing and photography. The wildlife viewing is excellent, especially for predators’ sightings. Expect to see leopard, lion, and cheetah. Other animals you may encounter are hyenas, suricate, ground squirrel, and pangolin.

Morning and sunset jeep safaris are an excellent way to see this magnificent off-the-beaten-path park.

  • How to get to Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park: From the Botswana side, the recommended point of entry is Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE), just outside the capital city of Gaborone. From the South African side, it’s likely you’ll fly into OR Tambo International Airport (JNB). Transfer to/from either airport is usually included within the safari cost
  • Park fee per day: Foreign visitor adult 356 R (24.84 USD); child 178 R (12.42 USD)
  • Best time to visit: March to May, the end of the wet season
  • Famous for: Stunning desert scenery, predators’ sightings

Fascinated by the wildlife and scenery in these national parks? Why not book a safari in Botswana to see them with your own eyes?

 

 

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