Botswana Safari – Complete Travel Guide

There is no country like Botswana. In the Okavango Delta cats are bigger, elephants are taller and all the great African creatures reign supreme. From the cool and clear waters of the Okavango Delta to the dramatic stretches of arid land in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana offers an incredible range of sights to see.

  • Best Time To Go:

    Mar-May (dry parks), Jun-Sep (Okavango, Chobe)

  • Average Safari Cost

    $200 to $1,500pp/day

  • Highlights

    The mighty Okavango River Delta, The land of the Elephants in Chobe National Park, The Kalahari Desert, ancient baobabs in Nxai Pans, salt pans in Makgadikgadi, fossil river valleys, black-maned lions, indigenous San people, rock art in Tsodilo Hills, and more!

Why Go on a Botswana Safari

As the leading country in an eco-friendly approach to tourism and safaris, Botswana prides itself on authentic experiences of the untouched lands. It is home to the Big Five, so you are likely to spot lions, elephants, leopards and many other animals roaming free.

There is simply no best time to travel to Botswana. With its diversity of the animal and bird species, any time of the year will offer a unique safari experience. Cross into the Kalahari Desert, the largest continuous area of sand in the world, which comes as a sudden contrast to the floodplains and greenery of the Okavango Delta areas. However, even in this true desert land, the variety of wildlife and the beauty of the landscape never ceases to amaze.

An abundance of wildlife can be seen throughout Botswana's parks and the Okavango Delta. You can also have many different adventures in its diverse environment. Try exploring the exquisite beauty of the Okavango Delta in a mokoro canoe, or watching the animals on game drives, spotting elephants on the Chobe River floodplains and crossing the boundary into the arid land of the Kalahari Desert with its salt pans.

Pros And Cons

Travel here at the right time and you will be mesmerized by the diversity of the animal and bird species that populate this virgin land. Being the largest continuous area of sand in the world, the Kalahari Desert proposes a total contrast to the floodplains and grasslands of the Okavango. However, even here in a true desert land, the variety of wildlife doesn’t stop to amaze.

Unlike other places in Africa, Botswana offers truly unique, intimate views of its wildlife from the porches and tents of its remote, exquisite lodges and campsites. If you're looking for a true and wild African safari experience, Botswana is the place to see.

To choose the right adventure, have a look at our list of pros and cons.

  • Low-density tourism and eco-friendly lodges
  • Abundant wildlife to see in the parks
  • Diverse scenery of desert, saltpans, scrubland, grassland and delta waterways
  • Politically stable and safe
  • Many different ways to experience Botswana (Off-road driving, fly-in safaris, houseboats on the Chobe River etc.)
  • Potential health risks, so consider vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid
  • Expensive safaris, with limited budget options

Best Time To Visit

The dry season, from May to October, is the best time to explore Botswana’s parks. This is when wildlife congregates around the remaining sources of water. A lack of rain and relatively low numbers of tourists, with the exception of Chobe, are other reasons to visit at this time. You can still see plenty of animals in the Wet season, November to April, but they can be harder to spotthrough the thick vegetation, and the heat can be intense.

This is Botswana's wet season. Temperatures can range from 66 to 89.6˚F (19-32˚C). The days are hot and humid with thunderstorms and rains that can sometimes last for days. This means that certain parks may close down as it less popular for tourists. However, rates may be more affordable during this time. While wildlife sightings are more difficult, it is an excellent time for birding.

The best parks to visit at this time

Botswana begins to move into the dry season as rainfall decreases and the temperatures become more moderate. The days are still warm and pleasant ending in clear, cool nights. Rates are still more affordable during this time than in peak season. It is a good time to visit any of the main parks except the Nxai Pans.
The dry season brings pleasant days followed by very cold nights. This is Botswana's peak season as there is no rainfall to disrupt travel and game viewing. Wildlife is easy to spot through sparse vegetation and animals can easily be found as they gather around the remaining water sources. The best parks to visit at this time

Clouds being to form in the clear skies as the wet season moves in. Days are very hot with brief afternoon rains that provide some relief from the heat. Even though it is not the peak season, there is still plenty of wildlife to be seen - even newborn animals. It is a good time to visit any of the main parks except the Kgalagadi.
Start your African Adventure

Wildelife And Birds

One the main reasons to travel to Botswana is its extraordinary amount of wildlife species. There are many common species you are guaranteed to see while encountering other, rarer animals may be down to sheer luck. The wildlife you see also depends on the reserves you visit. You are more likely to see the Big Five around the Okavango Delta, and reptiles, jackals, aardwolves and meerkats in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
List of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Black Rhino

Rare Animals

  • Blank rhino

Infrequently Seen Animals:

  • Leopard
  • Cheetah
  • Wild dog

Commonly Seen Animals:

  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Zebra
  • Wildebeest
  • Lion
  • Hyena

Best Of Wildlife in Botswana

It is always an incredible experience to see big cats – lions, leopards and cheetahs – hunt or rest in the shade, but there is nothing morehumblingthan aherd of majestic elephants towering next to your car. The feeling of the power of nature won’t leave you for weeks or even months after your Botswana safari.

