Botswana itineraries & maps
Make the most of your time
Botswana has some of Africa’s last remaining largest tracts of true wilderness, making for superb wildlife viewing as well as some exceptionally long drives. The Kalahari blankets around 70 percent of the country, so you will get your fair share of sand, savannah and scrubland. Save time by flying directly into Maun rather than Gaborone; or break up your journey by exploring some of the lesser known attractions – discovering bleak salt pans, fascinating cultures and spiritual sites along the way.
Here are three of our top Botswana itineraries, incorporating our favourite highlights. Click on the map points below for more information about each location.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The CKGR is the world’s second largest wildlife reserve. Fantastically remote, with seemingly endless stretches of grassland and sandy desert, the CKGR was originally established as a place for the San to practice their traditional lifestyle without intrusion. Tourism is still developing here and visitors are still few and far between, making it feel truly off the beaten track.
Chobe National Park
Chobe is Botswana’s first national park. It has one of the highest densities of wildlife in Africa, and is particularly renowned for its huge elephant herds - total numbers have been estimated up to 100,000. The Chobe River, Linyanti River and the Savuti Marsh comprise the main areas in the 11,700km2 park, and each offers its own unique ecosystem.
Gemsbok National Park
The classic southern Africa landscape, the Kalahari comprises savannah, scrub, pans and dunes, and an almost incomprehensible sense of space. This park, which spills over into South Africa, protects a section of this vast desert, and is inhabited by desert-adapted creatures that can live without water, including gemsbok (oryx), eland and the Kalahari lion.
Kasane is the access point for Chobe National Park, as well as being the leaping off point for Zambia, Namibia and Victoria Falls. There are many hotels here, which are generally more affordable than the lodges within the park, though this means many more tourists and vehicles, and less of the sense of wilderness that prevails elsewhere in Botswana.
Khama Rhino Sanctuary
This sanctuary has a successful rhino breeding programme, and to date has relocated 16 rhinos to the wild. There is accommodation for visitors, and activities include game drives, nature walks and rhino tracking; other species here include impala, jackal, ostrich and wildebeest. Khama also runs education programmes for local schoolchildren.
Khutse Game Reserve
Khutse means ‘place where you can kneel down and drink’, and following the rains, wildlife congregates around the replenished pans, though artificial waterholes attract animals year-round. The reserve is bordered by traditional Bakgalagadi and San villages; cultural tours can be organised and a number of stalls sell traditional crafts.
Once an island in the middle of a vast lake, Kubu, meaning ‘hippopotamus’, is now a crescent-shaped rock surrounded by a blinding white salt pan. The island is a sacred spot for local communities, but its magic can be sensed by all; huge, twisted baobabs crown the outcrop, while concentric dry stone walls and cairns hint at its ancient inhabitants.
This private reserve sits between the Linyanti and Chobe Rivers. This is one of Botswana’s most remote wildernesses, and away from the riverside, woodlands remain intact as fewer elephants stray this far from their migration route. The Linyanti depends on the temperamental Savuti Channel for water - when it dries up, so does the surrounding flora.
Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve
Once part of an immense African super lake, Makgadikgadi now consists of many large salt pans – the largest of which reaches 4,900 km2 – which are seasonally covered in water and grass. Wildebeest, zebra and flamingos congregate on the pans, and ancient baobab trees dot the surreal, salt desert.
The gateway to the Okavango is Botswana’s tourism capital - though it still has a rather frontier-town feel to it, helped by the local ranchers who come here to trade cattle. Maun is filled with charter airlines and safari companies, as well as craft workshops and markets. It’s well worth getting a culture fix here before your expedition into the Delta.
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi was Botswana’s first reserve to be established by local residents, who fought back against uncontrolled hunting and expanding cattle farms. A tapestry of islands, swamps, reeds and channels, Moremi is home to over 400 bird species along with the Big Five. Well-managed tourism means this rich ecosystem remains wonderfully unspoilt, providing a glimpse of the African wilderness at its best.
Nxai Pan National Park
This park, accessible only by 4x4, encompasses the northern section of the Mkgadikgadi Pans. The grass-covered pans are scattered with acacia trees and mopane woodland, and provide a haven for wildlife when they turn green during the rainy season.
Africa’s largest inland delta fans out over 15,000km² across the Kalahari, creating an immense oasis for wildlife. Get a hippo’s-eye-view of its fauna and flora in a dugout mokoro canoe, as you float past elephants, giraffes, warthogs, zebra and lions, or take a bushwalk with local community guides for an insider’s perspective.
The Savuti River channels water 100km across the Chobe National Park into the immense Savuti Marsh. Famed for its large predators, the rainy season floods also attract 450 species of birds, along with huge herds of zebra and wildebeest. The dead trees along the channel grew during dry periods - the channel can dry out for decades - and were drowned when the waters returned.
This rocky outcrop has always been a spiritual place for nearby tribes, and its aura can still be felt by modern visitors. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains around 4000 figurative and geometric paintings, and a walk with a local guide will reveal over 1000 years of history. Due to its remote location, Tsodilo can be requested as an add-on to standard itineraries.
16 day Kalahari adventure expedition
Gemsbok National Park ► Khutse Game Reserve ► Central Kalahari Game Reserve ► Mkgadikgadi Pan Game Reserve ► Kubu island
11 day Botswana highlights itinerary
Khama Rhino Sanctuary ► Mkgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve ► Nxai Pan National Park ► Maun ► Okavango Delta ► Moremi Game Reserve ► Chobe National Park ► Kasane
10 day migration itinerary
Maun ► Okavango Delta ► Moremi Game Reserve ► Savuti Marsh ► Linyanti Reserve ► Chobe National Park
If planning a vacation to Botswana, we recommend combining it with a trip to Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls, just over the border from Kasane. Many tour itineraries combine Botswana with at least one other destination, depending on whether you are looking for landscapes, wildlife, culture or adventure travel.
Driving times in Botswana
The following times give you a rough idea of the driving times between the main attractions in Botswana. Driving after dark is not recommended on most routes because of the risk of colliding with wildlife.
- Gaborone – Ghanzi: 7 hours
- Gaborone – Mkgadikgadi Pans: 7 hours
- Ghanzi – Maun: 4 hours
- Makgadikgadi Pans – Maun: 4 hours
- Makgadikgadi Pans – Chobe/Kasane: 4 hours