For many people, Botswana offers the ultimate wildlife experience. Botswana is a vast, sparsely populated country with extremely sound game-management practices; it has opted for a tourism model that is more exclusive than other parts of Africa. You will enjoy wide open spaces, great game, fine lodges, exclusivity and a seamless and often luxurious lodge and travelling experience. It’s an easy place to visit with direct flights (often in small aircrafts) from Maun and Kasane into the different camps. Most of these transfers are planned for mid-morning, so you will never miss a game drive. The Okavango Delta is a must for a first trip to Botswana, which should also include the chance to visit Chobe, Moremi, Linyanti or the Kalahari.
The Okavango Delta is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Situated in the north of the country and surrounded by the Kalahari, this verdant and massive oasis is the largest inland delta in the world, covering 15 000 square kilometres. The landscapes and sweeping waters are spectacular, and so is the wildlife. The best areas here are typically private concessions, which are leased from the local communities by tender. Significant parts of the high rates that are charged go back to these communities as compensation for their loss of grazing land.
It’s a spectacular place to visit. The landscape, which is extremely flat, is diverse with papyrus and islands of palms, figs, jackalberries and timeless baobabs. Purple day lilies and cream-coloured night lillies bob above the crystal clear waters. The reeds are alive with dragonflies and painted reedfrogs. The Okavango has lions, leopards, cheetah, wild dog, serval and more than 600 species of birds including fish eagles, Pel’s fishing owls, herons, kingfishers and endangered wattled crane. When visiting the Okavango, make sure that you plan your itinerary to include camps with a wet (think boating and fishing) and a dry (think game drives and walks) focus of activities. This way you can be sure of capturing the full extent of photographic opportunities. Arranging a helicopter flip in the early morning can provide fascinating new angles.
Most people visit the Delta during winter, from May to October, and try to plan their visit according to the flood, which usually starts pushing in from the Angolan highlands towards May or June. At this time, the rain has long since stopped, and the flood is eagerly awaited by birds and herbivores—and the predators that follow them! It gets increasingly hot and dry until the start of the rains from November into December, and this is also an exciting time to visit when the landscape teems with newborn animals, large thunderclouds and great predator action. It is also when the first summer migrants begin to arrive. For photographers, there are plenty of good reasons for going in the green season.
Jutting into the Okavango from the east, is the Moremi Game Reserve, an important conservation area run by the government, which includes some public areas and campsites that are great for overland travellers. It also includes an exclusive area called Chief’s Island, which is 60 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide. It is on the edge of permanent water and offers some of the best—and most highly priced—game viewing in the region.
North of the Okavango towards the unfenced borders of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe is a network of miraculous rivers which, also rise and fall according to the floods and rainfall (as well as minuscule tectonic movements).
The meandering Chobe River has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. This is elephant country with vast herds migrating through Chobe and the adjacent Savuti and Linyanti marshes. During the dry season, the elephants are so numerous and thirsty that they provide an awesome spectacle for tourists as they converge on the river. Chobe is a relatively busy area, and at sunset, there can be up to 20 boats out on the water. The park is also very close to national roads, so there is a high concentration of vehicles. The best option for those wanting to escape the crowds is to visit out of season or to stay in some of the smaller, out of the way camps. It is a fantastic area, but a wilderness, it is not.
The Linyanti and Selinda areas are a different story. This network of islands, lagoons and rivers are wild and wonderful with exclusive camps and some of the best areas in Botswana. The area is also noted for its vast herds of elephants, which congregate here especially during the dry season, and lions, leopards and wild dogs hunt along the river fringes and through the woodlands. The wilderness experience is awesome here, and it continues along the Savuti Channel.
Stretching south of Maun like an endless sea is the 52 800 square kilometre Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is one of the largest parks in the world and offers a variety of species not found in other parts of Botswana. Deception Valley has large herds of springbok as well as lion, brown hyena, bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals, suricates (meerkats), hares, gemsbok, eland and springbok. Ostrich, kori bustard, sandgrouse, larks and pipits are some of the birds that occur. The area is at its best during the green season when there is a large migration of game to the pans, and the flowers are abundant. There are private concession areas outside the park, which offer more flexibility for photographers than the camps inside the park.
