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The Inside Guide to the Best Botswana Luxury Safaris
Black manes flutter against a sunset backdrop. A hundred elephants rumble directly past you. Nature’s greatest oasis spills out in every direction. Botswana is a country of vast natural wonder. And the best Botswana luxury safaris place you centerstage in the world’s greatest rendition of wild drama and scale.
This is a country of pure wilderness, an animal kingdom untouched and unadulterated, a safari experience between the surreal and the sublime. Few roads, little Wi-Fi, no human footprints, a place where you are merely a visitor in the animals’ realm. You’re in the heart of nature’s drama, close enough to hear the haunting crack of a lion biting through a zebra carcass. Welcome to one of the greatest wildernesses on earth.
Safari in Botswana: The Inside Guide
Botswana At a Glance
Hundreds of elephants surround the camp, majestic cats hunt on the plains, and there’s always a new animal that captivates and inspires. On the best Botswana luxury safaris you are centerstage, enveloped by endless miles of wilderness that change with the rains, surrounded by the theater of the wild. And it’s all so personal. Such grand space makes for a feeling that you are alone with nature, immersed in the drama between animals and species. Few travel experiences can make you feel so alive. And there are few places on earth to rival Botswana’s inimitability.
Botswana needs time. But what reward! In the Okavango Delta, Kalahari Desert and Chobe woodlands, the country has three of Africa’s ultimate safari destinations, which can be combined over seven to ten days. Private concessions intensify the game viewing and they are among the best and largest on the continent. The sheer scale of the wildernesses make Botswana the popular choice for royalty and celebrities; you can be truly alone here, as a couple or a family, away from everyone else.
Don’t expect a glimpse. And don’t plan less than a week. The best Botswana luxury safaris are an authentic journey into the wild, into the realm of nature, into an animal world without fences or boundaries. You’re immersed in the wilderness, senses attuned to the drama of nature’s theater. On the first day it’s too surreal, the intimacy of safari encounters making it impossible to believe. But spend more days and you slowly succumb to the rhythm of the wilderness, coming to understand just how real a safari in Botswana can be.
7 ICONIC WILDERNESS HIGHLIGHTS OF A BOTSWANA SAFARI
Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando Private Concessions
Wild dogs hunt on open plains. Elephants bulldoze fresh paths through the woodland. Hyena call through the night and leopards are never far away. This is northern Botswana, one of the wildest places in Africa, one of the ultimate destinations for a private concession safari. Habitats collide here, providing food for a remarkable diversity of species. Human imprint is nominal, helping maintain a superb profusion of wildlife. Activities have no restrictions: walks, drives, adventures, through the day and through the night…there’s a program to suit any interest or mood in these concessions.
The Best Botswana Luxury Safaris Are In These Concessions
Linyanti is our favorite and highly recommended for the best Botswana luxury safaris. This is a showpiece concession that mixes modern luxury with a rugged and highly authentic safari experience: no fences, no boundaries, just a wilderness that’s home to famous and elusive animals. This concession sits at a crossroads between habitats – Chobe woodland, Okavango floodplain, riverine forest and open savannah – with a procession of wildlife constantly walking past private viewing decks and photography hides.
Selinda and Kwando are also superb destinations if you’re looking for the best Botswana luxury safaris. They are located on the crossroads of mammal life, mixing Okavango and Chobe experiences with something new. If you know about Heritage Africa and our 25 years in operation, you might know about our obsession with the wildlife experience. The best safari experiences are at destinations where wildlife is truly wild, on pure wilderness landscapes: nowhere is this better illustrated than Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando.
Northern Botswana has pioneered a continent-wide marker for high-quality private concession safari, creating programs that showcase the wild while keeping you safe and comfortable. Each of the concessions has a number of camps or lodges, all small scale and ideally situated for wildlife encounters. Exclusive-use camps can cater for 2 or 20 guests and there are mobile safari options to explore as well. Places like Linyanti and Selinda are also amongst the ultimate destinations for a fully private safari. Come for two days or come for two weeks, you’ll never get bored here and there’s no maximum length of time we would recommend. Like we said earlier, Botswana needs time. But what reward!
Okavango Delta Safari
Lush colors blur in the world’s greatest oasis, the desert painted blue and green for half the year. It doesn’t rain here. Water travels down from the Angolan Highlands, flooding an area the size of Massachusetts. Leopards swim between reed islands, migrant antelope skip in the shallows, and hippos are never far away. A haven is formed, also a staging point for dramatic battles between lion and buffalo. The best Okavango safaris present nature in bloom and there’s nothing else like it, anywhere on the planet, perhaps why the Okavango was named as UNESCO’s 1000th World Heritage Site.
