Experience Southern Africa at its unfiltered wildest, spend a night beneath the stars in the Kalahari desert and fly above the Okavango Delta in a helicopter on a life-changing trip to Botswana. Our Safari Specialist, Abby, is just back with this bespoke itinerary.
There’s something different about Botswana. Its wildness and diversity are on another scale. It still feels untouched and remote; with the right itinerary, immersing yourself in nature is easy.
Home to a huge elephant population, Africa’s major predators, and more than 400 bird species, the Okavango Delta, vast and pristine, is one of nature’s greatest wetland environments. In Linyanti, mega herds of elephants and buffalo walk well-trodden migration routes, and predators await their chance. Then there’s the Kalahari. A totally different landscape of arid savannah, where you can sleep under the clearest night skies, see rare species like rhino and oryx, and walk with the San people, one of the oldest cultures in the world.
Put it all together with some of the most passionate, proud people you’re ever likely to meet, and you’ve got one of the most unique safari destinations in Africa. This all-covering Botswana itinerary is the perfect way to see it.
Budgeting for Botswana
There’s a reason Botswana is so pristine and remote. Prices tend to be higher here than in other African countries. The payoff is lower tourism numbers, more abundant wildlife, and little or no interference from human civilization. For that reason, we’ve included two accommodation options for each location. Both are luxury; however, one option is aimed at travelers who want to splurge on a little something extra.
Days One to Six: Okavango Delta
Few places on earth can match the Okavango Delta for wildlife diversity and density. This is partly due to its unique seasonality: when the rest of Botswana is dry, the delta has its wet season, drawing animals in numbers. It is so diverse, with different concessions flooding at different times of the year; you really need to spend time in multiple places to appreciate it.
First, visit the southwest of the delta. One of the wettest parts of the Okavango, the water activities here are next level. Boat tours—either by motorboat or traditional mokoro (a small wooden boat propelled by a pole)—give you a different perspective when it comes to game viewing. If you’re a keen birder, this area is outstanding, particularly Kanana Lodge, which has a private heronry and a number of small islands where rare Pel’s fishing owls nest. You can also try your hand at fishing for tilapia. If you’re looking to stay somewhere very special, and Beyond Nxabega offers similar wildlife experiences, with an elevated approach to style and service, as well as a wealth of additional amenities—think Swarovski binoculars for the duration of your stay
For the second part of your Okavango adventure, head up to the northern part of the delta, where there’s much more open grassland for game drives and walking safaris. There’s plenty to see, including lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, and zebra. The proximity to water creates some exhilarating predator and prey action. You still get the chance to head out on the water, but the extensive savannah means there’s a good mix of activities on offer. Stay at Shinde—an eight-room lodge located on a palm island—for mid-range luxury. Visit Vumbura Plains—a lavish camp surrounded by wildlife-rich grasslands—for a higher-end experience.
Days Seven to Nine: Linyanti Concession and Savuti Channel
The peaceful marshes and waterways of Linyanti and Savuti were formed from seismic activity, creating incredibly diverse landscapes and ecosystems. Riverine forests with towering trees border bright white sand speckled with lime green Kalahari apple-leaf trees. Mopane woodlands and sweeping grasslands become expansive swamps and wetlands. The change in scenery is astounding and the remoteness (there’s pretty much no towns or cities for hundreds of miles) allows the wildlife to exist and flourish in peace. There are tons of things to see and do in Linyanti, but one of the biggest draws is the sheer number of elephants, with the world’s largest mega herds regularly crossing the area. The ultra-rare and endangered African hunting dog lives in decent numbers here, too.
The game viewing is year-round, with the immense waters of the Savuti Channel drawing enormous herds of buffalo, hippo pods, and predators in great numbers. Linyanti Bush Camp is a fantastic mid-range luxury option, with six tented rooms overlooking the surrounding Linyanti Marsh. DumaTau offers top-end luxury overlooking a lagoon, and two well-known elephant crossing points, where guests might witness these giants swimming across the channel. Its eight rooms have private plunge pools and expansive waterfront views.
Days 10 to 12: Kalahari Desert
Finish your Botswana adventure with a trip to the otherworldly Kalahari Desert, where the landscape changes from waterways to semi-arid, sweeping desert.
Take game drives and walking safaris in search of new animals—species that you won’t see anywhere else in Botswana, such as the desert black rhino, oryx, eland, meerkat, Kalahari lion, springbok, and brown hyena. Given the spectacular night skies and almost complete lack of light pollution, night drives are also popular in the Kalahari.
Aside from the unique game, the Kalahari is culturally unlike any other part of Botswana. Take a bush walk with the indigenous San people and learn about their ancient way of life. Traditionally, hunter-gatherers, the San are one of the oldest cultures on the planet; their ingenious survival techniques have allowed them to thrive in the harsh desert climate of the Kalahari. You’ll be shown some of these techniques, along with San traditions and history.
Finally, spend a magical night beneath the stars. The nights are cool, and the dry climate means you won’t have many bugs or humidity to deal with. The stars and the infinite cosmos make for a spectacular show, but you’ll likely have one of the best night’s sleep of your life. Sleepouts are available at Dinaka, a mid-range luxury property in Dinaka Private Game Reserve, bordering Central Kalahari, and San Camp, a luxury lodge in Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
Some of our favorite luxury Botswana itineraries
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Going off the beaten path in the Okavango and Kalahari