Botswana travel guide
In terms of both variety and diversity, Chobe Naitional Park is just ridiculously good. It's divided into four distinct sections, where Chobe riverfront is the most popular - partly because the density of animals is great here and partly because of its proximity to Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe and Zambia). Chobe is famous for its large elephant herds, which you can get terrifyingly close to. But warthog, hippo, zebra, giraffe and different species of antelopes, including lechwe and sable, are all among the usual game - but there are no rhinos. There is a good chance to see lions and, with a bit of luck, even a hunting leopard or cheetah. Chobe River makes out the park's natural boundary to north and is great for some midday river safari when the animals come down to drink - this is particularly good during dry season (May through October). But for the best chances to see some predators, you can't beat morning and to some extent evening drives - and who wants to miss the wonders of the red African sun setting behind a herd of elephants!
Normally, a river safari on Chobe River is part of safari trip to Chobe National Park, but we have given it a separate entry because it's a very different type of safari than the usual game drive in jeeps. The animals use Chobe riverfront to drink from, particulary during the dry season (May through October). Shortly before midday, the first elephants usually show up, quickly followed by the rest of the herd. Most will just sip from the water edge, but some might go for swim or even dive. At midday, the riverbank can be packed with elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and various antelopes, all standing side by side cautiously sipping. Big pods of hippos cooling off in the water make river navigation a cautious affair for hippos are extremely protective of their younger ones and get easily agitated - and they are fast.
The capital of Botswana, Gaborone, is a serious candidate for the most tranquil capital on the globe. The streets have wide dusty curbs and buildings are low and far apart. A good chunk of downtown is taken up by government buildings which are all neat without being striking. Along roads and in every lot stand shady trees, making Gaborone a very green place. The people are friendly and helpful and there are no barbwire or electric fences anywhere, not even at the parliament or the president's office. The main areas of interest are sadly around the parliament and what is known as the Main Mall (a pedestrian street lined with small shops) and the real shopping malls on the outskirts of town. Some probably praise that Gaborone doesn't have that colourful African madness you find elsewhere on the continent, but many find it downright boring. No matter how you look at it, Gaborone is a one-day town.
There are many different ways of viewing wildlife, but none really come close to gliding along silently in a makoro dugout canoe. Makoros are used by local people of the Okavango Delta to fish and traverse channels, although as a tourist you may end up with a fibre-glass version rather than a traditional wooden one. Travelling by makoro is a magical experience. The silence is almost complete, and unlike walking safaris it is possible to get (sometimes disconcertingly) close to wildlife, all of which will appear enormous from half a metre above the water surface. But with or without wildlife, this is without a doubt one of the most memorable and special ways of experiencing the unique environment that is the Okavango Delta. Just watch out for those hippos!
A mandatory thing to do while in Gaborone is a visit to nearby Mokolodi Nature Reserve. This not-for-profit game reserve is run by the Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation. It has two of the Big Five, leopard and (white) rhino, along with giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala, hartebeest, wildebeest and hippo, just to name a few. Bird lovers will also be happy with more than 300 species, including easy-to-spot hornbills. Mokolodi also functions as a wild animal orphanage and is taking care of a few retired predators, like hyena and cheetah. You can do the safari in your own 4WD car or get there by public transport and join a two-hour game drive.
The Okavango Delta is a place of wonder – it is as simple as that. The myriad of waterways that weave their way through the otherwise unforgiving Kalahari provides sanctuary for a plethora of animals, from the Big Five and the rare African wild dogs to countless species of birds. The experience changes depending on your mode of transport – safari vehicle, plane, makoro canoe or on foot – and the seasonal variations are equally significant. The Okavango Delta is home to vast populations of elephants and is a great place to spot predators of all kinds, but it is also a unique habitat, and an Africa that is difficult to find anywhere else. Watch a herd of buffalo make their way across the water from one island to the next, or a clan of hyenas lounging on one of the many small airstrips, as you enjoy the many canals, swamps and islands that make up this stunning inland delta.