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Botswana

Renowned for being the ultimate game-viewing destination Botswana’s wildlife adventures set amongst the vast expanses of desert, saltpans, wetlands and savannah ensure a truly unforgettable safari experience. To many, the iconic Okavango Delta is a “must-see” where thrilling encounters with animals and prolific bird life is exceptional; further north in the Chobe elephant encounters are guaranteed. Then there are the stark Makgagkadi and Nxai salt pans supporting wildlife migrations and unique ecosystems, whilst the deep sands and open skies of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is home tothe famous black-maned lions, and brown hyenas.

Whilst visitors can join group camping or accommodated trips, for those wishing to get into the heart of the country and within its private concessions for exclusive sightings it’s generally a costly holiday Public parks v. private concessions/reserves.

To work out which style of holiday is going to best suit you understanding what’s on offer is paramount. Small group holidays are often the most affordable option and shared with other like-minded people and will make use the public parks (Chobe and Moremi National Parks etc) and as such these are the busiest locations – you will likely see other groups of people travelling and your experiences shared – so consider how you feel about sitting around watching a pride of lions with a number of other vehicles, or boats on the river hanging out doing the same. Camps used will often be tented or mobile tented with simple ablutions. Alternatively, for a greater cost staying in a lodge/or permanent camp located within a private concession will offer more luxurious accommodation and guided activities. Concessions (or private reserves) are open-fenced wilderness areas in pristine environments – whilst there are no boundary fences and game roams freely, if you are staying in one concession, heading across to the next private reserve is a big no-no, this ensures each guest enjoys the wild and a feeling of exclusivity.

Self-Drive Safaris

Self-driving in Botswana can be adventurous on the sandy tracks, but there are plenty of tar-roads linking the main tourist destinations and making it accessible to all and as such our routes are planned for the general driver. Explore the iconic Okavango Delta, to the pans and Chobe National Park, all of which offer great game-viewing experiences. There are plenty of accommodation establishments to suit a whole range of budgets and here at Chameleon we can offer assistance in route planning and making bookings – there is plenty for the independent self-driver to enjoy but it’s worth including game drives or activities with some of the lodges to ensure you don’t miss out on the full wildlife experience. Perhaps combine Botswana with Namibia to make a circular route, or cross the border to Victoria Falls. All self-drive options are tailored to suit your interests, budget and time.

11 Day Botswana Highlights Self–Drive & Fly–In Safari

This blend of mid–range and luxury accommodation combines a self–drive and fly in safari.  Starting at Chobe, your first game viewing experience is where the plentiful elephants frolic in the river. From here drive to Nata and onward to the seemingly endless Pans and starry skies, and fly from Maun into the incredible Okavango Delta, where the weaving waterways cast a magical spell and the game viewing is world–class.

13 Day Botswana Loop & Namibia Caprivi Self–Drive

This self–drive starts and finishes in Maun travelling in a circuit and taking in Namibia’s Caprivi area. Start heading east to the seemingly endless Pans and starry skies, then onto Chobe where elephants abound. Cross into Namibia and travel through woodlands and enjoy Bwabwata National Park along with river areas before returning to Botswana.

07 Day Maun to Kasane Fully Serviced Camping Scheduled Safari

This safari is perfect for those wishing to visit the best wilderness areas in Botswana in very comfortable mobile camping safari style. Starting in Maun and ending in Kasane this is a fully serviced camping safari – and is also run in reverse north to south (South bound).

13 Day Botswana Untouched Scheduled Safari

Starting in Johannesburg, South Africa, and finishing at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, this accommodated safari gives you the chance to explore Botswana’s finest National Parks during this safari. Start your tour by experiencing Marakele National Park, Khama Rhino Sanctuary and the Makgadikgadi Pans. See giraffe, elephant, zebra, lion and wildebeest in the Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai area from your own 4x4 vehicle.

Group Safaris

Beautiful Botswana has the world’s largest inland Delta and some of the best game viewing available – our scheduled, group tours ensure you get the opportunity to see the best of this country – choose from camping or accommodated set departures to fly-in on request options

Fly-In Safaris

With many camps in Botswana only accessible by air, a fly-in trip is the ideal way to experience the country from the waterways of Okavango Delta, to the salt Pans, the Central Kalahari Desert and to the north Savuti/Chobe. There are great low-season prices along with a range of scheduled options and can be tailored to suit you.

