Chobe Game Reserve
Chobe lies on the north-eastern corner of Botswana, where it meets with three other countries, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The region becomes very dry during the dry season, and the only permanent sources of water in the region is the Chobe River, which joins with the Zambezi River. The wildlife of the region depends on this water source and elephants in their hundreds of thousands gather here at this time of year.
One of the most popular activities is for guests to take a sunset cruise on the Chobe River. They can cruise along, game viewing, watching pods of hippopotami, herds of puku antelope, zebra and waterbuck grazing on the floodplain. Then large herds of elephants appear out of the surrounding forest and come down to the water to drink and swim. This is a wonderful spectacle which offers lovely photographic opportunities.
Game drives allow guests to explore further afield and see the regions large herds of buffalo as well as the predators that follow in their wake. These include prides of lions, elusive leopards and even the endangered African Wild Dogs also called painted hunting dogs. Most of the accommodation is along the riverfront in Kasane on the edge of the park. There are several upmarket lodges tucked away in the park, such as Chobe Game Lodge and the andBeyond properties.
If guests want a water-based safari, the Zambezi Queen Houseboat is a wonderfully luxurious experience. To get to the Zambezi Queen and some of the lodges on the other side of the river, guests will need their passports as they will enter Namibia. In fact, on some river cruises, guests can go to a point in the river which is no man’s land where the four countries meet. It is common for some guests to fly into Livingstone in Zambia, transit through Namibia or Zimbabwe and end up in Botswana in less than an hour.
The Okavango Delta is a large wetland or swamp formed in the middle of the arid Kalahari Desert in southern Africa in Botswana. The Okavango River, instead of flowing to the sea, flows into the desert, where it spreads out and forms an oasis. It has hundreds of winding channels cutting through palm islands which are often termite mounds. Such abundant water and rich feeding attract large amounts of wildlife in what is an arid region.
Most of the luxury lodges in the Okavango Delta cannot be accessed by road and guests must fly-in in by small charter planes and land on bush airstrips. The main hub for these flights is the airport at Maun. Guests should have their camera handy during the flight, as the views of the palm-fringed islands of the Delta spread out below is stunning.
Depending on the lodge location, either on the edge of the Okavango or deep within the delta, it may be surrounded by water or not. Guests may still need to catch a boat to the lodge after they land. Lodges which are surrounded by permanent water offer boating safaris, which are a wonderful way to enjoy game viewing as the boat glides close to the wildlife. One of the most iconic activities associated with the Okavango is going a Makoro ride. This means exploring the channels of the delta in a canoe, poled along by a guide, like an African version of a gondolier ride. This is a great way to see beautiful small jewelled reed frogs, birds and other wildlife.
The Okavango is the site of some legendary safaris such as Mombo on Chiefs Island in the Moremi Game Reserve which forms part of the Okavango. Other private concessions of the Delta such as Linyanti and Selinda offer some of the best game viewing and photographic opportunities in Africa. There is something about the landscape that wonderfully reflects the light, making for incredible photos. The game viewing and service is second to none, and many lodges have esteemed international reputations.
Botswana has implemented a policy of high cost and low impact tourism. So many lodges are quite expensive, but all must adhere to strict conservation and ecological principles. This is especially the case in the Okavango Delta.
Moremi Game Reserve
Considered to be one of the best wildlife destinations in southern Africa, Moremi Game Reserve offers an authentic off the beaten track safari. It forms part of the incredible Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta on Earth. It is one of the most diverse ecosystems in Africa which offers exceptional game viewing.
The Moremi Game Reserve was created in 1963 by the widow of Chief Moremi III. The local Batawana people realised how the wildlife of the Okavango was being depleted by hunting activity and decided to form a reserve to protect the region for future generations. Today, the reserve offers some of the best wildlife sightings on the continent, especially of predators including lions, hyenas and leopards. Both black and white rhinos have been re-introduced to the reserve, and it is one of the few places in Botswana where visitors can see the Big Five.
The Kwhai region forms part of Moremi and these floodplains and Mopani woodland are one of the most beautiful regions of the delta. Many photographers consider the landscape creates beautiful natural lighting for taking wildlife photographs. Visitors can enjoy game drives in search of large herds of buffalo or when in flood season take tranquil canoe trips in Makoros. Thrilling walking safaris in Big Five territory allow guests to get a feel of being out in the African bush.
Mgadikgadi National Park
The Mgadikgadi Pans are the three of the largest salt pans in the world in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. Visitors on a safari in Botswana come to the region to explore this amazing landscape. In the dry months when the pans have baked to a hard salt crust, quad bike tours are allowed onto the pans, a truly thrilling experience. The feeling of endless uninterrupted space is incredible. At times guests can experience perfect silence as the pans are devoid of life. The pans stretch for such an extent that the curvature of the Earth becomes obvious.
During the wet season, the region is transformed. Local rainfall fills vast shallow areas of the pans and fresh green grasses spring up in the surrounding region. The water attracts large flocks of flamingos which feed in shrimp and algae that bloom in the water. Animals including eland, lions, zebras, cheetah, gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest bushbuck, giraffe, steenbok, and elephants are attracted from all over the Kalahari. The region becomes the stage for the largest zebra migration in Africa. No matter what time of year guests visit they will enjoy good sightings of desert-adapted animals. The stark grey white earth of the region makes for an impressive background for photographs.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
At over 52,000 km sq the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest conservation area in Africa. It was formed in the 1960s to protect an area so that the San people who have lived here for millennia could continue their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life. For many years it was closed to tourists. In recent years, the reserve has been opened for tourism to help bring income into the impoverished local communities.
As its name suggests, the reserve is covered by semi-desert of the Kalahari and is quite arid. The reserve is home to good numbers of desert-adapted wildlife, but they are scattered over a wide area and this makes game viewing special and a challenge. A safari vacation in the Central Kalahari is all about appreciating the stark beauty of the landscape.
The Central Kalahari has very distinct seasons when the summer rains arrive grassland springs to life and this attracts huge herds of springbok, eland and gemsbok (oryx). In the dry season, there are a few pans of permanent water around which wildlife congregates, making for good game viewing. Visitors come to the reserve in search of rare black-maned desert lions and cheetahs.
The Central Kalahari is an off the beaten track destination. Due to its remote location, it is designated a dark sky region which means that it is an ideal place for stargazing away from light pollution.
Tuli Game Reserve
The Tuli region is a network of private game reserves and conservation areas in southern Botswana on the border with South Africa. It is one of Botswana’s best-kept secrets. It gets much fewer tourists than Chobe and the Okavango but offers thrilling photographic and game viewing opportunities. It’s called “the land of giants’ referring to the giant baobab trees, large rock kopjes and large elephants which occur here.
The luxury lodges here are all on private reserves, so offer a wide range of ways to experience the African bush from traditional game drives to setting out on foot with an expert local guide who will reveal the secrets of the bush. Horseback safaris and going on safari by bike are also popular. The Tuli lodges are known for their photographic safaris and some lodges have special underground hides at waterholes which allow guests to get up close to the wildlife for the perfect shot.
The Tuli region is home to diverse African wildlife and is known for its predator sightings, including leopard, cheetah and lions. The reserve is also famous for its annual fundraising cycle tour through the reserve called the Tour de Tuli.