There’s nothing quite like a Botswana safari. In fact, The Telegraph even named it ‘the BEST safari in Africa’.
I’d have to agree. A safari in Botswana is non-short of magical.
Being out in the wild, amongst nature. I would say that Botswana is one (if not the) most relaxing and natural places I’ve ever been to with not much going on really, except for pockets of activity here and there.
I’ve travelled Botswana on tours and on a self-drive and both are amazing, but very different experiences.
Due to where everything is in Botswana, there is no real easy way to see all of the highlights without doubling back on yourself or veering wildly off course. Which is great if you have time and money, but not so great if you don’t.
But to be honest, Botswana is so amazing, you will have a great time no matter where you go! So below I’ve listed some of the key places to visit and some suggested itineraries to allow you to plan your own trip of the back of it.
At the bottom of the post you’ll find some important info about getting around, including self-driving vs taking a tour.
How to Plan the Perfect Botswana Safari Itinerary
The Overland Route
This route is great if you are travelling the classic ‘Nairobi to Cape Town Route’, via Zambia/Zimbabwe and Namibia and is good for self-drivers. Can easily be reversed.
- Livingstone, Zambia or Vic Falls, Zimbabwe: 3 – 5 Days
- Chobe National Park & Kasane: 2 Days
- Elephant Sands: 1 – 2 Days
- Gweta: 1 – 2 Days
- Nxai Pan: 1 – 2 Days
- Maun: 1-2 Days
- Okavango Delta: 2 – 3 Days
- D’kar: 2 Days
The Safari Route
This is my personal favourite route and the one we follow on my Botswana & Victoria Falls tour, as it’s very immersed in nature and travels through the national parks, rather than along the main road as the above itinerary does. Again, this route can be reversed.
- Maun: 1 -2 Days
- D’kar: 2 Days
- Okavango Delta: 2 – 3 Days
- Khwai Concession: 1 – 2 Days
- Moremi Game Reserve: 1 – 2 Days
- Savuti: 2 Days
- Chobe National Park & Kasane: 2 Days
- Livingstone, Zambia or Vic Falls, Zimbabwe: 3 – 5 Days
Other Places To Consider
These are places that aren’t on either of the routes above but definitely worth the detour, if you have the time.
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Ok, so not in Botswana, but if you’re flying in for a Botswana trip, you may want to start (or end) in either Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
These towns both have good international airports and are very close to the border with Botswana (which is only a 45-minute drive away).
You could easily spend a few days/weeks here as there’s so much to do! Just make sure you have a lot of money as the activities are expensive (although there are lots of cheap things to do too).
Alternatively, if you were going the other way, you might find it easier to fly into Windhoek, Namibia and fly out of Livingstone or Vic Falls.
Things To Do Livingstone & Victoria Falls:
Both towns offer pretty much the same activities. Although they are a little cheaper on the Zimbabwe side, I much prefer Livingstone as it’s much less touristy (in town). You have a ton of activity options here, including; Victoria Falls, bungee jumping, white water rafting, the Devil’s Pool micro lighting, bicycle tours, helicopter rides, sunset cruises… the list goes on and on and on. For a full list of things to do at Victoria Falls, have a read of this post.
Time Needed: 3 – 5 Days (you could manage in a day or two if you just saw Victoria Falls and did no other activities, I could stay here for a month personally).
You don’t have to stay in Kasane at all, as most of the safari companies can arrange transfers direct from Livingstone/Vic Falls to Chobe National Park and back again, however, Kasane is the town closest to Chobe National Park, so if you have a bit of time, or are coming from/going to somewhere further away than Livingstone/Vic Falls you could relax here for a night before or after your Chobe Safari. It’s also a good place to stock up on food, petrol and other supplies.
On the other hand, you don’t have to stay inside the park if you are doing a Chobe safari, so you could use Kasane as your base and take day trips into the park. There are LOTS of options.
Last time I was there, I stayed at a couple of different places. The first was Senyati Safari Camp a few kilometres outside of Kasane town, and what a great choice it was!
