We had always wanted to go on an African Safari. Africa, for us, always seemed so far away and so unreachable, and I may not be a full-on budget traveler, but I have to tell you, we found out that to visit Botswana we would need to step quite a bit out of that comfort zone.
It is an expensive place to visit, but I wouldn’t let it stop you. It’s a trip of a lifetime, and after our first safari was all over, we immediately started making plans for more, like to Uganda and Madagascar. We were hooked!
As we were preparing to plan for our trip, there was just too much to see and figure out. I came across a great website, Drive Botswana, and gave them a call.
In this article we’ll tell you all about our wonderful experience in Botswana. You will find out all about:
- the best places to go in Botswana with our itinerary
- great things to do and see
We really wanted to visit Botswana…
The conversation went something like this:
Me: I would like a quote on a self-drive tour that possibly could include the entire country of Botswana, seeing not only the Big 5 animals, but all of the others as well. Oh, and I would like to keep this as inexpensive as possible.
Andy: No problem, when would you like to come?
Me: In three weeks.
Andy: Choke! Wheeze! Cough! Three weeks!? We’re normally starting this process at least a few months beforehand…but I’ll see what I can do (now that I’ve caught my breath).
Boy did Andy come through. The price, well let’s just say…not inexpensive, but, as the commercial goes, the experience was priceless! He had asked me to call him back a couple days later, then sent me a tentative itinerary.
We worked out some of the kinks like my having to visit Tsodilo – the one and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country, and voila! I was ecstatically embarking on a trip of a lifetime to a new continent, new country, and an entire slew of new and exciting experiences.
At this point, we trusted Andy with our entire trip. He set up our rental truck, accommodations, food, and some activities.
When we were on site, the people there all knew Andy quite well and if there was a question of what was included or how to pay for something, they didn’t bat an eye. He is well-respected at all the places and we, in turn, received right royal treatment.
Botswana Itinerary via 4X4 Self-Drive
- Victoria Falls, Zambia
- Kasane – Chobe NP
- Ngepi Camp on the Caprivi Strip, Namibia
- Seronga for the Okavango Delta
- Sepupa for Tsoldilo world heritage site
- Mankwe Lodge – Moremi Game Reserve
- Khama Rhino Sanctuary
After Livingstone, where we stayed for three nights, we stopped one to two days in all of these spots, depending on what we wanted to do and how many game drives we did. We also spent another week in South Africa at the end of the trip, so our full trip lasted three weeks.
Self-Drive Safari Botswana Map
We started out having to fly from Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia. This gave us a chance to explore this part of Zambia for a few days and to visit Victoria Falls and Batoka Gorge. The last day we were to pick up our 4X4 truck and start our Botswana self-drive.
It was a fantastic introduction to game drives, safaris, and Africa tourism. Livingstone and Victoria Falls was well set up for things to do and we had a great time there.
As we readied for the rental people to drop off our truck, Andy called to let us know that the truck wasn’t ready and they would deliver to Kasane. Meantime he sent a hired van to pick us up.
We crossed the border between Zambia and Botswana on the Kazungula ferry, and were through customs in no time. It was only a little over an hour drive from Victoria Falls to Kasane.
They dropped us off at our fantastic accommodation, Kubu Lodge in Chobe National Park. On check in we signed up for the three hour river cruise that I’d read mixed reviews about online. I was a little apprehensive about it, but it turned out to be one of the best wildlife viewing excursions of the trip.
Before that though, our truck and paperwork was delivered. We took a very short ride before dinner and a much longer one the next day where we were treated to some amazing wildlife. After that, we felt confident that we could drive in and between the parks. We were okay that we were basically on our own for the remainder of the trip.
I wish we had allotted more time for Chobe, because the abundance of wildlife was astounding. We even saw lions, albeit they were covered in dried blood and flies from eating their lunch, so they weren’t as majestic as I had imagined.
Driving our own vehicle we found out that we loved the camaraderie of the fellow drivers as we shared info on wildlife sightings. If you were not a park vehicle, then it was custom to just pull over for a few minutes, roll down the window, quickly chat about what you’ve seen and move on. We talked to so many people this way, and it’s also how we found out that a lion family had taken an elephant, and where to see them feeding.
Caprivi Strip, Namibia
From Kasane, we moved on to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and the Mahango National Park for only one night. Again we could definitely spend a lot more time here but that’s for another trip. The best part of the drive were the views, and surprisingly, the best view was from the customs house border crossing.
