The Safari Experience
A safari in Botswana
is a magical experience. A feeling of extraordinary connectedness with
Nature often occurs on safari -- a perfect blend of stunning and pristine
landscapes, sky and water, the staggering abundance of wildlife that
roams freely across the land... and you in the middle of it all.
Whether you choose
to safari by boat, on foot, in an open rugged 4WD, on the back of a
horse or an elephant, or maybe even a combination of these experiences,
we want you to have an exciting, memorable, and most of all... safe...
adventure of a lifetime -- again and again!
Keep these helpful
suggestions and tips in mind when planning your safari experience
Times to Go on Safari
April through early
November offer the best times to view large numbers of animals as they
migrate towards the waterways of the Okavango Delta. It is during this
dry season period that the big game, wildlife and birds congregate around
water sources - the natural waterholes and the borehole-fed dams - and
are at their most visible.
But Botswana is
truly a year-round tourist destination. The landscapes change dramatically
with the seasons, and wildlife roams freely across the game reserves
and parks, providing unique safari experiences year-round.
November and December
- the calving months - are an excellent time to witness nature's own
timetable of regeneration.
February/March is the wet summer season. Temperatures during these months
can be quite hot and rain may make some roads muddy and impassable.
During the rainy summer season, animals in many game areas disperse,
offering a different safari experience for the visitor.
The wet season,
from January to March, sees the migration of large numbers of game into
the summer grazing areas, while the delta comes alive with sounds of
hundreds of bird species.
In March and April
thousands of zebras and other animals migrate towards the Savuti area
of Chobe National Park.
Dress is casual in Botswana. Shorts and trousers are permissible for
women. Most hotels have swimming pools, so remember to bring a bathing
In summer, lightweight, light-colored cottons or materials that wick
away moisture are preferable.
materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort.
In winter, bring
a pair of trousers, long-sleeved shirts or blouses and pullovers. Make
sure you have a very warm jacket for early mornings and evenings - it
does get surprisingly cold at night but warms up during the day.
safaris, wear neutral colors that allow you to blend in with the landscape
and make you less visible to the wildlife.
It is always a good idea to bring a lightweight jacket and/or sweater
for unexpected temperature changes. A lightweight packable rain poncho
or umbrella is handy in the summer rainy season.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must; supplement with sandals or flip-flops.
Special attention should be given to protecting yourself from the sun,
particularly in the summer when the sun can be scorching. Bring sunhat,
sunscreen, after-sun lotion and sunglasses.
Binoculars, camera, flashlight (with plenty of spare batteries and bulbs),
water bottle, insect repellent, lip salve, sewing kit, safety-pins,
and tweezers are all very useful. A basic first-aid kit is a must, as
in many instances you will be traveling to areas far from health facilities.
Camera film is available at most shops and petrol stations. Cosmetics,
medications, cigarettes and imported liquors are all available in the
Most people choose
to have a professional, experienced safari operator handle all the details
of their safari trip. But if you're an intrepid traveler and self-drive
camping enthusiast, you will be delighted with self-drive camping in
Botswana - it is truly a campers' paradise.
on a camping trip into the bush requires a good deal of planning and
preparation. You will be going to remote areas, accessible only by four-wheel
drive, where water, petrol, or food, may not be available. You will
often be driving on rough roads and under conditions which are very
different from those you may be used to.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks has introduced 4 central
pay points at Letlhakane (Boteti), Francistown, Kang and Ghanzi Wildlife
Offices for collection of park entry fees. This is in addition to three
other existing pay points in Kasane, Maun and Gaborone Wildlife Offices.
Credit Card machines
have also been installed at these offices where tourists have an option
of paying using Visa and MasterCard credit cards. Sorry, but Diners
Card and American Express cards are not accepted. Preparations are ongoing
to install another Point of Sales machine in Tsabong.
Provision of this
service will in the near future lead to reduction of cash collection
at Park Entry Gates of all our National Parks and Game Reserves. The
system will enhance the Department of Wildlife & National Parks
endeavor to improve customer satisfaction and efficient service delivery
since campers will no longer have to carry large amounts of cash into
our National Parks and Game Reserves.
As a general guideline
self-drive campers are advised as follows;
- Visitors to Kalahari
Transfrontier Park can pay at Kang Wildlife office and Tsabong (once
the machine has been installed).
