The Ultimate Botswana Safari
This is my ultimATE SAFARI EXPERIENCE IN AFRICA…
Although Botswana has an abundance of possibilities when it comes to adventure routes and itineraries, I consider the below camping safari THE ultimate one!
A Botswana safari is possibly the epitome of an African vacation for those looking for an authentic experience.
Unfortunately it isn’t offered by tour operators as a standard package, so it’s something you should tackle as a self drive with at least two vehicles, or hire a guide like myself to guide you, while you drive your own or a hired 4×4, or lastly have a safari company, like Africa’s Best Adventures design the adventure for you while you travel with a guide in one of their vehicles.
Although I prefer the safari starting and ending in Maun, you can do it from Kasane to Kasane too.
Maun has a bigger variety of grocery and supply stores, enabling you to stock up properly for your adventure, whilst 4×4 hire is also more practical from Maun.
Maun to Khwai, Moremi Game Reserve.
2,5 to 3 hours.
Accommodation…Various options available, both in and outside Moremi.
Departure could be any day of the week, although I personally prefer Tuesdays. This allows me to do most of my grocery shopping on Mondays. It’s important to have as much of your meat products frozen as possible as you will have 5 to 6 days between supply stores.
When I purchase my meat on Monday I request the butcher to vacuum pack and freeze it for me, for collection on Tuesday morning.
At the same time I buy 5 or 6, 500ml bottles of water and request them to be frozen as well. The frozen water firstly helps to keep the fridge cold, and secondly can also be used daily for ice
until they eventually defrost, and then off course its lovely to have a few bottles of cold water on hand. Beware of overfilling the fridge…during hot months it will have to work excessively hard to get to -3 or more and this again puts a lot of unwanted strain on the fridge battery. By preparing meals like mac and cheese, warm tuna salad and more, your meat requirements are less and this means a happier fridge.
Once our food supply is sorted we top up the diesel tanks and we are good to go. A really shaky unpaved road soon greets you and fasten the seatbelts for a good hour or so. Enter Moremi Game Reserve at South Gate helps, as the roads inside the park is a lot better and you have the route to North Gate as your first game drive too! Its roughly 30km of slow driving and you should see stacks of wildlife right from the start!
You will arrive at your campsite early enough to leisurely set up camp, have a light lunch, take a bit of a break and enjoy an afternoon game drive from around 4 to 6 pm. Do take note that both the baboons and monkeys are just as excited about your arrival at Khwai as you are and cannot wait for you to leave your camp, so they can inspect and help themselves to anything edible that you may have left accessible. Do not leave food visible or fragrant as they will bite through your tent or caravan’s gauze windows to reach it, I’ve seen it multiple times. Your food is safest inside your car.
Back at camp its a good idea to get a nice campfire going where you can enjoy a magic evening listening to the night sounds whilst preparing an awesome dinner. Beware of opportunistic hyenas looking to score a quick bite, but otherwise not much to worry about.
Khwai Camp and surrounds.
It’s best to leave at first light and I normally spend about 4 hours out. Moremi has a myriad of sand tracks and the sightings are always superb.
Perhaps slowly make your way to Domba hippo pools where you may disembark and enjoy a cuppa, whilst scanning the area from the viewing deck, looking out for hippo, red letchwe and more.
Getting back to camp by 11 is the perfect time to prepare a well deserved brunch.
Late afternoon tea at around 3:30pm makes for a great time to start your afternoon drive with dinner following on you return.
Tip: Always do your long, far away from camp, game drives in the morning and keep the afternoon for shorter drives closer to camp. Should you have any issues like vehicle problems or perhaps you loose your way a bit, it’s best for it to happen closer to camp (where other travelers will find you), should it happen on your afternoon drive.
Khwai Camp and surrounds.
Enjoying a mokoro trip on the Khwai river is a must and this morning is ideal…!
Enquire at the village the day before and get yourselves a spot booked timeously helps. Do get in touch with us for contact details of a recommended outfit, we gladly assist.
This will take up most of your morning, although nothing prevents you from having a shortened game drive before or after. This afternoon you can enjoy your last game drive at Khwai, and perhaps this time drive around the eastern part of Khwai.
Khwai Camp to Savute.
This is a magic drive and quite sandy at places. Nothing too difficult though, any standard 4×4 will do.
First stop is after around 40km at Mababe gate where you sign into the Chobe National Park. It’s also a great stop for a coffee and something like a biscuit to bite. We normally depart Khwai quite early meaning it’s not quite time for brunch yet.
Then enjoy brunch under a big tree just before the road to Savute splits, leaving you two options.
Sandridge road is quite sandy, whilst the marsh road is as dusty as hell! We have taken both and the marsh is probably my favorite since there is more wildlife here when the Mababe depression receives the excess water from the Khwai river.
The driving is long and slow, but as far as rugged beauty goes, not much to beat it!
Savute campsites have large sandy pitches and most have at least 1 large tree.
On arrival pitch up camp, relax a little and go explore this amazing park for a couple of hours.
Savute and surrounds.
Like Moremi, Savute has enough sand tracks to keep you busy for a week.