Senyati Safari Camp overlooks a beautiful waterhole where lots of animals congregate (especially elephants) and they have an underground bunker so you can get really close to the action!
Our chalet was number 1, which sleeps 4 and has a fantastic view over the waterhole (as does the bar and chalet number 2). As we were chilling on our porch in the afternoon, we saw lots of elephants, kudu, impala, warthogs, baboons and even a rare sable antelope galloping by, which I thought was very cool, but the best was yet to come…
Around sunset, we were sat in the bar when a herd of maybe 25 – 30 elephants came trundling into camp, including a few tiny (like really tiny) babies. Jessi and I bolted for the bunker (where the photo above was taken) and watched as they drank and played right in front of us, for a while before wandering off into the night.
They’d only been gone for a few minutes when 10 more arrived to drink. This group were a bit more feisty and I almost pooped my pants when one of the older elephants trumpeted angrily at one of the little ones.
Then as soon as they’d left, another showed up, then another, then another… you get the idea – it was bloody amazing!
I’d say that this place is even better for elephant spotting than the more famous Elephant Sands as you can get way closer and the waterhole is floodlit at night – but Elephant Sands is also awesome – bring on the elephants!
You heard it here first – this is now one of my favourite camps in Africa (yes, in the whole continent, not just Botswana).
I also stayed at Thebe River Safaris Lodge. This place was nice with a good and lively bar and relatively good wifi.
Things To Do in Kasane:
Day or overnight safaris to Chobe National Park, river cruises, day trips over to Livingstone/Vic Falls, fishing trips, take a dip in the hot springs, shop at the Chobe Women’s Arts & Crafts Centre and visit the old baobab tree.
Time Needed: 1 – 2 Days
Chobe National Park & Savuti
I’ve been to Chobe quite a few times and it’s one of my absolute favourite national parks in all of Africa and one of the best places in the world to see elephants. Definitely a staple of any Botswana itinerary.
Last time I was there was on the Rock My Malawi, Zambia & Botswana Adventure and I swear we saw about 1000 elephants. Seriously. It was pure magic.
But as well as the elephants, we saw a ton of buffalo, lions, giraffes and 3 leopards, including the closest leopard sighting I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously amazing!
There are a whole load of safari companies that offer trips to Chobe of varying lengths, some include boat trips along the river too.
Savuti is part of Chobe National Park, however it’s much deeper into the bush than the Kasane part of Chobe.
On a good day, Savuti may just be the most magical safari in Botswana. Last time I was there we saw a leopard eating an elephant (seriously), 3 male lions covered in blood (who had also been eating the elephant, hundreds of live elephants, a pride of lions and lion cubs, hyenas fighting over a baby elephant carcass, jackals trying to get the baby elephant carcass and 3 cheetahs. That was a pretty amazing day.
To get to Savuti you can either fly (expensive option as you have to stay in a lodge) or you can drive in via Chobe or Moremi/Khwai. You will need a 4×4.
Things To Do in Chobe National Park & Savuti:
Camp in the bush, take a river cruise, go on safari and take millions of pictures of elephants, leopards, lions…
Time Needed: 2 Days for the Kasane end of the park, 3 – 4 if you include Savuti.
Around 50km before the town of Nata (if coming from Kasane), you will find Elephant Sands, a lodge with a fantastic waterhole that is very popular with the local elephants. Every day (and night) elephants and other animals visit the lodge to drink.
All of the tents, campsites and the bar/restaurant face the waterhole, so no matter where you stay, you always have a front-row seat and elephants wander through the camp all the time.
We arrived at around 4pm in the afternoon and within about half an hour 7 elephants showed up. Just don’t do what I did and arrive with a flat battery! I spent my time running between the charging point at the bar and the waterhole trying to get pictures and I definitely missed a few of the best shots.
After dinner, a few more elephants showed up as well as a honey badger, which is only the second one I’ve seen in all my years travelling Africa (the first was in South Luangwa in Zambia earlier this year).
