Botswana probably isn’t your first option when thinking of travel destinations. Though it was voted one of the world’s best places to travel in 2016, you can easily understand why when doing a Botswana safari or visiting the Okavango Delta and the National Chobe park, the highlights of Botswana. These are some of the best things to do in Botswana.
Doing these Botswana safaris will make your travel unforgettable. If you want to delve more into Botswana’s travel attractions, have a look at this list of the best places to visit in Botswana.
Botswana quick facts and helpful information
Botswana is an English-speaking country, a former British colony that became independent in 1966.
Gaborone is the capital of Botswana and the currency in the Pula, which means rain. Like many tourists, we didn’t have the opportunity to visit the capital. Botswana´s economy has grown fast since its independence, now being a middle-income country.
Interestingly 70% of Botswana’s territory is formed by the Kalahari desert. It’s also one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
Our impression was that Botswana is calm and safe, and the people were friendly.
There are places with poverty and living the traditional way, sometimes with a touch of modernization. We saw many huts with solar panels :).
The scenery is mostly arid with bushes and small trees, acacias, and surprisingly there were a lot of donkeys along the roads.
One thing that struck us as odd was the mandatory disinfection of walking shoes, and the tires of vehicles at the border, and some police control stops on the road.
What happens is: we have to take out our shoes (even those packed in the luggage) and dip them in a box with water and disinfectant with the aim of preventing bring foot-and-mouth disease in the country. It didn’t seem like we were disinfecting anything. The box where we dipped the shoes was so dirty, and they didn’t replace the water between the people. It’s one of those things…
Safaris and other things to do in Botswana
Visit de San People – The Bushman
Botswana is also the home of the San people, also known as the Bushman, a semi-nomadic, self-sufficient people who survive in the Kalahari desert.
They are one of the oldest people in the world and have a fantastic ability to hunt, adapt to the environment, and use everything nature offers. Every plant has a function, some are medicinal, others are food, others have a hygienic function, and so on…
The San People nowadays are less nomadic and switched to farming. They were relocated from the Kalahari game reserves to different areas of the country. In 2012 they won a legal battle to return to their land, but they aren’t allowed to hunt and have been accused of poaching.
Most of them are not capable of adapting to modern life. There is an exciting film about the Bushman: “The Gods must be crazy.” It is quite funny, so we recommend you see it.
Enjoy a night show and spend the night at a typical San people hut
On our first night in Botswana, we stayed in a Bushmen camp and had the opportunity to see and listen to their traditions. We did a bush walk, where they showed us some of the tricks and secrets of the Kalahari.
Later on, we watched a tribal dance by a campfire, it was a different experience, we even danced a little… I mean… we “danced“… but it was fun!
In the Bushmen camp, you can choose between spending the night in a normal tent, or in a typical hut. We went for the hut, and it was… something to remember. No doors and we felt much as if we were sleeping outside. Fun, but I wouldn’t do it more than once.
Visit the Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is an unreal place. A river that flows into a desert and evaporates sounds unlikely, unusual, or even unbelievable…
Just for this, it’s a place worth going to, but there is much more: animals, fantastic lodges, boat rides, tracks to walk… Great for adventurers and nature freaks 🙂 It was named one of the seven Natural Wonders of Africa!
We stayed in the Okavango Delta for 3 days in Lodge Jumbo Junction, a nice relaxing place with fantastic views. The Delta was in the dry season, and many sites that generally are flooded water were dry.
The scenery changes very much according to the season, at that moment (January), the Delta was suffering from a prolonged drought! This allowed us to explore tracks that, in other seasons would be underwater.
Speedboating in the Okavango Delta
Our first experience of the Delta was riding a speedboat through the many canals of the Delta and trying to spot crocodiles and Hippopotamus. It was thrilling; the boat was fast, but when we spotted an animal, the guide stopped.
Walking safari in the Okavango Delta
One cool thing we can do is follow tracks and explore the region’s vegetation on foot! The guide shows the most important plants, and we even observed some animals.
Usually, it is more difficult to see animals on foot as they are more frightened when we are walking than in a car. It is a very different perspective going on a walking safari, and it was very interesting learning about the animals and plants of the Okavango.
We found the different symbiosis between animals like the zebra and the wildebeest, impala, and baboons particularly interesting. Usually, you spot them together, taking advantage of one’s incredible sight and others’ hearing.
Water Safari in a mokoro
The best of the Delta was riding the mokoro, a traditional canoe. Nowadays, they are made of fiberglass for environmental reasons. It was one of the most relaxing experiences of the trip, being by the water and gazing at the hippos, fish eagles, water lilies…
During the mokoro safari, we spotted a lot of hippos, tons of them (pun intended, they are huge!).
According to our guides, the hippos are the kings of the Delta due to their importance in building the canals. There were moments when we were very close to them and heard their warning noises… which sounded like laughing… but not joke laughing, more like, I’m gonna kill you laughing.
Safari in Chobe National Park
Home to the Chobe River, the Chobe National Park is one of the best game reserves in Africa. It has a large concentration of lions, leopards, wild dogs, antelopes, sable antelopes, hippopotamuses, and above all, enormous herds of elephants (or so they say).
River Safari in the Chobe National Park
We stayed in the National park for a day, but we wouldn’t mind spending more time discovering its wildlife. We spent the afternoon exploring the Chobe river on a ferry.
Along the riverbanks, we saw impalas, cape buffaloes, crocodiles, hippos, and… one elephant! The scenery was beautiful, very green and blue. In the middle of the trip, it started raining intensely – as it usually rains in Africa – and naturally, most of the animals disappeared, but it was so cool!
Land safari in Chobe National Park
The best time to do a Safari is very, very early in the morning so we woke up stupidly early and it was safari time! Time to really explore the Chobe National Park.
Chobe used to have all the big five, but they had to remove rhinos from the park due to the risk of poaching. The vegetation is beautiful, dense, and very green. The park was full of animals: leopards, baboons, birds, giraffes, and jackals.
We were a little disappointed that we didn’t encounter any herds of elephants, I mean… none! Believe us, it is quite a tough achievement because Chobe is known for its large herds of elephants.
Well, to be honest, we did see the one from the boat… Although to compensate, we saw a beautiful Leopard just at our side. And the most fantastic part is that it had just hunted an Impala, so it was protecting the prey.
The other high moment was when we saw wild dogs playing in a pad of mud, which is extremely rare. Even guide was pleased and surprised to see the wild dogs.
Chobe was fantastic; it is incredible to wake up early and wander in the park looking for wild animals. It makes you want to be a park ranger or live nearby to come to the park in the morning every weekend. It is easily one of the best things to do in Botswana, maybe even in Africa.
For further information, check these excellent safari posts:
- Namibia or Botswana? What’s the best country to visit?
- What is Botswana famous for?
- How to do a safari in Chobe
- How much does it cost to do a Safari?
All in all, Botswana is a beautiful country, full of fantastic things to do in the wild. If you plan to visit it, you’ll be delighted with nature and all the cool things to do in Botswana.
We can honestly say that Botswana surpassed our expectations, making it a pleasant surprise. The trip’s next leg was spent in Victoria falls, full of adventure.