Botswana is one of Africa's success stories. Since gaining independence in 1966, it has achieved steady economic growth through successful exploitation of its agricultural potential and its vast diamond reserves. It remains a peaceful and stable nation of extraordinary natural beauty.
Getting to Botswana
It is possible to fly direct to Gabarone but our suggested route would be to fly to Johannesburg and connect as the flight from there to Gabarone is only one hour. The distance can also be driven along a scenic road with a travel time estimated at around five hours.
Safety and Security within Botswana
Visitors must be vigilant and take common-sense security precautions. The criminal threat is very similar to that of any large urban area. Petty street crime and crimes of opportunity, primarily the theft of money and personal property are prevalent.
There is little distinction between average summer and winter temperatures, although in winter months it can be chilly at night. Rain is unpredictable. Summers are extremely hot with high humidity in the mornings. See more on regional weather patterns by looking at our weather-map guide.
Botswanan visa requirements
Citizens of the United States do not require a visa for stays up to 90 days.
The population of Botswana is made up of people from about 20 different tribes, some of which came originally from Botswana's neighboring countries. Most are originally of the Tswana people. Today, all of these different customs and beliefs help make up the culture of Botswana, as well as influences from non-African places.
Currency in Botswana is the Pula (BWP). 1US$ = Approximately 7.75 Botswana Pula. The word for Pula also means 'rain'. For current rates click http://www.x-rates.com
It is best to consult with you physician about immunization and vaccinations. However a malaria vaccination is advised.
Soon after the first rains, impalas (the medium-sized African antelope) give birth and the time of abundance begins again. The bush transforms within a matter of days, from death to life, and from brown to green. This is a very exciting time to be on safari and experience one of the most iconic species of the region.
The best birding areas in Botswana are in the north of the country, in the north Chobe/ Kasane area, in and around the Okavango Delta (including Moremi Game Reserve) and in the Makgadikgadi Pans. These are the areas to concentrate on, even if reasonable birding can be enjoyed in other regions.
Birding in the open wetlands and savannas of Botswana is generally very satisfactory with the views of birds easier and better than rainforest regions, where thick vegetation and high forest canopies seriously limit sightings. Birders will also be impressed by the sheer abundance of certain species (e.g. francolins, doves, hornbills, bulbuls, weavers, blue waxbills) Botswana boasts the species occurring in the largest flocks anywhere, and the region has an array of highly colorful species as well, such as green-pigeons, malachite and woodland kingfishers, just to name a few.
In February, the vegetation is lush and green and most of the plants are in bloom. This is peak flowering time for water lilies and the landscape is decorated with wild flowers. These beautiful flowers always make for striking images and the summer sky provides a dramatic backdrop.
The assortment of dragonfly species at the lagoons around the vast array of flowers are always astounding. All different, intricate and interesting, they are beautiful to watch, while the forms of the lilies and lily pads make almost abstract visual patterns. The undersides of the pads are a vibrant burgundy, in contrast to the green upper sides, and make for a textured backdrop to the topminnows that swim in the surface layer of the water. With these resources, you will be able to take unforgettable photographs.
The Victoria Falls can be found between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. By the end of the 1990s, almost 300,000 people were visiting the falls annually, and this was expected to rise to over a million in the next decade. Unlike the game parks, Victoria Falls has more Zimbabwean and Zambian visitors than international tourists, as the falls are accessible by bus and train and therefore comparatively inexpensive for visiting. The very first destination ever to be visited in the TV program “The Amazing Race,” – the full flood in making in March is a magnificent time to see these falls.
The “rut” is the mating season of ruminant animals such as impalas (medium-sized African antelopes.) Rutting takes place when impala rams (the males) fight to establish dominance and mating rights with females (called ewes.) During this period they do little else but chase competing rams, to ensure that when the ewes come into estrus they will be the ones to do the mating. The sounds from the impala rams resemble rumbling roars and snorting – making for a unique, intriguing and unforgettable experience.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the largest and most beautiful oasis in Africa - an isolated, lush green paradise with some of the richest wildlife in the world. The River Okavango, which rises in the highlands of Angola, never reaches the sea; instead, its 4 mighty waters empty over the sand of the Kalahari Desert. Here, the thirst land of the south meets a blue-green wilderness of fresh water, with emerald reed beds and towering trees. The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s greatest mysteries – water in a desert!
This area is home to a myriad of animal and bird species. The magnificent expanse of waterways, floodplains, forested islands and lagoons covers about 18,000 sq km., and consists of luxury safari camps that vary in activities from pure game viewing camps to mixed activity camps to pure water-based activity camps.
What an exciting time - the African Wild Dogs begin to search for their den and the game rangers start the search for the dots, to discover their den. Once they have denned, these endangered species will be easy to find for 3-4 months as they operate from their home base. Dogs den in both the Kwando and Kwara concession, and the Kwando area, offer some of the best dog viewing in Africa. Exciting hunts and playful puppies - what more could you wish for!
Temperatures at this time of year are comfortable during the day with dry conditions around 75 degrees (25°C), and can get as low as 41 degrees (5°C) – which means you’ll want to bundle up for nighttime drives.
Botswana is best known for the Okavango Delta and the delta is best known for mokoro safaris. A mokoro (plural is mekoro) is a traditional dugout canoe, and is the most efficient way of getting around the delta when it is flooded.
Mokoro trips are operated during the flood season, from about June to September in the seasonally flooded areas, and all year in the permanently flooded areas near the top of the delta.
The Okavango Delta is a birders’ paradise, which entertains both the experienced ornithologist as well as the eager amateur. One of the highlights of the birding calendar takes place during August/September when the carmine bee-eaters arrive from Central Africa and are often seen in their hundreds on the Savuti Marsh. Of particular interest, they make use of the large Kori Bustard, by riding on their backs as they move through the grass of the marsh and kick up fleeing insects.
Chobe National Park lies in Botswana's Okavango Delta and covers four distinct Eco-systems. The Savuti marsh, in particular, offers some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa year round. Chobe boasts around 120,000 elephants; you're unlikely to miss them when you enjoy a safari here.
The best time to visit Chobe is between May and September – the dry, cooler winter months. Herds of zebra, eland, buffalo, giraffe and wildebeest congregate around the Savuti marsh this time of year. Chobe is accessible by car, which makes it a little less expensive than some other Botswana Parks.
Spring is the height of the dry season with hot dry winds and colorless, sparse vegetation. Because the rivers and dams are low, high concentrations of game can be viewed at these areas and game viewing in general is good. The first rains may start towards the end of October and the signs of spring and a new wet season are evident. September is generally the best time as the vegetation is less dense and game viewing is more prolific.
In Botswana, the annual zebra migration should be passing through Savuti and also in the Makgadikgadi Pans. After the first summer, rains have fallen, and tens of thousands of zebra migrate to this area to feast on the sweet marsh grasses. To witness thousands of migrating zebra on the flat grasslands of Savuti or the Makgadikgadi is a spectacular sight.