Luxury Okavango Delta Safari
Almost all the best Botswana luxury safaris include the Okavango. Private concessions spider out from Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Delta and there are more than a dozen concessions to choose from. Some are pure wetland, mokoro canoes and speedboats the only way to travel between wildlife-rich islets. On these water-based journeys you look up at giants along the banks. Other concessions are on the path of migratory wanderers, all muddy trails and swampy enchantment, good for walking safaris and game drives. The best luxury camps in Botswana are set on their own private islands, with rooms raised on stilts above the hippos. Some are perched on flooded plains, providing an uninterrupted view of quarrels between marooned wildlife residents.
Some of the concessions can’t be reached without a micro flight, an indication of how vast and private they are. We’d recommend a program that mixes land and water-based activities. This could be three days in a single concession, or combining two different concessions over four to five days. You’ll find a very different world on land and in water, this enormous oasis really coming alive when you get to know its nuance. While Moremi Game Reserve is a great destination, we’d guide you towards the private concessions, as this is where you’ll experience the very best Okavango Delta safari.
Safari in the Central Kalahari
Dust swirls and the desert extends, incredibly evocative with its ochre and orange colors. The Kalahari is a tough and challenging land, populated by migratory wanderers and desert specialists. So you may not think it would feature on the best Botswana luxury safaris. But there is life here. Like elephants bathed in dirt, peeking meerkats, herds of gemsbok, and black-maned Kalahari lions. Wildlife congregates around what little water there is, creating scenes of drama and tension, especially around dusk.
The Kalahari is Where Royalty Goes on Safari
Don’t expect an intense animal abundance, even if more than 30,000 zebra migrate across a mirage of salt pans bigger than Switzerland. This is a wild and lonely land. So lonely that it’s where royalty and celebrities go to escape the world, with princes William and Harry both using the Central Kalahari to impress there future princesses to be. The desert is vast and camps are so well spread you could spend a week without seeing anyone other than your guides and camp staff. The Kalahari is a setting for adventure, with no restrictions on walks and drives. Ride quad bikes across the old salt pans, horse ride into the wilderness, or sit back and appreciate the solitude.
Whether 2 people or 25, the Central Kalahari is immensely private. Here, the best Botswana luxury safaris rekindle images of the explorers of old, including bush camps beneath starry skies. Animals roam and you follow, adoring the sense of surprise. We’d recommend flying in and spending at least three nights. You can’t expect to do or see much in a single day. But for honeymooners, large family getaways, and absolute privacy, the Central Kalahari transports you into nature’s humbling realm.
It’s never quiet in the Chobe woodlands. A huge elephant bull walks by, tusks curling above your safari vehicle. Behind him there’s a herd, youngsters draggling their trunks along the ground. Turn a corner and you see another 50 elephants. On a single drive you could spot more than a thousand. Nowhere in the world has a larger elephant population with 100,000 being conservationists best guess. Perhaps you can picture 100 elephants. Maybe even 1000. 100,000 is unfathomable until you spend a few hours in Chobe.
Elephants smash trails through the trees and you follow on the best Botswana luxury safaris, such intensity to the scenes when so many giants are all around. Giraffe thrive in the trees as well, a picture of elegance to contrast moody baboons and skittish forest-dwelling antelope. Birdlife is also prolific, with endemic and exotic wings never far from your eyes. Spend two minutes in Chobe and you’ll hear and see the elephants. Two days provides time to search for the big cats, which can be difficult to find in the dense woodland and high grass.
Planning a Chobe Safari
Out in the Chobe River there are hippos, thousands of them as well, best spotted on a river cruise. Private concessions surround Chobe National Park on three sides, with those to the south blurring into the Okavango. These offer intimate camping experiences that are memorable for an incredible natural soundtrack. And while there are lodges on the edge of Chobe National Park, we find the best Chobe safari experiences come when you travel into the heart of the woodland.
With the Chobe it only takes a moment to see a hundred elephants. You really don’t need a huge amount of time. For example, you could also visit Chobe National Park for a one-day game drive and river cruise, enjoying intense elephant encounters on route between other destinations. A highly recommended route for the best Botswana luxury safaris, is to use Chobe to link Victoria Falls and the private concessions of Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando. You can also spend two or three nights cruising on a luxury house boat, a relaxing safari in the lesser-seen parts of Chobe, and a good alternative to the more rugged adventures found elsewhere in Botswana.
