Botswana may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of Africa. However, when friends and family ask me which country they should visit during their first trip to Africa, I always recommend Botswana. The mesmerizing land-locked country is surrounded by South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe; with about 100 meters of the border part of Zambia as well.
Currently, Botswana is Africa’s oldest continuous democracy. It’s also home to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, as mining, cattle, and tourism allow for a fairly high standard of living. The population of Botswana is approximately 2.3 million people, due to the fact that the Kalahari Desert constitutes about 70% of the country.
If you’re interested in visiting Botswana, keep reading to discover my top recommendations for when to go, what to pack, and the best places to visit in Botswana.
Best time of year to visit Botswana
The best time to visit Botswana is definitely during the country’s dry season, which typically runs from May to October. Dry season equals sunny, warm, and clear days, with temperatures averaging around 75°F during the day. The closer you get to October, the hotter and more humid the temperature gets. At night during the dry season, temperatures can drop to as low as 35°F; especially in the country’s arid desert region.
The dry season in Botswana also equals optimal safari and game-viewing conditions. With minimal rain, the grass is lower and the trees have less foliage, which makes it easier to spot animals on safari. The lack of rainfall also means you’ll often find animals congregating around permanent waterholes and rivers.
The only downside to visiting during the dry season is that it’s also peak season in Botswana, as July and August coincide with the Northern Hemisphere’s summer vacation time. I encourage you to book activities and accommodations well in advance if you intend to visit during the peak season.
What to pack for a trip to Botswana
As mentioned, the dry season is the best time to visit Botswana. However, temperatures vary greatly between day and night. This means bringing warm jackets and clothes you can layer which are integral for early morning and evening safari experiences. A selection of long pants, long-sleeved tops, shorts, and short-sleeved shirts in neutral colors are recommended. Leave the bright colors at home or in your suitcase when on safari. Animals don’t like them and the bugs love them. Cotton is also the most breathable fabric, which helps if you visit in the humid wet season.
With warm daytime temperatures year-round, I’d also pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. As for footwear, I recommend packing a pair of closed-toe shoes (they don’t have to be hiking boots) and a pair of sandals. Furthermore, malaria is prevalent in Botswana, but a bigger concern in the wet season. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, it’s recommended that you check with your doctor about taking anti-malaria tablets before you visit and while you are in Botswana along with packing insect repellent.
The three best places to visit in Botswana
Listed below are my favorite places to visit in Botswana. They also happen to be the reasons why I love Botswana and continue to repeatedly visit this African country.
Chobe National Park
Located in northern Botswana near the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park is renowned for being one of the world’s best wildlife sighting destinations. It features a diverse range of landscapes, including floodplains and riverine forests. Together with the Chobe River, which forms the national park’s northern border, this varied landscape attracts an abundance of wildlife and bird species. This includes the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. In fact, Chobe National Park is home to approximately 120,000 elephants, as well as other animals like hippos, crocodiles, lions, and leopards.
Activities in Chobe National Park
Boat tours and game drives are two of the most popular things to do within the national park. A sunset cruise down the Chobe River allows you to comfortably spot game and birdlife in a very romantic setting. Meanwhile, there are a variety of 4X4 safari experiences available in Chobe National Park, including photographer safaris and multi-day camping options. No matter which option you choose, the only important thing is that you participate in a 4X4 safari in Chobe National Park while visiting Botswana.
Staying at Chobe Game Lodge
Chobe Game Lodge is the only property located inside the world-renowned Chobe National Park. I have stayed at the five-star eco safari lodge on three different occasions. It offers a viewing deck and elevated boardwalk where you can sit and watch the Chobe River and wildlife passing in front of you all day long. Chobe Game Lodge is a fabulous place to stay in Botswana. I recommend using the lodge as your base camp for safaris and water-based activities in Chobe National Park.
I spent most of one Mother’s Day watching mother elephants (cows) and their calves bathe in the river, cool down afterwards by throwing sand on themselves and play. The mother elephants surrounded the calves the entire time to keep them safe. I never left my room. Strongly recommend booking a river room.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Okavango Delta is an inland river delta located in northern Botswana. The unique wetland is formed by the Okavango River flowing into the Kalahari Desert from the Angolan Highlands. Home to vast plains and partially protected by the Moremi Game Reserve (the world’s predator capital), Okavango Delta is another great place to visit to spot wildlife like lions, hippos, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos.
Activities in Okavango Delta
Similar to Chobe National Park, there are several tours and safaris available in Okavango Delta. You can choose between family safaris, multi-day camping safaris, horseback safaris, and walking safaris. Alternatively, you can hop in a hot air balloon for a bird’s eye view of the delta and its wildlife.
However, the best way to see Okavango Delta is via a traditional mokoro canoe safari. A mokoro is a traditional dug-out canoe and thanks to the Okavango Delta’s shallow water, it’s one of the few places in Africa where you can indulge in this unique safari experience. Your poler, or guide, will take you on an unforgettable journey through the Okavango Delta.
I took a mokoro tour last summer. It truly was one of the most peaceful and serene places I have ever visited. A great place for photographs with incredible reflections in the water.
Camping in Okavango Delta
Bush camping is another popular thing to do in the Okavango Delta. Here’s an extensive list of the campsites available. However, I recommend heading to Camp Moremi, which is coincidentally located within the world-renowned Moremi Game Reserve in Okavango Delta. With sweeping views of Xakanaxa Lagoon, there are 12 tented safari suites nestled within the riverine forest. The Camp Moremi experience includes dinners under the stars, homemade pancakes for breakfast, and daily wildlife spotting.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Found in the middle of Botswana, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is home to one of the world’s largest salt flats. Characterized by its shimmering salt pans, the national park has one of Africa’s largest zebra populations. Other animals you can expect to find there include lions, cheetah, giraffes, elephants, and springbok. Popular things to do in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park include safari drives, bird watching, and bush walks. There’s also a selection of accommodation options available within the national park too.
Final things to note about a visit to Botswana
Before I sign off, I wanted to mention that Africa is a continent that suits all fitness levels. Basically, you only need to be able to get into a jeep to enjoy a safari. Speaking of safaris, they’re typically organized during the early morning and at sunset. A normal day in Botswana may include a safari and then breakfast, or a safari followed by happy hour at sunset or both. There is lots of time to rest mid-day when it can be very hot and or humid.
I hope this post has inspired you to add Botswana to your African bucket list. With so many game-viewing opportunities, unique accommodation options, and traditional experiences, I can assure you that you won’t regret that decision.