Botswana - Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)

Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)


Main Table of Contents

Welcome to Botswana

The Okavango Delta

Moremi Wildlife Reserve

Chobe National Park

Kwando Reserve

If You Have Time

Gateway City

Welcome to Botswana

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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | Planning | Essentials | About the Hotels and Lodges | Visitor Info | Must-See Parks

Updated by Kate Turkington

More than half a century ago Botswana was a Cinderella among nations. Then the Fairy Godmother visited and bestowed upon her the gift of diamonds. The resulting economic boom transformed Botswana into one of Africa’s richest countries (as measured by per capita income). In 1966 the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland was granted independence and renamed Botswana, and the first democratic president, the internationally respected Sir Seretse Khama, guided his country into a peaceful future.

Where other nations’ celebrations quickly turned sour, Botswana’s independence brought an enduring tide of optimism. The country sidestepped the scourge of tribalism and factional fighting that cursed much of the continent and is considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies. The infrastructure is excellent, and the country is extremely safe. Another big bonus is that nearly everybody speaks English—a legacy from when Botswana was a British colony.

Although cities such as Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ronee), the capital, have been modernized, Botswana has little in the way of urban excitement. But outside the cities it’s a land of amazing variety: the Kalahari Desert lies in stark contrast to the lush beauty of the Okavango Delta, one of Botswana’s most magnificent and best-known regions. Botswana is passionate about conservation, and its legendary big game goes hand-in-hand with its admirable conservation record. Once a hunting mecca for the so-called Great White Hunters (i.e., Ernest Hemingway), most shooting now is with cameras, not rifles. A few proclaimed hunting areas still exist, but they’re strictly and responsibly controlled by the government.

Botswana’s policy of low-impact, high-cost tourism ensures the wilderness remains pristine and exclusive. Nearly 18% of the country’s total land area is proclaimed for conservation and tourism. The Moremi Game Reserve, for example, was the first such reserve in Southern Africa to have been created by an African community (the Batawana people) on its own tribal lands.

The great rivers—the Chobe, the Linyanti, and the Kwando—are teeming with herds of elephants and packs of wild dogs, otherwise knows as the elusive “painted wolves” of Africa. The Savuti Channel, which was dry for decades, is now flowing again and is a mecca for water birds. The golden grass of the Savuti plains is still home to huge prides of lions that hunt under skies pulsing with brilliant stars. Then there are the vast white pie-crust surfaces of the Makgadikgadi Pans (the nearest thing on earth to the surface of the moon), once a mega inland lake where flamingos still flock to breed and strange prehistoric islands of rock rise dramatically from the flaky, arid surface.

If you’d like to meet some of the most fascinating people, the stark and desolate Central Kalahari Game Reserve is home to the fastest disappearing indigenous population on earth, the Kalahari Bushmen.

Fast Facts

Size At 581,730 square km (224,607 square miles), it’s roughly the size of France or Texas.

Capital Gaborone.

Number of National Parks Six. Chobe National Park (including the Savuti and Linyani areas); Mokolodi Nature Reserve; Moremi Game Reserve; Okavango Delta; Central Kalahari Game Reserve; Kgalagadi National Park.

Number of Private Reserves As new private reserves and concessions are established regularly, it’s difficult to estimate. Private reserves can be found in all the following areas: Okavango Delta, Moremi Wildlife Reserve, Chobe, Linyanti, Savuti, Selinda, Kwando, Kalahari, the Tuli Block, Makgadikgadi Pans.

Population 2 million.

Big Five The gang’s all here.

Language The national language is Setswana, but English is the official language and is spoken nearly everywhere.

Time Botswana is on CAST (Central African standard time), which is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and seven hours ahead of North American Eastern Standard Time.


The Okavango Delta. Whether you’re drifting dreamily in a mokoro (canoe) through the crystal-clear, papyrus-fringed channels or walking among ancient trees on one of the many islands, your everyday world is guaranteed to fade from your consciousness.

Big Game. You won’t find huge herds as in the Serengeti, but you’ll come face-to-face with more critters than you ever knew existed. And there won’t be hordes of other visitors blocking your view or diluting the experience.

Birding. Marvel at more than 900 species—many endemic—that crowd the game reserves. A sighting of a Pel’s Fishing Owl, one of the world’s rarest birds, will have Audubon twitching in his grave.

Walking with the Bushmen. Far from being lifeless, deserts are miracles of plenty, you just have to be in the right company—that of the Kalahari Bushmen. Listen to their dissonant music and watch them dance a dance as old as time.


Botswana is roughly the size of France or Texas, and nearly 18% is reserved for conservation and tourism. The Moremi Game Reserve, the first such reserve in Southern Africa created by an African community on its own tribal lands, is a major draw. One hundred kilometers (62 miles) west of Victoria Falls in Botswana’s northeast corner is Chobe National Park, known for its elephants. The wide and tranquil Chobe River is surrounded by a natural wilderness of floodplain, dead lake bed, sand ridges, and forest. Downstream it joins the mighty Zambezi on its journey through Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Upstream, where it’s known as the Linyanti, it forms the border between Botswana and Namibia. In this area, the Linyanti Reserve, which borders Chobe National Park, is a huge private concession, as is the Kwando Reserve, to the west.

The Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is formed by the Okavango River, which descends from the Angolan highlands and then fans out over northwestern Botswana. It’s made up of an intricate network of channels, quiet lagoons, and reed-lined backwaters. Thereisbig game, but it’s more elusive and difficult to approach than in the game reserves. is big game, but it’s more elusive and difficult to approach than in the game reserves.

Moremi Game Reserve. In the northwestern sector of the Okavango lies this spectacular reserve where the life-giving waters of the Okavango meet the vast Kalahari. Teeming with game and birds, it’s one of Africa’s greatest parks, and, unlike the Masai Mara or Kruger Park, with hardly any people. You’ll love the Garden of Eden atmosphere even if you do encounter the odd snake or two.

Chobe National Park. Huge herds of game roam this 11,700-square-km (4,500-square-mile) park that borders the Chobe River in northeast Botswana. Although it’s one of Africa’s great game reserves, its lack of roads and often almost inaccessible conditions—especially in the rainy season—mean you’ll need a 4x4 to tackle it on your own.

Kwando Reserve. This 2,300-square-km (900-square-mile) private reserve northwest of Chobe and Linyanti has more than 80 km (50 miles) of river frontage. It stretches south from the banks of the Kwando River to the Okavango Delta. It’s an area crisscrossed by thousands of ancient game trails traversed by wildlife that move freely between the Okavango Delta, Chobe, and the open Namibian wilderness to the north.



The best time to visit Botswana is in the autumn and winter months (April through September), though it’s also the most expensive. In the Delta during the winter months the water comes in from the Angolan highlands, and the floodplains, channels, lakes, and inland waterways are literally brimming with sparkling, fresh water. Elsewhere, as it’s the dry season, the grass and vegetation are sparse, and it’s much easier to see game, which often have no choice but to drink at available water holes or rivers. But be warned: it can be bitterly cold, particularly early in the morning and at night. Dress in layers (including a thigh-length thick jacket, hat, scarf, and gloves), which you can discard or add to as the sun goes up or down.

During the green season (October-February), aptly named as it’s when the bush is at its most lush and is populated with lots of baby animals, you’ll find great economy deals offered by most of the lodges, but, and this is a big but, it’s very hot—temperatures can reach up to 35°C (95°F). If you’re a birder (Botswana has more than 400 species of birds), this is the best time to visit because all the migratory birds have returned. Unless you’re in a lodge with air-conditioning, can stand great heat, or are a keen bird-watcher, stick with fall and winter.


Air Travel

In this huge, often inaccessible country, air travel is the easiest way to get around. Sir Seretse Khama Airport, 15 km (9½ miles) from Gaborone’s city center, is Botswana’s main point of entry. Kasane International Airport is 3 km (2 miles) from the entrance to Chobe National Park, and small but very busy Maun Airport is 1 km (½ mile) from the city center of this northern safari capital. All three are gateways to the Okavango Delta and Chobe; they’re easy to find your way around in and rarely crowded.

Kasane International Airport. | Upper Rd., | Kasane | 625-0161.
Maun Airport. | Botshabelo Ward, | Maun | 686-0762.
Sir Seretse Khama Airport. | Phakalane, | Gaborone | 391-4518.


Air Botswana has scheduled flights from Johannesburg to Gaborone and Maun on a daily basis. The airline also flies Johannesburg to Kasane on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. SA Express Airways also has daily flights between Johannesburg and Gaborone.

Mack Air, Northern Air, Wilderness Air, Swamp Air, and Delta Air/Synergy Seating fly directly between Johannesburg’s Grand Central Airport, adjacent to O.R. Tambo, and Maun on private charters.

Air Botswana. | 395-1921 | |
Delta Air/Synergy Seating. | 686-0044 |
Mack Air. | 686-0675 | |
Northern Air. | Mathiba St., Town Centre, | Maun | 686-0385 |
SA Express Airways. | 11/978-5577 in South Africa, 397-2397 in Botswana | |
Wilderness Air. | 686-0778 |
Swamp Air. | 686-0569.

Charter Flights

Air charter companies operate small planes from Kasane and Maun to all the camps. Flown by some of the youngest-looking pilots in the world, these flights, which your travel agent will arrange, are reliable, reasonably cheap, and average between 25 and 50 minutes. Maximum baggage allowance is 12 kilograms (26 pounds) in a soft sports/duffel bag (no hard cases allowed), excluding the weight of camera equipment (within reason). Because of the thermal air currents over Botswana, and because most flights are around midday, when thermals are at their strongest, flights can sometimes be very bumpy—take air-sickness pills if you’re susceptible to motion sickness; then sit back and enjoy the fabulous bird’s-eye views. You’re sure to spot elephants and hippos from the air.

Car Travel

All the main access roads from neighboring countries are paved, and cross-border formalities are user-friendly. Maun is easy to reach from South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, but the distances are long and not very scenic. Gaborone is 360 km (225 miles) from Johannesburg via Rustenburg, Zeerust, and the Tlokweng border post. Driving in Botswana is on the left-hand side of the road. The “Shell Tourist Map of Botswana” is the best available map. Find it at Botswana airports or in airport bookstores.