After our brief jaunt into Namibia, we got back to our main goal, visiting Botswana, so off we drove to Seronga. This was one of the most out-of-the-way, and hardest places to get to. We had to try and get gas and then take a ferry over. All with a limited time frame. It was probably the most stressful part of the trip, even though everything really went pretty smoothly.
Once there, we took a tour of the Okavango Delta in a mokoro. Mokoros are squat, khaki-colored boats that make you feel like you could not possibly be closer to the water. Our guide was a funny man that had lived in the delta his whole life and told us story after story about the people and animals found there.
At one point, he took us to where a bloat of hippos liked to hang out. Apparently, he had made friends with one of the more curious females. He took his pole and slapped the water to call her, and she came to visit. A male, her male, the male…anyway this alpha male didn’t like her behavior and anytime he felt she was getting too close, he’d called her back.
Even if I could speak it, I’m sure the hippo’s language wouldn’t be fit to print, he was pretty loud and emphatic that she just get back to where she was supposed to be. I have to admit, I didn’t really like her getting too close either. I was just as happy that he kept her back where she belonged, safely out of our reach, or more truthfully, we were out of her reach!
Sepupa Swamp Stop – Tsodilo Hills
The next day we were headed for a camp way out in the bush. It ended up being my one of my favorite stops. At this camp, we could do another delta boat ride, or drive to Tsodilo Hills. We chose to go to the world heritage site of Tsodilo, where humans have lived or stopped over for thousands of years and you can see some great rock paintings.
Our next stop was Mankwe Lodge. Talk about luxurious! I think this ranks up there as one of the most exotically pampering places in all of our travels.
Needless to say, we loved it, and we loved the camp director, Christopher. Around the campfire that night, he regaled us with stories about everything from leopard encounters to his stint in the British SAS somewhere in Indonesia.
While there, we also had a couple of guided safaris, one at night and one in the daytime. Then upon leaving, we drove ourselves through the reserve.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary
One of the final things we did was stay at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. We were looking forward to this stop, because we had only seen one rhino before this, and were anxious to have a better look at them. We were more than rewarded when right away we sighted a female white rhino and her calf.
This was really our last stop in Botswana, we had driven and driven and driven, so even though we took a couple rides on the tracks, we also spent an entire day at one of the pans. It was like watching the live version of the “Lion King”.
Taking turns, all different kinds of animals came to the pan to drink. If the previous slurpers weren’t quite finished, the next ones would wait quietly in the brush until the pan was vacated.
Other drivers came up and saw us there, asked us what we had seen, waited for a few minutes, then left without waiting around to see what would come in next to drink.
In one day, we saw so much wildlife from hyenas to rhinos, our Botswana dreams had come true. Amazing! It was a great goodbye to this beautiful country.
Botswana Safari Animals
Here are some of the types of animals we saw during our 10 days on Botswana safaris:
- water buffalo
- antelopes (everything from bushbuck to kudu)
- a myriad of birds (bee-eaters to fish eagles)
Do You Need a Visa to Visit Botswana?
All U.S. citizens can enter Botswana as a tourist on a 90 day stay with no visa.
Is Botswana Safe?
Overall Botswana is very safe, especially if you are only driving during the day, and staying in the camps at night. Beware of petty crimes like pickpocketing.
As in most places you travel, check with your physician to make sure you have the correct vaccinations and Malarial prophylaxis for the areas you will be visiting. Also make sure not to drink local tap water.
Note: For FAQ info, we always check the State Department Travel website.
Where To Stay in Botswana
When we’ve traveled to Africa, we usually have an agency determine our lodges. It’s pretty tricky to find the best ones when you are not in the country to check them out. My one piece of advice is to look carefully and read all the reviews before you book.
Even though we like to do things a little more independently, we were very happy that our first foray into Africa travel led us to Andy and Drive Botswana. Andy set up a fantastic route. We had wonderful accommodation along the way, and we still had the flexibility to do what we wanted, stay longer here, cut this part short. All we had to do is show up in our safari gear, so we just followed this list and we were set.
We absolutely loved Botswana and plan to go back and do it, plus more, all over again. It ranks up there as one of our favorite trips and countries. All of Africa is amazing, and that’s why we keep going back again and again.
Would you like to visit Botswana? Have you? Got any tips?
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.