The Best Time To Go on Safari in Botswana
Traditionally, the time to visit Botswana for safari is during Southern Africa’s winter months. But if you know Heritage Africa you’ll know that we don’t subscribe to best months, nor any implied “worst” months.
It’s cooler and drier from June to September, the desert climate more benign and pleasant for safari adventure. Many elephants return to Chobe after their green season wanderings. In a remarkable feat of nature, these are also the months when the Okavango Delta is in full flood. No rain falls at this time; the Okavango is flooded by rain that falls in the Angolan Highlands earlier in the year, then takes four to five months to twist through the desert to the floodplains.
We don’t think that the June to September months should restrict your visit. There’s always something special going on and there’s never a wrong month for the best Botswana luxury safaris. For example, did you know about the great zebra migration across the Kalahari’s salt pans in March and April – it went unnoticed to researchers until only a decade ago. However, the vast majority of visitors come from June to September. So even a wilderness as big as Botswana can get a little crowded. So if the best time for you to go on a Botswana safari is June to September, sidestep the national parks for the private concession experiences, where visitor numbers are restricted every day of the year.
So how long should you spend in Botswana. Two days, two weeks, two months, we could spend two years roaming around the incredible landscapes. We’d recommend a safari for as long as your budget and vacation time can allow.
Luxury Botswana Safaris
Botswana emanates scale. This is a country with as many national parks as major highways, where landscapes celebrate the untamed brilliance of Africa. The best Botswana luxury safaris usually mean no WiFi and no footprints; just huge swathes of wilderness that might never have seen human eyes. Much of it is so remote and untouched that the only way in is by light aircraft, touching down on airstrips that must be cleared of hyena and giraffe.
While the scale is huge, the wildlife encounters are personal. With customized Botswana safari tours you go off the trails, until you’re close enough to smell the tension of an impala herd being hunted. When witnessing tens of thousands of elephants you don’t remember the numbers, but the individuals; babies swinging their trunks, tusks curling above the safari vehicle, clashes between large bulls.
Cacophonous hippo grunts perforate the canvas walls at luxury safari camps in Botswana, just one part of the evening entertainment. Nature’s drama is everywhere and the animals stretch for thousands of square miles. And with the best camps you’re always centerstage, the wildlife drama unfolding in all directions. This is the land of the giants, the world of unpredictable scenes between predator and prey. And it’s the country that best celebrates our belief that luxury is created by the wildlife experience.
7 HIGHLIGHTS OF A LUXURY BOTSWANA SAFARI
The Customized Safari Experience
The best Botswana luxury safaris should be customized to you personally, rather than just a seat in a shared vehicle. Elephants don’t follow standard paths here and neither should you. When it floods the Okavango changes rapidly week on week, but it’s impossible to predict when the flooding will start or how far it will extend. Fixed itineraries can only guess; however small the group tour, you won’t enjoy the flexibility or inimitability Botswana deserves if it’s not your safari.
All the best Botswana camps and lodges offer a varied program of activities, so you can pick and choose rather than be restricted by the needs of the group. These activities will be shared, in small groups with others staying at the camp. But with a fully individualized safari itinerary you get to explore a wilderness that best responds to your interests.
I was breathless every twenty minutes. It was life changing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Ultimate Luxury – A Mobile Safari Experience
Exploring Botswana was traditionally a mobile experience. It still is on many of the best Botswana luxury safaris, through mobile safaris. They preserve this intrepid sense of adventure, and are full of thrills, charm and surprise. Camps are erected in private parts of private concessions, mostly in undocumented corners that can follow animal migrations and unusual wildlife stories. You journey between then by different means. Perhaps a multi-day walking safari, maybe a horseback safari, or with more traditional game drives.
At the heart of the experience is a sense of freedom. Mobile camps are erected in the most remote and untouched areas, places without permanent trails or accommodation. They allow you to explore landscapes that rarely ever see human eyes, where the wildlife hasn’t become habituated to safari vehicles. Botswana mobile safaris can go days without encountering other people and that’s part of the appeal, this chance to properly set off into the unknown.
Where Will a Mobile Safari Take You?
With these mobile safaris you go off the trail to discover the true essence of Africa. You follow migrations and movements, finding a private piece of wilderness that’s only for you to explore. With such a safari the itinerary can always evolve as well , based on both the landscapes and the animals you encounter. On Kalahari mobile safaris you track the battles around waterholes. With Moremi and Okavango mobile safaris you’re surrounded by an abundance brought by rains.
