Discover the unparalleled allure of a Botswana safari in a captivating interview with Bianca Johnstone, one of our esteemed Travel Experts. Join us as she shares her first-hand experiences and unveils the distinctive qualities that set Botswana apart from other popular safari destinations.
Bianca’s Botswana Breakdown
We took our Travel Expert Bianca aside to learn more about why she fell in love with Botswana, as well as her hot tips about travelling here.
1. How Does Botswana Compare to Other Safari Destinations in Africa?
You cannot compare it to anything else really. It’s very unique and very different to any other safari destination. A safari in Botswana is very diverse, from Chobe National Park, Savuti, Linyanti and Selinda to the Okavango Delta, Kalahari, and Makgadikgadi – it has an enormous diversity of ecosystems and activities.
Unlike the Kruger National Park, Botswana isn’t as saturated with Big 5 wildlife – but you can still see lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo (if you know where to go) along with quite a number of other unique species that are endemic to the region. Seasonally, it is also a spectacular birding haven.
Compared to countries like South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, I’ve found that a safari in Botswana is best done over a longer period with more locations to fully appreciate its boundless biodiversity. The guiding is also very authentic, with the guides having grown up there and are very tuned into the bush.
2. What is the Most Underrated Aspect of a Safari in Botswana?
There’s nothing underrated when it comes to a safari in Botswana – it’s very highly rated! But, if I had to nit pick, I would say the Green and Shoulder seasons are “underrated”.
These lower-priced periods of the year still offer exceptional safari experiences, showcasing stunning landscapes, sunsets, expansive vistas, and incredible wildlife throughout. Having personally explored Botswana during these seasons, I can attest to their year-round allure.
3. What Aspects of Botswana’s Wildlife Do You Find Most Compelling?
The birdlife – it’s just something out of this world. And the elephants swimming across rivers from island to island, which is very unique to Botswana.
4. What Advice Would You Give Someone Planning a Botswana Safari?
If possible, one must stay at a land and water camp on a private concession or a land camp and water camp combined in the Okavango Delta, if budget and time allow.
The Chobe region is also an amazing experience in the dry season. Here, you won’t want to miss those massive elephant herds, and the boating safaris are pretty spectacular too. Also, Linyanti would be a great add-on.
However, for me, the main focus will be the Okavango Delta and then add on other destinations based on budget, time and preferences – one MUST experience the boating in the channels. This is what really sets Botswana apart!
Bianca’s Take on the Camps
5. What Were Your Favourite Aspects of Each Camp You Stayed at?
They’re all totally different. Botswana is a very complex destination as some regions may be dry in March, but, come July, they will be swelling with water and so on. As such, the activities – in terms of water vs land-based safaris – may vary depending on the time of the year. However, here are my first impressions from my latest trip in March this year…
Duma Tau is in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve (a private area connected to Savuti and Chobe) and has all-year water from the Linyanti Channel. The lodge sits on the channel and has sunsets like I’ve never seen before and the most amazing bird life I’ve ever encountered on safari (GREEN SEASON!). I saw seven different eagle species on one game drive.
The area is much drier than the Okavango Delta but has water all year due to the Linyanti Channel. There are very few lodges in the area, so it feels very exclusive in this vast private reserve – like you’re really in the wild with nobody around.
Vumbura Plains is a massive private concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta. It’s one of the few land and water camps available in Botswana (all year round). So, you can do the boating, mokoro and game drives throughout the year – the game viewing is absolutely spectacular, and the lodge is unique and beautiful.
Jao Camp, in the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta, was just mind-blowingly beautiful. It’s one of the most amazing camps I’ve stayed at, and absolutely beyond incredible on all levels.
It’s hard to believe that it’s benchmarked around the same price as Duma Tau and Vumbura, but this has to do with the game viewing opportunities – which were actually brilliant!
However, I visited Jao Camp in the green season, so there was no flooding, thus no water around on the concession. But, come the dry season, it’s mainly just water-based safaris. That being said, in the wet season, it is essential to combine Jao with a land camp such as Vumbura Plains to get the best of both land- and water-based safari activities.
6. Were There Any Particular Wildlife Sightings That Stood Out for You?
Chasing wild dogs on the hunt for over an hour, very exciting, bruised butts and hips after – lots of laughter, and we did not see them take anything down, but the thrill was something else.
Conservation, Community, and Sustainability
7. Were There Impactful Initiatives at The Camps That Impressed You?
Duma Tau, Vumbura Plains, and Jao Camp all fall under the Wilderness Safaris umbrella. Wilderness is a non-profit travel organisation, and their entire modus operandi is the upliftment of communities, protection of wilderness areas and, of course, the wildlife.
You’ll see that all the camps are community drivers, and the concessions are all owned by local tribes who benefit from it. ALL staff are from Botswana, bar a few from South Africa, usually in management positions, with the purpose of training up local managers. ALL the staff come from the local communities and are uplifted by the lodges.
There are fewer bums on seats, which aids higher incomes for the staff and lessens the footprint in the area – it’s ALL about conservation.
8. Are There Any Anecdotes from Your Trip You’d Like to Share?
Not that I can think of – a safari in Botswana is an all-encompassing and meditative experience, it’s very wild and very untouched, and it changes you from within. If you don’t have a “burst into tears” moment in Botswana, then that would be unusual. It can be so overwhelming that it can bring you to tears – but for me personally, any safari can do this.
Experience a Botswana Safari for Yourself
Ready to explore the wild, wild wonders of Botswana? Reach out to our Travel Experts, and let’s start planning!