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BOTSWANA - SAFARI COUNTRY
PAR EXCELLENCE SAFARI COUNTRY – BOTSWANA!
Botswana is a landlocked country with South Africa to the south east, Namibia to the west and north, andZimbabwe to the north east. Botswana shares a bording crossing with Zambia in the far north east.
Botswana was one of the world's poorest countries when it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, but has developed into one of Africa's wealthiest countries, mainly due to the discovery of diamonds. Cattle farming was the second largest industry but has now been overtaken by tourism. Temba operates in Botswana as Sabaki Safaris.
We will use Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, as our departure point from where we will visit different destinations in Botswana. We will do a cirlcular route but it is not necessarily the route that we recommend. If you have enough time on hand you can do the entire round trip as some of the places may be of interest to you.
Gaborone is Africa's fastest growing city. In Gaborone you will find all attractions and facilities that you would expect from the capital city of a vibrant country like Botswana. The population of Botswana is just 1,5 mil people and about a quarter of them live in and around Gaborone.
Gaborone offers a selection of accommodation. Cresta Lodge is without doubt the preferred hotel near the CBD. Their rates are reasonable and meals and service are good. If you really need to stay right in the middle of the CBD, the President Hotel is your only option. The Gaborone Sun Hotel is the most luxurious hotel in the CBD, but also rather pricey. The Ambassador Hotel at the Grand Palm Hotel is a luxurious five star hotel just 8 minutes from the CBD. It's sister hotel, the Metcourt Hotel, is on the same premises and offers more affordable three star accommodation. Gaborone offers a few affordable hotels around the city such as The Big Five Lodge and Oasis Motel. None of their services can compete with the other mentioned hotels, and in particular, not with Cresta Lodge.
The only camping in Gaborone is at City Camp which is is basic yet clean, however their service and booking systems are non-existent. If you just want to pop in you may even enjoy your stay. There are also a few basic self-catering ( self contained ) chalets. On the road from Gaborone to Lobatse, 12 km from Gaborone, lies theMokolodi Nature Reserve. This will be your first experience of seeing game such as rhino in Botswana. The accommodation offered here is very neat self-catering ( self contained ) chalets or basic campsites.
Lobatse is about 60 km from Gaborone and was previously Botswana's second city. Nowadays it is best known for the factories of Botswana's meat supplies. The Trans Kgalagadi Highway between Windhoek and Johannesburg runs through the town.
From Lobatse you can drive along the South African border to Tsabong which is Botswana's most southern town. Near Tsabong you can overnight in basic accommodation at Berrybush.
If you continue with the Trans Kgalagadi Highway you will soon reach Kang, a town halfway between Johannesburg and Windhoek. Here we strongly recommend Kang Ultra Stop. The lodge is very clean and a veritable oasis in this area. It is just outside the town but next to the highway at the Shell Garage near Kang in Botswana. Just behind Kang Ultra Stop is Echo Lodge, an equally affordable option.
If you continue with the Trans Kgalagadi Highway through Botswana, you will reach Ghanzi which is the most important cattle district in Botswana. We offer a selection of excellent accommodation in and around Ghanzi. On the right, 5 km before Ghanzi is Thakadu Camp. Thakadu Camp is on a game farm and the owners manage this lodge. Thakadu Camp is affordable, clean and the service is excellent. You can stay in either meru tents or chalets, both with en-suite facilities.
On the left about 4 km before Ghanzi is Khawa Lodge. This service at this beautiful lodge was questionable when we last visited it. It undoubtably does have enormous potential. In the town of Ghanzi is the Kalahari Arms Hotel. This hotel is steeped in tradition and the best hotel for anyone on business in Ghanzi in Botswana.
Ghanzi is often referred to as the gateway to the Kalahari. The world's largest National Park, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, lies to the east of Ghanzi, and the main entrance can easily be reached within a day from Ghanzi. Botswana National Parks now have an office in Ghanzi where you can pay your park fees. The majority of people visiting the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana will camp in a public campsite. For those who can afford it, two luxury lodges are available north of the park. Both Deception Valley Lodge and Haina Safari Lodge offer excellent accommodation and guided activities.
