Botswana is home to a very wide range of wildlife, from great herbivores to elusive predators
The varied habitats of Botswana and the variety of different activities on offer allow visitors to enjoy a very wide-ranging game viewing experience in a relatively short period of time.
Elephants favour the mopane and mixed woodland which stretches across much of northern Botswana and gather in huge numbers during the dry season when water sources are most limited. Boat cruises on the Chobe River are especially productive for elephant viewing and photography. In the Okavango Delta, elephant-back experiences are possible, whilst the Mashatu Game Reserve is also excellent for elephant.
Botswana is arguably the best country in Africa to see wild dogs in the wild. The Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park are home to several packs of wild dogs, though it is perhaps the Linyanti region where sightings are most regular.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are home to a meerkat colony which has been habituated and provides an intimate and amazing meerkat experience, whilst the region is also one of the best places in Africa to see Brown hyaena. From December to April, the plains around Makgadikgadi attract a great zebra migration, which in turns brings the predators, whilst nocturnal creatures such as aardvark and aardwolf can be seen all year round on night drives.
The Okavango Delta is a great birding destination and home to many wonderful species such as black egret, purple heron, Malachite kingfisher, carmine and blue-cheeked bee-eaters and black coucal. In particular, the Delta is arguably the best place in Africa to view Pels fishing owl. From September onwards, huge heronries can be visited from a few specific camps. The Okavango Delta is also home to the rare and shy sitatunga, an antelope specially adapted for life amongst the extensive papyrus reed-beds which have formed along the margins of permanent water, a well as Cape clawless and spotted-necked otters.
Red lechwe and tsessebe are common on the Okavango Delta floodplains, whilst the beautiful and fairly rare sable and roan antelope are found throughout the woodland areas of the Okavango, Linyanti and Chobe. In Chobe, puku and Chobe bushbuck can be seen along the river frontage, whilst oryx, red hartebeest and springbok inhabit the drier Kalahari.
Big cat viewing is excellent, especially lion and leopard which are prevalent through all regions. In the Kalahari the male lions are known for their dark manes. Cheetah are present throughout the country, but in recent years have been easiest to find in the Okavango Delta, Nxai Pan National Park and Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Night drives are especially productive for leopard sightings, as well as some of the smaller cats such as serval and African wild cat. Other nocturnal species which are often seen include honey badger, large spotted genet, porcupine, white-tailed mongoose, civet and the crepuscular bat-eared fox.
Please see our ‘regions’ section for more detailed information on Botswana’s different wildlife areas.