I left the cold and rainy Cirencester for warm and sunny Botswana, very excited at the thought of exploring this beautiful country that has so much to offer: wildlife, birdlife and flora.
Botswana is definitely an all-year-round destination, with Mid November to March being the rainy season and the rest of the year being the dry season. I chose to visit at the end of November, to experience the differences in season – I was not disappointed.
Most of the wildlife areas of Botswana have been sub-divided into private reserves, with most owned by the local villagers or the government which are leased to tourism companies. As it stands, it is one of the few countries in Africa with great success stories of tourism empowering the communities living alongside wildlife. The main focus has been education – promoting the sustainable utilisation of all natural tourism resources whilst encouraging and facilitating the active participation of citizens in the tourism industry. It has managed to curb the mass-market type safari experience by introducing ‘high cost, low volume.’ This has worked really well, allowing tourists to experience a more exclusive safari in pristine conditions.
My journey through Botswana took me through these amazing reserves and allowed me to see firsthand what a success responsible tourism has been in Botswana. The people of Botswana are also incredibly friendly and hospitable.
My first stop was a private reserve that borders the western boundary of Chobe National Park, north of the Okavango Delta. This area is very secluded and uncrowded, with beautiful open floodplains and dense Mopani trees and apple leaf trees that result in a high concentration of wildlife.
My game drive was amazing: I was fortunate to see large herds of elephants, buffalo, zebra, and hippo. The Linyanti swamps are home a large number of different species of birds and I discovered a new passion – birding! So I was thrilled to spot the following birds: fish eagle, brown firefinch, slaty egret, black heron southern carmine bee-eater and swamp boubou just to name a few.
Most of the camps offer off-road game drives as well as night drives. This area is also well known for walking safaris, they range from a minimum of three to six nights camping in exclusive areas of the reserves. Over the years the Linyanti area has been the traveller’s favourite because it has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife. Many prefer this area to the riverfront of Chobe National Park because it is less crowded and the camps in Linyanti are small and very exclusive.
My second stop was another area in the western side of Linyanti: the Kwando concession which covers 2,330 sq km. An area very well known for its predator population … lion, leopard and wild dog – expect some action-packed wildlife viewing. The concession has only two camps that share the area for game drives. One camp is located right on the plains, overlooking Kwando swamp. The other camp is on the northern sector and is great for boat trips along the Kwando lagoon with excellent game drives. The wild dogs are usually denning in that area during June. In order to maximise your chances of seeing the best wildlife I would recommend a minimum of three nights in each area.
I departed on a high after seeing my first cheetah in Botswana. My journey then continued to the northern part of the Okavango Delta, visiting two excellent concessions and further great wildlife experiences. I have done several bush walks but this was by far the best – to sit just a metre from a pride of lions was thrilling. In addition, there was the elusive sitatunga antelope, Jackalberry trees, several acacia species, grey stemmed leadwood trees that impala, kudu and giraffe and wild dog. Several waterholes provide some of the most exciting game and bird viewing.
Botswana is a great destination for both the first time traveller and seasonal traveller and can be easily combined with visits to Victoria Falls, Cape Town and Namibia.