From Ghanzi you can drive along the western side of the Okavango Delta to Shakawe in the far north west of the Okavango Delta. The western side of the Okavango Delta is more populated and there is much less game. It is in actual fact communal farm land. However the Okavango Delta in this area is as protected as elsewhere in Botswana. The birdlife along the western panhandle of the Okavango Delta is perhaps the very best that you will experience in Botswana and the fishing is equally good.
Accommodation near Shakawe Accommodation is very good and much more affordable than in other places in the Okavango Delta. Drotsky's Cabins is the most popular lodge and camping along the western side of the Okavango Delta. Nguma Island Lodge is more expensive but more luxurious and much deeper in the Delta. Delta Dawn is the name of Nguma Island's campsite. The facilities are good but the view over the Delta is limited. The view from Nguma Island Lodge is excellent. You will need a 4x4 to get to Nguma Island but any vehicle can reach Drotsky's Cabins.
Most people visiting Shakawe in Botswana will do a round trip. This means that they will cross the border to Namibia and stay for 1 or 2 nights accommodation in Caprivi, Namibia before returning via the Ngoma Bridge border back to Botswana.
Once back in Botswana it will be only 2 km to the entrance gate of the Chobe National Park. The highway runs right through the park for 50 km to Kasane. Chobe National Park is one of the favourite game reserves in Botswana, with excellent game viewing in the north along the Chobe River. Some excellent lodges are to be found around Chobe and Kasane. Chobe Safari Lodge is the preferred lodge in this part of Botswana. They offer 4 star luxury and are on the Chobe National Park border in Kasane, Botswana. Mowana Safari Lodge is more pricey but it also offers facilities such as a golf course and spa. Toro Lodge is more affordable and Senyati Safari Lodge offers affordable self-catering ( self contained ) accommodation and camping in the bush.
Most people visiting Kasane and Chobe in Botswana would most likely want to visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is one of the most beautiful wonders of the world. In and around Victoria Falls there is enough high quality and affordable accommodation. For those who prefer hotel accommodation, Ilala Lodge is the closest to the Falls. Kingdom Hotel offers excellent value for money. The A'Zambezi River Lodge is upstream on the banks of the Zambezi and Elephant Hills Hotel is surrounded by an 18 hole golf course. Victoria Falls Hotel dates back to the beginning of the previous century and offers luxury with a touch of yesterdays charm. If you prefer camping or self-catering ( self contained ) accommodation you will find this on offer at Victoria Falls Rest Camp.
Back to Botswana. From Kasane you will drive south on your circular route through Botswana. The next little village would be Pandamatenga which is often referred to as the "Bread Basket" of Botswana due to the large commercial farms in this area. Between Kasane and Pandamatenga you are likely to see elephants crossing the road. This makes driving at night very dangerous in this part of Botswana.
Three hundred km from Kasane lies Nata, a small town which is perhaps best known for the fact that it is halfway between Maun and Kasane, and 200 km from Botswana's second city of Francistown. Nata is merely an overnight stop and Nata Lodge is without doubt our favourite Lodge. Another option is Northgate Lodge which is also worth considering. Just north Of Nata is Elephant Sands Lodge.
Nata is on the edge of the Makgadigadi Pans in Botswana which are the world's largest salt pans. About 100 km from Nata lies Gweta where you can stay at either the Gweta Lodge or at Planet Boabab. Both these lodges cater mainly for those who are on a lower budget. However if you want something more luxurious, you can considerJacks Camp. Irrespective of which accommodation you choose make sure that you include at least a quad bike trip to the Pans, preferably overnighting on the Pans.
From Nata our trip will continue south to Francistown, Botswana's second city. Francistown is mainly an industrial city with few tourist attractions. It is however a perfect overnight stop for those travelling from Kasane, the Okavango Delta or Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. For families and people on safari, Woodlands which is 10 km north of Francistown is the perfect destination. They are one of the only camp sites in Botswana which offers grassed camping sites. In Francistown the Tapamha Hotel or the Metcourt Hotel can be considered.
If you travel from Gauteng in South Africa you will most likely enter Botswana at the Martin's Drift border. From here you can drive north to the Tuli area of Botswana. This area is earmarked as a future Transfrontier Park between Botswana and neighbouring countries. Presently the Tuli Game Reserve is home to thousands of elephants and other big game such as lion and leopard. Tuli Safari Lodge offers luxury accommodation in the Tuli Block in Botswana.