As I was drifting off to sleep later that evening, I could hear the low rumbling of elephants just beside our tent. Just beautiful.
Things To Do at Elephant Sands:
They have game drives departing in both the morning and the evening, as well as a morning bush walk that you can join. They also offer bush braais (bbq’s). Other than that, just sit back relax and enjoy the view.
Time Needed: 1 – 2 Days
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Did you know that the zebra is Botswana’s national animal? Well, they are! And each year, they migrate hundreds of miles through Botswana in the largest animal migration in Southern Africa.
The best place to see them is in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, which lies alongside the main road from Kasane to Maun and the best time to view the migration here is between January and March, with the animals spending the rest of the year in the more densely vegetated north.
There are a number of lodges within the park which are all on the luxury end with one of the most popular places to see the migration being Meno a Kwena. However, if you are on a budget, there are some public campsites too and safari companies usually have access to dedicated self-supported camping areas.
There’s also a cool lodge, called Planet Baobab which is in the town of Gweta, a bit further away, however they can arrange lots of excursions to Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park.
Things To Do in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park:
Viewing the zebra migration, quad biking, hanging out with meerkats and overnight camping trips into the salt pans.
Time Needed: 1 Day (if just stopping off in Gweta), more if you want to do any activities.
Maun is a busy town and a staple stop on any Botswana safari as it’s the jumping-off point to safaris in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve & Khwai (and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve too if coming from that direction – if going the other way, you may want to arrange your CKGR safari from D’kar/Ghanzi).
You can just turn up and book your safari (just be aware that accommodation books out quickly in Maun), but I wouldn’t bank on you always being able to get on a safari the next day. Well, you probably can, but you’ll need to ask around a bit in town.
If you are on limited time (and/or money) I would try to book your accommodation and tour to the Delta/Moremi/Khwai in advance where possible, even if just a few days before.
Whilst you’re in town, stop by Hilary’s for some hearty, healthy food. I had one of the specials – avocado and toasted coconut flakes on garlic bread with salad and homemade lemonade and it was delicious.
The road between Gweta and Maun is full of potholes, so please drive carefully. We saw a ton of burst tyres scattered along the roadside.
Things To Do in Maun:
Go on safari into the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve, take a scenic flight over the Delta, go for a ride in a mokoro (traditional canoe) and go bush camping.
Time Needed: 1 – 2 Days (maybe more if you haven’t pre-arranged your safari).
The Okavango Delta is a must-see on any Botswana itinerary.
‘The Delta’ as it’s usually called, is basically a giant swamp, formed when seasonal water flowing from the Angolan highlands creates a flood, which produces channels and islands which form one of the most unique landscapes and environments on earth.
It’s also perfect for wildlife viewing making it one of the best safari spots in Africa.
Most people make 2 or 3-day trips, starting in Maun. These trips usually involve taking a mokoro (traditional canoe – in the dry season you would drive in) ride into the Delta or you can also fly in. Once there you’ll either bush camp (budget) or stay in pre-built tents/lodges (mid-range to high-end).
Personally, I’d probably prefer to join a tour into the Delta than to attempt it myself, but that’s just me!
In the main part of the Delta, your best option for a budget traveller is to join a group safari. For those not on a budget, the world is your oyster as there are a whole host of beautiful and luxurious static and mobile safari camps for you to live out your safari dream.
Things To Do in the Okavango Delta:
Take a scenic flight, ride in a mokoro, take a motorboat, camp out in the bush, go on a walking safari, go on a game drive, go fishing and just enjoy being in nature.
Time Needed: 2 – 3 Days (longer if you venture into Moremi as well).
Khwai Concession & Moremi Game Reserve
In the northern part of the Delta, you’ll find the Khwai Concession and the Moremi Game Reserve. I’ve put them both together as they can be easily combined.