In many senses, these mobile safaris symbolize the allure of African travel. It’s rugged adventure, with the dust swirling and the hyenas howling nearby. But it’s also wonderfully relaxing, the solitude helping you to reset and re-energize. Buffalos blocking the trail, quarreling lions tracked for three days, days of continual surprise…a mobile safari in Botswana feels like an expeditions from a forgotten era. For the wildlife experience there is nothing more luxurious. And while there won’t be Wi-Fi, there is a heightened level of comfort you might not expect in the bush.
The Best Family Safari in Botswana – Customized Private Journeys
Botswana’s wildernesses push the boundaries of the surreal. Drama unfolds on the plains, a cheetah chasing springbok as a rising sun paints the landscape. Giant animals stomp past your family’s safari camp but it is safe. Elephants and buffalo are among those that congregate in remarkable numbers. Leopards are draped across baobab trees, while lions have majestic black manes. The safari doesn’t stop after dusk, the sounds of the wild singing you a nighttime lullaby, marauding herds heading straight past your camp.
There are many potential windows onto the wonder of wild Africa. The best Botswana luxury safaris for families combine experiences for all manner of mindsets. Quad bike across the world’s largest salt pans for nights beneath baobabs and stars. Horse ride with the herds on open plains. Mix game drives with walks and boat safaris in the Okavango Delta. Or sit back on a wooden balcony and watch the animals go about their day. Every family safari can be individualized throughout each day. You enjoy the experiences you are searching for; everyone else in your family can do the same. Then you meet up at the camp and share all the tales.
9 Reasons Why Botswana is the Top Family Safari Destination
The Best Botswana Luxury Safaris for Families
A Botswana family safari transports you away from your comfort zone, catapulting you into a landscape that allows everyone to stop and reset. Imagine the sight of 100 elephants marching across dusty plains, trunk swinging babies leading the charge. Or a lion pride taking down an infant buffalo, then the buffalo herd performing a retaliatory charge. Imagine waking up to giraffe eating fruit from a nearby tree. Or finding zebra in the camp. Now imagine all this when you’re a child, the inspiration intensified, the sense of awe magnified.
At first it can seem baffling. It can seem like you’ve gone too far beyond your comfort zone. But it rarely takes long before the sense of wonder overtakes all other feelings. And after a day or two you might not be able to imagine the urban world. This is an escapist adventure and it’s usually just your family and the wild. It’s something new for everyone and something that impresses everyone in a different way.
Options for Your Family in Botswana
On the best Botswana luxury safaris you can travel in many directions. Tented camps mix comfort with adventure. You find hidden, exhilarating charms, like shining the torch in search of wildlife when moving between tents. Consider taking a quad bike across the Ntwetwe Pan and spending a night at the The Lost Island of Baobabs? Maybe meeting the Zu/’hoasi people of the Western Kalahari, finding friendship in contrasting cultures? Or a multi-day adventure riding horses across the Makgadikgadi Pans and Kalahari Desert, with nights beneath the stars. If there’s something in Africa your family would like to, there’s a good chance it will be found in Botswana.
We feel that together, you and we have given our family the best gift imaginable, lifetime memories of togetherness and adventures that could not be experienced anywhere else on our great planet.
-Marlene and Bob Josefsberg,
Coral Gables, Florida
Taking Children on Safari in Botswana
Some of the best Botswana luxury safaris spend long hours on bumpy, dusty trails, seeking out the far reaches of the wild. But taking children on a safari requires a little more diversity than sitting in a vehicle. When taking kids to Africa we recommend a safari that includes a variety of activities, helping to keep each day fresh and exciting. For example, in the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve, the game drives are complemented by water-based safari in both traditional mokoro canoes and motorboats. Most Botswana camps do not always enforce strict age limits over activities like walking safaris; instead, you just need to be large enough. So Botswana is also a great place to bring tweens and growing, pubescent children.
On a family safari in Botswana there’s also charm in the little things. Indigenous guides in traditional dress; tiny meerkats poking their heads; evening fires beneath the stars. Some camps are designed for kids, with specific activities so they can learn the basics of bush survival and animal tracking, everything from identifying spoor to building a shelter. In such a vast adventure playground, there will be space for your children to play, even if so many wildlife animals are nearby.
Taking children on a Botswana safari is wild, but very safe. Many many hours go into planning each family safari and every day your family spends at a camp. Emergency plans are always in place. Camps are staffed by the gatekeepers to the wild, those who were also children in these hinterlands. And by understanding their environment, the guides know how to get you close, yet keep you away from mishap.
