Botswana is an amazing country offering those after a self drive safari vast wilderness, open spaces and few roads. Botswana really is a country for the intrepid traveller looking for an adventure exploring savannahs, deserts, wetlands and salt pans.
Botswana is a true African success story enjoying development, a strong economy and first world amenities thanks to the discovery of three of the world’s biggest diamond deposits soon after independence in 1966.
Scattered in the midst of the African wilderness are some of Africa’s most isolated and beautiful lodges. While the country has developed immensely over the past 40 years it has retained its charm by limiting development to urban areas, leaving the wilderness predominantly untouched. This makes Botswana an exciting although challenging self drive holiday destination requiring time, effort and money to enjoy to the maximum.
Botswana boasts the incredible Okavango Delta, 15,000 sq kms of watery mazes and scattered islands teeming with wildlife and birds, although a 4WD can access parts of the Delta to truly get to the core and the most beautiful untouched parts one really needs to access via boat or plane. From the wetlands to the Kalahari desert there is no more a dramatic contrast where the solitude and isolation is serene. The San people, indigenous to the area, live traditionally as hunters gatherers living on the meagre pickings of this great desert. The stars are so bright and the desert so quiet the San believe you “can hear the stars sing”.
Chobe National Park is another draw card with the highest concentration of elephant in Africa it is also the most accessible of all game parks in Botswana. However if you want to enter the park from Maun you need to have a high clearance 4WD and be an experienced 4x4er due to the notoriously rough terrain, river crossings, seasonal flooding and mud.
Botswana is a great country for a self drive trip if you are an experienced off roader, have time, and don’t mind planning and booking accommodation or campsites well in advance. It is a good idea to travel with another vehicle to assist with recovery in case of a hopeless bogging or breakdown.
We travel through Botswana on our Cairo to Cape, Africa Overland Adventure and Africa Discovered guided self drive safaris. We game drive through Chobe National Park, take an incredible boat safari up the Chobe River and explore the northern part of the Okavango region. We believe these are fabulous highlights offering an overview to Botswana while also spending time exploring several other countries across Africa like South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.
While a self drive safari in Botswana is a great adventure you may want to consider how much more rewarding driving through several countries will be, travelling with a group of like minded 4x4ers, exploring hidden treasures like the hair raising 4×4 track to Livingstonia in Malawi, the stunning highlands of Tanzania and demanding tracks to the Masai Mara in Kenya.
The African continent has so much to offer, above and beyond just one country.
Here is an insert from our Cairo to Cape expedition as we travelled through Botswana
Chaos on the Kazangula Ferry
Just before leaving Livingstone we read an article in SA4x4 magazine about the Kazangula ferry – the ferry that takes us across the Zambezi River from Zambia into Botswana – the article talked about how chaotic and difficult the crossing was. With everyone prepared for long delays and queues (strict instructions to keep the vehicles bumper to bumper) we arrived at the border/ferry port. Much to our disappointment the crossing was far from chaotic and the queues non existent; we merely cruised across into Botswana.
Arriving into Kasane at the same time as a huge thunder storm; our tents were up just before the heavens opened. The heavy down pour lasted about 40 minutes before the clouds cleared and the sun shone once again. The afternoon was spent on a game viewing boat cruising up the Chobe River. Much to the delight of Jenny there were hundreds of elephants playing in the shallows with massive hippo pods close by, crocodiles happily sunned themselves on the shores.
The following morning we headed out on a game drive though Chobe National Park; with the exception of a young bull elephant only a few feet away from the vehicle the game was rather mellow. Botswana was experiencing an exceptional wet season hence the grass was high making game viewing not ideal. Nonetheless the scenery and birdlife made the morning rather enjoyable.
You are my prisoner
After the morning at Chobe we continued into the Northern part of Namibia or better known as the Caprivi Strip. This part of Namibia has been the scene of many conflicts over the years and up until only 7 years ago was deemed unsafe to travel through. With the fighting over and an excellent infrastructure making travel very easy we decided to take this route. The Caprivi Strip is also where the first prisoner of war was taken in WW1 – the English Colonial was entertaining the German Colonial (the Brits occupied Rhodesia and the Germans Namibia – of course was Rhodesia and German South Western Africa in those days) when the announcement was made that the war had started. The English Colonial turned to the German Colonial and rather politely told him that he may finish his tea and scones but “to let you know you are now my prisoner”.
The Caprivi strip is a perfect place to nip back into Botswana to explore the Northern part of the Okavango Delta. The Delta is alive with over 300 bird species and numerous mammals and of course reptiles. Huge crocs roam the water ways, hippos wallow in the warm water while King Fishers swoop from high above to feast on the catch of the day. A relaxing couple of days on the Kubu Queen houseboat with Greg the Fisherman were an ideal way to explore the area. Sue and Russ both caught Tiger Fish – a fishermans dream catch in Africa; the others all had stories of the one that got away!