Self-Drive Camping in Botswana

Most people choose to have a professional, experienced safari operator handle all the details of their safari trip. But if you're an intrepid traveler and self-drive camping enthusiast, you will be delighted with self-drive camping in Botswana—it is truly a camper's paradise.

Embarking on a camping trip into the bush requires a good deal of planning and preparation. You will be going to remote areas, accessible only by four-wheel drive, where water, petrol, or food may not be available. You will often drive on rough roads and under conditions that are very different from those you may be used to.

Centralized Pay Points
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks has introduced four central pay points at Letlhakane (Boteti), Francistown, Kang, and Ghanzi Wildlife Offices for collection of park entry fees. This is in addition to three other existing pay points in Kasane, Maun, and Gaborone Wildlife Offices.

Credit card machines have also been installed at these offices, where tourists have an option of paying using Visa and MasterCard credit cards. Diners Card and American Express cards are not accepted. Preparations are ongoing to install another Point of Sale machine in Tsabong.

Provision of this service will in the near future lead to reduction of cash collection at park entry gates of all Botswana National Parks and Game Reserves. The system will enhance the Department of Wildlife & National Parks endeavor to improve customer satisfaction and efficient service delivery, as campers will no longer have to carry large amounts of cash into the National Parks and Game Reserves.

As a general guideline self-drive campers are advised as follows:

Visitors to Kalahari Transfrontier Park can pay at Kang Wildlife office and Tsabong (once the machine has been installed).

Visitors to Central Kalahari and Khutse Game Reserves can pay in Kang, Gaborone, Letlhakane, and Ghanzi Wildlife offices.

Visitors to Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Parks can pay in Gaborone, Francistown, Letlhakane, Maun, and Kasane Wildlife offices.

Camping checklist
Camping gear—tent, sleeping bag, extra blankets and jackets (in winter), camp-beds (if you find them more comfortable than sleeping on sand), axe, shovel, cooker, water bottles, pots, non-breakable dishes and cups, torches, matches, tin-opener, knife, batteries, bulbs for torches (a good supply), candles, gas lamp (gives lots of light), folding tables and chairs, a large cold-box, masking tape, cello tape, safety-pins, sewing kit, penknife, first-aid kit, buckets and basins, Thermos flask, mosquito coil and insect repellent, toilet paper, and basic tools.

Keep your maps, bird and animal identification books, flashlights, toilet paper, binoculars, and camera within easy reach. Pack everything evenly, so as not to weigh down one side of the vehicle more than the other. Balance is important on sand roads where ruts may cause the vehicle to swerve around.

All necessary food for your camping trip can be acquired from major towns and villages. Make sure that you bring more than you think you will use. Fresh produce or meats will last three to four days in a insulated cooler in summer, and a week or more in winter. Canned food is most practical, supplemented with fresh vegetables and fruits. Use plastic rather than glass containers.

If you have time, prepare two to four one-pot meals before departing. You will be grateful for having only to heat and serve a meal after long hours of driving and setting up camp.

If you are traveling to Kutse Game Reserve, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Pans, or other dry remote areas, carry at least 100 litres. In the Tuli, Okavango, and Chobe areas, water is readily available. However, it is best to carry between 50 and 100 litres of drinking water with you. Remember to keep some water at hand in the car to avoid having to get out while on game drives.

In the eastern part of the country and along the main roads, petrol is always available. However, in the remote areas, petrol stations sometimes run out of supplies, and there are no petrol stations in or at the entrance to the parks and reserves.

It is worthwhile taking the following precautions: estimate distances to be traveled, add on extra for four-wheel drive usage and extra for driving in the sand; add on extra again for game drives, and the possibility of getting lost—over-estimate rather than under-estimate.

Carry at least 100 to 150 litres of petrol in long-range tanks, if you have them, or in approved-use gasoline cans (never use plastic containers). If you do not have a long-range tank, use a funnel or hand-pump to put petrol into the tank. Mouth siphoning petrol through a hosepipe can be highly dangerous.

Spare Car Parts
If you are going for a drive with 4WD, it is wise to take with you: two spare tires, spark plugs, jump leads, tow rope and cable, a few litres of oil, insulated wire, electrician's tape, lamp, fire extinguisher, wheel spanner, and a complete tool-kit.

Content provided by Botswana Tourism Board – North America

Published: 4 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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