But there are many other wild animals you could see here. Head to the Moremi Game Reserve to try your luck seeing the endangered African wild dogs. They are fierce and strategic predators and you'll want a good sighting of them. However, they can be difficult to spot as they travel over large areas of land in their packs.

Rare antelopes such as the Sitatunga, red lechwe and puku,can also be spotted in the Okavango Delta, Moremi and Chobe's riverfront area. These extraordinaryspecies often live in shallow water and even adapted to a semi-aquatic way of life!

Best Time To See More Animals

Wildlife sightings are generally better in the northern parks during the time between May and October. This is because the vegetation is sparser, and wildlife tends to gather around waterholes and riverbanks.

The Kalahari area and the drier reserves offer better sightingsbetween November and April. This is when the vegetation is thicker and greener, which attracts the wildlife from the northern parks.

Best Parks For Wildlife

Moremi Game Reserve

Home to the Big Five, endangered African wild dogs, red lechwe, giraffes, wildebeest, zebra, hippo and hyena.


Elephant, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, zebra, lion, kudu and hyena are all common sightings. Leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs are also sometimes sighted.

Central Kalahari

Here you can find the black-maned lion, cheetah as well as herds of oryx, springbok and kudu.You are also likely to find spotted and brown hyenas, bat-eared foxes, yellow mongoose and the very cute and inquisitive meerkats.

Makgadikgadi Pans

Giraffe, zebra and wildebeest are all common sightings as well as oryx, eland and red hartebeest. Spotted and brown hyena, leopards and lions can also be regularly seen. Bat-eared foxes, striped polecats and aardwolves can be spotted at dusk.

Nxai Pan

Lion, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, springbok, oryx and red hartebeest are all commonly seen after rains at the Nxai Pan. If you're lucky you could see an aardwolf or a honey badger but they are difficult to spot as they come out at night.

Okavango Delta

Four of the Big Five can easily be found here but rhinos are an extremely rare sighting. You can also spot giraffe, hippo, wildebeest, zebra and occasionally one of the big cat species.


With approximately 550 recorded species of birds, Botswana an ideal bird watching destination. There are no endemic bird species but the Short-Clawed Lark is considered near-endemic. With a skilled local guide you may be able to spot up to 200 different species of birds in a day, while travelling through different sites and habitats. Water birds are plentiful around the delta and rivers, while birds of prey and dry-country birds are found in the Kalahari Desert.

Endangered Birds:

  • Wattled Crane
  • Hooded vulture
  • White-backed vulture
  • Gray-crowned crane

Near- Endemic Birds:

  • Short-Clawed Lark

Best Areas For Birdwatching
The best areas for bird watching are the northern areas of Botswana. With the Okavango Delta in the northwest and the Chobe River in the northeast, these areas have a permanent source of water for the birds to gather around.
Best Parks For Birdwatching
The parks to go to for bird watching are Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Okavango Delta.

Getting There And Safety

The only flights into Botswana are from its neighbouring countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. So expect an additional leg and a layover. You can travel by air or by road to get into Botswana. There are multiple border crossings for each of the neighbouring countries that you can drive through, if travelling by road. Botswana is a very safe country and the majority of the country’s crime happens in the cities not the game parks.

There are direct flights into Botswana from its surrounding countries. Generally, tourists fly into Maun Airport or Kasana Airport, which is closer to the northern and most popular parks in Botswana.

Air Botswana offers a limited number of domestic flights that are cheaper when booked online than at a travel office. Check with your operator, they are most likely to provide this as an ad-on item for your itinerary.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Botswana.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Botswana.


All foreign visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after their visit.

Visas are not required by visitors of many nationalities, who will receive a 30-day entry permit upon arrival. If you plan to travel to Botswana's neighbouring countries you can obtain visas in Gaborone. The Botswana commission provided more detailed information on visa requirements.


Botswana is one of the safest countries in Africa. The greatest danger is the wildlife, but if you follow your guide's safety precautions you will enjoy a safe journey. Be respectful of your environment and exercise common sense when it comes to wildlife safety precautions.

The crime rate in Botswana is relatively low, and the parks and reserves are generally crime-free areas. While the country is safe, it would be best to practice the same caution that you would in your home country.

Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or carrying excessive amounts of cash. Busy markets and bus stops are usually the stomping ground for pickpockets and muggers - remain vigilant.

Avoid walking around in cities alone, especially night. If you are on a self-drive safari, it would be best to inquire about crime hotspot areas to avoid, as well as the condition of the roads that you will be traveling on.

While on a game drive or mokoro canoe safari, always follow your guide’s instructions and do not exit the vehicle unless the guide gives you permission to do so.


The vaccinations recommended for Botswana are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid. Boosters are recommended for measles, tetanus and diphtheria.

Check your local travel health authority for more information:

Drinking Water
Tap water is not considered safe to drink in Botswana, so it is advisable to always use bottled water or bring water sanitation tablets with you to purify the water. These will come in handy for using water to brush your teeth.
Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Botswana. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.