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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > July-September 2019 (87) > SAFARI PLANNER Without question

SAFARI PLANNER Without question

Without question Botswana’s two big drawcards are its wildlife and its space. It has a wealth of attractions, each of which pack a hefty punch, which makes it dif_icult to know which to include if you are tight on time. Here’s our guide to the country’s main attractions to help you on your way.

In 13 years of living in Botswana, I still find myself amazed at the diversity of wildlife and landscapes the country offers, without having lost the sense of wilderness that enticed early explorers centuries ago. It is impossible to see it all in one trip, so be selective. Budgeting for at least three nights at each camp will ensure you are not rushing from one place to the next. Don’t be fooled into thinking the most famous destinations are necessarily the best – often it is the unexpected moments that will lie long in your memory. Imagine watching thousands of striped legs thunder across the Makgadikgadi’s emerald plains, for example, as the sun dips below an idyllic palm tree-lined horizon without a single vehicle in sight…



Unusually, the country’s most-visited national park is best appreciated from the water. The broad Chobe River is famous for its swimming elephants, which regularly cross to feed on the lush islands, sometimes amassing in herds of a hundred or more. However, the remarkably relaxed hippos, colossal crocodiles and omnipresent ish eagles can be almost as entertaining. As you watch troops of baboons frolic, or a herd of kudu approach to drink, keep an eye out for the resident lion pride or a furtive leopard coming down to the water’s edge. For predator fans game drives are a better bet, but the limited road network in what is Botswana’s busiest park can get congested.

Most lodges do game drives in the morning and boat cruises in the afternoon, so one option to avoid the crowds is to do the opposite. Alternatively, if I am going on the river in the afternoon my preference is to leave early or, if on land, do a full-day game drive with packed lunch, both of which ensure we get to marvel at Chobe’s fascinating fauna in relative peace. Peak gameviewing is at the height of the dry season in September and October when, as the only water source around, the river attracts animals from far and wide. After the rains, the landscape is a lot more attractive, but the wildlife disperses and, incredibly, you may not see a single elephant.


Famous for its predators, immortalised in National Geographic’s Savage Kingdom series, there is more to Savute than the big cats and dogs for which it is justly renowned. I spent two years photographing here while the ephemeral channel gradually dried up in 2015. It has not lowed since, once again concentrating the wildlife around a handful of pumped waterholes in the dry season. Here you can watch warthogs and jackals scampering around, trying to sneak through a forest of elephant legs to snatch a drink, while tawny eagles patiently wait for locks of quelea and doves to succumb to their thirst.

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