Botswana - Africa's Natural Wonderland

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

One of the most politically stable countries in Africa, Botswana is a delight to visit. You can meet friendly locals in Gaborone, take a plane ride to Okavango Delta and view herds of elephants at Chobe National Park. For wildlife lovers, the places of interest are endless. So, if you are seeking a safari with a difference, here’s our list of top things to see and do in Botswana – Africa’s Natural Wonderland.

See the Elephants of Chobe National Park

There’s wildlife around every corner in Botswana, and at Chobe National Park you can delve deep into this natural paradise. Chobe consists of four areas - Linyanti, Savute, Ngwenzumba Pans and the shimmering Chobe River. Diverse landscapes of lush floodplains and scattered forests are peppered with small villages of the northern Kalahari Desert where you’re welcomed by locals keen to show you their way of life. The possibilities for wildlife spotting are endless, with huge lion prides, zebra, giraffe and buffalos all present. However, Chobe National Park is best known for its sizeable elephant population. You can be birdwatching from a 4 x 4 when a herd of majestic elephants will slowly wander heavy-footed across your path, trumpeting to each other as they make their way to the river. There are options to stay in the park too, so you don’t miss any of these unique interactions. Ngoma Safari Lodge offers exclusive, 5-star accommodation and is a perfect option for couples and friends. Perched high on the valley’s edge with river and floodplain vistas, you can sip wine on the terrace watching wildlife gather at the watering hole at sunset. Meals are taken around an open fire and if you’re travelling on your honeymoon or with a loved one, staff can organise a private dinner retreat for you. The lodge also offers a host of excursions including cultural trips, river cruises and night safari drives.

Take a Mokoro Safari along Okavango Delta

A diverse eco-system is formed when the Okavango River flows into the Kalahari, creating an oasis of wetlands abundant with resilient wildlife. This unique habitat provides incredible safari experiences, and one of the best ways to see animals and birdlife is via mokoro safari. Glide along the delta in a dug-out canoe, glimpsing rare species along the water’s edge as your expert guide navigates complex channels and waterways. You can sit back and enjoy natures show, between snapping photographs of hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks and wildebeest. If you prefer to stay on terra firma, the Okavango Delta also has African horseback safaris, walking trips and hot air balloon rides so you can see the area from myriad different perspectives.

Visit the Salt Pans of Makgadikgadi

While visiting Okavango Delta why not take a trip to the desolate Salt Pans of Makgadikgadi? The salt pans were formerly a lake which dried up tens of thousands of years ago and recent studies have shown that the first modern Homo sapiens lived in the region before this, when it was a fertile area with rivers and woodlands. Today, several co-joined pans cover 6,200 square miles creating other-worldly barren terrains, that is until the wet season arrives. After the rains, migrating animals such as wildebeest, great white pelicans and Africa’s largest zebra population all converge here. Time your visit precisely during the year if you wish to see wildlife on the salt pans, alternatively, at other times venture to Nxai Pan to see baobab trees. These pretty trees act as local landmarks for indigenous tribes and were once famously painted by British artist Thomas Baines.

Venture to the Mystical Tsodilo Hills

Tsodilo Hills close to Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana symbolise the male, female and child according to indigenous people. They hold a great energy and significance to locals who believe the spirits of their ancestors dwell here. Archaeological research suggests that Tsodilo has been inhabited for over 100,000 years, making it one of the oldest sites in the world. In fact, tools, glass beads and pottery artefacts have been discovered in the area dating back around 90,000 years. It surprises many to know that Tsodilo Hills are also one of the oldest and largest rock art sites on our planet, with over 500 individual sites in total. Many comprise red finger paintings of animals, geometric patterns and man, although some paintings prove communication with other groups from far-away regions as whales and penguins are also depicted. There are walking trails throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Site leading to 350 of the rock art sites, plus there’s a small museum at the entrance where you can learn more about the San and Hambukushu people.

Meet San People of the Kalahari

One of the oldest cultures in the world, the San people have lived among the arid Kalahari terrain for centuries. They were the original inhabitants of this region of Africa – a tribe of independent hunters and foragers who were self-sufficient living off the land. Early San people had an expressive dialect using clicks in place of words and they would communicate with each other by leaving messages, known as rock art on cliff faces across the country. Although not integrated into society, their strength and cultural identity is as vivid as ever and today, visitors can see how these fascinating people live in Botswana. Lodge tours are available to San villages, where people dress traditionally and welcome you to learn about their heritage and culture. They are knowledgeable guides, with a read on the terrain and wildlife that cannot be gained elsewhere. If you can, explore Tsodilo Hills with a San guide, do so, and you’ll gain unparalleled insight into their religion, ancestral roots and you’ll depart the area much richer for the experience.

Stay in Moremi Game Reserve

Following explorer David Livingstone’s visit to Botswana in the 1800s, and after reporting that he was overwhelmed by the natural beauty of Moremi, the area was flooded with European visitors and wildlife began to deplete. Fortunately, today it is protected, and home to some of the most endangered species on our planet including the African wild dog, cheetah and black and white rhinos. With over 500 bird species, around a thousand plant and flower species and abundant wildlife you won’t want to leave. You can choose to stay at luxurious Belmond Khwai River Lodge in the reserve, with elegant African interiors and elevated wooden platforms where you can breakfast as wildlife roams freely in your midst or select sophisticated 5-star Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, a superb area for big game viewing. This lodge boasts rejuvenating spa treatments, and private plunge pools where you can take a relaxing dip - a must following a day in the African bush. When you’re sitting down to dinner as the sun sets, don’t be surprised if you see cheetahs with their cubs out for a walk, or giraffes feasting on leaves nearby. It’s a magical place, and rated as one of the top safari destinations in Botswana by Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure, so what are you waiting for?

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