Beautiful Botswana – a land of untamed wilderness, spectacular landscapes and dramatic natural contrast, from the endless stretches of the Kalahari Desert and the shimmering salt pans of Makgadikgadi, to the Okavango Delta’s labyrinth of waterways, carpeted with lilies and Chobe National Park with its abundance of wildlife. Botswana is sparsely populated and yet culturally diverse with many ethnic groups, such as the Bushmen – thought to be the oldest culture in the world. Botswana remains refreshingly untouched, providing an authentic and unique safari experience. In this piece, On the Go Tour highlights some of the top destinations in Botswana for anyone going there on holiday…
#6 – Tuli Block
The Tuli Block is located in the easternmost corner of Botswana, where the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers meet and integrates the Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Nature Reserve and other smaller game reserves. It is an area of diverse and compelling beauty, with rocky outcrops, riverine forests, giant baobab trees and open savannah plains, which are a haven for the largest single population of elephants on private land. This unspoilt wilderness is also home to giraffe, wildebeest, kudu and zebra, and predators such as cheetah, leopard and hyena but the main attraction is the rare black-maned lion. The history of the area dates back an amazing 80 million years, with several interesting Stone Age sites, wonderful African Rock Art on the Tswapong and Lepokole hills and curious geographical rock formations such as Solomon’s Wall.
#5 – Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park
The lesser-known Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park is a vast area that includes Ntwetwe Pan, Kudiakam Pan, Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pan, which is the largest of them all. The Kalahari Salt Pans are all that remain of an ancient great central Botswana lake that covered the Kalahari several million years ago. In the dry season, the plains of the national park are barren, animals gather to drink and resident hippos wallow in the deep pools of water, which are all that remains of the dried up Boteti River. At this time of year, the never-ending ethereal lunar landscape of glistening salt pans is spectacular and quad biking is popular. When the rains come, a dramatic change is seen as the area springs to life; grasslands flourish and the pans fill up with water becoming great sheets of water, attracting a fantastic array of waterbirds and triggering spectacular migrations of wildebeest and zebra.
#4 – Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a staggering 52,800km² making it the second-largest game reserve in the world. The striking landscape is characterised by shimmering salt pans, semi-arid grassland, fossilized river valleys and bushveld. The reserve has a diverse range of wildlife including vast herds of antelope and its legendary black-maned lions. In summer, thousands of animals graze on the flourishing plains and the rains cause magnificent dust clouds. Four fossilized rivers run through the reserve, including the beautiful Deception Valley, which is one of the best areas for game viewing. Being one of the world’s most uninhabited regions (with under a 1000 residents, most of which are the hunter-gatherer Bushmen who have inhabited the Kalahari for 30,000 years), you can game drive all day and not bump into another soul!
#3 – Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is the second-largest park in Botswana and covers an area of 10,566 km². With areas of marshland, flood plains, savannah, grasslands, woodland and the Chobe and Savuti Rivers, the park is wonderfully diverse. Chobe has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent and is known for its elephant population, with some 120,000 based in the park. The elephants tend to be very large but their ivory is brittle, so they only have short tusks. As well as elephant, an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala, sable, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck, warthogs, eland, lion and hyena can be seen, and if you are very lucky, cheetah and leopard. In the northern areas near Kasane, game viewing on a Chobe Sunset River Cruise is a particular highlight. The Savuti area is in the south-west of Chobe National Park, just above the Okavango Delta and covers 5000 km². Referred to as ‘The Kingdom of the Lion’ due to the high density of lions in the area, Savuti is renowned for its prime game viewing with an abundance of wildlife, both predators and prey.
#2 – Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve covers some 4,871 km² (70% of which is part of the Okavango Delta) and is considered one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa, as it combines mopane woodland and acacia forests, lily covered wetlands, flood plains and lagoons. Moremi consists of a network of waterways surrounding two large islands. Chiefs Island in the west and Mopane Tongue in the east. In this pristine wilderness area, birdlife is prolific and varied, with over 500 species ranging from water birds to forest dwellers. There are many species of ducks, geese and heron. As Moremi is a fenced reserve, game viewing is impressive throughout the year. Elephants are numerous, particularly during the dry season, as well as buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, hyena, jackal and the full range of antelope, large and small.
#1 – Okavango Delta
Described as the ‘river which never finds the sea’ and ‘the jewel of the Kalahari’, the Okavango Delta is a huge expanse of water in northern Botswana, which has travelled from the Angolan highlands, spreading out to form the largest inland river delta in the world. Studded with exotic islands and reed banks, the Delta is renowned for its incredible variety of birdlife and animals including elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo and crocodile, amongst others. The best way to see the delta is by mokoro, traditionally a canoe dug out from a large tree, today a more environmentally friendly version. Relax and take in the beautiful scenery and wildlife, whilst your poler navigates the maze of waterways. The swamps and surrounding area can be navigated in a 4×4.
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