Forget about a car in the Okavango Delta unless it’s amphibious. Only the western and eastern sides of the Delta panhandle and the Moremi Wildlife Reserve are accessible by car; but it’s wisest to always take a 4x4 vehicle. The road from Maun to Moremi North Gate is paved for the first 47 km (29 miles) up to Serobe, where it becomes gravel for 11 km (7 miles) and then a dirt road.

It’s not practical to reach Chobe National Park by car. A 4x4 vehicle is essential in the park itself. The roads are sandy and/or very muddy, depending on the season.



Botswana phone numbers begin with the 267 country code, which you don’t dial within the country. (There are no internal area codes in Botswana.)


There are high standards of hygiene in all the private lodges, and most hotels are usually up to international health standards. But malaria is rife, so don’t forget to take those antimalarials. Botswana has one of the highest AIDS rates in Africa, but it also has one of Africa’s most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease. All the private lodges and camps have excellent staff medical programs; you’re in no danger of contracting the disease unless you have sex with a stranger. As in most cities, crime is prevalent in Gaborone, but simple safety precautions such as locking up your documents and valuables and not walking alone at night will keep you safe. On safari, there’s always potential danger from wild animals, but your ranger will brief you thoroughly on the dos and don’ts of encountering big game.

The American embassy is in Gaborone, the country’s capital city.

Most safari companies include medical insurance in their tariffs, but if not or there’s a major problem, you can contact Medical Rescue International, which has 24-hour emergency help.

U.S. Embassy. | Embassy Dr., Government Enclave, | Gaborone | 395-3982 | Fax 395-6947 | 395-7111 After hours | | Mon.-Thurs. 7:30 am-5:30pm, Fri. 7:30 am-1:30 pm.

Ambulance. | 997.
Fire. | 998.
Medical Rescue. | 992.
Police. | 999.

Emergency Services
Medical Rescue International. | 390-1601.


The pula and the thebe constitute the country’s currency; one pula equals 100 thebe. You’ll need to change your money into pula, as this is the only legally accepted currency. However, most camp prices are quoted in U.S. dollars.

There are no restrictions on foreign currency notes brought into the country as long as they’re declared. Travelers can carry up to P10,000 (about US$1,600), or the equivalent in foreign currency, out of the country without declaring it. Banking hours are weekdays 9-3:30, Saturday 8:30-11. Hours at Barclays Bank at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport are Monday-Saturday 6 am-10 pm.

TIP Though the national currency is the pula, you can use U.S. dollars or euros as tips. Your information folder at each lodge will give helpful suggestions on whom and what to tip.


All visitors, including infants, need a valid passport to enter Botswana for visits of up to 90 days.


Most camps accommodate 12 to 16 people, so the only traffic you’ll encounter among the Delta’s waterways is that of grazing hippos and dozing crocodiles. Even in the northern part of Chobe, where most vehicles are, rush hour consists of buffalo and elephant herds trekking to the rivers. Prices are highest June through October. Check with individual camps for special offers.

A word about terminology: “Land camps” are in game reserves or concessions and offer morning and evening game drives. If you’re not in a national park, you’ll be able to go out for night drives off-road with a powerful spotlight to pick out nocturnal animals. “Water camps” are deep in the Okavango Delta and often accessible only by air or water. Many camps offer both a land and a true water experience, so you get the best of both worlds.

There’s little or no local cuisine in Botswana, so the food is designed to appeal to a wide variety of visitors. Nevertheless, it’s very tasty. Most camps bake their own excellent bread, muffins, and cakes and often make desserts such as meringues, éclairs, and homemade ice cream. And you’ll find plenty of tasty South African wine and beer. Don’t expect TVs or elevators, even at very expensive camps.


Prices in the restaurant reviews are the average cost of a main course at dinner or, if dinner isn’t served, at lunch; taxes and service charges are generally included. Prices in the lodging reviews are the lowest cost of a standard double room in high season, excluding taxes, service charges, and meal plans (except at all-inclusives). Prices for rentals are the lowest per-night cost for a one-bedroom unit in high season.

Most lodging prices are quoted in U.S. dollars, and you can use dollars, euros, or South African rands as tips wherever you stay. The average price per person per night at private lodges is US$500-US$1,000, which includes accommodations, all game activities, all meals, soft drinks, and good South African wine. Camps arrange transfers from the nearest airport or airstrip.

TIP It’s important to note that there are few budget lodging options available in Botswana, and most of the camps we write about fall into the “luxury” category.


Visit Botswana Tourism’s website for tour operator and travel agency information. To be listed on the website, these organizations must satisfy and adhere to the high standards demanded by Botswana Tourism.

Botswana Tourism Organization. |


You’d probably like to see all of Botswana, but we know that’s not always possible. The chapter has been broken down by Must-See Parks (Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, and Kwando Reserve) and If You Have Time Parks (Linyanti and Central Kalahari Game Reserves) to help you better organize your time. We suggest, though, that you read about all of them and then choose which one is best for you.

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The Okavango Delta

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Where to Stay

There’s no place on earth like the Okavango. The world’s largest inland delta, the Okavango was formed by the Okavango River, which floods down from the Angolan highlands once a year and fans out into northwestern Botswana in a meandering complex network of papyrus-lined channels, deep, still pools (where crocodiles and hippos lurk), secret waterways (where reeds and grass almost meet over your head), palm-fringed islands, and natural lagoons.

This watery network covers an area of more than 15,000 square km (5,791 square miles), think a little smaller than Israel or half the size of Switzerland.

This vast area is sometimes referred to as the Swamps, but this gives a false impression because there are no murky mangroves or sinister everglades here. It’s just open, crystal-clear waters where you’ll discover an unparalleled experience of being in one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. Often, the only way to get around this network of waterways is by boat.

The mokoro, a canoelike boat synonymous with the Okavango, was introduced to the Delta in the mid-18th century, when the Bayei tribe (the River Bushmen) moved down from the Zambezi. The Bayei invented the mokoro as a controllable craft that could be maneuvered up- or downstream. These boats were traditionally made from the trunks of the great jackalberry, morula, and sausage trees. Today, because of the need to protect the trees, you may find yourself in the modern equivalent: a fiberglass canoe. Either way, a skilled poler (think gondolier) will stand or sit at the rear of the narrow craft guiding you through the Delta’s waterways—he’ll be on full alert for the ubiquitous and unpredictable hippos but may be a bit more laid-back when it comes to the mighty crocs that lie in the sun. (Powerboats are an option in deeper waters.) Bird-watching from these boats is a special thrill: the annual return of thousands of gorgeous carmine bee-eaters to the Delta in August and September is a dazzling sight, as is a glimpse of the huge orange-colored Pel’s Fishing Owl, the world’s only fish-eating owl and one of its rarest birds. TIP Don’t miss the chance to go on a guided walk on one of the many islands.

Although most camps are now both land- and water-based, in a water camp—usually an island surrounded by water—you’ll almost certainly see elephants, hippos, crocs, and red lechwes (a beautiful antelope endemic to the Swamps), and you may catch a glimpse of the rare, aquatic sitatunga antelope. You’ll almost certainly hear lions but may not always see them; if you’re very lucky, you may see a pride swimming between islands. On the other hand, if you’re in a land-and-water camp, you’ll see lots of game. Remember that you’ll see plenty of animals elsewhere in Botswana. You’re in the Delta to experience the unforgettable beauty.

Okavango Delta

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You’ll fly into Maun and then be transferred by your tour operator to a small plane that’ll bring you to an airstrip in the Delta. Distance from the airstrip to camps varies, but the longest would be 20-25 minutes and this is often an exciting game drive through the bush. Roads are bumpy but you’re in a game vehicle.



Delta Camp.
$$ | This enchanting camp is set deep on an island in the Okavango. Reed chalets, each with a private bathroom, are furnished with wood furniture and upturned mokoros; they look like something straight out of The Swiss Family Robinson. Each chalet faces northeast to catch the first rays of the sun as it rises above the palm trees, and below your windows are shallow, bird-filled pools, with deep waterways only paces from your front door. Family-owned for many years, the camp has an intimate, relaxed atmosphere; the goal here is to experience the tranquility of the environment. Activities include guided mokoro trails into the maze of waterways and game walks on adjacent islands with a professional licensed guide. A major conservation plus for Delta Camp: motorboats are not used as the emphasis is on preserving the pristine purity of the environment. This adds immeasurably to the relaxed, peaceful atmosphere that pervades this lovely camp. Pros: splendid isolation; no noises from motor boats. Cons: if you want to go power boating, this is not the place; comfortable but not luxurious accommodation. | Rooms from: $340 | Okavango Delta | 686-1154 | | 7 chalets | All meals.

Jao Camp.
$$$$ | Spectacular Jao (as in “now”), a pure Hollywood-meets-Africa fantasy, is on a densely wooded island in a private concession bordering the Moremi Wildlife Reserve. Land and water activities are available, depending on the seasonal water levels, so you can take a day or night game drive in an open 4x4, glide in a mokoro through rippling meadows of water lilies, chug along hippo highways in a motorboat, or go on a guided walk. You’ll see lots of predators, especially lions, which live here in the highest concentration in the country, according to a wildlife census. Accommodations are individual spacious tents with superb views over the vast floodplains. Private bath facilities include an indoor and outdoor shower, flush toilet, and Victorian claw-foot tub. Rare African artifacts decorate the multitiered wood interior of the main building. The food is delicious and the standard of service is superb. Pros: African fantasy deluxe; superb service; gorgeous views. Cons: lots of steps; game not always on tap. | Rooms from: $1986 | Jao Concession | Okavango Delta | 27-11/807-1800 in South Africa | | 9 tents | All meals.

Kwetsani Camp.
$$$$ | Perched on high wooden stilts amid a forest canopy on a small island surrounded by enormous open plains, Kwetsani is one of the loveliest of the delta camps. The public areas overlooking the floodplains are built around huge, ancient trees, with a giant jackalberry dominating the bar. Each spacious room, made of canvas, wood, and slatted poles, is set like a child’s building block in the middle of a large wooden deck built high into the trees. Polished wooden floors; coir mats; cane armchairs; butlers’ tables with tea, coffee, and biscuits; billowing mosquito nets; twinkling ostrich-egg lamps; and indoor and outdoor showers all contribute to a warm, homey atmosphere. After enjoying a game drive or mokoro trip, end your day with a sundowner (cocktail) party by the lagoon lighted by flickering lanterns, with entertainment by the best in local talent—snorting hippos, whooping hyenas, and keening waterbirds. Pros: gorgeous views; genuine delta feel. Cons: game sporadic; don’t expect to see lions. | Rooms from: $1218 | Okavango Delta | 27-11/807-1800 in South Africa | | 5 Chalets | All meals.

