10 Experiences You Have to Try in Botswana

Botswana, a wildlife jewel in the heart of Southern Africa, is a land of striking contrasts. The country is celebrated for its unspoilt natural environments, and is a fantastic self-drive and 4×4 destination.

A range of diverse road trip options are on offer, including guided trips of various durations, including a fabulous 45-day adventure.

From the lush waterways of the Okavango Delta to the mystical expanses of the Kalahari Desert, Botswana offers visitors a diverse panoply of landscapes and wildlife experiences to discover, each promising to leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Here are just ten experiences you simply must try in Botswana!

1. Mokoro Excursions in the Okavango Delta

A mokoro is a traditional dug-out canoe used in the Botswana Okavango Delta, and a more tranquil experience than gliding through the water is hard to imagine!

Visitors are seated comfortably in the mokoro while a skilled oarsman stands in the back and poles that mokoro through the water. It’s a unique way of experiencing the environment from the perspective of a waterlily!

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta, (half the size of Switzerland!) and this lush habitat attracts huge concentrations of wildlife.

Makoro in Botswana on the Okavango Delta.

Makoro in Botswana on the Okavango Delta.

Elephants, buffalos, hippos, rhinos, red lechwe, topi, sitatunga, sable, wildebeest, giraffe, leopards, lions, cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas are just some of the species seen here.

Interesting Fact: Yearly, a staggering 11 cubic kilometres of water flows into the Okavango Delta along the Kavango River from the highlands of Angola!

2. Wildlife Safari in Chobe National Park

Offering Kalahari savannah, broad-leaved and acacia woodland, vast floodplains and lush riverine forests, Chobe has a wealth to offer visitors.

With the highest concentrations of elephants in Africa, Chobe is renowned as a destination for exceptional wildlife safaris. It’s known for its outstanding game viewing, photographic opportunities, varied birdlife, and plentiful and diverse animal species.

These include lions, leopards, hyenas, buffalos, impala, zebra and giraffe, to mention but a few. Rarer antelope species like the roan and sable, and the Chobe bushbuck also occur here.

Elephant crossing the road. Photo by Jana Meerman

Elephant crossing the road. Photo credit: Jana Meerman

The boat cruises on offer are an excellent way to get closer to the hippos, crocodiles and elephants. Many travellers choose to experience Chobe by an unforgettable 4×4 self-drive adventure.

Highlight: It’s a truly mindblowing sight to see the massive elephant herds cross, drink, swim and frolic in the Chobe River.

3. Explore the Salt Pans of Makgadikgadi

Venturing into the vast and eerie landscapes of the Makgadikgadi salt pans is truly an other-worldly experience. Formerly the largest inland sea in the world, the salt pans cover more than 30,000 km2.

Salt Pan, Nxai Pan National Park, Botswana

Salt Pan, Nxai Pan National Park, Botswana

These salt pans are a unique and mesmerising destination for self-drivers and 4×4 enthusiasts, with several self-drive tour options on offer.

Camping in the middle of the vast salt pans is also a dream for many adventurers. Activities like quad biking, horseback safaris, meerkat visits, nature walks led by San bushmen guides, sleep-outs and star gazing are all available. The pans are only accessible from March to October during the dry season.

Highlight: Experiencing the surreal silence and incredible vastness, and the unique opportunity to see habituated meerkats and the area’s ancient baobab trees.

4. Cultural Interaction with the San Bushmen

Learn about the ancient culture and survival techniques of the San people in the Kalahari through cultural interactions and educational bush walks guided by local San Bushmen.

These ancient desert-adapted people have long intrigued and fascinated anthropologists, scientists, and everyday visitors alike.

Botswana Bushmen making fire

Botswana Bushmen making fire

During these cultural interactions, San elders pass on their skills, insights, knowledge, and unique survival skills developed in these seemingly barren and inhospitable landscapes.

These walks are a hands-on exploration that involves tasting various foods, hunting, fire-making, dancing, and medicine-making.

5. A Flight Over the Okavango Delta

As a way of grasping the region’s vast and remote magic, nothing beats a flight in a light aircraft or helicopter. From the air, the wetland’s intricate tapestry of winding channels, pools, marshes, islands, lagoons, grazing grounds, and plains is stunningly revealed.

And the vast landscapes are dotted with animals everywhere – hippos, elephants, impala, zebra, lechwe, wildebeest, giraffe, and buffalo are just some of the animals clearly visible from the air.

