Botswana Safari Travel Tips
WILDLIFE VIEWING TIPS
Some of the best game viewing in all of Africa, can be found in Botswana. In order to view the greatest amount and variety of wildlife, we provide highly skilled and knowledgeable guides that will tell you about their country, tribal cultures and wildlife behavior. They will also amaze you with their ability to spot animals that you will have trouble seeing with your binoculars. If you are patient and observe the interaction of the animals rather than rushing to check off the next animal on your list, you will have an extraordinary wildlife experience.
Accommodations on safari are usually in small permanent tented camps, most of which are set in private wildlife concessions. There are also seasonal camps set up in some areas, along with mobile tented camping. Permanent tented camps have complete bathroom amenities. Seasonal and Mobile camps, can have either private en-suite facilities or shared bathroom and shower tents. Unless you are in a major city, there will be no TV’s or phones with outside lines. Cell phones are usually out of range in the bush. Electric lights are usually provided and run on solar power or generators.
FOOD ON SAFARI
The food on safari is delicious and ranges from simple to gourmet. You can expect lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and wonderful homemade soups. Chicken, lamb, beef or pork are usually served at lunch and dinner as well fish and vegetarian dishes. Breakfast is buffet with lots of tropical fruits, hot and cold cereals, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, breads and pastries and eggs to order. Lunch can be either buffet or served at the table and always starts with soup. Dinner is usually a 4 or 5 course sit-down affair, although there is no need to dress up.
THE BEST TIME TO GO
The best time to visit Botswana is from April through mid November. This is during the dry season, and the animals tend to gather along the winding waterways of the Okavango Delta and near rivers and water holes in the dryer areas. Temperatures are fairly moderate during this time. The rainy season is from mid-November through March. During this time of year millions of migratory birds descend on the water filled pans and swamps so it is a great time for bird watching and for the dryer areas such at the Kalahari Desert or the pans of the Makgadikgadi. The wildlife viewing is good to, but the animals tend to be harder to spot because of the tall grasses.
BOTTLED AND ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
Wine, beer, liqours, bottled water, sodas and alcoholic beverages are available at all camps and lodges and are usually included in the trip price.
CLOTHING ON SAFARI
Comfortable, casual clothing that is lightweight and easy to care for is the best bet while on safari. It can be quite cool in the early mornings, so you’ll want to dress warmly in layers, until the sun has a chance to warm up the air. “Botswana Convertibles”, khaki pants with zip-off legs, are perfect for cool early morning game drives that turn warm before you’re back in camp. Walking shorts, long pants, cotton shirts and tees are just right. For ladies, shorts are not generally accepted on streets in Africa. A cotton bush jacket or wind-breaker will be useful along with a warm sweater or fleece jacket for the cool nights. And, a hat that ties on is a must. There is not a good deal of long walking or hiking on most safaris, so a comfortable pair of walking shoes or tennis shoes and a pair of sandals should be adequate. You will need thorn-proof soles.
Generally there are no places to jog and there will not be much time for exercise, although we do try to include some walking where it is safe and legal. It is possible to do some walking and exercising within the lodge or camp grounds but because the wildlife is “wild” it is not safe to venture away from the grounds. Also, walking in not allowed in the national parks without permission and is usually escorted by an armed guard.
MONEY AND CASH
The local currency in Botswana is the Pula. Major credit cards are accepted at hotels and some safari camps “in the bush”. However – don’t even think about finding an ATM machine! US dollars, Euros and South African Rand, are readily accepted. Travelers Checks can be cashed at Banks and some Hotels but small denominations are recommended.
HEALTH REQUIREMENTS AND MALARIA
HEALTH: Food and sanitary conditions while on safari are of the highest standard, however some precautions are recommended. Currently a yellow fever vaccine is the only vaccine required to enter Botswana. Malaria, while endemic, is not usually found at the higher altitudes of Botswana, but is more prevalent on the coast and in the south. Remember to bring supplies of prescription medicines, spare glasses, contact lenses and sunscreen.
MALARIA: Malaria is transmitted by some female Anopheles mosquitoes, which are active in the early evening and throughout the night. Malaria is not a serious problem if people are sensible and take basic precautions from being bitten by using mosquito repellents and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants in the evenings. Safari camps and lodges at not located in any densely populated areas, and many are at high altitude. This greatly reduces the risk of becoming infected. Consult your physician, for recommended malaria prophylactics.
In the United States, the drug Larium used to be the most commonly prescribed malarial prophylactic, but it has unfortunate side effects for some people. It should not be taken by anyone with a heart problem or high blood pressure. It should not be used during pregnancy or lactation and it should not be used by people with tendencies towards depression. On July 14, 2000 the FDA approved a new malarial prophylactic called MALARONE. Although it has to be taken daily, it is said to have few side-affects.
If you don’t like to bargain, there are many nice shops and galleries in the main cities that carry nice crafts, including basketry, batiks, beadwork, masks and woodcarvings. Gift shops in hotels, safari lodges and some camps are also excellent places to buy quality souvenirs. If you like to bargain, you may want explore the local markets. However – do not ship goods home! Shipping rates are not guaranteed and can be exorbitant. Plan to carry your purchases home or pay the surcharge from the airline.
To keep from getting dehydrated, you will need to drink plenty of fluids. Liter’s of bottled water are supplied daily in your room or tent and also in the vehicles for game-drives.
CHILDREN ON SAFARI
Children are welcome in most safari camps, however they often will require that you use a private vehicle (sometimes at an additional cost) if for those under 12 years old. Many camps also have separated family accommodations that may be required for you to use. There are also several camps that specialize in families.
TIPPING AND GRATUITIES
As a custom, tipping is not compulsory, but is usually expected as a sign of appreciation of good service in lodges, bars and restaurants and tented camps. Safari guides depend on tipping for a large part of their income, so be sure to bring extra cash for tipping your guide at the end of your safari. You will receive tipping guidelines prior to your departure.
Most of the remote safari camps rely on solar power, or have limited use of generators. This provides enough electricity to recharge cameras, but is not powerful enough for hair dryers. In larger lodges and hotels they use 220V with South African, or UK standard plugs. You can also bring an Inverter, that plugs into the cigarette lighter of the safari vehicle.
TRAVELING ON YOUR OWN
Botswana is a vast and wild country with a regulated tourism industry. Unlike some areas of South America, South Africa and other wild places, tourists can not go it alone, as a 4×4 vehicle is usually needed, along with park permits, camp permits, lodging reservations, and dangers from wild animals.