Answering the Call of the Wild: The Top African Safaris

Botswana: Exploring the Okavango
  |  Gorp.com

Many an Africa hand will say that Botswana, in southern Africa, is the ultimate safari destination: you get superb wildlife viewing, with opportunities comparable to the best of Tanzania or Kenya, without the crowds. And the heart of any safari to Botswana should be the Okavango Delta. A river delta in the middle of a desert? That's exactly what this is; the Okavango River flows out of the mountains to the north and simply disappears into the sands of the Kalahari Desert. The result is a unique ecosystem swarming with wildlife. The bird sightings are spectacular, hippos and crocs are everywhere, even fishing is available. Because of all the water, safari vehicles are impractical here. You'll scout for wildlife in a mokoro (a skinny dugout canoe) as your guide propels you through the clear, placid waters with a ngashi (boat pole) amid the papyrus reeds.
Besides the delta, Botswana offers other superb national parks, such as:

Moremi Wildlife Reserve: a large and scenically diverse game reserve that is home to the largest population of wild dogs in Africa. One of the continent's best-kept secrets.
Chobe: Only 50 miles from Victoria Falls, Chobe is known for lots of active elephants, as well as boat safaris along the Chobe River. (The Savuti, an arid region in the southern region of the park, is famous for its lions.)
Practically Speaking
Most itineraries would include 2-3 parks, with a few days in each. As with most African safaris, you'll have to choose between a mobile tented safari, or a lodge-based one. Elephant back safaris are relatively new (though they're expensive), and they will get you very close to wildlife, as will one on horseback. Botswana is expensive relative to most safari destinations. Low-end safaris will cost about $100-125 a day, moderate priced lodge ones $175-250. Add another 25-30% if you book through a U.S. operator that includes their own tour guide and other frills.
Plan your trip for May through October for the best game viewing. Nearby Victoria Falls as well as some of Zimbabwe's national parks are excellent add-on destinations.


David Noland is a full-time professional freelance writer specializing in adventure travel, sports, and science. His book, Travels Along the Edge , published in 1997 by Vintage Books, is now in its fourth printing.

Published: 30 Nov 1999 | Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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