Okavango Delta

Flight Over the Okavango Delta

Most flights leave from the small tourist town of Maun, the ‘gateway to the Okavango’.

Highlight: Being able to get an aerial view of this vast and unrivalled water- and wildlife-rich paradise in all its mind-blowing splendour.

6. Horseback Safaris

Exploring the wilderness of Botswana on horseback is an exhilarating way to explore Botswana and encounter its diverse wildlife. Safaris of various durations are on offer, ranging from half-day rides to excursions spanning several days.

As horses aren’t seen as a threat by wildlife, you’ll be able to get much closer to many animals – even lions! But don’t let that scare you – horseback safaris in Botswana take place in a controlled environment, with experienced, professional guides who really know what they’re doing.

On multi-day safaris, the nights are spent in fly-camps, or simply next to a campfire under Botswana’s brilliant stars.

Group of people on a horseback safari in Botswana

Group of people on a horseback safari in Botswana

Please note, however, that you’ll need good riding skills and a significant amount of physical stamina for the multi-day horseback safaris where you’ll spend six to eight hours in the saddle per day.

Highlight: The incredible thrill of riding right alongside giraffes, zebras, elephants and other wildlife.

7. Camping Under the Stars in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Spending the night under the clearest stars you’ll ever see in the Kalahari Desert is a profoundly memorable experience.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is one of the best places for stargazing anywhere. The reserve offers various campsites where you can set up your tent or park your camper.

Camping beneath the stars

Camping beneath the stars

Popular campsites include Sunday Pan, Piper Pan, and Deception Valley. The reserve is renowned for its stunning wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, and giraffes. Game drives and self-guided tours offer excellent opportunities to see these animals in their natural habitats.

Remember to get the necessary permits and make your reservations in advance. Guided tours are also available.

8. Birdwatching in Moremi Game Reserve

Apart from its abundant wildlife, Moremi, located in the Okavango Delta, is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

This sought-after birding destination is home to over 400 bird species, including herons, storks, great egrets, jacanas, pied kingfishers and an impressive number of raptors. The latter includes bateleur eagles, Wahlberg’s eagles, vultures and African fish eagles.

Fish eagle in a tree on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana

Fish eagle in a tree on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana

You’ll be able to traverse diverse habitats, from lagoons to dry woodlands, in pursuit of spectacular bird sightings. If you’re doing a self-drive, it is advised that you use a 4×4 for your trip to Moremi as it covers some challenging terrains.

Highlight: Spotting rare and endemic species like the large Pel’s fishing owl and the African skimmer in one of Africa’s top avian habitats.

9. Fishing in the Okavango Panhandle

Angling is one of the biodiverse Panhandle’s biggest attractions, and it’s a year-round activity. Catfish and bream are the most common fish in these waters, but tigerfish remain the main prize.

On the water in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

On the water in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Specimens of these feisty fish of up to 10kg have been caught quite often in some of the northern channels. Surrounded by the peaceful natural environment, fishing here is not just about the catch but also about connecting with the tranquil beauty of the Delta.

Highlight: Landing a ferocious tigerfish while revelling in the peaceful surroundings. (And then discussing it at length around the campfire that night!)

10. Quad Biking in the Salt Pans

For a serious adrenaline rush, you can’t go wrong with a quad biking adventure across the lunar-like landscapes of the Makgadikgadi salt pans.

This exhilarating experience allows you to roar across these vast, other-worldly expanses, offering you sense of freedom and isolation that’s hard to find anywhere else.

The Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana

The Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana

During the dry season 1,600 km2, or 200 miles2, are available to travellers. After a vivid sunset you can watch the stars appear like diamonds on the dark night sky. Your peaceful sleep will be overseen by the area’s historic and ancient baobab trees.

Highlight: Experiencing an exhilarating feeling of freedom and isolation in this pristine and seemingly endless desert terrain.

Botswana is a land of endless horizons and unspoiled natural beauty. Whether it’s the thrill of wildlife encounters, the peace of natural landscapes, or the warmth of cultural interactions, Botswana’s diverse offerings cater to adventurers, nature lovers, and cultural enthusiasts alike.

Each experience in this remarkable country promises not just a journey through its landscapes, but also a deeper connection with the earth and its ancient rhythms. Botswana really does have something for everyone.

And wherever your Botswana adventure takes you, at Drive South Africa, we’ll have the best vehicle for you. We offer pick-up and drop-off car rental facilities at three airports in Botswana: Gaborone, Francistown and Maun airports.

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