Frances visits Botswana

Botswana was one of the destinations right at the top of my list of places to get very excited about travelling to. Having been at Safari Consultants for a few years now, and hearing everyone’s enthusiasm for this spectacular and exclusive wilderness land, I couldn’t wait to discover it for myself.

One of the first things that struck me about Botswana was the flat terrain. As you fly between each area, you can see for miles and miles, just empty wilderness stretching out ahead of you, inviting you to explore. The internal flights give you a real sense of the scale of the country as you soar above the unspoilt landscape.

The second thing that struck me was the remoteness and how empty the land is. Botswana is a similar size to France and has a population of around 2 million (the majority of which live in the south-east of the country away from the northern and central safari wilderness areas). Botswana is known for its exclusivity and the government has taken an active role in ensuring this with a ‘high-revenue, low-volume’ tourism policy. A vast majority of the land is divided up into private concessions with restrictions on how many camps/beds can be built. This means that a safari in Botswana is in general not a budget option, but the feeling of exclusivity you get is incomparable. As you float through the Delta on a mokoro, landing on a little island for your morning coffee, it’s not hard to feel like you’re the only people on the planet. As you spend the morning driving through a private concession in the Linyanti, and stopping to watch some lions settle down for the daylight heat, not even coming within earshot of another vehicle all morning, that’s when you really appreciate the magic of Botswana.

The third thing that struck me was that the game viewing had a very different pace and feel to it than somewhere like South Africa or Kenya. Nothing is on a plate for you in Botswana, but this means that it is wholly more rewarding. You can spend the morning driving through a stunning area, marvelling at the surreal beauty of a dead tree forest, admiring the palm trees along the horizon, wondering at the expanse of space you have before you and then suddenly come across a pack of wild dog. I feel that the T.S Eliot quote ‘the journey, not the destination matter’ is apt for Botswana. This is particularly the case at the time of year we were travelling. May is a lovely time of year to be in Botswana but it is the beginning of the season, so the grass may still be a little long, the Okavango may still be coming into flood, but it will be dry, bright, clear and don’t forget cold. May to July is the Southern Africa winter and it was bitterly cold at night and in the early mornings. May and June are also often a lot better value than the peak season period between July and October.

Finally, the fourth thing that struck me was the wide variety that Botswana has to offer – in terms of landscapes and eco-systems, but also in terms of activities. The scope of a safari in Botswana is wide. There are camps specifically dedicated to walking, the charming Footsteps camp on the Shinde concession is a gem for anyone looking to leave the vehicle behind for a few days. There are camps specifically dedicated to water activities – the Jao concession in the Delta is home to Pelo Camp – a stunning bush camp on a heart shaped island (pelo means heart in Setswana) in the Delta where all activities are water-based – boat cruises, mokoro excursions, fishing and relaxing by the little infinity pool in your own little paradise. There are camps dedicated solely to land activities, where the game viewing is fantastic and your focus is on game drives only and there are camps which can offer everything! A trip to Botswana can include multiple different environments and large contrasts, from the wetlands of the Okavango Delta to the sparse ecosystem of the Kalahari and the big game bush wilderness of the Kwando/Linyanti eco-system. This makes for a wonderfully varied trip that’s hard to beat in terms of variety elsewhere in Africa.

You can read Julia’s trip report here for a more detailed overview of our exact trip. I have certainly come away from Botswana wanting to go back – there is just so much to enjoy and with the nuances between the different areas, different camps and different activities, it is a country with many depths and is a must for any serious safari enthusiast.

During Fran’s visit to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, she stayed at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls River Lodge, Muchenje Safari Lodge, Lebala Camp, Selinda Camp, Kanana Camp, Pelo Camp, Shinde Camp, Okuti Camp and Savute Under Canvas. She site inspected Pioneers Camp, Lagoon Camp, Selinda Explorers Camp, Zarafa Camp, Jacana Camp, Footsteps Across the Delta, Camp Moremi, Camp Xakanaxa and Savute Safari Lodge.