Sandibe Safari Lodge.
$$$$ | A land and water camp run by &Beyond, Sandibe clings to the edge of a pristine channel of the Santantadibe River. Go fishing, take a mokoro ride through tunnels of interlacing papyrus, walk on a palm-studded island, or track big game in an open-sided vehicle. Watch out for some Okavango-specific animals: the aquatic tsessebe antelope—the fastest antelope—and the secretive sitatunga. The camp has a fairy-tale feel, as if a giant fashioned an idyllic tiny village out of adobe and thatch and set it down amid an enchanted forest full of birds. It’ll be difficult to tear yourself away from your honey-color cottage with its raised viewing deck and huge carved bed covered with a woven leather bedspread to walk to the main lodge. However, the main lodge has a cozy lounge and an upstairs viewing deck that might do for awhile. After a splendid dinner, enjoy a nightcap around a crackling fire under a star-studded sky. Pros: beautiful, stylish accommodation; great game. Cons: public areas can be very cold in winter. | Rooms from: $1145 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | Okavango Delta | 27-11/809-4300 | | 8 cottages | All meals.

Vumbura Plains.
$$$$ | If it’s old-style African safari ambience you’re looking for, then this camp is not for you. These state-of-the-art buildings are all about space, shape, light, and texture on a grand scale. Public areas are decorated with rag rugs, beaded beanbag chairs, fiberglass coffee tables (that resemble giant pebbles), and some exquisite indigenous African artwork. The art deco-style carved wooden bar divides the lounge area from the dining area, which is decorated with dry hollow palm trunks and hanging lamps that mimic the local “sausage” trees. Sip your coffee or after-dinner drinks in deep padded armchairs by firelight on the deck as frogs pipe and fireflies dance. TIP There are many steps and long up-and-down boardwalks between the widely spaced rooms. If this seems a bit challenging, you may want to stay someplace else. Each en-suite room has a huge wooden outside deck, with comfortable lie-out chairs, a sala (thatched, outdoor daybed area), and plunge pool, and the enclosed living spaces have floor-to-ceiling windows and mesh doors that capture every source of light, from the early rays of dawn to the blazing sunset. Curl up with a book in your cushioned, sunken lounge, snooze in your king-size bed, or cool off in the emperor-size, leaf-patterned shower. Softly blowing gauzy white curtains divide the sleeping, living, and bathroom areas, and the decor of cream, gray, soft browns, and moss green echoes the pebble and stone theme of the main lodge. TIPDon’t miss out on the superb curio shop; it’s one of the best in Botswana. Pros: Manhattan in the bush; great game. Cons: not for the traditionalist; rooms have an open floor plan, and the showers are divided from the rest of the room by a glass beaded curtain. | Rooms from: $1986 | Okavango Delta | 27-11/807-1800 | | 14 rooms | All meals.


Camp Okavango.
$$$$ | Most people involuntarily draw a breath when they walk from the airstrip into this sprawling campsite. Its location on remote Nxaragha (Na-ka-ra) Island in the heart of the permanent delta makes it accessible only by plane or water. Built by an eccentric American millionaire many years ago (she used to jet off to Los Angeles to get her hair done), this water camp combines style, comfort, and a year-round water wilderness experience. Huge trees arch over an outdoor lounge with sweeping lawns leading down to the water, where hippos snort all night. Your tent, with private bathroom, is built on a raised wooden platform that overlooks the delta. It’s set among groves of ancient trees and is so well separated that you might believe you’re the only one in camp. Common areas with worn flagstones have comfortable colonial-style furniture, and elegant dinners are served in the high-thatch dining area, where an original sycamore fig mokoro is suspended over the long wooden dining table. A camp highlight: chilled drinks from a bar set up in the middle of a lagoon tended by a wading barman. Pros: a truly authentic water camp. Cons: no game-viewing by road; unlikely to see much game other than elephants and hippos; no children under the age of six. | Rooms from: $800 | Okavango Delta | 27-11/394-3873 in South Africa | | 12 tents, 1 cottage | All meals.

Botswana’s Tribes


The largest tribal group in Botswana, the Tswana, comprise just over half the country’s population and mainly live in the eastern part of the country; many Tswana also live in South Africa. Also known as the Batswana, they live mainly in thatch-roof rondavels made of mud and cow dung. They’re pastoralists and are tied to the land and their cattle, which are used in negotiating marriages and other rites of passage. Though the tribal structure of the Tswana has changed in modern times, they remain family oriented and still live in villages with the kgosi (chief) as the primary decision-maker. As Botswana has prospered from diamond mining, Tswana society has become more modernized, with many tribe members leaving the family at a young age to seek work in the cities. A large number of Tswana speak English in addition to their tribal language.

Bayei (River Bushmen)

The Bayei, also known as the River Bushmen, live along the tributaries of the Okavango and Chobe rivers in northern and central Botswana. African oral history states that the Bayei came to the region in the 18th century from Central Africa. One of the tribe’s great leaders then married one of the women of the San tribe, perhaps as a means of negotiating peace or perhaps to incorporate the tribe into the matrilineal society.

The Bayei are expert fishermen, and they use nets and traps to fish along the waterways and floodplains. The mokoro, a dug-out canoe carved from tree trunks, is also an essential part of their daily life, serving as both transportation along the rivers and an important tool for fishing. The Bayei also farm tobacco and wild corn.

Chitabe Camp.
$$$$ | Be sure to have your camera at the ready in this exclusive reserve that borders the Moremi Wildlife Reserve; you’ll want to take pictures of everything. Spacious, comfortable tents on stilts are connected by raised wooden walkways that put you safely above the ground and give you a Tarzan’s-eye view of the surrounding bush. You’ll sleep in a luxurious, East African-style tent with wooden floors, two comfortable single beds, woven palm furniture, wrought-iron washstands, and a private bath. A separate thatch dining room, bar, and lounge area, also linked by wooden walkways, looks out over a floodplain. Unfortunately, there are no vistas of water. The camp lies within the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project’s research area, which has up to 160 dogs in packs of 10 to 12, so you’re almost certain to see these fascinating “painted wolves.” The area has a variety of habitats, from marshlands and riverine areas to open grasslands and seasonally flooded plains. Although it’s on one of the most beautiful islands in the delta, it’s not really a water camp because it doesn’t offer water activities. Pros: very good chance to see wild dogs. Cons: water activities dependent on season. | Rooms from: $1333 | Okavango Delta | 27-11/807-1800 in South Africa | | 12 tents | All meals.

Fodor’s Choice | Duba Plains.
$$$$ | Built on an island that can be reached only by plane, this tiny camp is shaded by ebony, fig, and garcinia trees, and surrounded by vast plains—which are flooded from about May to early October, depending on the rains—the camp is ideal for true wilderness buffs. When the water is high, the game competes with the camp for dry ground, and lions and hyenas become regular dusk-to-dawn visitors. You can watch hundreds of buffalo, leopards, lions, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, lechwes (a type of antelope), and the most beautiful of all the antelopes—the sable—from one of only two 4x4 open-game vehicles in the reserve. The Duba lion prides are among the few to hunt by day—they have a taste for buffalo—and if you’re really lucky, you might find yourself and your vehicle bang in the middle of one of these spectacular hunts. The area is also a birder’s paradise, with an abundance of waterfowl. En-suite tents with ceiling fans and gleaming Rhodesian teak furniture complement stupendous views. There’s a comfy lounge and small bar in the public area and a poolside gazebo as well as a bird blind tucked behind the camp. The camp is in the Kwedi Reserve, a massive wildlife sanctuary that has been ceded by the Botswana Government and the Tawana Land Board to the people who live in the north of the delta. The aim is that the local people benefit from the wildlife that tourists come to see in their “backyard,” so to speak. Annual payments are made to a trust called the Okavango Community Trust, which represents the interests of all the people living in the five villages to the north of the Okavango. Pros: some of the delta’s best game-viewing with lions hunting by day; far way from other camps so there’s little chance of traffic jams around the animals. Cons: accommodation is quite basic, but comfortable. | Rooms from: $1354 | Okavango Delta | 27-11/807-1800 in South Africa | | 6 tents | All-inclusive.

Eagle Island Camp.
$$$$ | You’ll find this camp deep in the central delta on Xaxaba (pronounced ka-ka-ba) Island, which is surrounded by pristine waterways, tall palm trees, and vast floodplains. At dawn and dusk hippos chortle, birds call, and hyenas whoop. Activities here are water based. You’ll glide through high, emerald-green papyrus tunnels in a mokoro; go powerboating on wide lagoons; or enjoy sundowners as you float silently in your mokoro on crystal-clear water as the sun sets in a blaze of red and gold. Or have a front-row seat for the same nightly spectacle—a sunset—in the Fish Eagle Bar, which juts out over the water. Large walk-in tents are decorated in traditional African style with four-poster beds and lamps fashioned out of Botswana baskets and carved African pots. Sit out on your huge veranda, or snooze in the inviting canvas hammock. Dine in style in the elegant dining room where old photographs add to the classic safari ambience. The main viewing deck overlooks vast expanses of water complete with dozing hippos. Pros: gorgeous views of the delta; genuine delta water experience. Cons: this is a water camp, so no game drives. | Rooms from: $1145 | Okavango Delta | 27-21/483-1600 in South Africa | | 15 tents | All-inclusive.

Kanana Camp.
$$$$ | The simple natural charm of Kanana makes you feel part of the delta, not cocooned away from it. Game drives, mokoro-ing, boating, and bush walks (there are resident Pel’s Fishing Owls on nearby islands) are all part of the experience, but a visit to the Thapagadi Lagoon is a must. The lagoon is home to a fantastic heronry, where open-billed maribou and yellow-billed storks nest with all kinds of herons, cormorants, pelicans, darters, and egrets—you’ll never forget the sounds of this avian community. Safari tents (where tea and coffee are brought at dawn by a cheerful staff member) with wooden decks overlook dense reed beds and a papyrus-thick floodplain. Cane furnishings and dark wood cabinetry are complemented by colorful rugs and a white curtain, which separates the gaily decorated bathroom from the bedroom. You’ll fall asleep to the sound of hippos munching, squelching, and splashing outside your tent and awake to tumultuous birdsong. Public areas are built around a massive ancient fig tree, where green pigeons feast as you enjoy imaginative food on the dining deck. Pros: superb birding in the nearby heronry. Cons: no pool. | Rooms from: $820 | Kanana Private Concession | Okavango Delta | 686-1226 | | 8 tents | All meals.

