Well known as one of the great safari destinations in Africa, Botswana offers some of the most beautiful, luxurious, and active safari experiences in Africa.
A Botswanan safari can never be long enough, and never experienced often enough. Although one of the flattest countries you will ever visit, Botswana is blessed with an incredible variety of landscapes and eco-systems.
It is the very flatness of Botswana which has created some of the world's most special wilderness areas, and exploring the Kalahari, Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Salt Pans rewards you with memories for a lifetime.
Easily accessible from Johannesburg, and simply combined with Victoria Falls, Botswana needs to be on your safari list if you are planning a visit to Southern Africa.
As soon as you land in Maun or Kasane, you will know that you have arrived in a country which operates like nothing you have experienced before.
With the warthogs running through the streets of Kasane, and the hippos grunting in the Chobe River, your welcome to Botswana is one which tells you straight away you are in Africa's wilds.
Originally created to be a sanctuary for the San people inhabiting the Kalahari, the Central Kalahari is one of the largest, yet most remote, game reserves around.
Although growing in popularity now, the Central Kalahari is a park which is largely skipped by visitors to Botswana. This means you can experience the park in privacy, taking advantage of the excellent and unique wildlife sightings, without seeing many other people at all on the vast plains and ancient river beds which make up the landscape.
Gemsbok (oryx) and springbok dominate the wildlife, while lions, honey badgers, cheetahs and zebra are also easily found.
Accessed easily via a 1.5 hour flight from Johannesburg, or a 1 hour drive from Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park is the most visited park on a Boswana safari itinerary.
With an enormous elephant population, as well as magnificent birdlife and a huge array of herbivores and aquatic animals, it is often hard to believe that Chobe National Park is for real.
The game viewing starts from the moment you land at Kasane Airport, or drive across the border from Zambia or Zimbabwe, with warthogs foraging in the streets, buffalo being habitual visitors to the town, and hippos lazing around in the river.
Just when you thought that lodges could not get any more remote or wild in Botswana! In the far north of the country, bordering Namibia, you will find the Selinda Spillway, the Linyanti River and Marsh, and the Kwando River. The Spillway is the waterway which connects the Okavango Delta with the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers, which then flow on to become the Chobe River.
The wilderness areas supported by these waters have been divided into private concessions, on which are scattered very few, very luxurious, lodges.
These are wonderful, out of the way locations, with unspoilt scenery, and excellent wildlife.
Pronounced "Makgadikgadi," these salt pans in the centre of Botswana are the remnants of the largest lake in Africa, which dried up thousands of years ago. The shimmering white, deadly landscape adds to Botswana's adventurous reputation, with only the bravest of early explorers having the courage to try and cross the seemingly endless wasteland.
We are fortunate nowadays to explore these pans from the comfort of a 4x4, and the luxury of lodges with swimming pools and shaded tents. However, even with these amenities, the Makgadikgadi Pans evoke a sense of adventure in travellers. Including the salt pans in a Botswana safari adds to the remarkable variety of your holiday, and to the beauty of your photo album.
Botswana’s tourism capital lies on the southern fringes of the Okavango Delta, and still, despite recent modernisations, carries the feeling of a dusty, frontier town. For many tourists, Maun is the point of entry into the Delta, and often into Botswana, with direct flights from both Johannesburg and Gaborone.
Maun is the administrative centre of Ngamiland District, which is home to a fascinating variety of ethnic groups: the Hambukushu, Basubiya and Bayei – all of central African origins, who know the Okavango intimately, having expertly exploited and utilised its abundant resources for centuries. There are also the Banoka – the River Bushmen, who are the Okavango’s original inhabitants, the Bakgalagadi, and the Baherero, who originate from Namibia, and whose women can be seen wearing brightly coloured victorian style dresses as they stroll along the town roads, or sit outside their traditional rondavels.
Frequently, the ‘people’ side of the Okavango is overlooked, with tourists merely using Maun as a transit point to embark for the Delta. However, exploring the traditional villages along the western fringes of the Delta, in the panhandle area, is worth the time and effort, and for many tourists, becomes a real highlight of their travels in Botswana.
The dramatic surge in the numbers of tourists coming to Botswana in the 1980s brought equally dramatic changes to Maun. Safari companies abound, and their signposts dot the sandy parking lots. Modern malls, shops, hotels and guesthouses have sprung up everywhere; and now virtually any food item – from champagne, French cheeses, and chocolates down to commonplace necessities – can be purchased.
Today you can enjoy wilderness and wildlife by day and watch high tech DvDs by night, or walk into old government offices straight out of the colonial era.
Meanwhile, the timeless Thamalakane River meanders lazily through the town, setting the scene and mood for what lies ahead.
The very word "Okavango" evokes a sense of adventure and exploration, and this is exactly what the Okavango Delta is about. Often called the Okavango Swamps, this intricate maze of waterways and sandy islands is an explorer's dream, and the destination should be on the wishlist of anyone looking for a unique travel experience.
The geology of the Delta is fascinating, with its creation being attributed to tectonic plate action from thousands of years ago causing the Kavango River to flow from Angola into the Kalahari Desert as opposed to the Atlantic Ocean.
So while the vegetation is lush, and the wildlife plentiful, the waterways are actually cutting through Kalahari Desert sand, and the entire delta is an enormous oasis.
Termites are credited with the creation of the many islands around which the water slowly flows, as their mounds, common features of the landscape, are responsible for the formation of sand and foliage around them.
There is a continuous scurry of life in the Delta, from the smallest of creatures to the largest of elephants, and every twist and turn of the channels brings some new form of life into view. The Okavango Delta is truly one of nature's greatest creations.
Situated about mid-way between the Chobe River and the Okavango Delta, Savuti is a harsh, arid landscape, which until recently, was only watered by the annual rains. These rains were the lifeblood of the Savute Marsh, which would then play host to huge herds of zebra, as they migrate from the north.
However, after about 30 years of dryness, the Savuti Channel has started to flow again, changing the dynamics of the area, and providing year round water access to the resident animals.
Stretching from the waterways of the Linyanti all the way to Savute Marsh, the winding waterways of the channel have pumped life into the western section of Chobe National Park for many thousands of generations. But this fickle and unpredictable channel has a fascinating history of flooding and drying up independently of good rainy seasons and flood levels elsewhere - a mystery that has intrigued geologists and other researchers for many years.
When David Livingstone discovered the Savute Channel in 1851 it was flowing. Thirty years later the channel had disappeared and the Savute Marsh had dried out, remaining this way for almost 80 years. It flowed again in the late 1950s, continuing until the early 1980s when it again receded, gaining the channel its reputation as ‘the river which flows in both directions.’
In 2009, after another extended hiatus, the channel began flowing again and by January 2010 had spilled into the Savute Marsh for the first time in three decades.
Savute has long been spoken of in awe by safari enthusiasts due to its wild reputation, and fierce concentration of predators.