Both are incredible places to see wildlife. Last time I was there, we saw so many elephants in Khwai, If you are self-driving you with need a 4×4 car and I would check on the road conditions before you attempt to enter. For those with a bigger budget, you can fly into Moremi and there are a number of luxury safari lodges too.
For budget to mid-range safaris or self-drivers, there are several campsites in both Moremi and Khwai but book in advance as they can get busy.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
If you are looking for an off the beaten path adventure in the Botswanan wilderness then visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve which lies slap bang in the middle of the country.
The CKGR is an epic and remote place which should definitely be on the itinerary of every intrepid traveller and is a great place for wildlife, with good numbers of brown hyenas, lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs.
The most famous part of the CKGR is Deception Valley, where Mark and Delia Owens studied lions and brown hyenas, as detailed in their book ‘Cry of the Kalahari’. The other areas are the Northern CKGR, Passarge Valley, the Western Pans and the Far South.
There are a number of waterholes in the reserve that make a great stop to watch wildlife and you’re unlikely to see many other people whilst you are there.
Getting there is a bit of a mission, so you really need to be prepared, especially if you are doing self-drive (you need a 4×4) and self-supported trip. You’ll need to take all of your supplies with you including water.
You have to camp at designated campsites within the reserve and the campsites they do have vary in facilities (some don’t have toilets etc), so make sure you do your research before you go! For budget, try Passarge Valley Campsites, Piper Pan Campsites and Kori Campsites. For more info, see here. For something a little more comfortable (and expensive), stay at Kalahari Plains Camp or Deception Valley Lodge.
Things To Do in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve:
Game drives, San Bushmen walks and quad biking. If you have the time, you can always visit neighbouring Khutse Game Reserve.
Time Needed: 3 – 4 Days
The reason most people come to D’kar (pronounced dee-car) is to meet and spend time with the San people, one of the oldest (if not the oldest) ethnic groups on earth.
I always have a wonderful time here at the Dqae Qare San Lodge . With my grousps, where we do the full day San Experience which encompasses spending time with the San, foraging for roots, setting (fake) traps, storytelling, playing games, music, dancing/singing and learning about their culture.
In fact, it is one of my coolest travel experiences to date. The San people were wonderfully warm and open and it was a ‘refreshing’ and ‘different’ tribal visit to many I’ve had before.
In nearby Ghanzi you’ll find supermarkets, petrol stations and ATM’s.
Things To Do in D’kar:
Spend the whole day with the San and go to the Kuru Dance Festival (held at the lodge, usually in August).
Time Needed: 2 Days
Tips for Travelling Botswana
The easiest way to get around Botswana is to fly or drive. If you take a fly-in, you’ll likely be paying quite a lot for your accommodations and safari.
If you want to self-drive to all the places on this itinerary, you’re going to need a 4×4 and you’ll probably need to take a couple of tours to get to the more remote places.
If you’re on a budget, a good option is to take a camping tour. These vary in comfort, from very basic (without facilities – shovel and a hole in the ground, put your own tents up) to non-participatory, glamping style.
You can also take public transport (combis) between the main towns, but they aren’t as frequent as they are in East Africa so you will really need to be on the ball as there may only be one or two buses a day, so if you miss them, you may struggle to get where you need to go. And then if your camp/lodge is off the main road or out of town you’re going to have to figure out how to get there too. But don’t let that stop you! This is Africa, there’s (usually) always a way to get from A to B.
Camping v’s Accommodated
Botswana has plenty of accommodation options, mith a mix of campsites, lodges and hotels.
You won’t find an abundance of cheaper hostels, but there are a few in major towns. If you have your own equipment, camping is the cheapest option.
A lot of the lodges tend to cater to the luxury market, but there are some good value budget to mid-range places too.
On the Botswana and Victoria Falls Adventure, we tend to mix it up between lodges and what I call ‘comfortable, luxury camping’.
