Botswana is the safari capital of Africa and without doubt one of the most magical regions on the continent. When the rains come, the arid countryside is transformed into a veritable Garden of Eden, with wild, untamed terrain made up of a tapestry of glistening waterways, deep channels and lush wooded floodplains.
Despite the fact that more than 70 percent of the country is covered by the dry, semi-arid Kalahari Desert, it’s home to some of the most magnificent wilderness areas in the world.
Botswana’s flagship safari destinations are Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of nature’s grandest masterpieces; and Chobe National Park, a haven for the largest population of elephant in the world.
You’re spoilt for choice when looking for the perfect safari destination in Botswana. Here’s a list of the Top 5 most popular places to visit in Botswana to help you narrow down your options.
Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland deltas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. It lies in a tectonic trough in the central Kalahari Basin where the Okavango River empties onto the vast savanna plains.
Annual flooding increases the size of the swampy inland delta to three times its size and attracts an abundance of animals and migrant birds to its lush floodplains. The life-sustaining wetlands are flanked by dense wooded riverine forests, towering Ilala palms and thick acacia woodlands.
The most popular way to explore the magical delta waterways is on a canoe safari. Wind your way along narrow channels in a mokoro and take in the breathtaking beauty of the pristine wilderness while an abundance of game silently gazes down on you as you pass by. Okavango Delta has more than 150 000 islands, with the largest being Chief’s Island.
Read more about safaris to the Okavango Delta.
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is the third-largest national park in Botswana and the most biologically diverse. Known as the ‘Elephant Capital of Botswana’, Chobe is home to the largest elephant population in Africa and boasts one of the largest game concentrations. Last count, there were over 120 000 elephants in the national park.
The wilderness area is named after Chobe River that’s the lifeblood of the Chobe Linyanti System. The riverfront is a tropical paradise that slices through the dusty, brittle desert and home to an abundance of animals and birds. It offers visitors the ideal playground for sunset river cruises and canoe, fishing, birding and photographic safaris. An idyllic way to appreciate the sheer beauty of Chobe and wildlife is a few days on a houseboat.
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve stretches over most of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and offers visitors a striking combination of heavenly lush waterways and stark, parched landscapes. It’s truly one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Africa.
Small in size but incredibly diverse and bursting at the seams with an abundance of game, Moremi Game Reserve is home to the most endangered species in Africa, including black and white rhino, cheetah, lion, leopard and African wild dog. It’s also a birder’s paradise with over 500 recorded bird species in a concentrated space.
Annual flooding of the Okavango River transforms Moremi’s scorched savanna plains into a breathtakingly-beautiful mosaic of waterways and deep channels, creating a veritable oasis in the middle of the vast Kalahari Desert.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The desolate Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a mysterious wonderland of unpredictable and extraordinary panoramas. It’s more famous for its spectacular scenery which makes it paradise for photographers, but its wealth and diversity of animals and birds are a strong drawcard. The sparse vegetation and undulating red sand dunes are home to a high concentration of game, which congregate along the length of the Auob and Nossob Rivers.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park straddles the border between Botswana and South Africa and is made up of two adjoining national parks; Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park. The Park is renowned for its strong population of predators, with incredible sightings of the famous black-maned Kalahari lions and healthy numbers of cheetah, leopard and hyena.
You might also like the Kruger National Park.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park offers visitors something completely unique to a traditional safari tour. Lying southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the dry, arid Kalahari Desert, the national park is made up of many salt pans with a sandy desert in between. It’s one of the largest salt flats in the world and all that remains of the enormous Lake Makgadikgadi.
The barren salt pans are devoid of wildlife in the harsh dry season but when the floodwaters arrive, Makgadikgadi Pans transforms into a shimmering oasis. Hundreds of migrant birds descend on the pans at the end of the rainy season and the algae-rich shallows are covered in a pink carpet of pelicans and flamingoes.
Wildlife and bird sightings at Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in the safari season in are incredible, with migrating wildebeest and hundreds of zebras moving through the national park with the large predators in their wake. Camping at rustic tented camps on the wild, unspoilt plains is the most popular way to enjoy this incredible corner of Botswana.