Booking a safari in lesser-known Botswana is easier than you might think. Here are some tips and links to help you organize your safari to this amazing country. I’ve included my recommendations as well, but there are many qualified companies out there and equally fantastic safari camps to stay in, some less expensive and some much more. Read on to get tips for safari in Botswana.
Tips for Safari in Botswana
What should I consider before booking a safari?
Research the different areas of Botswana to find out which one appeals most to you. The three most popular areas are the Kwara Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Kalahari Desert, and Chobe National Park. There are many other areas available as well. When you research these areas, find out what types of wildlife are there, especially if you’re a serious birder.
You’ll also want to consider the weather. I went to the Okavango Delta during the rainy season, yet the Delta itself is actually wetter during the dry season due to river water coming from countries like The Congo. We got dumped on a couple of times, but our guide, Wago, and our spotter, Mike, were totally prepared with ponchos and plastic bags. Different parts of Botswana have different wet and dry seasons. Even the Kalahari has a rainy season. Remember, their seasons are reversed. Summer is October through April, basically, and summer is wet.
Travel Companies to Help You
After choosing your area(s) of interest (many people explore more than one and flights are available between areas), you’ll need to sort out accommodation and transport. One way to do this is to use a travel company like I did. I used Africa Travel Resource (ATR) out of the UK and can highly recommend them. They are not the cheapest, nor are they the most expensive. I don’t receive any commission for recommending them.
Two other travel companies that operate out of Australia but do a great job of organizing tours to lesser visited destinations are Geckos Adventures and Intrepid Travel. I used Geckos Adventures when I traveled to Sri Lanka. They are the budget sister company to Intrepid and both offer great rates and do a good job of communicating. I do not receive any commission for recommending these companies.
Can I organize my own safari without using a travel company?
After arriving in Botswana, I wondered about this. I wondered if it was possible to contact Kwando Safaris, the company I was connected with through ATR, directly and if they would organize transport from Maun to Kwara, and from Kwara to my next destination, which was Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Their website doesn’t provide direct information about booking, so I emailed Kwando Safaris to ask them about booking directly through them, but I didn’t receive a response. It’s possible they don’t do bookings of their own because they fill up by using the travel companies.
Keep in mind that there are numerous safari companies available all over Botswana. Different tour companies are connected with different safari operators. Do your research on them personally. Don’t blindly trust what a travel company recommends. Some may offer direct booking rather than using a travel company, which might save you some money, but like I said in the previous paragraph, I’m not entirely sure direct booking is a common practice.
Booking your Flights
Okay, so you’ve done your research, chosen a travel company or safari company, and your travel dates, and booked your safari. You’ll need to do all of this before booking your international flight because you’ll need to coordinate with flight times within Botswana. If you fly to your safari destination from either Gabarone or Maun, you need to know those flight times first, and then you can book your flight from home (or wherever you are) to Botswana.
I was in Cape Town before going to Botswana, so ATR handled my flight from Cape Town to Maun. I could have booked that flight easily myself on South African Airways, but ATR got a better price for me. They also got a better price on my flight from Kwara to Kasane, where we were met by a representative from Bushtracks who drove us to Victoria Falls and helped us get through Zimbabwe customs (no big deal, but make sure you stand firm and hold your place in line!).
Safari booked, internal flights booked, international flights booked. Now what?
You might think your work is done. Flights, accommodation, even your food is covered on safari. So now it’s time to wait for the date, right? Not exactly.
Once your itinerary is all set, you should read it thoroughly, especially any information regarding flights. Small planes have strict baggage requirements. My flight from Maun to Kwara required soft-sided luggage with no wheels, like backpacks and duffel bags. Pay close attention to flight times.
Did you book your travel insurance? Your travel company (if you used one) and safari company will require you to have travel insurance, and you’ll feel much more relaxed if you do. I recommend World Nomads for their excellent coverage, price, and customer service. There are a lot of travel insurance companies out there, so this is another thing you should research before making a final decision.
Also, make sure you have the right clothing for the time of year you’ll visit. My rain jacket came in pretty handy on my trip. You don’t need to buy special clothes or wear khaki. Just don’t wear bright colors.
Learn how to use your camera and binoculars if you’re taking them. You don’t want to take a bunch of dark pictures of elephants (like I did…) before realizing your camera settings were all wrong for dusk.
Now you’re ready for an amazing safari in Botswana, or whatever country you choose.