4x4 safari vehicle driving on a dirt road in the African bush

How to Get Around in Botswana: Tips for 4WD Safaris and Canoe Tours

Discovering the expansive and untamed wilderness of Botswana is a dream for many adventurers. To truly experience all that this remarkable country has to offer, you’ll need to navigate its diverse landscapes and wildlife-rich areas. Whether you prefer the thrill of a 4WD safari, the tranquility of a canoe tour, or the convenience of a charter flight, there are several ways to get around Botswana. From self-driving through national parks to joining a mobile safari or exploring the waterways by boat, each option offers a unique perspective and an unforgettable adventure. So, buckle up and prepare to immerse yourself in the wonders of Botswana.

How to Get Around in Botswana: Tips for 4WD Safaris and Canoe Tours

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A mobile safari will get you up close to wild nature

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the wonders of the wilderness without the hassle of driving yourself, a mobile safari in Botswana is the perfect choice. Joining a small group 4WD tour allows you to set up camp in different bush locations, dine under the stars, and leave no trace behind. These tours typically include a driver-guide and cook, entrance and camping fees, meals, and activities. The price of the safari depends on the level of luxury you desire, as there is no limit to the opulence available in Botswana.

For budget-conscious travelers who don’t mind being hands-on, a participation safari is a great option. You’ll have the opportunity to pitch in and help with meal preparation, dishwashing, and camp setup and breakdown. Accommodations usually consist of a shared two-person tent, a bush toilet, and a bucket shower. Keep in mind that participation safaris often have shorter stays at each campsite to allow for more time on the road.

If you prefer a more luxurious experience, consider upgrading to a fully serviced mobile safari. With this option, everything is taken care of for you. Your tent will be set up with comfortable beds and an ensuite bathroom, allowing for a more convenient and relaxing stay. You’ll have the opportunity to spend two or three nights at each campsite, giving you ample time to soak in the natural beauty of your surroundings. Despite the added comfort and convenience, a fully serviced mobile safari is still a fraction of the cost of staying at an upscale lodge.

For those who prefer larger group tours that are more budget-friendly, overland trucks are a popular choice. These trucks allow you to stay at a mix of campsites and lodges, providing a well-rounded safari experience. If you’re short on time or budget, you can also opt for a half- or full-day game drive from major towns like Kasane or Maun.

Self-driving can be a great way to explore

If you’re confident behind the wheel and up for an adventure, a self-drive safari in Botswana allows you to explore at your own pace. You’ll have the freedom to navigate the vast and diverse landscapes of the country, creating a truly personalized itinerary. However, it’s important to note that self-driving in Botswana requires careful planning and preparation.

Renting a 4WD camper equipped with folding rooftop tents and fully fitted kitchens is a popular choice for self-drivers. While wild camping is illegal, rental companies like Drive Botswana can help tailor your itinerary, handle campsite reservations, and arrange national park permits for you. It’s crucial to plan your route in advance, especially during peak season from June to September when campsites and park permits can quickly fill up. Make sure to inform a trusted contact about your travel plans and consider downloading an offline map like Tracks4Africa in case of limited phone signal.

When embarking on a self-drive safari, it’s important to be well-prepared. Botswana’s remote and rugged terrain can be challenging, so ensure you have spare tires, a jack, sand ladders, and a tow rope on hand. Familiarize yourself with the necessary safety protocols and know-how to stay safe in any situation. Major towns like Kasane and Maun are ideal for stocking up on supplies such as drinking water, food, and fuel.

How to Get Around in Botswana: Tips for 4WD Safaris and Canoe Tours

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Let the plane take the strain

Given the vast distances in Botswana, taking a charter flight is often the most convenient way to reach remote lodges and camps. Charter flights are typically arranged by tour companies and operate on small aircraft like nine- and 12-seater Cessnas. These flights offer a unique experience as you touch down in the middle of nowhere, with wildlife often crossing the runway and a wooden bench under a shady tree serving as the arrivals terminal.

Air Botswana operates scheduled flights from Maun to destinations like Kasane for Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls, Gaborone, and Johannesburg in neighboring South Africa. These flights provide a comfortable and efficient means of transportation to various regions of Botswana.

Get a different view of wildlife from the water

For an enchanting perspective of Botswana’s wildlife and landscapes, consider exploring the waterways. A trip in a traditional dugout canoe known as a mokoro is a must for a closer encounter with the Okavango Delta. Glide across the water with the only sounds being the gentle splash of the pole and the rustling of reeds. Keep an eye out for vibrant malachite kingfishers and majestic fish eagles.

A boat safari on the Chobe River is another exceptional experience, especially during sunset when the water transforms into liquid gold. As you cruise along, you might spot elephants using their trunks as snorkels, herds of gruff-looking Cape buffalo, and impressive Nile crocodiles basking on the riverbanks.

For a more immersive water-based adventure, consider a houseboat trip exploring the upper Okavango Delta. These trips typically depart from the panhandle region and are ideal for group travel. You’ll have the opportunity to spot hippos, crocodiles, and engage in activities like birdwatching and visiting Tsodilo Hills.

How to Get Around in Botswana: Tips for 4WD Safaris and Canoe Tours

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Saddle up for a low-carbon horseback safari

For a truly eco-friendly and intimate safari experience, horseback riding is an excellent option. Experienced riders can venture through Botswana’s diverse landscapes, from arid deserts to delta wetlands, getting up close to wildlife without the noise of an engine. Imagine cantering alongside long-lashed giraffes, herds of zebras, and skittish wildebeests on an unforgettable adventure.

There are various horseback safari options available, including multi-day adventures in the Tuli Block or shorter afternoon rides starting from Maun. This unique mode of transportation allows you to explore areas that may be inaccessible by 4WD, offering a different perspective on Botswana’s natural wonders.

Use the bus to travel between towns and cities

Buses provide an affordable means of transportation between major towns and cities in Botswana, allowing you to interact with locals and experience the country’s everyday life. However, it’s important to note that bus journeys can be long, noisy, and uncomfortable. It’s also worth mentioning that buses do not reach remote areas.

Seabelo is a reliable long-distance bus company offering regular services from Kasane, Maun, and Gaborone. Compared to minibuses known as combis, Seabelo’s buses are more likely to stick to a timetable, offer faster travel times, and make fewer stops. Utilizing the bus network can be a cost-effective and interesting way to explore the urban hubs of Botswana.

How to Get Around in Botswana: Tips for 4WD Safaris and Canoe Tours

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Accessible travel in Botswana

Botswana is committed to providing accessible travel options for individuals with limited mobility, hearing impairments, and vision impairments. Specially modified vehicles are available for transfers, game drives, river cruise boats, and mokoro trips, some of which are equipped with hydraulic lifts and wheelchair tie-down systems. Endeavour Safaris specializes in accessible safaris and can provide tailored itineraries and recommendations for suitable accommodations.

Travelers with disabilities can rest assured that Botswana is striving to make its natural wonders and wildlife accessible to all, ensuring that everyone can experience the country’s unparalleled beauty.

Arrange accessible travel options

When planning your trip to Botswana, it’s essential to consider your specific accessibility needs and arrange appropriate travel options accordingly. Reach out to tour operators or specialized agencies to discuss your requirements and ensure a smooth and comfortable journey. With proper planning, you can explore Botswana’s remarkable landscapes and wildlife without limitations.

By choosing the mode of transportation that best suits your preferences and needs, you can make the most of your time in Botswana and create unforgettable memories of its stunning natural wonders. Whether you opt for a mobile safari, self-drive adventure, boat excursion, horseback safari, or bus travel, each option offers a unique way to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife.