By Laurence Hugh Marks
Botswana is another one of the southern African countries that is extremely popular as a self-drive destination and therefore highly recommend by me for individuals, couples or small groups of family and / or friends to Self-Drive Botswana. Botswana is a land locked country bordering South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe & Zambia. The country’s north eastern border is the only place in the world where four countries meet and Botswana also has the shortest international border in the world with Zambia which is only about 700 meters long. This makes a Self-Drive Botswana trip ideal if you would like to incorporate these other countries mention in your Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari or incorporate a Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari whilst you are already visiting or interested in first visiting South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
There are only about 2 million people living in the country of Botswana which is just under 600 000 km² in size, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. A third of the country’s land has been set aside as protected wildlife conservation areas which makes it a wonderful safari destination. Please take note that as with Namibia it is a large, but remotely populated country and one must therefore be prepared to drive long distances on a Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari.
The main tourist attractions that one can visit on a Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari are a visit to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, which is home to all the black & white rhino in Botswana as they were relocated to this park for the protection against poaching. However, due to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary’s location it is only worth visiting this reserve if your Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari starts or end in Johannesburg – South Africa, as it would then be a convenient stopover on route to or from the interior of the country.
The Kalahari Desert which makes up a large portion of the baron north western part of the country is normally visited on a Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari when one is travelling along the Trans-Kalahari Highway on their way to or on the way back from Namibia.
One of my favourite attractions is the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park which has the world’s largest salt pans. These pans fill up with water that flows down from the mountains in Angola and Zimbabwe reaching the pans at the end of the wet summer months. The waters flowing into the pans via the Nata River creates a huge inland lake that normally remains full throughout the winter months of June, July & August attracting numerous species of birds including thousands of beautiful flamingos and pelicans.
You can then visit the most world renowned attraction in Botswana and that is the Okavango, which is also the world’s largest inland delta making it one of the remotes areas on earth. The heart of the Okavango Delta can only be visited during the winter months as a “fly-in fly-out” destination (check out our “Chobe, Okavango & Victoria Falls” tour), this is due to its’ water swelling to double the mass. However, if one is up for a challenge you cannot do a Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari without driving the 4 x 4 route from Maun along the eastern edge of the Okavango Delta through Moremi Game Reserve, Savuti and the Chobe National Park to Kasane or vice versa. Take note that this section of a Self-Drive Botswana can only be done in a fully equipped 4 x 4 camper vehicle.
Last but not least, you can explore the Chobe National Park on guided / escorted early morning open vehicle safaris or on guided / escorted sunset boat cruises. You can then relax during the heat of the day at any one of the numerous campsites or lodges scattered along the banks of the Chobe River, a river riddled with huge crocodiles and the dangerous hippo. Chobe National Park has four of the “Big Five” animals and thousands of other beautiful creatures and birds. If you wanted to try and find the “Big Five” animals on a Self-Drive Botswana trip then you would need to include Khama Rhino Sanctuary or include your Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari with Etosha in Namibia or Kruger National Park in South Africa.
There are various routes one can chose to take on a Self-Drive Botswana tour / safaris. If you would like to do the 4 x 4 camper option then you could depart on your Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari from Johannesburg – South Africa. To pick up and then drop-off your 4 x 4 safari vehicle in Johannesburg would also be the cheapest option. From Johannesburg you drive to Botswana via the Grobler’s Bridge border post, visit Khama Rhino Sanctuary, then drive to Nata via Francistown, visit the Nata Bird Sanctuary in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park before driving to Maun or you could enter Botswana to the south and drive to Maun through the Kalahari via the Trans- Kalahari Highway or the more expensive Self-Drive Botswana option would be to fly via Johannesburg’s O R Tambo International Airport to Maun and there you pick-up and later drop-off your 4 x 4 safari vehicle. From Maun you visit the eastern shores of the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Savuti and Chobe National Park. After a couple of days exploring the Chobe National Park, base camp Kasane you can cross the border at Kazungula for a visit to the Victoria Falls which is one of the natural wonders of the world. You then return to Botswana or drive through Zimbabwe back to South Africa visiting the Marakele National Park on route. Or, once again you could do this Self-Drive Botswana tour / safari in the other direction.
You can also do a Self-Drive Botswana trip in a sedan / car whilst staying in accommodation establishments ranging from 3 to 5 stars. On such a tour one would normally incorporate a visit to South Africa or Namibia as you would need to take another route that would avoid the 4 x 4 camper route from Maun to Kasane via the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Savuti.
A Self-Drive Botswana 4 x 4 camper trip would be the ultimate safari for nature lovers and adventurers.