Botswana luxury travel guide


2 MINUTE SUMMARY

Botswana is dominated by the sprawling Kalahari sands, with luxury itineraries typically focusing on the lush north, where wildlife thrives beside the Chobe River and Okavango Delta. With migration routes protected by massive transfrontier parks, this region is home to more elephants than anywhere else in Africa, plus some of the highest concentrations of lion, giraffe, hippo, wildebeest and buffalo – and over 450 bird species.
This abundance of wildlife is a huge draw, and visitor numbers are strictly controlled, ensuring game viewing here is more personal than in some African safari destinations. This luxury is complemented by Botswana’s exceptional accommodation, with beautifully designed lodges and camps in cracking locations, often pioneering environmentally responsible practices. You can, of course, find this in some parks in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa, but in Botswana this complete luxury experience comes as standard, making a visit here the dream cocktail of authentic Africa with zero compromise on comfort.

Our Botswana luxury travel guide reveals more…

Best time to visit Botswana


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

From Nov-Mar, temperatures are more pleasant, with late afternoon rains refreshing the landscape and calming the heat. This is the time to see migratory birds and baby antelopes. The rainy skies don’t equate to water on the ground, though, with rainfall taking six months to filter through the sprawling Okavango Delta, so it’s not at its fullest until the driest months. Arid May-Jun can be extremely chilly, and the heat builds now until peaking in the high 30°Cs in October. This is the best time to see game, as it heads to the Delta to drink.

Why choose a luxury trip to Botswana?


Botswana offers a southern African experience with no compromise on comfort or style. This is the country that seasoned safari lovers graduate onto, after exploring East and South Africa. Beautiful lodges, bush camps and permanent tents are the last word in elegant accommodation, often in remote locations with extraordinary views and exceptional game viewing on the doorstep. In addition, Botswana’s decision to focus on high end tourism, keeping numbers and development low, means you can have the wildlife to yourself.
Botswana’s sheer size means flying is the best way to travel internally, unless you have lots of time and a good tolerance for dusty roads. Flights inflate vacation prices, of course, but they do mean a luxury itinerary can take in Botswana’s key reserves in a single week.

All this means that any travel here is expensive. Overland tours exist, often wild camping along the way, but that’s about the only way to nudge a visit to Botswana out of the luxury bracket. In many other safari destinations, it’s possible to actively choose between budget and luxury travel, but in Botswana it’s much harder to tailor a trip to your preferred price tag.

Luxury accommodation


Botswana elegantly caters for those with deep pockets. Even well developed Kenya struggles to compete with Botswana’s unique luxury-in-the-wilderness offer. Private reserves and superb, fly in safari lodges, particularly around Chobe National Park, are the last word in comfort, featuring rooms with air con plus treats such as a cocktail bar and health spa on site. You will also find luxury bush pavilions, with indoor and outdoor showers, and well equipped, en suite safari tents, tucked thoughtfully in the shade of acacia trees. You may find the odd copper bath on an outside deck, but on the whole, Botswana’s safari accommodation leans towards décor that is tasteful, with little of the all out – and, frankly, out of place – opulence found in some other African safari destinations.
All luxury accommodation offers the kind of comfort that is extremely welcome after days out on dusty, bumpy game drives. Think unlimited hot and cold water in en suite bathrooms, wonderful cuisine and solar powered electricity, with lovely staff who balance attentiveness with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. There are often services such as same day laundry available, too. In addition, all camps cater for really small numbers – typically a maximum of 10 rooms – and are located deep inside reserves in the more remote parts of the country, where the best wildlife viewing can be found, often directly from your private terrace.

Choice & freedom


Luxury trips offer the freedom to choose between a range of activities, so you can explore Botswana’s remarkable landscapes in more ways than one. There are game drives and walks, river cruises and peaceful tours of the waterways in a traditional mokoro dugout canoe. It’s even possible to take a nighttime game drive to see nocturnal creatures going about their business, all accompanied by experienced guides.
Any luxury vacation puts the guests’ preferences and interests first. It’s often possible to plan each day’s activities after you have arrived at the lodge or camp and chatted with the resident guides, who have expert knowledge of local wildlife movements. Of course, if you want some R&R alongside your wildlife spotting, you’re free to relax at your accommodation. Swim, pop to the spa, relax in the library or hit the gym. There may even be a choice of lodges offered within one area – in the Savuti marshes, or nearer to the Chobe River, for example.

Responsible tourism


Botswana’s careful approach to tourism aims to create significant, measurable benefits for local communities. In addition to the national parks and game reserves, much of northern Botswana is divided into vast concessions run and managed by safari operators, conservation trusts and community groups. Strict environmental standards are enforced by the government, creating a pristine safari environment. It means Botswana offers a unique wildlife experience in a carefully managed environment. That’s why it’s expensive; but that’s also why there’s no contradiction between luxury travel and responsible travel here. They are one and the same. It’s worth exploring the ethical credentials of any luxury vacation. Some trips include a donation to local community projects, while other are designed to bring funds to wildlife conservation efforts.
Find out where you’ll be staying and how each accommodation limits its impact on Botswana’s pristine landscape. Most luxury tours feature lodges inside private concessions, where guest numbers are strictly limited. Within these concessions, the game watching – and the ways to view it – combined with high quality accommodation make for a unique and exclusive experience. Most of these camps boast excellent environmental credentials. Some lodges and camps run on solar power, recycle grey water or use clever materials in the fabric of the building. Chobe Game Lodge, for instance, has a huge walkway made of what looks like wood, but is actually recycled timber-plastic decking. It’s maintenance free, removing the need to use harsh chemicals to clean it, that could leach into the nearby river.

Some luxury lodges are also breaking new ground when it comes to the mechanics of a safari, pioneering electric safari vehicles and boats that are not only responsible but silent, too. Or they may have an impeccable and forward thinking approach to staff welfare, from providing free doctor consultations, to employing all female guides. In the Delta, look out for fibreglass mokoros, too, which are a more sustainable alternative to the traditional wooden mokoro.
Award winning travel writer Emma Gregg explains more:“Don’t be disappointed if you book a trip in a mokoro – the Okavango Delta’s answer to the Oxbridge punt – and your craft turns out to be made of fibreglass instead of the more traditional hollowed out sausage tree wood. Tourism has created an unprecedented demand for mokoros, and as wooden ones only last five years, mature sausage trees are now rare. Fibreglass provides a viable alternative.”
Photo credits: [Topbox: Brian Lauer] [Temp: Wayne Wilner] [Why choose intro: John Hickey-Fry] [Accommodation: Walter Schärer] [RT: Walter Schärer] [RT emma: Martijn.Munneke]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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