Botswana safari

This post was written by one of our fellow Santa Fe tour guides, Deborah Stephens.

Botswana is my very favorite place to visit. It’s, a country the size of France with just 1.8 million people located immediately to the north of South Africa. It is considered the undiscovered Gem of Africa. When I visit, I like to start in the “frontier” town of Maun, where I used to live and work — a place overrun by wild donkeys. Maun is perfectly situated for travel into the Bush, as it is just south of the Okavango Delta, the largest inland floodplain in the world. It provides a vast, magical world of animals and birds, and is a phenomenal place for us to see them in their own environment. To see the animals in their full splendor, take a Botswana safari.

Maun

If you’re in Maun in June — a great time to visit, as it is winter in Botswana and the days are warm and the nights are cool — you might be lucky enough to catch the annual off-road competition. Many drivers who are local favorites, and they are often sponsored by their employers. Make a day of it, with a picnic or buy lunch from one of the many vendors there.

Last year’s favorite, sponsored by Ponny’s Bar, is just getting started on the obstacle course, photo/Deborah Stephens

Last year’s  race favorite, sponsored by Ponny’s Bar, is just getting started on the obstacle course, photo/Deborah Stephens

Botswana has recently experienced an increase in visibility due to the popularity of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books and the popular HBO TV series. These give wonderful insight to the local people, the Batswana. In Maun, you will notice women who are surprisingly dressed like colonial Europeans, in bright colored, voluminous skirts over many petticoats, huge hats, and sometimes a real leopard shawl. These are the Herero, from Namibia. They and their families, are primarily livestock herders. The women dress like this every day. In the evening, you will often see them in these beautiful outfits, crouched over their small propane stoves in front of their huts cooking dinner.

 

Herero, from Namibia dressed in their colorful colonial outfits photo/Deborah Stephens

Herero women, from Namibia dressed in their colorful colonial outfits photo/Deborah Stephens

Maun is still home to several “great white hunters”, but now it is more often known as the place in Africa to begin a wildlife photography Safari. Tourism is limited in Botswana. Over one-fourth of the country is dedicated to animals in their natural environment. You can take a Bush plane into the Delta to an exclusive safari lodge, drive yourself, or hire a mobile safari and actually camp in the Bush surrounded by animals. If you go overland, Moremi National Park, a 695 square mile animal reserve a two hour drive north of Maun is a great place to begin.

Deborah with her safari transportation photo/Deborah Stephens

Deborah with her safari transportation photo/Deborah Stephens

Moremi

Moremi is comprised of mixture of permanent and seasonal swamp areas and dry land, providing ample water for huge herds of animals and over 400 species of birds. It’s good to camp in one place for a few days so you have a chance to familiarize yourself with the animals’ habits. You can even get to know individual lions and their territory. We saw year-old cubs waiting for their father to return from a night out with a female lion from another pride. We saw the whole thing.

Year-old cubs waiting for their father to return from a night out Photo/Deborah Stephens

Year-old cubs waiting for their father to return from a night out Photo/Deborah Stephens

Savuti

Savuti, a four-hour drive to the north, in the 1,900 square mile area in the southwest corner of Chobe National Park. Botswana is a flt country, but there are some hills in this area considered to be Africa’s “prime wildlife area”. The annual zebra migration passes through here, and leopard, cheetah, and wild dogs are often sighted.

There are over 20 Bushman (San) painting sites to be found in the rocky hills in Savuti. Most are badly faded, but the best, depicting a variety of recognizable game including a puff adder and a hippo, can be seen on the eastern side of Bushman Hill. The pictographs here have been date back to over 3,000 years ago.

Continuing northeast through Chobe (the Park totals 4,600 square miles), you’ll see one of the largest concentrations of elephants in Africa, with herds in excess of a hundred. There are also huge herds of buffalo and bushbuck.

Hwange National Park

A good place to end this journey is in Hwange National Park just over the Botswana border, in Zimbabwe. It is vast, over 5.653 square miles. The Sinamatella area of Hwange is perfect for a walking safari, because of its’ natural springs, many of which are accessible only by foot. This is a great place to learn to track animals, as it is truly a wilderness and you may not see another person during your entire time there.

The majestic Victoria Falls. Photo/Deborah Stephenson

The majestic Victoria Falls. Photo/Deborah Stephenson

At the end of the trek you’ll discover the largest sheet of flowing water in the world, Victoria Falls. It’s a good place to clean up after your time in the Bush, and have high tea at the old colonial Victoria Falls Hotel, built in 1904. The hotel looks over what the locals call “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, the “Smoke That Thunders”. It’s a good way to return to civilization!

Deborah Stephens, an experienced traveler and guide, is the owner of Timeless Journeys. She lived in the Northwest before moving to La Paz, Mexico, and later Botswana, and Swaziland before settling in Santa Fe New Mexico. Her passion is connecting people to Nature and helping them experience a place from the inside out. You can find out more about her on her website, Timeless Journeys.

 

4 Responses to “Botswana safari”

  1. Agness
    January 16, 2019 at 6:26 pm #

    My last safari experience was in Sri Lanka and I totally loved it! I am a big fan of nature and wild animals. I agree, ending your journey in Hwange National Park was the best idea ever! Lovely place, seen a lot of picture of it online.

  2. Leigh
    January 20, 2019 at 8:18 am #

    I spent 3 nights on a fly in safari in Botswana as a reward for cycling 2000+ kilometers on the Tour d’Afrique with my daughter. I LOVED the place and would return in a heartbeat. I went through the Maun airport but it sounds like an interesting city in its own right.

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