Morning and afternoon game drives are the order of the day, with own time filling the in betweens.
Savute has a large array of mammals…do look out for leopard, lion, elephant, hyena and a variety of antelope species. This is the one park where we have had a number of great sightings of the elusive Roan antelope. These guys are huge, bold and beautiful…I do hope you get a glimpse of them!
The park has a few lovely picnic spots of which I prefer the one at Marabou pan as the wildlife around the pan is top notch.
Males will defend their females by aggressively warding off competing males, whilst they will follow would be partners over long distances before they pin them down and initiate the mating process.
Females lays 4 to 30 eggs in holes dug in the ground. Eggs can take up to 15 months to hatch and many eggs are lost to birds, monitor lizards and jackals. Adult leopard tortoises are predated upon by lion and hyenas. Leopard tortoises are long lived and reaches sexual maturity between 12 and 15 years.
They have an important role in nature in that they are primary consumers feeding on plants and returning nutrients back to the soil. They furthermore assist with the distribution of plants by consuming seeds and passing them undigested through their gut for germination elsewhere.
Savute and surrounds.
Another day like day 5…pure relaxation, whilst you’re out there enjoying the magic of the park with game drives morning and afternoon.
Savute to Kasane.
Accommodation…Kasane has a number of good camping sites. Chobe Safari Lodge is my preferred site.
A tough but enjoyable drive today. 70km of fairly thick sand, but it’s all manageable with a standard 4×4. Once you reach the village of Kachikau after 70km it’s all good paved roads all the way to Kasane.
Kachikau also has a fuel station where you can refuel and pump up your vehicle’s tyres after deflating for the journey here.
Arrival at Chobe Safari Lodge is normally around 15h00 and you can spend the afternoon to stock up on supplies, the grocery stores are normally well stocked here.
Tip: Soon after leaving Savute the road splits and you can select either option. Pick the left option which passes the Savute airstrip, as this road is miles better!
Kasane and surrounds.
Today is a great day as you take the 10 minute drive to Chobe National Park. Be there at first light to make sure you make the most of the cool early morning when animals are most active.
From 11am onwards most animals venture deeper into the bush, seeking shade and protection from the harsh sunlight where they remain till cooler conditions set in from about 4pm. At Chobe you may find leopard, lion, hyena, elephant, giraffe, sable, and many more.
The park has a great picnic spot on the banks of the Chobe where a nice brunch can be enjoyed!
The afternoon is even more exciting as you can choose to do the 3 hour sundowner cruise on a large river boat, which departs from Chobe Safari Lodge, every day at 3pm. Don’t miss out on this one, it’s as good as it gets with great sightings of hippo, elephant, crocodile, buffalo and lots more. Bird sightings are absolutely top notch too.
The boat itself is great too as it has a toilet on board, order a drink, and even go to the upstairs deck from where you can take beautiful photographs of the river and all its inhabitants.
Tip: Book your boat cruise ticket when you arrive at the lodge on day 7. The cruise is very popular and you don’t want to miss out!
Kasane to Victoria Falls.
Yet another highlight today as it’s the perfect day to cross over into Zimbabwe to visit the mighty falls. The best way to do this is to get an early morning shuttle with one of the local operators. It’s inexpensive and hassle free. You get picked up, assisted with the border crossing, dropped at the falls, and returned to camp by around 3pm. It doesn’t come easier than this and saves a lot of hassles trying to do it with your own vehicle.
Tip: Take a few sandwiches with for breakfast and enjoy a stunning pizza at the fast food shop in town.
Kasane to Elephant Sands.
Accommodation…Elephant Sands Lodge camp grounds.
Bathrooms…Shared ablutions…not spotless but adequate.
A pretty straight road north to south through savannah vegetation is the order of the day and the small agricultural town of Pandamatenga is the ideal brunch stop.
I love including Elephant Sands in our itineraries because of the abundance of wild elephants that comes to drink at the lodge watering hole.
It’s not unusual to see 50 or more big ones congregating at the waterhole to quench their thirst. What makes it more special is that they sometimes walk right by your camp spot to get to the water. This could be as close as 8 to 10 meters from you! But fear not, they are here for the water only and isn’t at all interested in you. Should they come really close, be brave, stay still and wait for them to pass. No sudden movements and no running please, it might make them nervous!
Making your campfire dinner here is very special too, as you cook away with the giants all around!
Tip: There is a veterinarian control point a few km before you reach Elephant Sands and no raw meat may be taken across. Be wise and cook your meat the evening before, or invest in frozen fish of some sort in Kasane. It might also be a good evening for something like mac and cheese. Your last resort is dinner in the very good restaurant at the lodge.
Elephant Sands to Planet Baobab.
Accommodation…Planet Baobab camp sites.
Bathrooms…shared ablusions…a notch above spotless!
Leaving Elephant Sands takes us to the small town of Nata. Here you find a Choppies grocery store on the other side of town on the way to Francistown. Although not great you should be able to find enough supplies for the last 5 days of the adventure.
Planet Baobab gives you your first opportunity during the entire adventure to relax completely and recharge the batteries.
The pool is huge and always spotlessly clean.