East of Maun are Makgadikgadi, Nxai and Ntwetwe Pans. For photographers, the wide open spaces, blank canvasses and trees create wonderful photographic opportunities. Makgadikgadi is one of the largest salt flats in the world and is home to one of only two breeding populations of greater flamingos in southern Africa. There are few animals during the dry season, but when the rain comes, the area attracts large herds of zebra as well as abundant large maned lions that feed upon them. There are also various rock islands including Kubu Island, which is dotted with enormous baobab trees and is a national monument.
This area in eastern Botswana on the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe is most easily accessible from South Africa. It is also close to South Africa’s Mapungubwe World Heritage Site. This well-watered area was previously a farming region, but is now a well-managed conservation area, particularly famous for its elephants. There are also lion, leopard and cheetah. Some 350 species of birds can be seen in the Tuli Block region.
Passports and travel documents
Please make sure your passport is valid and has at least 3 free pages. The agent booking your international flights usually will give best advice about visas and medical requirements. But please do not hesitate to contact us should you require further information. For more information on visas go to this link www.botswanatourism.co.bw/countries-whose-nationals-require-visa-enter-botswana. If you cannot buy a VISA at the border you have to apply for it. www.gov.bw/Ministries–Authorities/Ministries/Ministry-of-Labour–Home-Affairs-MLHA/Tools–Services/Services–Forms/Requirements-for-VISA-application/
Please ensure that you have medical insurance cover while you are on safari. It is compulsory with certain travel companies for all travellers to have their own policy with emergency evacuation, medical evacuation and repatriation expenses. It is also recommended to have cancellation and curtailment insurance and for the loss of items or goods. The various operators and David Rogers Photographic cannot be held responsible for unforseen events such as delays in international flights or health issues.
The summer period from November to March you can expect warm to hot days of about 18 to 34 degrees celsius. There is also a good chance of thunderstorms which bring rainfall. The lodges do provide very effective waterproof ponchos on the vehicles. Bring a hat and sunscreen. The dry season, which is winter, is from June to October. This is also the time when the game is at its most congregated.
Botswana is a malarial area and being the rainy season mosquitos are more prevalent. Please make sure that you consult your doctor in advance and take necessary precautions. Also it is advisable to bring some anti-histamine in case of bites, also air sickness tablets, and anti-diarroheah pills. Sunscreen is also essential. It is also very important to keep well hydrated at all times. All of the lodges will have their own medical kits but make sure you bring your own personal items.
Money and security
The Botswana currency is the Pula (it means rain). But US dollars is the recommended currency for tips, personal expenses and visas. You will Credit cards are widely accepted and it’s best not to carry too much in cash. Most of the lodges have small safes in the rooms and its advisable to use them.
Please avoid tight international connections and make sure that you have any essentials (medical, camera gear and charges) on your person and minimize the inconveniences that can occur in the unfortunate event that you and your baggage end up travelling in different directions. You are likely to have very little mobile or internet reception on your travel. If your family do need to contact you please do so via firstname.lastname@example.org and we can relay messages to the lodges.
It is recommended that you bring your baggage in a light-weight soft bag that is easily stored and transported in vehicles and planes. Laundry is provided by camps so you can travel light. Choose clothes that are lightweight and in a neutral bush colour. Its going to be warm to hot and you should wear lightweight cool clothing. This is the rainy season and in the evenings long trousers, socks and long sleeve shirts are recommended as protection against mosquitos which are active at this time. I recommend a small head torch or flashlight. The camps supply bug spray in the rooms but its useful to have a small amount of repellent in your camera bag.
Batteries and charging
Most of the lodges are off the grid and power is supplied either by solar or generator. Most of the lodges do have charging facilities in the rooms although some will charge in a central area. Putting your name on your charges and batteries helps avoid confusion. Botswana uses flat 3-prong plugs as used in the UK although some of the camps also use the 15-am 3-in round plugs as used in South Africa. Most lodges accommodate round two-pin adaptors as these can be used in the UK adaptors and are standard on most charging strips. Take an international adaptor in case.
Internal flights and baggage
On internal flights there is a limit of 15kg per person check in and 5 kg hand luggage on flights. The only way to guarantee additional luggage is to book an extra seat. Please let me know if you are carrying a great deal of heavy camera equipment if you need to book an extra seat. Flight times and routings are usually announced at tea time on the day proceeding travel.
Ideally you should have two cameras and a selection of lenses ranging from wide angle to telephoto. A range of 200 – 400mm lens is ideal for shooting wildlife. But don’t forget the wide angle lenses as the landscapes are fantastic. Don’t forget a spare battery, chargers and plenty of memory cards. Ideally you should back up your images onto a computer.