One of the most popular safari destinations in Africa, Botswana is an enormous, sparsely populated country with vast areas of protected wilderness, a rich variety of wildlife, and an ancient history and culture. There are numerous things to see and do in Botswana, from the classic safari experience to exploring lesser-known areas, such as giant salt pans and remote lakes surrounded by hundreds of bird species. As a helpful starting point, we’ve suggested where to go in Botswana, along with some of the top things to do in Botswana.
Experience real isolation in the vast Makgadikgadi Pans
Botswana’s huge salt pans were once submerged by a lake the size of Switzerland. Today, the Makgadikgadi is home to a few remote camps, providing an often much-needed escape from modern life, a sense of solitude and the chance to discover a real wilderness. It’s one of the few places where you can truly feel cut off from the world and experience the ‘sound’ of absolute silence. A visit here is one of the most amazing things to do in Botswana, though not the first thing many will consider. Take a quad bike out over the pans or go for a walk with the San Bushmen. And there’s no shortage of wildlife either: you might spot elephants, lions, wildebeest and zebra herds, brown hyenas, meerkats and even cheetahs and leopards.
Mokoro through the Okavango Delta
A mokoro – a traditional dug-out canoe – is a popular way to explore one of the most famous tourist attractions in Botswana, the Okavango Delta – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A relaxing mokoro journey through the waterways of the delta will allow you to see the smaller things you’d miss on a game drive: tiny reed frogs, fluttering butterflies, little, brightly coloured birds and pretty water lilies. The only sounds are those of the canoe being pushed through the water, and the lack of noise makes it much easier to spot birdlife that might be startled by the loud engine of a safari vehicle. From a safe distance, you might spot elephants splashing or hippos cooling off in the shallows.
Meet the elephants of Chobe
Chobe National Park is home to over 120,000 elephants, making it one of the top places on the planet to see these huge mammals in their natural environment. They are best viewed in the cooler, winter months between May and September. You can self-drive in Chobe, which makes it a great park to visit for those on a road trip or on a budget, and you can also easily do a daytrip from Zimbabwe or Zambia. Go on a sundowner river cruise for the best photo opportunities of ellies against the dramatic African sunset.
Walk with the Bushmen
The San Bushmen are the oldest people of Southern Africa, having lived here for at least 20,000 years. As such, they’ve accumulated an enormous amount of knowledge about this land, which is passed down to each generation. Their lifestyle is changing, but they still hold onto their ancestral knowledge and customs. In various places throughout the Kalahari, you can join the Bushmen for an early morning walk. They’ll reveal to you a few of the secrets of their land, such as which plant’s roots can provide water, which branches make the best arrows and how to track animals.
Find the buffalo-hunting lions
Botswana’s lions are fierce and well-practised at hunting the most dangerous of prey, the buffalo. Buffalos are very difficult to take down and require a team of experienced lionesses working together. The Okavango Delta is one of the easiest places to see this behaviour, which is fascinating, but also gory; those of a sensitive disposition may prefer to stay at the camp. Often, once a buffalo has been successfully pinned down, it still takes 30 minutes or so to die – and as soon as it does, the male lions appear and the hard-working females have to back off, waiting their turn to feed.
Discover ancient rock art
Evidence of cultures and tribes from thousands of years ago, examples of rock art are found all over the African continent. But Botswana has one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. The Tsodilo Hills are located in the far north-west of the country and UNESCO estimates there to be over 4,500 pieces of art in just a 10-square-kilometre area. The rock art is thought to date from the Stone Age (which began around 3.4 million years ago) to the 19th century, depicting ritual dances, hunting and wildlife. For history buffs, this sacred place is one of the must-see tourist attractions in Botswana.
Sleep under the stars
As a country the size of France, but with only two million inhabitants, one of the best things to see in Botswana is the night sky unaffected by light pollution. Many camps offer sleepouts on a platform with a guide nearby for safety. Falling asleep under the stars is an incredibly romantic experience to add to a honeymoon or trip with your partner. For those who don’t fancy a night out in the open, ask your guide to drive you away from the lights of your lodge to spend some time admiring the stars in their full glory.
It might not be the first thing you think of when planning a safari, but one of the healthiest things to do in Botswana is to switch off. The best thing is that you’ll be largely forced into it anyway, as Botswana’s safari destinations are in such remote areas and a lot of camps and lodges (sometimes deliberately) don’t have Wi-Fi. Use it as an excuse to fully detach yourself from your device, put your ‘out of office’ on and break the cycle of endless scrolling. You’ll feel a lot better for it and, with no distractions, you’ll really get the most out of the safari experience.
Go birding at Lake Ngami
This lake is home to a rich variety of birds – some common, some endangered – including greater and lesser flamingo, African darter, lesser kestrel, Hartlaub’s babbler and Kalahari robin. Aside from the birding opportunities, the lake is one of the most interesting things to see in Botswana because of its regular disappearing act. It vanished shortly after David Livingstone visited it in 1849 and then refilled at the end of the 19th century. Even when it’s dry, there is plenty of birdlife around – but when full, it’s a birder’s dream.
Explore the world of the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Author Alexander McCall Smith increased Botswana’s international prominence with his popular series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which is based in the capital Gaborone. Fans of the books and televised series can explore the city and visit the real-life home of Precious Ramotswe on Zebra Drive, her office, located opposite Speedy Motors, and even head out of the city to visit her family home in Machudi.
Inspired to find out more about the tourist attractions in Botswana, what to do in Botswana and what to see in Botswana? Check out some of the Botswana itineraries on SafariBookings.com.