Spending a few hours here, dozing off occasionally is marvelous and you will have fond memories of your time here for years afterwards. Within the lodge grounds you find a couple of the largest baobab trees in Botswana and a walkabout to enjoy them is highly recommended!
This is also an opportunity to leave your cutlery and crockery unpacked and enjoy a meal in their very popular restaurant.
Tip: The restaurant prefers guests to make their reservations early and at the same time to select your main course. This allows the kitchen to prepare properly for your arrival.
Planet Baobab to Nxai Pan.
Accommodation…Nxai Pan South Camp.
A big move today as we move a short distance to Nxai pan, definitely one of Botswana’s best wildlife parks.
Thick sand confronts you as soon as you leave the paved road, and the final 40km is as challenging as it can get…but you will manage just fine.
The huge waterhole here attracts so many animals here during a day that it would be difficult to count!
From cheetah to leopard, lion, hyena, buffalo, giraffe, kudu, springbok, impala, wildebeest and lots more. One of the beauties of Nxai pan is that you need not drive a lot. Go to the waterhole, make yourself comfortable and wait…they will come in their droves. Early morning and late afternoon visits to the waterhole is recommended, whilst mid days are there for you to enjoy a nice book, have a siesta, do some laundry, or anything else that tickles your fancy.
Dinners are always great and you are guaranteed to have a number of huge elephant bulls visit, whilst you are preparing dinner or even when you are having dinner!
Nxai pan and surrounds.
Another day just like day 11 and its yet a day of many animals and great sightings.
Nxai pan and surrounds
Today is your last day at Nxai pan and I recommend an early visit to the watering hole followed by a long drive to some of the other areas in the park.
Taking your picnic goodies with is a great idea and perhaps enjoy brunch under one of the large baobab trees found in the park.
The late afternoon drive is back to the waterhole and the sunset photo opportunities are endless.
Nxai pan to Khumaga Camp.
4 to 5 hours.
Accommodation…Khumaga Camp, Makgadikgadi National Park.
Today we have 75km of tough driving with the thickest sand yet encountered. Again don’t let it put you off, getting stuck can be fun and you’ll be amazed how keen fellow travelers are to help! Then again chances are you won’t need help as you won’t get stuck.
Once at Khumaga you are in for a big treat as the entire length of the Boteti river attracts good numbers of wildlife.
The ones you’d like to see are all here and often you find huge herds of zebra as well as wildebeest. A two hour afternoon game drive is a must and you will have a splendid dinner afterwards with a few huge elephant bulls grazing close by.
Khumaga and surrounds.
The last day of game drives, sand driving and bush cooking has unfortunately arrived and we need to make the most of it.
All the action is along the river and spending both game drives here is perfect as all the animals need to drink!
There are two nice picnic areas and enjoying brunch at the one closest to the river is best, as you are picnicking with stacks of animals all around.
Khumaga to Maun.
The dreaded day has arrived and the journey back to Maun is a short 2 hour drive. The adventure is done, but your memories will live for ever!
Tip: This is the ideal day to enjoy a scenic small plane flight over the Okavango Delta.
SO MUCH TO EXPERIENCE
Why is this safari such a great adventure?
Everything about it is top drawer material… you get to drive some of the toughest roads in Africa, traversing a large part of the savannah biome, doing numerous game drives in the country with the biggest elephant population on earth, being amongst such an abundance of wildlife that is actually unbelievable, enjoying a boat cruise on the mighty Chobe, experiencing the Makgakgadi salt pan system, doing a walkabout at the Victoria Falls, flying over the incredible Okavango Delta in a 7 seater plane, meeting the locals in the small towns and villages, mokoro the channels of the delta, enjoying great bush cooking, camping in the wild with hyena, lion, elephant and more passing through your camp at night, listening to an amazing melody of night sounds every night, hearing the scops owl and fiery necked nightjar during the night, waking to melodious bird song every morning, having a pee behind your tent in the middle of the night… making many friends as you travel along, going back home and try to explain to friends and family what you have just experienced… having the most amazing memories of your adventure that will possibly stay with you for life… this is why I choose it as the greatest adventure not only of Botswana, but possibly of Africa… come do it, it’s waiting for you!
If you consider doing this greatest of adventures and you need guidance please feel free to contact me, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Planning this tour needs careful attention, as both fuel and food stock purchases needs to be done with great care, since you will spend 5 to 6 days in the bush with very little in the form of supplies.
Altis Kriel, owner of Africa’s Best Adventures is a nature guide, dangerous animal guide, tracker, 4×4 off road guide as well as a culture guide, with an absolute passion for people and the bush!
REVIEW ON BOTSWANA SAFARI
A recent client’s feedback on this safari
We returned now from a 17d safari in Botswana with Altis, an amazing professional guide who planned the trip to the last detail.
Altis is a guide, a cooker, a mechanics, a conversation man that makes his clients very comfortable during the trip.
Altis is a safari pro guide in a manner that he knows a lot about animals, birds and trees.
If you love nature, wildlife intimate group, Altis is the man for you in Africa.
I will never forget this safari trip and its creator!
As he called it, it is the best Africa adventure I have ever done.