The classic Botswana self-drive safari takes in the Central Kalahari, Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park – a two to three-week circuit through Botswana’s most prolific wildlife regions. From South Africa, the usual starting point is through one of the quiet border posts near the Tuli Bock, but if you’re flying into Maun or Kasane, most of the route will stay the same. You may just want to skip the detour to Khama Rhino Sanctuary, near the south-eastern town of Serowe.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary is an excellent overnight stop, wherever you’re headed, with beautiful, sandy campsites under the shade of sprawling Mokongwa trees. The sanctuary is also your best opportunity to see rhino in Botswana. Their numbers are few, and sightings are rare in the rest of the country.
Next stop is the northern section of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and if you’re coming from Khama, you’ll enter through the north-eastern Matswere Gate. The wildlife tends to congregate around the pans, and game viewing involves long, relaxed drives from pan to pan, each separated by low hills and thick knots of thorn trees. If you prefer a bit of human company then Deception Campsite is best, but for a wilder option try Sunday or Leopard Pan which both have more isolated campsites and good game viewing nearby. Be aware that although it’s dry and easy-going in winter, the areas around the pans can get very muddy and treacherous when it rains.
From the Central Kalahari, you can stop at Maun to pick up supplies, then drive through to Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern edge of the delta. Moremi has four public campsites, all with great wildlife around. South Gate is not the prettiest camp, but it’s known for leopard and wild dog sightings. To the northeast, Third Bridge feels the most remote, and cheetah and lion are common, as well as impressive herds of grumpy buffalo – which is why the lions stay close. Xakanaxa has lovely campsites on the water’s edge, with hippo and elephant never far away. Finally, there’s the Khwai North Gate Campsite, also known for its wild dog, large herds of elephant, buffalo and roan antelope.
Leaving Moremi through Khwai, you’ll head north and enter Chobe National Park. Chobe’s Savuti Camp is a legendary wildlife destination. It’s a focal point for thousands of animals, including elephant, buffalo and lion, that all rely on the seasonal Savuti Channel for water. From here you can follow the extremely sandy track north to Linyanti Camp, or skip straight to Ihaha and Kasane. Either way, be sure to spend at least a few nights at Linyanti or Ihaha to experience the wondrous daily expedition of thousands of animals coming to the Linyanti/Chobe River to drink.
Kasane is the final stop before looping back south, or perhaps detouring east to Victoria Falls. Kasane is one of Botswana’s larger regional towns and a good place to resupply and – not to be missed – to take a wildlife-spotting sunset cruise on the fabulous Chobe River.
Most travelers opt for car rental when planning their trip to Botswana.