Botswana is one of Africa's top safari destinations. Vast tracts of wilderness in pristine condition are home to huge herds of game, roaming unrestricted between the Kalahari's plains and the waterways of the Okavango. For those who enjoy the wilds, a Botswana safari holiday is perfect.
With its network of private ‘concessions’ dotted with just a handful of small, well-designed safari lodges, Botswana offers near exclusivity. Whether you’re watching lions stalk their prey, or taking a magical mokoro trip along narrow, reed-lined channels, you’re unlikely to come across any other visitors. The game here rarely disappoints, the birdlife can be spectacular, and night drives are a compelling further option. But all this comes with a hefty price tag: a holiday to Botswana’s safari areas is expensive.
The public parks of Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve form the core of northern Botswana's protected areas. The wildlife and scenery here are often superb, but you will share the area with other vehicles and people so these public reserves don't offer the most exclusive of game-viewing experiences. Strict park rules forbid anyone in these parks from driving at night, conducting walking safaris, or driving off ‘road’ – which is especially annoying when interesting game is spotted away from the track.
Lying around these parks and reserves is a patchwork of private wildlife reserves or 'concessions'; which offer much greater flexibility in their safari activities: their guides may drive off the tracks when searching for game; most offer night drives; and some offer walking safaris guided by expert armed guides. Each of these safari reserves covers about 800–2,500km², yet each contains just a couple of small, private safari camps, with guests arriving by air. They have no campsites or public access so game viewing is generally undisturbed.
Botswana’s environments can be divided very roughly into two categories: dry and wet areas. Many camps have access to wet areas – some with deep water, others with shallow. You'll usually explore areas with deep water using motorboats, driven by a guide. Shallower floodplains are best seen from a mokoro, or dug-out canoe. Both are excellent for birdwatching, but you'll usually see less game in a wet area than in a dry one.