To explain what this is… whilst on safari, we stay in mobile bush camps, deep in the heart of Botswana. We have a guide, cook, and support crew. The trip is non-participatory, so the tents and camp are set up by our awesome crew. There are 2 people to a tent and we sleep on cot beds with mattresses with bedding & towels provided. The tents have an ensuite bathroom with pit toilet and warm bucket shower every evening. We all eat together in a ‘mess’ tent and all meals will be provided by the crew (the food is amazing, with homemade fresh bread most days).
Just bear in mind that in July and August, it is winter in Botswana and while it’s warm in the day time, it’s freezing at night so you’ll need a good sleeping bag and warm clothing (thermals, fleece and a down jacket).
When deciding on how to travel (whether to camp/what car to hire etc) maybe think about these things:
- What is the cost of a normal 2WD car v’s a 4WD car v’s public transport? Public transport is going to be a lot cheaper than a car/tour but a lot more work – so I guess that’s the thing you need to think about – time/effort v’s money.
- If you are limited on time then driving or a tour would probably be the more efficient option plus you’ll definitely get to experience more.
- If you don’t have a 4×4, you may need to add in the cost of tours to the places where you can’t take a normal car (although regardless, I usually prefer taking tours into these areas – Chobe National Park, CKGR, Moremi National Park etc – as the guides will usually give you a much better experience than if you do it yourself).
- The cost of lodges v’s camping (camping is much cheaper but you may need to hire a tent and all your equipment if you don’t have your own)?
- Do you even like camping? It can be super cold in the cold winter months.
- The time of year. The cool, dry season is between May and September. In October and November, it gets very hot. January to April sees the rains and some places close for the season.
- Do you have the driving ability to handle a 4×4 in tough conditions? Also, remember it’s not advisable to travel by night due to animals on the road and some bad road conditions in places.
- Do you have have an in-date, international driver’s license to hire a car in Botswana?
D’kar is within a day’s drive of Windhoek, Namibia, so you could finish your trip there. If you are using public transport you will need to change buses at the Buitepost/Mamuno border as I believe there are no cross border services going into or out of Namibia.
If you don’t want to travel the whole way to Windhoek in one go, there are places to stay near the border such as Kalahari Bush Breaks or Zelda Game & Guest Farm.
If you want to extend your trip a bit more, here are a few alternative routes …
- You could drive south after D’kar, through the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (in which case you’d be better going, Maun – D’kar – CKGR) and Khutse Game Reserve down to Gaborone and then cross over the border at Pioneer Gate and end in Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Or travel down through Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Khutse Game Reserve down to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, cross over the Bokspits border into South Africa and then drive down to Cape Town.
- Or follow the same route as option 2, but instead of going down to Cape Town, you could enter southern Namibia via the Ariamsvlei border and do a Namibia road trip.
- If you are doing a Namibia and Botswana road trip, you could go around the country clockwise, ending in Windhoek or drive along the Caprivi Strip (the panhandle in northeast Namibia) and end where you started in Kasane, Botswana. From there it’s an easy journey to Livingstone/Vic Falls by public transport, shuttle or taxi.
There are so many wonderful options! So enjoy your road trip and as my friends in Botswana would say… “Go well!”
Like this post? Pin it for later?
Plan Your Trip to Botswana
Getting There: I always search for flights on Skyscanner. For this Botswana itinerary, the best airports to fly in and out of are: Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone, Victoria Falls International Airport in Victoria Falls and Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek. There are also a number smaller airports in Kasane, Maun, Ghanzi and Francistown and Gabarone have international airports.
Travel Insurance: This is Africa and medical care is not free. If you get injured or fall sick, you will have to pay for your medical care which could be very expensive, so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all aspects of your trip. I recommend World Nomads, Outbacker, or InsureandGo.
Resources: I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks and usually travel with one wherever I go.
Tours: Want to experience Botswana with an awesome group of like-minded travellers? Or travel like I do? Then join a small group tour and come on one of my Rock My Adventure tours to Botswana.
What To Pack: See my comprehensive Africa Packing List.
See all Botswana posts here.
Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!