Nxabega Okavango Safari Camp.
$$$$ | Renowned for its beauty, Nxabega (pronounced na-becka) is in the very heart of the delta and offers both a water and a land experience. The camp overlooks wetlands, delta channels, and grassy floodplains, which host lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo, as well as several unique bird species; African ebony and strangler figs shade the main camp. Because it’s a private concession, you can take a night drive in an open vehicle and spot big predators as well as the small nocturnal ones like civets (black-and-white badger-looking creatures), bush babies (similar to furry, flying squirrels), and genets (small spotted cats). En-suite safari tents are on raised teak platforms, each with a private veranda overlooking the water and bush. The main lodge is made of thatch and wood; the high-roofed and paneled dining room has an almost medieval banquet-hall feel. The food is excellent but don’t worry, you’ll lose some of those extra calories by taking a guided walk on one of the nearby islands to track game and spot birds. Boat excursions and bush walks are offered, and the staff will even arrange wilderness picnics or breakfast in bed. &Beyond, which runs Nxabega Camp, promotes sustainable development in the region through the nonprofit Africa Foundation. Projects include building classrooms, libraries, and clinics, as well as offering jobs to the local Tswana people.Pros: guests have the opportunity to experience game drives and water excursions. Cons: no sweeping views of the delta. | Rooms from: $1145 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | Okavango Delta | 27-11/809-4300 in South Africa | | 9 tents | All-inclusive.

Shinde Camp.
$$$$ | Ker & Downey’s oldest camp, and possibly its loveliest, lies in a vast palm-dotted area in the heart of the northern delta. Surrounded by lagoons and waterways encrusted with white, yellow, and purple water lilies, and home to hundreds of birds, it’s also home to lots of game. Your large tent, outfitted with cane and Rhodesian teak furniture, has polished wooden floors both inside and outside on your viewing deck. Spacious bathrooms have flower-painted ceramic sinks, and a sturdy door leads to a separate outside toilet. A spiraling wooden ramp connects the dining area, built high in the trees at the top of the lodge, with a lookout deck and lounge in the middle and a boma under huge old trees at the bottom. If you want even more exclusivity and private pampering, opt for Shinde Enclave, which accommodates up to six guests with a private guide and waiter. Pros: perfect for those looking for the out-of-Africa experience; energy-giving ancient trees; superb bird life. Cons: lots of steps. | Rooms from: $950 | Shinde Northeastern Delta | Okavango Delta | 686-1226 | | 8 tents | All meals.

Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp.
$$$$ | In 2009 she was the brash new princess on the block, dazzling the eye with bright pink, sage green, and white canvas decor. Today, however, Xaranna is undisputably the Queen of the Delta, her pointed canvas roofs tethered by poles are now weathered, her soft furnishings have gently blended their colors, and her whole appearance now graciously complements the awesome natural beauty of the surroundings. This is a water-based camp in a permanent channel of the Okavango, so although you’ll see game, don’t expect it to be readily available especially when the water is high from April to October. Enjoy your water wilderness experience—the beauty of the wide lagoons, the arching papyrus hippo water paths, and the glorious sunsets. Tents are huge with a living room, bedroom, dressing room, and bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers. During the day, cool off in your personal plunge pool and lie in your decadently comfortable sala (outdoor deck), gazing out at a sweeping lily-studded horizon as water birds criss-cross the sky. Pros: some of best accommodation in the Delta; great food; superb service. Cons: no night activities when water is high because hippos have right of way. | Rooms from: $1145 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | Okavango Delta, Botswana | 27-11/809-4300 in South Africa | | 9 tents | All meals.


Footsteps Across the Delta.
$ | This is the ultimate back-to-nature experience. The emphasis is on learning the secrets of the Okavango—on foot and by mokoro. Because this is a mobile camp that moves with the seasons, there is no electricity, but you’ll be more than rewarded for the lack of luxury by the surrounding bird and animal life. The night sounds are awesome, from roaring lions to the ghostly screams of the Pel’s Fishing Owl. Walking with outstanding guides who will answer all of your questions about the surrounding bush is the main activity, but there are also game drives, night drives, boat trips, and fishing opportunities. You’ll sleep in one of only three tents with insect-proofing and sewn-in floors, where two iron bedsteads, some wooden shelves, and a small table are the only furnishings. You’ll wash in a canvas washstand outside your tent (where there are also two canvas chairs), and your bathroom consists of a bush toilet and an overhead bucket shower. Pros: this is the real thing, a genuine close-to-nature experience. Cons: very rustic. | Rooms from: $76 | Shinda Private Concession | Okavango Delta | 686-1226 | | 3 tents | All meals.

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Moremi Wildlife Reserve

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Where to Stay

Prolific wildlife and an astonishing variety of bird life characterize this reserve, which has become well known because it’s the first in Southern Africa to be proclaimed by the local people (the Batawana) themselves. As there are no fences, the big game—and there’s lots of it—can migrate to and from Chobe Park in the north.

Sometimes it seems as if a large proportion of Botswana’s 70,000 elephants have made their way here, particularly in the dry winter season. Be prepared to check off on your game list lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, buffalo, hippos, dozens of different antelopes, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, and more than 400 kinds of birds.


If you’re a birder, choose the hot summer months (November-April) because dozens of returning migrants flock here in the thousands. The return of the Carmine bee-eaters and Woodland kingfishers is a dazzling sight, as are the hosts of wading water birds, from storks of all kinds to elegant little sandpipers. Although during the South African school vacations (July and December) there are more vehicles than normal, traffic is mostly light, and in the Moremi, unlike many of Africa’s other great reserves, you’ll often be the only ones watching the game. Winter (May-October) is the best game-viewing time as the vegetation is sparse and it’s easier to spot game. Also, because there’s little or no surface water, animals are forced to drink at the rivers or permanent water holes. However, during the other months—known as the green season—you’ll often get fantastic offers by individual lodges, with greatly reduced rates. But be warned, summer temperatures can soar to the mid-30s centigrade and over, so make sure your lodge of choice has a pool and air-conditioning, or at least a fan.

Moremi Wildlife Reserve

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Self-driving is possible in the Moremi, but a 4x4 is essential because road conditions are poor (sometimes impassable in the rainy season) and distances from cities are long. Unless you have lots of time, are a really experienced 4x4 driver and camper, and are prepared for only limited camping facilities, it’s recommended that you stick to an all-inclusive fly-in package.


National-park lodging is better than in the old days, with new ablution blocks at the campsites. But remember, you have to bring all your own supplies and drinking water, and roads are very bad, especially in the wet season. The campsites aren’t fenced and lions, hyenas, and all sorts of game frequent them. If you’re an overseas visitor, we suggest you stick to the private lodges. They might be pricey, but they’re worth every penny.


Chief’s Camp.
$$$$ | Located in the exclusive Mombo Concession of the Okavango Delta’s Moremi Game Reserve, the area is home to the rare white rhino and is the only area in Botswana where these animals can be seen in their natural environment. The main lodge sits under a canopy of jackalberry, sausage, and rain trees. The lodge was built with wood from commercially grown forests using the skills of local builders. Also, the limited number of suites is part of the camp’s commitment to low-impact tourism. Chief’s Camp works in partnership with the nonprofit Friends of Conservation in an effort to involve the local community in the running of the camp. Children under nine years old are not allowed. Pros: always has repeat customers; great friendly atmosphere; chance to see white rhinos. Cons: can be difficult to book because of the exclusivity and limited number of suites. | Rooms from: $2035 | Mombo Concession | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | 27-11/438-4650 | | 12 suites | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Mombo Camp and Little Mombo.
$$$$ | On Mombo Island, off the northwest tip of Chief’s Island, this legendary camp is surrounded by wall-to-wall game. Although there is plenty of surface water in the area (marshes and floodplains), it’s strictly a land-activity camp. The camp has exclusive use of a large area of Moremi, so privacy is assured. Its great wildlife, including all of the large predators, has made this area one of Botswana’s top wildlife documentary locations—National Geographic and the BBC have both filmed here. The stunning camp has identical guest rooms divided into two distinct camps: Mombo has nine rooms, Little Mombo only three. These camps are among the best known, most expensive, and most sought after in Botswana, so be sure to book months in advance. Each spacious room is built on a raised wooden platform with wonderful views over the open plains (you’re almost guaranteed to see game as you sit there), and although the en-suite rooms have a tented feel, they are ultraluxurious. The dining room, lounge, and bar are also built on big wooden decks overlooking the magnificent animal-dotted savanna. The atmosphere is friendly, and the personal attention, food, and guides all excellent. Pros: brilliant game-viewing; one of the best safari lodges in Botswana. Cons: very, very pricey; often fully booked. | Rooms from: $2431 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | 27-11/807-1800 | | 12 rooms | All-inclusive.

Xigera Camp.
$$$$ | The cry of the fish eagle permeates this exceptionally lovely camp (pronounced kee-jer-ah), which is set on the aptly named Paradise Island amid thickets of old trees in one of the most beautiful parts of the reserve. Spacious rooms of timber and canvas are built on a high wooden platform overlooking a floodplain. Reed walls separate the sleeping area from the spacious dressing room, which in turn leads into a reed-floored shower and separate toilet; you can also shower under the stars. Raised wooden walkways connect rooms to the main lodge, which sprawls beside a lagoon where a small wooden bridge joins the island to the mainland. At night this bridge becomes a thoroughfare for lions and hyenas, and it’s not uncommon to see one of these nocturnal visitors walk by as you sip your postprandial drink by the blazing fire. The food is varied and excellent, and the staff is ultrafriendly and attentive. Pros: lovely setting; camp bridge often has lions crossing, which some may view as a con; very good food; indoor and outdoor showers. Cons: less intimate than some smaller camps. | Rooms from: $1218 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | 27-11/807-1800 | | 10 rooms | All-inclusive.