05 Day Green Desert Okavango Delta Fly–In Safari

To many the Okavango Delta is perhaps the best reason to visit Botswana – a region full of game and birds and considered one of the best wildlife experiences in the world.  Without doubt, a world–class destination that offers a wide range of habitats and exceptional game viewing. Join this fly–in safari taking you to both water and land–based private camps offering exclusive game–viewing and exceptional value for money at around 4–4.5* level.

11 Day Botswana Delta, Pans, Linyanti & Chobe Fly–In Safari

A well–balanced 11day fly–in safari taking in diverse eco–systems and superb game viewing opportunities – from Chobe Riverfront, onward to Linyanti and the great chance to spot wild dogs, to the world–class destination of the Okavango Delta. Your final nights are spent at the Central Kalahari and the chance to spot black–maned lions.

Botswana Regions: take a closer look

Ethereal, endless, dusty, expansive are all words describing this vast and seemingly inhospitable landscape comprising of around 80,000sq km yet life abounds. These ancient salt pans stretch for seemingly endless kms where heat mirages form impossible lakes and plodding animals crossing the pans seem to hover above the ground. The area is made up of several pans and national parks.

Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans: Combined into one park in the 90’s and covering an area of around 7,900 sq kms the unique landscape is made up of not only pans but also savannah, and grasslands stretching as far as the eye can see. During the dry winter month’s animals congregate around the Boteti River and other permanent water depressions but as soon as the summer rains arrive (generally January/February) zebra and wildebeest trek north closely following by predators towards Nxai Pan and its succulent grasses returning to the south after the end of rains. Aside from the animals small scrubby “islands” surround the pans with mokolane palms offering shelter along with a few hardy baobab trees - the most famous are “Baines Baobabs” within Nxai Pans. There are a handful of lodges and access is 4x4 only.

Sua & Nata Pans: Located further east and more accessible are both Sua and Nata Pans (Sua is the largest and derives its name from the San/Bushman word “salt”), overnight camping excursions can be pre-arranged but the most appealing aspect is during the wet season when flamingos and waterbirds flock and nest. Nata Sanctuary is open year round and has a range of birdlife as well as a few antelop.

Covering around 52,000sq kms and Africa’s largest protected area this sprawling desert area lies south of Maun in central Botswana. Perhaps not the most beautiful of areas it is certainly a contrast to that of the Delta and exceptional in its own right. The Kalahari – with its name deriving from “great thirst” is apt, this remote area has always been home to Bushmen, and one of the least-visited parks as it was only opened to the public in the last few years.

For those interested in the area Mark and Delia Owens book Cry of the Kalahari gives an insight into their lives and work on brown hyaena. Many areas remain inaccessible though mobile safaris are offered, along with a few lodges including Tau Pan, Meno a Kewna and Deception Valley Lodge (near to where the Owens were based) ideal to add for a two-night stay (fly in). Visiting after the rains when the flowers bloom and grasses spring forth attracting seasonal game. Year round residents include black-maned lions, other cats including cheetah and leopard, giraffe, oryx, springbok, wildebeest along with plenty of ostrich.

The private reserves surrounding Moremi Game Reserve stretch for miles.  Each concession has a unique atmosphere and habitat with just one or two private lodges or camps so you’ll see few people during your stay.  Activities centre round exploring the pristine areas and may include game drives, night drives and game walks (not allowed in national parks), boat cruises, and mokoro trips.  Depending on whether it’s water or land-based camp will depend on activities offered, as will water levels (see below).  Most camps can only be accessed from small planes (scenic flight over Delta) and vary in price according to the luxury and size of camp – most are run on a fully-inclusive basis. They do, however, offer one of the most rewarding experiences and its worth stretching your budget to experience the Delta this way – rather do less on another area of your trip and make the most of this incredible destination.

Moremi Game Reserve:  Situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta is the wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve, a large swathe of palm-fringed islands rising above the surrounding wetlands encompasses around 3000sq km.  Chief’s Island is the best known in the heart of the Inner Delta and along with the Moremi Tongue to the north-east, and varied habitats range from floodplains, lagoons and channels, woodland, savannah and grasslands and as such a varied amount of wildlife is found – Chiefs Island is private, despite being part of the reserve and there is no access vehicle to the public.  Khwai River (good for leopards), Xakanaxa Lagoon has a huge heronry and fantastic birding area, as well as being a beautiful area of forest and deep channels – a good place for big cats including leopard and cheetah with plentiful antelope.   Third Bridge is a short distance from Xakanaxa where there’s a number of campsites popular with mobile safaris and accessible by road from Maun, and good for lion an croc spotting!

Okavango Panhandle:  Many overland trips will travel to the panhandle area as it is not only the most accessible but one of the most affordable.  Mokoro, boat cruises, birding and fishing trips are offered along with guided overnight camping excursions and bird life is prolific – watch out for the beautiful but elusive Pel’s fishing owl.  Along the panhandle there is more human activity with settlements close to the river areas so large game is not as prolific. This area is easily accessible particularly from Namibia’s Caprivi region and easily added into a self-drive itinerary for those travelling along this section

It’s not surprising this is Botswana’s premier attraction as it offers one of the worlds largest inland delta system.  The Okavango River flows from the north-west having started life in Angola, travels onward to Namibia before entering Botswana (this area is the panhandle), from there the lagoons open up offering a patchwork of habitats including woodland, lagoons, channels and islands before eventually the crystal-clear water is swallowed into the dry Kalahari sands. As you would expect animals and birds are found in abundance and land-based game-viewing exceptional.

Gliding along on a mokoro through papyrus-lined streams may not offer as many opportunities to see large game but you’ll certainly appreciate the smaller things in life such as reed frogs, terrapins, fish and incredible birdlife such as strikingly coloured kingfishers and the impressive fisherman – the fish eagle.  Game drives can be extremely rewarding particularly within fence-free private concessions and Moremi, but as you head north to the panhandle there is more cultural interaction and provides less of a traditional delta experience – though it is more affordable. Separated into different regions it is important to understand the area and activities offered.  July to October is high season and as such lodges are more expensive – it is worth considering travelling outside of this time when lodge rates are reduced and more affordable.

Understanding the Delta and camps – water/land based camps:  Most people refer to camps in the delta as “water camp” or “land camp” and as such may not offer all activities.  Surprisingly much of the delta is dry so land based camps will often include game drives (night drives on concession areas), seasonal mokoro excursions and game walks.  Water based camps offer boat cruises, mokoro and walking trips but generally not game drives.  Some lodges are able to offer all activities but please ensure you understand what is offered to avoid any disappointment. As an area dependent on rainfall, water levels vary so mokoro excursions may not be year-round but only after the floods have arrived generally from July. Your Chameleon tour consultant will be able to advise you

To the west of Chobe and bordering Namibia lies the Kwando and Linyanti Rivers along with the Linyanti Marshes – access is mainly restricted to guests in the private concessions and lodges and remains a fence free region and is a magnet for wildlife particularly during the dry season as it wanders in and out of concessions full of woodland, savannah, grasslands and river systems. Wild dogs are frequently seen within the Kwando Reserve, along with cheetah, leopard, lion, buffalo herds and grazing antelope! Restricted to private, upmarket lodges this area is highly recommended particularly for those wishing to see wild dog. The Linyanti area is a broad, flooded plain that runs along the Linyanti River and again just a handful of private camps can operate within the reserve. Selinda Reserve and Chobe Enclave are the other options, both have a couple of luxury lodges.

Renowned for its huge elephant and buffalo populations, relaxed lion prides and dense game numbers the 11,000sq km Chobe is located in the north-east of the country and easily accessible from Victoria Falls and north-east Namibia making it one of the most popular safari destinations in southern Africa. There are a number of high-end lodges but around the riverfront area there are plenty affordable options making it a busy destination. There are four eco-systems and generally speaking it’s best to visit during dry season (July-October)

Chobe Riverfront: Thanks to the border with the Chobe River, this area of the park supports vast numbers of wildlife making it a rewarding game viewing experience. Popular boat cruises raise a smile watching river-crossing and playful bath-time elephants, along with honking hippos and abundant bird life. Game drives are plentiful in the open savannah and spotting the many species of antelope, predators and crocs relatively easy. Whilst lodge prices in Kasane vary this is one of the most cost-effective options in Botswana. For those searching for a little peace and quiet head away from the main riverfront area.

Savuti Marsh: The flat expanse of Savuti and the marsh lies in the quieter south west region of the park and famous for attracting large herds of elephant, buffalo and seemingly endless amount of antelope, it retains its own charm and atmosphere and there are several works of Bushman rock art. There is a handful of private lodges (mostly luxury) and one or two campsites utilized by mobile safaris. Driving accessibility can be impossible during rainy season.

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