Deciding the best time to go
Botswana offers amazing wildlife experiences all year round, but when you decide to go will influence the kind of experience you have. While summer (December to March) is the rainy season, this is actually the dry period for the famous Okavango Delta, as the floodwaters can take as long as six months to reach it from the north. Not to say that this isn’t a good time to visit the Delta, as the lower water levels make some of the more elusive plains and islands easier to reach by foot or vehicle.
At the same time, the summer rains are performing a miracle transformation in the Kalahari desert – transforming desert into vast plains of lush green that attract scores of grazers, and of course the predators who follow them! This is a good opportunity to spot them with their cubs.
In the dry season, from June to October, wildlife flocks to the now inundated Okavango and is a spectacular opportunity for bird watchers, as the annual ‘catfish run’ takes place from August to November. In the Linyati region, this period offers the opportunity to see the rare roan and sable antelope, and even denning wild dog!
In fact, rather than deciding when to go, your best option is picking the time that suits you the most, and letting Botswana decide where you go.
Traveling with kids? Skip the Rover for the River
Game drives are an integral part of any African safari, and while adults love the unique experience that each drive has to offer, they can become a bit tedious for the little ones stuck in a hot, cramped space for several hours. Younger, fidgety kids may far prefer the completely new experience of experiencing Africa by boat – and Botswana’s Okavango and Chobe Rivers are probably the best place on Earth to do so! Chobe offers a range of different options, from larger charters seating up to 40 people (often complete with a bar!) to small private boats for hire which make for a great romantic trip for mom and dad.
Experience elephants, antelope, hippos and basking crocodiles to name but a few, in a completely new way! These trips are also excellent opportunities for bird watchers and aspiring photographers, or just taking in the magnificent sunset. Trips generally take place in the mornings and afternoon, and definitely deserve a spot on your Botswana travel itinerary!
Another great opportunity for kids are the ‘bush school’ experiences where little ones and their parents can be tutored in the ancient survival knowledge of the Kalahari San – like recognising animals by their tracks, learning how to find water in the desert and make a fire.
Pack like a pro
This is Africa, so your sun protection basics are essential. Take breathable long-sleeved shirts that will protect from the sun during the day and the mosquitoes in the evening! Depending on which season you travel, you might experience some evening rain – so take a light rain jacket or anorak. Closed shoes are a must have for bush walks. A good hat and sunglasses are also a great idea.
As with all vacations, it’s sensible to have a first aid kit, and because Botswana is a malaria zone, you need to make sure you get your malaria medications before you depart. If you’re travelling anywhere by car, make sure that you pack plenty of water.
Any night time driving out of major towns is a big no-no – the roads are unlit, and large antelope and various creatures of all sizes, wild and domestic, stray onto the roads all the time. Investing in a good set of paper maps is essential if you are renting a vehicle or taking your own, as online options can be wildly inaccurate! Buses provide the best option for public transport, and taxis can be chartered out for the day relatively affordably.
Respect the residents:
You will delight the locals if you greet them in their native tongue of Tswana. Make sure to use a cheerful ‘dumela’ for hello, and ‘ke a leboga’ for thank you. If you’re wearing sunglasses, remove them when talking to people as a sign of respect.
Support the local economy around lodges by ordering some of the local food and have your washing done by the local ladies – in many cases this can be their only income, so don’t feel shy!
With almost a fifth of Botswana dedicated to wildlife reserves, Botswana is a precious place, and one of the largest remaining areas of true African wilderness. Treat the land and the people with respect and help conserve this remarkable place for future generations, and you’re sure to receive memories that last a lifetime in return!