Safari: What to know before you go
1st December 2018
The wildlife of Botswana is legendary, as is the beauty of the landscape it inhabits. If you are planning a trip to the watery wilds of the Okavango, or the unspoilt plains and rivers of Chobe National Park, the adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you! Before you pack your bags, read our tips and advice on what to expect and what to take with you. Botswana is an amazing place to explore but, with untamed nature all around, preparation is key!
You may be surprised to hear that many parts of Botswana can be startlingly cold at night even when the daytime temperatures are warm, so be sure to pack some layers. If you plan to stay under canvas this is especially important: sleep is often elusive if you are not prepared for chilly nights. Game drives are also most successful in the early hours before the sun gets hot, so bring a hat, too. It’s also worth noting that there is a lot of dust, sand and water in Botswana. Use a waterproof liner to protect the contents of your bag and keep any gadgetry from harm. A small cushion or travel pillow can also be useful for any longer journeys.
Think outside the 4x4
Botswana is a brilliant destination for unconventional safaris. Opportunities abound for guided safaris on foot, horseback or by boat. The traditional mokoro (local canoe) safari experience in the Okavango is a highlight for many, but the lifespan of the wooden boats is limited so you may find yours is a fibreglass copy. Don’t be disappointed, these last far longer and save many mature trees from being felled.
Although Botswana is economically strong in African terms, there is still a lot of poverty in the country. Prepare a selection of inexpensive gifts for the children you encounter. Pens, pencils, books, paper, tennis balls and frisbees are all well received and useful.
One of the great pleasures for many safari fans is photography. However, it is unwise (and unkind) to get too close to animals in their natural surroundings. Far better to invest in a decent zoom, or take high definition photos which you can crop later. Beware overestimating your battery life. Recharging is usually simple in permanent accommodation, but your camera will probably never have to work so hard, and the last thing you want is to run out of power for that amazing shot. Carry spares and recharge when you get the chance.
Although US dollars are welcomed by many tourist services such as hotels and tour companies, you will undoubtedly need some local currency - Pula - for smaller items and in remote areas. Banks are only present in the larger towns of Botswana, but you may find that fairly small or out of the way places now have an ATM. Credit cards are widely accepted for higher value purchases, Visa is the most useful type.
As a mark of gratitude for good service it is customary to tip drivers, guides, lodge staff and waiting staff. Ten percent is the usual benchmark, but for guides and drivers it will depend more on the size of your group and the service provided. Our expert local partners can give you further guidance on tipping when you are in situ.
Expect bumpy roads for any land travel, although most long distances in Botswana are covered by light aircraft. For this reason pack a soft sided bag and limit your luggage weight to around 15 kilos. Lodges are usually able to wash and dry your clothes so you can travel light and launder often.
There is so much to get excited about in Botswana, so why not begin to plan your dream trip? Our brilliant local experts will take the strain out of planning your itinerary, and they can tailor it to your specific requirements. Alternatively, If you'd like to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office then please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.