If you enter Botswana through Martin's Drift you will reach Palapye after about 100 km. If you drive north from Gaborone you will first get to Mahalapye and then to Palapye. From Palapye you can continue north to Francistown or you can turn west towards Serowe. Serowe is Botswana's traditional capital. At one stage it was known as Africa's largest traditional town but little is left of the traditional African homestead. Serowe is today a relatively modern city.
From Serowe you can take the main road to Orapa and after about 30 km you will get to Khama Rhino Sanctuary. This sanctuary is named after the father of the present President of Botswana. It is about 8000 ha big and is home to some large animals, including rhino. The accommodation is neat self-catering ( self contained ) chalets or fully equipped campsites.
Botswana is the world's largest producer of high quality diamonds and the world's largest diamond mines are around Orapa. Orapa is a secure town and you can only enter the town with a permit. Lethlakane is Orapa's twin town and here you will be able to buy almost any supplies that you might need. There are supermarkets, medical services and a petrol station. The Mikelele Motel offers acceptable accommodation.
From Lethlakane the road runs around Orapa and than west to Mopipi and Rakops. Most people visiting the Central Kalahari Game Reserve enter the park from Rakops. Rakops is a small Botswana town and the only accommodation here is at Xere Motel.
Only 2 hours from Rakops lies Maun, on the southern tip of the Okavango Delta. Maun is a very interesting town. Town planners arrived after most of the town was built and this is the impression one gets. Maun is a big town and there is a bustling airport which mainly caters for activities reached by light aircraft.
Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta and most people will overnight in Maun before departing to Moremi or Chobe National Parks. In and around Maun are a few very good lodges and campsites. Among them are Maun Lodge and Riley's Hotel. Both offer hotel accommodation in the town. Island Safari Lodge offers excellent affordabe accommodation along the Thamalakane River. Further upstream along the Thamalakane River is a new lodge called the Thamalakane River Lodge offering luxurious yet affordable accommodation. Okavango River Lodge offers budget accommodation closer to Maun.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is perhaps one of the last unspoilt wilderness areas on this planet. In order to visit the better lodges deeper in the Okavango Delta you will need to fly from Maun. There are daily flights to most of the lodges. Some of the Okavango Delta's lodges are among the world's most expensive accommodation.Oddballs is reasonably priced compared to most other Okavango lodges. The nearby Delta Camp is more expensive but Eagle Island is luxurious with a price tag to reflect their very high standards.
If yoy want to visit the lodges within the Moremi Game Reserve you will have a choice to either drive there or to fly. In order to drive you will need a 4x4 vehicle which you can hire from Temba Car Hire in Maun, Botswana.
If you drive, the first lodge that you will visit will be Santawanti Lodge. This is an affordable and very comfortable lodge. Unfortunately this lodge is in an area with limited game. The campsite, Kaziinkini,is in the same concession near South Gate in the Moremi National Park. The South Gate campsite is at the entrance to the Moremi National Park.
If you drive from South Gate to North Gate or Khwai River it will take you only about 40 minutes to cover the 30 km. Most people prefer to drive via Third Bridge or Xaxanaka. There are public campsite at Third Bridge but no lodges. Xakanaxa is deeper in the Okavango Delta and there are three very good lodges, namely Camp Moremi,Xakanaxa Camp and Camp Okuti. The "camp" in the names of these lodges are misleading as they are indeed upmarket lodges. There is however a public campsite it Xakanxa.
From Xakanaxa it will take you 2 hours to cover the 60 km to North Gate. Here you have a choice between the public campsite at Khwai River or a campsite run by the community. For those in need of better accommodation the Khwai River Lodge would be a marvellous option. The area around Khwai River is the best game viewing area in Botswana.
From Khwai you will need to cross some very loose sand on your way to Savuti. Once you are at Savuti in the Chobe National Park you will be rewarded with excellent game viewing around the Savuti. Their is a public campsite at Savuti and a few luxury lodges of which Savute Elephant Lodge is the best known.
Most people drive from Savuti to the Chobe River and Kasane. It will take you at least 4 hours to cover the distance. However it might be worth visiting the famous Linyanti Swamps. They are about 2 hours drive north of Savuti on a track with very loose sand. After your visit to Linyanti you can drive to Kasane in 4 hours.