- Visitors to Central
Kalahari and Khutse Game Reserves can pay in Kang, Gaborone, Letlhakane
and Ghanzi Wildlife offices.
- Visitors to Chobe
National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National
Parks can pay in Gaborone, Francistown, Letlhakane, Maun and Kasane
Camping gear - Tent, sleeping bag, extra blankets and jackets (in winter),
camp-beds (if you find them more comfortable than sleeping on sand),
axe, shovel, cooker, water bottles, pots, non-breakable dishes and cups,
torches, matches, tin-opener, knife, batteries, bulbs for torches (a
good supply), candles, gas lamp (gives lots of light), folding tables
and chairs, a large cold-box, masking tape, cello tape, safety-pins,
sewing kit, penknife, first-aid kit, buckets and basins, Thermos flask,
mosquito coil and insect repellent, toilet paper and basic tools.
Keep your maps,
bird and animal identification books, flashlights, toilet paper, binoculars,
and camera within easy reach. Pack everything evenly, so as not to weigh
down one side of the vehicle more than the other. Balance is important
on sand roads where ruts may cause the vehicle to swerve around.
All necessary food for your camping trip can be acquired from major
towns and villages. Make sure that you bring more than you think you
will use. Fresh produce or meats will last three to four days in a insulated
cooler in summer, and a week or more in winter. Canned food is most
practical, supplemented with fresh vegetables and fruits. Use plastic
rather than glass containers.
If you have time, prepare two to four one-pot meals before departing.
You will be grateful for having only to heat and serve a meal after
long hours of driving and setting up camp.
If you are traveling to Kutse Game Reserve, Central Kalahari Game Reserve,
Makgadikgadi Pans or other dry remote areas, carry at least 100 litres.
In the Tuli, Okavango and Chobe areas, water is readily available. However,
it is best to carry between 50 and 100 litres of drinking water with
you. Remember to keep some water at hand in the car to avoid having
to get out while on game drives.
In the eastern part of the country and along the main roads, petrol
is always available. However, in the remote areas, petrol stations sometimes
run out of supplies, and there are no petrol stations in or at the entrance
to the parks and reserves.
It is worthwhile taking the following precautions: estimate distances
to be traveled, add on extra for four-wheel drive usage and extra for
driving in the sand; add on extra again for game drives, and the possibility
of getting lost - over-estimate, rather than under-estimate.
Carry at least 100
to 150 litres of petrol in long-range tanks, if you have them, or in
approved-use gasoline cans (never use plastic containers). If you do
not have a long-range tank, use a funnel or hand-pump to put petrol
into the tank. Mouth siphoning petrol through a hosepipe can be highly
Spare Car Parts
If you are going for a drive with 4WD, it is wise to take with you:
two spare tires, spark plugs, jump leads, tow rope and cable, a few
litres of oil, insulated wire, electrician's tape, lamp, fire extinguisher,
wheel spanner and a complete tool-kit.
gravel roads and sand tracks of Botswana certainly requires some practice.
Awareness of the common pitfalls - and what to do about them - can be
of great help.
Many people tend to over-estimate the speed they can travel on gravel
roads. Do not exceed 80kph (50mph). You may be deceived by a good section
of road, only to come up against a huge crater-like pothole, a rock,
a boulder, a patch of heavy sand, or an animal. Wherever you are, always
be on the lookout for domestic or wild animals suddenly darting across
The dust raised
by an on-coming vehicle, an over-taking vehicle, or cars or lorries
moving slowly in front of you creates another potentially dangerous
situation, as your vision is radically reduced. Put on your headlights,
reduce your speed until you can see the road, or if necessary, pull
over to the side of the road until the dust settles.
Driving on Sand
Before setting off, familiarize yourself with engaging four-wheel drive,
experiment with various gears, and if possible, try out some sand patches
to see how the vehicle handles them. Your type of vehicle will also
affect how you drive. Land-Rovers and Land Cruisers are heavy, solid
vehicles and less likely to turn over than lighter 4x4 vehicles. Always
keep both hands on the wheel.
Driving on sand
requires continual concentration, as conditions are constantly changing.
When you see a rough patch ahead, slow down and change down a gear before
you meet it but do not stop.
Many sand tracks
are corrugated and driving along them is rather uncomfortable. Reduce
your speed considerably, or you will find your head hitting the roof,
your supplies bouncing up and down, the suspension on your vehicle damaged
and your back aching.
Driving in deep
sand can be made easier by lowering the air pressure in the tires to
increase the gripping area.
Also if you get
stuck in the sand and you can't get out using your driving expertise,
a wrench would help. If there are no trees around, then take your spare
wheel, dig a hole in the ground, put the spare wheel in the hole and
hook the wrench to the wheel. Seal back the hole and you will have enough
power to get out. (This is an interesting tip from an experienced bush-driver).
Do not over-estimate the power of four-wheel drive in mud - it is more
difficult to extricate yourself from mud than sand.
Some areas have
the infamous 'black cotton soil' which, when wet, is notorious for bogging
vehicles down axle-deep in mud. One such area to be careful of is the
stretch between Khwai River and Savuti. Be especially mindful during
the rainy season. If the soil appears wet and black, try to go around
it over a dry patch. You might even pre-test it by walking over a small
stretch - the top may appear caked and dry while underneath the soil
is wet and slippery.
Driving on Pans
Pans can be particularly deceiving. The surface may appear white, hard
and dry, while underneath the soil is wet and muddy. It is best to drive
only on existing tracks, or if this is not possible, stay close to the
If you do become
stuck in sand or mud, first dig out from under the wheels with a shovel,
then place sticks and logs under the wheels to give them traction. If
necessary, jack the vehicle up to place sticks and logs further underneath
the wheels. A hydraulic jack can be used to jack up the wheel itself
by placing it in the rim of the wheel, but take care as the jack slips
easily and the handle can suddenly fly up.
Driving in the Parks
Perhaps the best frame of mind to cultivate in Botswana's parks and
reserves is that you are now in the animals' territory and not your
own. Respect for the animals is essential.
Allow a good distance
between the animals and your vehicle. Do not get out of your vehicle
when on game drives, unless it is absolutely necessary and do not go
very far. The speed limit in Botswana's game parks is 40kph (25mph).
Off-road driving is NOT allowed.
and Wildlife -- Do's & Don'ts
is essential to behave properly near wild animals, to respect the environment
and avoid potentially dangerous situations. If you are camping on safari
for the first time you may feel some anxiety by the possibility of elephants,
lion, hyenas or other animals roaming freely around the campsite.
This does take some
getting used to, and your first reaction may be to flee. It would be
wise to discuss the best reaction response to an aggressive animal encounter
with an experienced guide or animal expert -- preferably before you
are out on safari. Different behavior is recommended for different animals,
and it is important to get it right. However, in the unlikely event
of an animal becoming aggressive towards you, do not panic, but stay
calm and keep quiet. Whatever you do, don't run.
When visiting or
staying in the animals' habitat, remember these rules:
- Always sleep
in your tent or vehicle. Make sure your tent zips up completely.
- Do not sleep
with legs or arms protruding from the tent.
- Carry away or
burn all rubbish. Many areas do not have rubbish disposal facilities.
- Cigarette butts
should be well extinguished and placed in a rubbish bag, not thrown
- Make sure the
campfire is well extinguished at the end of the evening, and cover
it with sand.
- Bury all fecal
matter and burn all toilet paper.
- In most parks
and reserves you should camp in designated camping areas where basic
amenities are provided. Outside the parks, reserves and wildlife management
areas, you are free to camp anywhere you like.
- Do not sleep
on bridges or animal paths, particularly those of elephant or hippo.
- Do not bathe
in or drink from still bodies of water, as there is the danger of
- In the Okavango,
it is tempting to dive into a lagoon or stream, especially after a
hot, dusty drive. This is forbidden. Not to mention there is the obvious
danger of crocodiles or hippo.
- Do not go near
the water at night. If you want to wash or refresh yourself it is
best to go to the water with another person. Have him or her stand
near you and be on the lookout while you wash. Watch out for eyes
or nostrils protruding from the water.
- Be wary of animals
with young. Never feed the animals or try to touch them. The feeding
of monkeys, baboons and mongoose at various campsites has led to these
animals' atrocious, and at times aggressive, harassing behavior.
- In the Okavango
and Chobe, where animal density is high, do not stray far from the
campsite or walk in the bush, unless you are accompanying an experienced