Camp Moremi.
$$$$ | You get the best of both water and land at Camp Moremi. You’ll see lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, all kinds of antelopes, and often the elusive leopard, cheetah, and wild dog. The rare Pel’s Fishing Owl regularly plummets down to the shallow pool below the Tree Lodge to snag a fish. Bird-watching is excellent throughout the year; ask for a powerboat ride to the heronries on nearby lagoons. Huge African ebony trees, home to two-legged, four-legged, winged, and earthbound creatures, dominate the campsite on the edge of a lovely lagoon. From the high viewing platform in the trees you can look out on a limitless horizon as the sun sets over the smooth, calm waters. Tastefully decorated, comfortable tents are well spaced to ensure privacy. Camp Moremi’s timber-and-thatch tree lodge has a dining area, bar, lounge, library, and sundeck with great views of Xakanaxa Lagoon. Pros: excellent location in great game area; well established with ancient trees; Pel’s Fishing Owl known to frequent camp. Cons: tents are comfortable but not ultraluxurious. | Rooms from: $800 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | 27-11/394-3873 | | 11 tents | All meals.

Khwai River Lodge.
$$$$ | As you sit on the wooden deck jutting out over the clear delta waters, munching brunch or chilling out, you may just forget the outside world. Floating water lilies, tiny bejeweled kingfishers dipping and swooping in front of you, and the sounds of gently lapping water relax even the most driven work junkie. Bigger than some of the other safari lodges and one of the oldest, Khwai is renowned for its personal attention and friendly service. The location, 8 km (5 miles) northwest of the north gate of the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, means that you will see lots of game, not only on your drives but also from the lodge itself. The excitement of seeing a hippo or elephant stroll past the viewing deck outside your deluxe tent is not something you’ll easily forget. The lodge is also the stuff of bird-watchers’ dreams. Pros: genuine delta experience; romantic bar with fabulous sunset views. Cons: Moremi Reserve is a bumpy 25-minute drive away. | Rooms from: $1145 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | 27-21/483-1600 | | 15 tents | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Xakanaxa Camp.
$$$$ | For a genuine bush-camp experience—no unnecessary frills—it would be hard to beat this old-fashioned camp (pronounced ka-kan-ah-ka). From the moment you walk through the rustic reception area, a feeling of unpretentious warmth and relaxation envelops you; it’s no wonder that visitors return again and again. Each spacious tent has wooden floors, plenty of storage space, a huge comfy bed, reading lamps, a megasize bathroom under the stars (read: no roof), and a viewing deck. Lighting at night is au naturel (candles, hurricane lamps, and flashlights), although there’s electricity during the day. The staff, many with more than 10 years of experience, get everything right, from their attentive service to the superb, wholesome, home-cooked food. Even the resident croc, who sunbathes under her very own sign “Beware crocodile,” has been here since she was a tiny whippersnapper. Wooden-decked public areas sprawl along the water, and elephants and hippos wander past your tent most nights. Pros: authentic, unpretentious, out-of-Africa experience; heaps of return guests; superb value for money. Cons: the only bad thing we can say is that it’s not drop-dead luxury. | Rooms from: $893 | Moremi Wildlife Reserve | 27-11/463-3999 in South Africa | | 12 tents | All-inclusive.

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Chobe National Park

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This 12,000-square-km (4,500-square-mile) reserve is the second largest national park in Botswana, and it has four very different ecosystems: Serondela in the extreme northwest with fertile plains and thick forests; the dry Savuti Channel in the west; the Linyanti Swamps in the northwest; and the arid hinterland in between.

The whole area, however, is home to a shifting migratory population of more than 40,000 elephants. In addition to spotting Chobe’s great pachyderm herds, you should see lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, impalas, waterbucks, kudus, zebras, wildebeests (gnus), giraffes, and warthogs. Watch closely at the water holes when prey species come down to drink and are most vulnerable—they are so palpably nervous that you’ll feel jumpy, too. Lions in this area are often specialized killers; one pride might target giraffes, another zebras, another buffalo, or even young elephants. But lions are opportunistic killers, and you could see them pounce on anything from a porcupine to a lowly scrub hare. Bird life along the river is awesome and the major must-sees are the slaty egrets, rock pratincoles, pink-throated longclaws, and lesser gallinules.

The northern section of the park comprises riverine bush devastated by the hordes of elephants coming down to the perennial Chobe River to drink in winter. Fortunately, the wide sweep of the Caprivi floodplains, where hundreds of buffalo and elephants graze silhouetted against almost psychedelic sunsets, softens this harsh, featureless landscape where it faces neighboring Namibia.

Chobe can be crowded, unlike the rest of Botswana, because there are simply too many vehicles on too few roads, particularly in the dry season. One of the quieter parts of the park is around the Ngwezumba River, an area of forests and pans in the more remote middle of the park; the drawback here is that game is harder to find.

In the southwestern part of the park lies the fabled Savuti (also spelled Savute) area, famous for its predators. Savuti offers a sweeping expanse of savanna brooded over by seven rocky outcrops that guard a relic marsh and the now-flowing Savuti Channel. Savuti is dramatically different from elsewhere in Botswana; there are open spaces, limitless horizons, wide skies, and unending miles of waving tall grass punctuated by starkly beautiful dead trees—the legacy of the relentless drought. Because of exceptional rains and an above-average flood in 2010, the Savuti Channel is now flowing again, attracting thousands of plains animals and attendant predators. Your chances of seeing wild dogs are high. Like Chobe National Park overall, Savuti is famed for its elephants, but the female of the species is less often seen here, for Savuti is the domain of the bull elephant: old grandfathers, middle-aged males, and feisty young teenagers. The old ones gaze at you with imperturbable dignity, but it’s the youngsters who’ll make your adrenaline run riot when they kick up the dust and bellow belligerently as they make a mock charge in your direction.

And while you’re in the Savuti area looking for leopards and the tiny acrobatic klipspringer antelopes, be sure to pay a visit to the striking rock paintings, early humans’ attempts to represent the wildlife all around. In summertime thousands of migrating zebras and wildebeests provide the equivalent of fast food for the lion prides, hungry hyenas, and cheetahs that follow the herds. The Cape buffalo herds also arrive in summer along with thousands of returning bird migrants. The raptors are spectacular. You’ll see falcons, eagles, kestrels, goshawks, ospreys, and sparrow hawks. In the northwest of the park are the Linyanti Swamps, also famous for their game concentrations, and in particular wild dogs. TIP Early morning and late afternoon are the best game-spotting times. | Chobe National Park |


You can see game elsewhere in Botswana (although not in these numbers), so you should visit May through September to find out why this place is unique.

Chobe National Park

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You can fly straight to Kasane from Johannesburg where your lodge will meet and transfer you. Most lodges are 10 minutes from the airstrip.



Chobe Game Lodge.
$$$$ | The only permanent lodge in Chobe National Park, this grand old dame—Liz Taylor and Richard Burton got married for the second time here in the ‘70s—still offers one of Botswana’s most sophisticated stays, although the feel is more hotel-like than lodgelike. Terra-cotta tiles, Rhodesian teak furniture, tribal artifacts, and the ubiquitous beautiful handwoven Botswana baskets give the feel of Africa. The solid Moorish-style buildings—with their graceful high arches and barrel-vaulted ceilings—insulate the not-so-intrepid traveler from too-close encounters of the animal kind: baboon mothers have been known to teach their young how to turn a doorknob! The gorgeous gardens are a riot of color and attract lots of small fauna. There’s a well-stocked curio shop with great clothes and wildlife books. Don’t miss out on the well-run daily activities from game drives to river cruises. An early-morning canoe ride is also a must. Pros: well-run operation; lovely views and gardens. Cons: hotel-like atmosphere; lots of tour groups. | Rooms from: $800 | Chobe National Park | 27-11/394-3873 | | 47 rooms, 4 suites | All-inclusive.

Kubu Safari Lodge.
$$ | If you want to escape the real world for a while, then this small, quiet attractive lodge on the banks of the Chobe, which prides itself on its seclusion, is right for you; it has no phones, radios, or TV. Situated where Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia meet, the 11 en-suite thatch chalets are on stilts and are unpretentiously but comfortably furnished in earth tones. After your Chobe National Park game drive or boat cruise, come back and take a leisurely saunter around the Kubu Lodge Nature Trail—be on the lookout for dozens of birds and the endemic Chobe bushbuck—or go next door to the Crocodile Farm and eyeball Nelson, one of the oldest and biggest crocs in captivity. Pros: very affordable. Cons: 9 km (5½ miles) from Chobe National Park; activities are additional costs. | Rooms from: $400 | Chobe National Park | 762-2424 | | 11 chalets | All meals.

Mowana Safari Lodge.
$$ | Built round an 800-year-old baobab tree situated among lovely private gardens on the banks of the Chobe River, you’ll find this lodge just 8 km (5 miles) from the entrance to Chobe National Park. Like its older sister, Chobe Safari Lodge, farther downstream, this lodge is more like a hotel than a safari lodge. That’s not to say that you still won’t get your full safari experience; you’ll just be a bit cocooned away from the actual wilderness. Pleasantly decorated with an ethnic African theme, all 104 air-conditioned rooms overlook the river, on which you’ll probably spend a fair amount of time boating, bird-watching, game-viewing, canoeing, and fishing. Morning, evening, and night drives are available, but because the river roads are few and many game vehicles use the same roads, your game-viewing can become rather crowded. You can take a short flight or helicopter ride over the nearby Victoria Falls, go white-water rafting on the Zambezi, or try a host of other activities. Children under 12 stay free if sharing with parents. Plus, you’ll feel quite presidential: this is where Bill Clinton and his entourage stayed a few years ago. Pros: great location; excellent excursions. Cons: big and bustling, more like a hotel than a lodge. | Rooms from: $287 | Chobe National Park | 625-0300 | | 104 rooms | All meals.

Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero.
$$$$ | Easily accessible from both the Zimbabwe and Zambian side of Vic Falls, this lodge is perched on a small hill on the border of Chobe National Park (Chilwero means “high view” in Setswana, the national language). Its 15 spacious thatch cottages are the ultimate in luxury: en-suite bathrooms with sunken baths, private gardens with hammocks, and viewing decks with stunning vistas of the Chobe River. Catch up on the real world (if you can bear to!) in the communications center, or pamper yourself with an in-room beauty treatment. All the Chobe activities are available, from walking safaris and fishing to game drives, canoeing, day trips to the nearby Vic Falls, and the must-not-miss sunset cruises. Although you’re not really in a wilderness area, the privacy and exclusivity of the lodge will persuade you that you are miles away from civilization. Pros: lovely views; intimate atmosphere; great spa. Cons: situated near busy town, which means you are not in the bush. | Rooms from: $1055 | Chobe National Park | 27-11/438-4650 in South Africa | | 15 cottages | All-inclusive.

Savute Safari Lodge.
$$$$ | As your small plane arrives at this attractive lodge, you can see the wide swath the dry riverbed makes through the surrounding countryside. The exterior of the main building and the safari suites are traditional thatch and timber; inside, the neutral tones of the soft furnishings complement the view outside your windows. On your deck, during a full moon, you can watch the gray, ghostly shapes of elephants drinking from the water hole in front of the camp, or if the moon is not yet full, marvel at the stars. When you’re not watching the abundant game, there’s a large, elegant dining room where you can enjoy scrumptious late-morning brunches and candlelight silver-service dinners, a lounge with a huge fireplace, and an upstairs viewing deck. Pros: elephants galore; good wilderness feel. Cons: if you have an elephant phobia, stay away. | Rooms from: $800 | Chobe National Park | 27-11/394-3873 in South Africa | | 12 suites | All-inclusive.


Savuti Camp.
$$$$ | This intimate camp has only seven walk-in tents, which are raised on stilts above the dry Savuti Channel. If you have an elephant phobia, don’t even think about coming here, because all day and often all night long, elephants pass in front of the camp and in front of the tents on their way to and from the water hole in front of the dining area, pub, plunge pool, and viewing decks. This camp is also home to the legendary “woodpile hide”—a small enclosure at the water hole, which you hide in to watch the pachyderms a few feet away. You will feel part of the herd and feel protected from it. It’s an amazing thrill to be nose-to-knee with elephants galore. Because the water hole is the only permanent water in the area, there’s superb game-viewing all year round—particularly in winter—with lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas. You’ll have a good chance of also seeing roan and sable antelopes—perhaps the most stately and beautiful of all the species. Your comfortable tent has a bathroom and shower, hand basin and flush toilets. If an elephant wanders past your tiny viewing deck (and one will), just stay still and enjoy the view, because it may be the best you ever get at such close quarters—and the best photograph, too. Pros: the woodpile hide is an amazing place to watch game. Cons: very dry and hot in the summer. | Rooms from: $1218 | Chobe National Park | 27-11/807-1800 | | 7 tents | All-inclusive.

Savute Elephant Camp.
$$$$ | In the semiarid Savuti region, splendid, spacious, air-conditioned, twin-bedded tents are elegantly furnished with cane and dark wood furniture, an impressive bed canopy with mosquito net, and a roomy bathroom with his-and-her sinks. For cold winter mornings and evenings, there’s even a built-in heater. Your private viewing deck overlooking one of the busiest elephant water holes in the world has comfortable chairs and an inviting hammock. As the camp is in Chobe National Park, night drives and walking are against regulations, but you’ll still see plenty of game and birds during the day. If you can manage to be here at full moon, the sight of hundreds of great, gray shapes gleaming in the moonlight is truly unforgettable. Pros: great location; great game sightings almost a guarantee. Cons: no night drives; decor exactly same as the other Orient Express Okavango camps, which is only a propblem if you’ve been to the others. | Rooms from: $1145 | Chobe National Park | 27-21/483-1600 in South Africa | | 12 tents | All-inclusive.

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Kwando Reserve

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Where to Stay

This 2,300-square-km (900-square-mile) private concession has more than 80 km (50 miles) of river frontage. It stretches south from the banks of the Kwando River, through open plains and mopane forests to the Okavango Delta.

It’s an area crisscrossed by thousands of ancient game trails traversed by wildlife that move freely between the Okavango Delta, Chobe, and the open Namibian wilderness to the north. As you fly in to the reserve, you’ll see this web of thousands of interlacing natural game trails—from hippo highways to the tiny paths of smaller animals. This should clue you in to Kwando’s diverse animal life: elephants, crowds of buffalo, zebras, antelope of all kinds, wild dogs, lions, and wildebeests. Participants on one night drive came upon a running battle between a pack of 14 wild dogs and two hyenas who had stolen the dogs’ fresh kill. The noisy battle ended when a loudly trumpeting elephant, fed up with the commotion, charged the wild dogs and drove them off. There’s a sheer joy in knowing you are one of very few vehicles in a half-million acres of wilderness.

Kwando is a great place to take children on safari. The safari starts with a safety briefing, and kids get their own tents next to mom and dad (or you can share). Kids learn to track and take plaster casts of spoor, sit up in the tracker’s seat on the vehicle to follow game, cook marshmallows over the boma fire, and make bush jewelry. Kids can eat on their own or with you, and if you want an afternoon snooze, they’ll be supervised in a fun activity. The program’s available at both Kwando camps; the price is the same per night as for an adult. | Kwando Reserve | 686-1449 | |


Visit May through September. You’ll see loads of game, especially predators, and fewer than 40 other guests in the whole reserve.

Kwando Reserve

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Guests fly directly into Kwando Reserve from Maun; the flight takes about 35-40 minutes. Transfer to lodges will take between 10 and 30 minutes.



Fodor’s Choice | Kwando Lagoon Camp.
$$$$ | The camp perches on the banks of the fast-flowing Kwando River, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Comfortable walk-through tents with private bathrooms and verandas nestle on grassy slopes under the shade of giant jackalberry trees that are hundreds of years old. After a night spent next to one of these mighty trees, a major source of natural energy, people say you wake up rejuvenated, your body buzzing with new life. From the thatch dining and bar area you can watch herds of elephants only yards away as they come to drink and bathe, or hippos snoozing in the sun. You might also spot a malachite kingfisher darting like a bejeweled minijet over the water. Go for a morning or evening game drive, drift along the river in a small boat, or go spinner- or fly-fishing for tiger fish and bream. The emphasis in the camp is on informality, simplicity, and soaking up the wilderness experience. Pros: exclusivity: unforgettable river views. Cons: too close to nature for some; rustic but very comfortable. | Rooms from: $1063 | Kwando Reserve | 686-1449, 686-4388 | | | 8 tents | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | Kwando Lebala Camp.
$$$$ | Lebala Camp is 30 km (18 miles) south of Lagoon Camp and looks out over the Linyanti wetlands. The secluded tents, built on raised teak decks, are magnificent. All have private bathrooms with Victorian claw-foot tubs. If you want to get even closer to nature, bathe in your own outdoor shower or just sit on your sundeck and look out at the endless vistas. On morning or evening game drives you’ll see loads of game, and if you fancy a freshly caught fish supper, try your hand at spinner fishing. Pros: superb predator viewing. Cons: very remote location makes it difficult to get to. | Rooms from: $1063 | Kwando Reserve | 686-1449, 686-4388 | | | 8 tents | All-inclusive.

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If You Have Time

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The Central Kalahari Game Reserve | The Makgadikgadi Pans | Mashatu Game Reserve | Linyanti Reserve

By all means, do your Big Five-big park thing, but if you can make or take the time, these following parks and areas will entice you into their quite unforgettable uniqueness.


One of the biggest conservation areas in the world, this huge area has its own unique beauty that’s only enhanced by its vastness, emptiness, grandeur, and desolation. You won’t see the prolific game of Chobe or Moremi, but there’s unusual wildlife, such as the elusive brown hyena, the stately gemsbok, elegant kudus, African wild cats, leopards, and porcupines. And if you’re very lucky, you may spot the huge, black-maned Kalahari lions, which dwarf their bush counterparts. Deception Valley—so-called because from a distance a dry riverbed appears to run deep and full—lies on the northern border of the reserve.

When to Go

Summers are very hot and winters very cold. The shoulder seasons (April and September) are the best.

Getting Here and Around

While self-drives are possible here, it’s not advised. Instead, fly in from Maun. Your lodge can and will arrange all your transportation to and from the airstrip for you in an open-sided game vehicle.


Deception Valley Lodge.
$$$ | This striking thatch-and-stone lodge is one of only two lodges in the Central Kalahari and is worth visiting for this reason alone. Built entirely by hand by the desert-dwelling Naru people, the main lounge has deep-red sofas and kilims with wooden sliding doors leading out onto a wraparound deck, which faces a busy water hole. You’ll sleep in a large thatch bungalow where the roomy lounge has polished wooden floors, more kilims, wrought iron, wood chairs, a deep comfy sofa, and framed bushman memorabilia. Your bedroom will have a hand-carved headboard, crisp white linens, and plump duvets. There’s a separate en-suite bathroom with a claw-foot bath and outside shower. Enjoy delicious food (try the tender oryx fillet marinated in Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, and herbs) including homemade bread and rolls, before sitting out under the blazing desert stars for a nightcap. Although you’ll be taken on game drives and birding expeditions, the absolute highlight of your stay at this unique lodge will be a walk with the bushmen themselves. Dressed in skins and thong sandals, with their bows and arrows over their shoulders, and carrying spears and digging sticks, they’ll lead you through the dry grass and bush on a three-hour walk through one of the most remote areas on earth. You’ll be shown how to trap a bird or animal, how to make fire, which plants and trees will heal and sustain you, and at the end of the walk, they will dance and sing for you. This is pure magic. Pros: if you’re looking for solitude, this is the place as it’s the only lodge in the area; great curio shop. Cons: there’s game here, but not always easy to find. | Rooms from: $525 | Central Kalahari Game Reserve | 27-11/234-9997 in South Africa | | 8 chalets | All-inclusive | No children under 6 years old.

