With its free-roaming predators and unfenced camps, Botswana isn’t the ideal holiday destination for very young families. North of Maun, malaria is also a concern, so unless your children are old enough not to require constant supervision, its best to keep to the central Makgadikgadi Pans region where there’s plenty of open space to play, fewer dangerous animals and practically zero risk of malaria.
First stop should be Lekhubu Island, without doubt, a top contender for Botswana’s most magical place. Lekhubu lies on the western edge of the immense Sua Pan, which, together with neighbouring Ntwetwe Pan, makes up one of the largest interconnected salt pan systems in the world – the Makgadikgadi. Lekhubu is not a true island, but rather a small rocky hill that juts out into the seasonally flooded Sua Pan. Sprouting mighty baobabs like a pincushion, Lekhubu is an amazing sight in the late afternoon light and – especially – at dawn, when the sun rises gently as if from a boundless, silent ocean.
If the pans are dry, and you have a 4x4 and GPS, you can transit safely across the pans to Gweta. Don’t attempt this route in the wet as you’ll almost certainly get stuck, and even when dry, keep to the main tracks of the vehicles that have crossed before. The last stretch before Gweta is very rough and dusty, but Gweta Lodge has a lovely swimming pool, and there’s another at Planet Baobab down the road. If the kids are old enough, don’t miss the fantastic quad bike tour to visit the local meerkat colony nearby.
Further North, Nxai Pan National Park is another good spot for families. The private campsites at Baines’ Baobabs all have plenty of open space around them so it’s easy to keep eye things, and if you visit during the dry winter months there’ll be very few animals around. From the Baines’ Baobab campsites, it’s only an hour’s drive to the main Nxai Pan in the north. Here the permanent water holes attract the elephant, giraffe, lion, and antelope that, during the dry season at least, generally don’t venture further south.
Most travelers opt for 4x4 hire when planning their trip to Botswana