The Very Best Botswana Luxury Safaris Are Private
Surprise is at the heart of every African safari. Lions hunting beneath the cloak of dusk, leopards laying ambush at a quiet waterhole, male giraffe swinging their necks in battle. It’s impossible to predict what will happen at each moment, whether herds marching or critically endangered characters emerging.
Everyone’s idea of a dream safari is different. And while the exact wildlife encounters can never be predicted, a private safari responds to your revered image of Africa. The animals, the landscapes, the activities and atmosphere…private safaris steer you towards the kind of surprise that overcomes preconceptions and leads to new discoveries. This is precisely how Botswana’s great zebra migration was documented.
7 HIGHLIGHTS OF A PRIVATE BOTSWANA SAFARI
The Best Botswana Safari Camps
With a Botswana safari camp you truly get to become a part of the wild. Watching zebra from beneath an outdoor shower, dining beneath the stars as giraffe wander past, an orchestra of sounds perforating canvas walls. Expertly positioned to maximize game viewing, while still maintaining contemporary comforts in the bush, the best Botswana safari camps ensure your African immersion is never interrupted. And they redefine ideas of the luxury experience.
I managed to persuade her to come and join me in Botswana, and we camped out with each other under the stars.
-Prince Harry on how he wooed Meghan.
The Luxury of Safari Under Canvas
Camps redefine camping on the best Botswana luxury safaris. There are canvas walls, but that’s pretty much where the similarity to camping ends. Peculiar sounds wake you, the echo of a lion roar serving as a morning alarm. Open the curtains to grazers, zebra and impala munching on the short grass around the camp. Breakfast is served with the sunrise, distant elephants coming out of silhouette, a buffalo herd illuminated along the horizon. The atmosphere compels and confounds, your senses tuning in to all the smells and sounds. It’s not even 7am and the safari day has definitely started, so much to see around the camp.
This immersive experience isn’t just at one particular camp. All the camps we recommend are carefully located, in private concessions and areas that are rich in wildlife, ensuring personal encounters with nature continue throughout the day and night. You’re hidden from the rest of the world, enchanted by the wildlife that wanders in all directions. Wildlife scenes slowly play out as you relax at the camp; the upturned ears of a nervous springbok herd, playful battles between horned antelope, a continual procession of wildlife coming to the water, particularly at Okavango Delta safari camps.
A leisurely lunch comes with a view and you’re woken from an afternoon siesta by the rustling of nearby antelope. When darkness falls nature’s sounds takes over, surreal noises maintaining the submersion in these wild, animal-dappled lands. Some camps are built upon wooden stilts, others rise above waterways, and all the best safari camps in Botswana offer a stunning impression of space. You’ll soon learn why the canvas is so important: it ensures your immersion is uninterrupted.
Luxury is the Wildlife Experience
Safari camps in Botswana are helping to redefine notions of luxury. Many provide contemporary ideas of a comfortable stay; thick comfy beds, en-suite facilities with hot water and Western-style toilets, decadent furniture, and all the coziness you need for a night in the bush. Expert staff impress with their respect and enthusiasm for the wild, adding their knowledge and personality to the safari.
But the real beauty of these camps comes from the luxury of experience. There are no fences and the safari under canvas provides a deep connection with your surroundings. It makes the wilderness feel like a private outdoor playground, where you can admire all the intimacies of animal behavior. With no other accommodation for miles, Botswana safari camps showcase how luxury comes in many forms.
Talk to Us About Botswana Camps
At Heritage Africa we are fairly specific about what we see as the best lodges and camps in South Africa. If you take our definition of luxury through wildlife experience, Botswana has many more than the six camps we recommend in South Africa. Each camp in Botswana is unique and we like to provide very personalized advice, rather than push you towards a set list of options. We do not operate any of the camps, nor do we have special agreements to promote particular brands. So we can see what’s best for you and your safari. That’s how we go about creating the best Botswana luxury safaris.
By blending into the local environment, Botswana’s best camps become a part of the landscape. Wildlife doesn’t view the camps as a threat; hyenas roam beneath your sky bed, elephants wander through natural migratory channels, and the encounters may confound your preconceptions about wildlife behavior. At first it can be a shock to the system, catapulted from Western ideas to rustic luxury that’s off the grid. Almost invariably, the simplicity of it all ensures you easily settle into the rhythm. And you soon realize that Botswana safari camps aren’t just about the wildlife you see, nor the lands you discover, but the atmosphere and sense of freedom they create.