Kalahari Plains Camp.
$$ | This is one of Wilderness Safari’s newest camps and its first in the great Kalahari Desert. Situated in the desolate northern part of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which is one of the largest game reserves in the world and bigger than Switzerland, overlooking a huge pan, you’ll stay in one of 10 en-suite innovatively insulated canvas tents designed to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Accommodation is basic but comfortable, and if you can stand the desert sun you can sunbathe on your rooftop deck, or sleep under the dazzling desert stars. This camp is a 100% solar-powered camp and totally green—no more plastic bottles of water, but your own personal one that you’ll fill up when and as you need it from the filtered water containers. Game is abundant, particularly in the summer months when seasonal herds of plains game move in and are followed by opportunistic predators: great black-maned Kalahari lions, leopards, cheetahs, brown hyenas, caracals, and jackals. Bird life is spectacular with more than 220 species including threatened species such as the lappet-faced vulture and the Kori bustard, one of the world’s heaviest flying birds. Pros: stunning desert scenery all year round; abundant game in season; interpretive walks with the local San Bushmen. Cons: tents get very hot in summer, even with the insulation; there’s no air-conditioning; food isn’t very imaginative. | Rooms from: $450 | Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana | 27-11/807-1800 in South Africa | 10 tents | All meals.


These immense salt pans in the eastern Kalahari—once the bed of an African superlake—provide some of Botswana’s most dramatic scenery. Two of these pans, Ntetwe and Sowa, the largest of their kind in the world, have a flaky, pastrylike surface that might be the nearest thing on earth to the surface of the moon. In winter (May-September) these huge bone-dry surfaces, punctuated by islands of grass and lines of fantastic palm trees, dazzle and shimmer into hundreds of dancing mirages under the midday sun. In summer months (October-April) the last great migration in Southern Africa takes place here: More than 50,000 zebras and wildebeests with predators on their heels come seeking the fresh young grass of the rainwater flooded pans. Waterbirds also flock here from all over the continent; the flamingos are particularly spectacular.

You can see stars as never before, and if you’re lucky, as the San-Bushmen say, even hear them sing. Grab the opportunity to ride 4x4 quad bikes into an always-vanishing horizon; close your eyes and listen as an ancient San-Bushman hunter tells tales of how the world began in his unique language—the clicks will sound strange to your ears—or just wander in wonder over the pristine piecrust surface of the pans.

When to Go

In May through September you will experience the surreal dry winter landscapes but there is less game. October through February are the months of the migration with game galore.

Getting Here and Around

Just like the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, self-drives are possible here but not advised. Instead, have your lodge arrange your transportation. Flights from Maun take about 40 minutes and don’t be shocked when you land on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the bush. Your transportation to and from the lodge and on all game drives will be in an open-sided vehicle.


Luxury Lodging

Jack’s Camp.
$$$$ | If you’re bold-spirited, reasonably fit, and have kept your childlike sense of wonder, then Jack’s is for you. A cross between a Fellini movie, a Salvador Dalí painting, and Alice in Wonderland, this camp doesn’t offer the cocooned luxury of some of the Okavango camps; it offers a more rugged, pioneer feel reminiscent of a 1940s-style safari. East African safari tents on wooden decks set in a palm grove have ancient Persian rugs, antique brass-hinged storage boxes, teak and canvas furniture, hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, and indoor and outdoor showers. Meals are taken under a huge acacia tree or in a large, open-sided tent. The camp’s highly qualified rangers are respected throughout Botswana for their love and commitment to this amazing area. You won’t find the Big Five here, but you will find unique desert-adapted animals and plants like the brown hyena, meerkats, salt bushes, and desert palms. Remember though, this is the Kalahari Desert. It’s hot, hot, hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. Pros: exclusivity and isolation. Cons: no shaded walkways; the desert locale can be dusty; blisteringly hot in summer, freezing in winter. | Rooms from: $1400 | Makgadikgadi Pans | 27-11/447-1605 | | 10 tents | All-inclusive.

Fodor’s Choice | San Camp.
$$$$ | This collection of white tents is framed by Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, in the depths of the Kalahari Desert. Six tents are solar-powered accommodations with outdoor showers and toilets, while another—dubbed the “the tea tent”—is a Persian rug-dotted welcome area, and another is dedicated to serving meals and hosting yoga classes. All are simple and were completely revamped and relaunched in 2011. What the property lacks in sumptuousness, it makes up for in service. Guides are knowledgeable and personable, and the food, exquisitely prepared, is always served with a smile. Guided activities include visits with local tribes, desert quad excursions, stargazing, and nocturnal wildlife spotting, along with twice-daily safari game drives. Pros: friendly, knowledgeable staff. Cons: limited running water. | Rooms from: $1100 | Makgadikgadi Salt Pans | Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana | 11/447-1605 | | 6 tents | All-inclusive.


Mashatu offers a genuine wilderness experience on 90,000 acres that seem to stretch to infinity on all sides. There are wall-to-wall elephants—breeding herds often with tiny babies in tow—as well as aardvarks, aardwolves (a type of hyena), lots of leopards, wandering lions, and hundreds of birds. All the superb rangers are Batswana—most were born in the area, and some have been here for more than 15 years. They have a bottomless reservoir of local knowledge.

When to Go

Summers are very hot and winters very cold. The shoulder seasons (April and September) are the best.

Getting Here and Around

Mashatu is an easy five-hour drive from Johannesburg and Gaborone. You’ll be met at Pont Drift, the South African/Botswana border post, where you leave your car under huge jackalberry trees at the South African police station before crossing the Limpopo River by 4x4 vehicle or cable car—depending on whether the river is flooded.

If you’d rather fly, South African Airlink flies daily from O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, to Polokwane, where you can pick up a self-drive or chauffeur-driven car from Budget Rent a Car for the just-under-two-hour drive to Pont Drift.


South African Airlink. | 27-11/978-1111 in South Africa |

Car Rentals
Budget Rent a Car. | Muan Airport, | Maun | 27-11/398-0123 in South Africa, 866/425-0307 in USA |


The reserve is located in an area known as the Tuli Block. This ruggedly beautiful corner of northeastern Botswana is very easily accessible from South Africa and well worth a visit. Huge, striking red-rock formations, unlike anywhere else in Botswana, mingle with acacia woodlands, riverine bush, hills, wooded valleys, and open grassy plains. Be sure to visit the Motloutse ruins, where ancient baobabs stand sentinel over Stone Age ruins that have existed here for more than 30,000 years, as majestic black eagles soar overhead.

Still relatively unknown to foreign travelers, the Tuli Block is home to huge elephant herds, the eland—Africa’s largest and highest-jumping antelope—zebras, wildebeests, leopards, and prolific bird life. Try to catch a glimpse of the elusive and diminutive klipspringer antelope perching on top of a rock zealously guarding his mountain home. Gareth Patterson, southern Africa’s “Lion Man,” lived here alone with three young lions over a period of years, successfully reintroducing them to the wild after having brought them down from Kenya after George “Born Free” Adamson was brutally murdered there by poachers. If the Limpopo River is full, you’ll be winched into Botswana over the river in a small cage—a unique way of getting from one country to another. If the river is dry, you’ll be driven over in an open-sided game vehicle.


Luxury Lodging

Fodor’s Choice | Mashatu Main Camp.
$$ | A sister camp to South Africa’s world-famous MalaMala Camp, the professionalism of the staff here is so unobtrusive you only realize later how superbly and sincerely welcomed, entertained, and informed you have been during your stay. Accommodations are in tasteful family suites where earth-patterned and earth-colored fabrics pick up and enhance the terra-cotta floor tiles. Furniture of natural basket weave, russet-and-cream handwoven wool rugs, and pine-paneled ceilings promote the overall atmosphere of quiet good taste. Comfort is assured by heaters in the cold winter months and air-conditioning in the hot summer ones. The thatched outdoor dining area overlooks a large water hole where elephants, zebras, wildebeests, and other Mashatu regulars drink. Pros: game galore, particularly lions and leopards; superb service and guiding. Cons: suites are lacking personal viewing decks. | Rooms from: $440 | Mashatu Game Reserve | 27-11/442-2267 in South Africa | | 14 suites | All-inclusive.

Permanent Tented Camps

Mashatu Tent Camp.
$$ | This small and intimate camp offers the same excellent service as Main Camp but with a firsthand bush experience. The camp is deep in the wilderness, and as you lie in your tent and listen to a lion’s roar, a hyena’s whoop, or a leopard’s cough, you’ll feel part of the heartbeat of Africa. Seven spacious tents with carpeted floors, each with a tiny veranda overlooking the surrounding bush, provide an unparalleled back-to-nature feeling. A fenced walkway leads to an en-suite bathroom where the stars are your roof. Knowledgeable, local rangers will open your ears and your eyes to the environment: on one night game drive guests saw a male leopard up a tree jealously guarding his impala kill from a female leopard who was hoping for a slice of the action, while a hopeful hyena lurked nearby. There’s plenty of water in the vicinity, so the game is also plentiful—once two guests were trapped in their tent when a pride of lions killed a zebra outside it. This camp may not be for everyone; but for something truly different, real, and very special, a stay here won’t soon be forgotten. Pros: true wilderness experience; splendid isolation. Cons: very close to nature; don’t come here if you are fearful of critters big or small. | Rooms from: $320 | Mashatu Game Reserve | 27-11/442-2267 | | 8 tents | All-inclusive.


The Linyanti Reserve, which borders Chobe National Park, is one of the huge concession areas leased to different companies by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Tawana Land Board; concessions can be leased for up to 15 years. It’s a spectacular wildlife area comprising the Linyanti marshes, open floodplains, rolling savanna, and the Savuti Channel. Because it’s a private concession, open vehicles can drive where and when they like, which means superb game-viewing at all hours of the day.

Basic choices for viewing wildlife are game drives (including thrilling night drives with spotlights), boat trips, and walks with friendly and knowledgeable Motswana guides. Even in peak season there’s a maximum of only six game vehicles driving around at one time, allowing you to see Africa as the early hunters and explorers might have first seen it. The Savuti Channel is a huge river that has appeared in several National Geographic documentaries. Take lots of pictures, and for once you won’t bore your friends with the results: hundreds of elephants drinking from pools at sunset, hippos and hyenas nonchalantly strolling past a pride of lions preparing to hunt under moonlight, and thousands of water and land birds everywhere.

When to Go

Summers are very hot and winters very cold. The shoulder seasons (April and September) are the best.

Getting Here and Around

Flights from Maun take about 40 minutes; don’t be shocked when you land on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the bush. Your transportation to and from the lodge and on all game drives will be in an open-sided vehicle.


Permanent Tented Camps

Duma Tau.
$$$$ | Rebuilt in 2012, this welcoming camp, imaginatively decorated and furnished, is in raised tent chalets under thatch and overlooking the water and lies at the very heart of the concession. The spacious chalets have African fabrics; clever cane furniture decorated with plaited reeds, brass, and local beadwork; an indoor shower and another on your outside deck so you can wash as you view; and personal touches such as a guinea-fowl feather or dried seedpod placed artistically among your towels. The lounge and dining area of the main lodge are open on all sides (a bit cold in winter); the toilet at the end of the deck must have the best view of any in the world. The food is simple but superb. Before you set out on your early-morning game drive, try a plate of piping-hot porridge, a Danish straight from the oven, or a freshly baked muffin. Pros: great predator viewing. Cons: public areas can be cold in winter. | Rooms from: $1333 | Linyanti Reserve | 27-11/807-1800 in South Africa | | 10 chalets | All-inclusive.

King’s Pool.
$$$$ | The centuries-old giant leadwood tree, which dominates the spacious main deck that overlooks the Linyanti River, gives you a clue about your classic, yet understated, out-of-Africa-like accommodation. Everything about this camp is on a regal scale—a modern-day tribute to the European royalty who used to hunt in this area. Old photographs of tribal leaders and Batswana maidens watch over the carved wooden furniture, comfortable wing chairs with beaded throws, inviting wooden bar with high leather-and-wood bar stools, soft furnishings in earth colors, and the open-sided dining room. There’s even a small gym facing the river where you can work off some of the yummy food before taking a river cruise (only when the water is high), a guided bush walk, a fishing trip, or a visit to the sunken blind (a must in the dry season) where you’re eye-level with splashing elephant feet. The massive hand-carved door of your megasize thatch and canvas-ceiling chalet leads into an entrance hall, bedroom with four-poster bed, a sitting area with earth-color couches and armchairs splashed with orange and red cushions, and a huge bathroom with his and her basins and tiled showers. Don’t miss the fascinating curio shop with classy artifacts from all over Africa. Pros: classy and comfortable. Cons: very grand—you may prefer something simpler. | Rooms from: $1986 | Linyanti Reserve | 27-11/807-1800 | | 9 chalets | All-inclusive.

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Gateway City

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Many visitors to Botswana will find themselves with a layover in Johannesburg before or after their safari. It’s a massive metropolitan area—more than 1,300 square km (800 square miles)—that epitomizes South Africa’s paradoxical make-up—it’s rich, poor, innovative, and historical all rolled into one. Most of the sights and many of the city’s good hotels and major malls are in the northern suburbs: Greenside, Parkhurst, Sandton, and Rosebank, among many others. Some notable destinations for food include Melrose Arch, Parkhurst, Sandton, the South (for its Portuguese cuisine), Melville, and Chinatown in the CBD (Central Business District).

For some ideas and suggestions to help determine where you should stay, eat, and if you have time, sightsee.

If you don’t fly from Johannesburg, your first entry into Botswana will probably be by air into Maun, the gateway to the Delta. At best, you’d spend only a night here, though most visitors are picked up at Maun airport immediately upon arrival by their respective tour operators and whisked away to their lodges by charter planes.


The little town of Maun serves as the gateway to the Okavango Delta and the Moremi Game Reserve. And, despite the city’s rapid development in the last decade, it has kept the feel of a pioneer border town. The name comes from the San word maung, which means the “place of short reeds,” and Maun became the capital of the Tawana people in 1915; it’s now Botswana’s fifth-largest town. Although there are now shopping centers and a paved road to Gaborone, Botswana’s capital, cement block houses and mud huts still give Maun a rural feel, especially as goats and donkeys litter the roads.

The town spreads along the banks of the Thamalakane River, and it’s possible to take mokoro trips into the Delta directly from Maun. It’s also a good base from which to explore by road the Tsolido hills and the Makgadikgadi Pans.

The bustling airport has new runways, a new terminal building, and planes of all sizes taking off and landing at all hours of the day, delivering tourists to and from the tourist camps in the Delta and Moremi. Maun itself is by no means a tourist destination—at best you’d probably stay a night or even two before setting off farther afield. There are three supermarkets, so you can stock up on supplies if you’re setting off on a road trip, but in general most camps are accessible only by air, so you’ll probably see only the Maun airport.

A Model Motswana

The Batswana (singular: Motswana) are renowned for their courtesy and dignity. A perfect role model is the now world-famous Motswana lady detective, Patience Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series—published by Random House—by Alexander McCall Smith, who introduced millions of readers all over the world to the unchanging wisdom of a solid, traditional society. These books were made into a popular TV series for BBC and HBO in 2009.

Fans can now follow in Mma Ramotswe’s footsteps by taking a half- or full-day walking tour of her favorite haunts throughout Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. You’ll visit her house in Zebra Drive, as well as Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors (owned by Mma Ramotswe’s eventual husband, JLB Matekoni), the village of Mochudi, and sometimes, if available, a visit to the Orphan Farm, where her two adopted children were living. And, of course, you’ll sample her favorite red bush tea. Tours can be arranged through African Insight (, and prices range from BWP450 to BWP780.

Getting Here and Around

A local taxi is your best bet for getting around, as there’s no public transportation. Taxis are usually available outside Maun airport. It’s possible to hire a fully equipped 4x4 for camping, but generally speaking, you’re better off and safer (the roads in the Delta are sometimes impassable) to fly between Maun and the tourist camps. Make sure your tour package includes all local flights.

Safety and Precautions

Crime has increased in recent years, so take good care of your belongings and utilize your hotel’s safe. Don’t walk alone at night. If you must leave the hotel, have the concierge or front desk call a taxi for you.


Most people will be here only a night, if not just a few hours, so use the time to relax or stock up on supplies at one of the local grocery stores if you’re self-driving.


Barclays Bank. | Opposite Shoprite, slightly west of Riley’s | 686-0210.
Standard Chartered Bank. | Opposite Shoprite, slightly west of Riley’s | 686-0209.

Medical Assistance
Delta Medical Centre. | Old Mall, Tshekotseko Rd. | 686-1875 |
General Emergency Number. | 911.
MediRescue. | 911.

Rental Cars
Avis. | Maun Airport | 686-0039 |
Maun Self Drive 4x4. | 686-1875 |


Lake Ngami.
When flooded (Dec.-March), Lake Ngami is one of the greatest bird-viewing areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands of flamingos, huge flocks of pelicans, herons, storks, ducks and geese, and many other migrants flock here to drink and feed. Traditional Herero and Yei villages cluster around the lake; book a tour with a reputable operator. There are no accommodations around the lake, so rent a car or hire a local tour operator, take a picnic, and make it a day trip. TIP If you plan to make the trip, first check in Maun for water levels and numbers of birds. | 97 km (60 miles) from Maun via Lake Ngami Rd. |

Nhabe Museum.
The museum, a former British military building, exhibits the work of local Batswana painters, printmakers, sculptors, woodworkers, and weavers, but it’s a small exhibition and not particularly exciting. There are also displays about Ngamiland’s history. | Sir Seretse Kharma Rd., Town Center | 686-1346 | free | Mon.-Sat. 9-4:30.


Hillary’s Coffee Shop.
$ | CAFÉ | If you have time for a cup of coffee and a quick snack in between flights or before you set out on safari, leave the airport and head toward the Bull&Bush. You’ll find the coffee shop behind the offices of Okavango Wilderness Safaris. Hillary has run this coffee shop for years, and everything you eat here is home baked, including the best breakfast options in Maun. Grab a sandwich or a salad and be sure to try her homemade whole-wheat bread. | Average main: $10 | Mathiba Rd., just before the Avis Rent-a-Car office | 686-1610 | Sundays and Saturday afternoons.

Sports Bar and Restaurant.
$ | INTERNATIONAL | This is one of Maun’s liveliest eateries and where you can get a really good pizza and good spare ribs. Friday night is party night with live music and game rangers, expats and local yuppies dancing their hearts out. It’s a bit out of town so you will need transport. | Average main: $10 | Shorobe Rd. | 686-2676 | No lunch.


Audi Lodge.
$ | RESORT | This lively tented camp offers a budget option for the Okavango Delta. You’ll stay in a comfortable no-frills en-suite tent on raised wooden stilts overlooking the river, or a budget tent with shared bathrooms—some have cots, some have beds, all require guests to supply their own linens. There’s also a self-catering house that sleeps 10, and camping. All accommodation, except camping, includes breakfast. There’s a great bar that is very popular with the locals and a restaurant with a wooden deck for sunset viewing. The camp, 12 km (7 miles) from Maun, has extensive experience with educational groups and safaris for university or school groups and offers a wide range of activities, from vehicle safaris and mokoro trips to walking safaris and cultural trips. “Audi” means fish eagle in Setswana, and you can expect to see (and hear) many of these magnificent birds during your stay. Pros: affordable lodging; excellent service and staff; good value excursions. Cons: noisy; not much privacy; only four en-suite tents, all activities extra | Rooms from: $81 | Shorobe Rd., 12 km (7½miles) from Maun | 686-0599 | | 22 tents, 1 self-catered house.

Riley’s Hotel.
$ | HOTEL | A Maun institution, this comfortable modern hotel, on the banks of the Thamalakane River, is a far cry from the seven dusty rooms built by the legendary Harry Riley in the middle 1930s. Harry’s Bar is still one of the main gathering places in Maun, although planes no longer taxi straight up to the bar as in the good old days. Rooms are comfortable and clean but dull, and Riley’s Grill ($) still serves a good meal. Pros: central location; clean and comfortable. Cons: bland hotel-like rooms; indifferent service. | Rooms from: $169 | Riverside Rd. | 686-0204 | | | 51 rooms | Breakfast.

Thamalakane Lodge.
$$ | B&B/INN | Situated en route to Moremi Game Reserve, this lovely lodge sits on the bank of the Thamalakane River. You’ll stay in one of 18 very comfortable stone-and-thatch en-suite chalets, some with a private plunge pool, that overlook the river; breakfast included. There are two Kingfisher family units, which have two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. If you’re on a tight budget, then opt for one of three big safari tents, each with its own viewing deck but with shared bathroom facilities. Pros: very affordable; brilliant service and good restaurant; closest accommodation to Moremi Game Reserve. Cons: if you’re not en route to Moremi it’s a bit out of the way, but worth the 15-minute drive from Maun. | Rooms from: $266 | Shorobe Rd. | 27-21/782-5337 in South Africa | | | 18 chalets, 3 tents.

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