Exploring Botswana's wildlife by air, land and water

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Sunset inside Moremi Wildlife Reserve, on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Sunset inside Moremi Wildlife Reserve, on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Wild Africa at its best, Botswana is seen by many travelers around the world as the ultimate wildlife destination with vast stretches of wilderness and prolific wildlife.

A full 38% of the total land area is devoted to national parks, reserves and wildlife management areas for the most part unfenced, enabling animals to roam free. This gives traveling through many parts of the country the feeling of moving through an immense nature wonderland.

To give travelers an experience they'll never forget and to enable them to take in the beauty of the country's wildlife, Botswana has created some unusual ways to explore Africa's wildlife.

Glide through the wetlands in a mokoro: Probably one of the most popular ways to explore the Okavango Delta and its wildlife, apart from the classic game drive, is by mokoro ride. Mokoros are motorized canoes that glide silently through the maze-like channels and lagoons of the delta.

The silence of the boats ensures that travelers can view the most amazing wildlife spectacles up close. Travelers will be able to see many animals that feed on the grass and reeds on the palm islands, including lechwes, sitatungas, elephants, hippos and crocodiles.

Explore the flood plains on foot: The islands and flood plains of the Okavango Delta also provide an excellent environment for walking safaris. Travelers will to get a much fuller experience of the delta, closer to the natural world. Most water-based camps in the Okavango Delta offer walking safaris as an activity.

Discover Botswana's hidden gems on horseback: Horseback safaris are another wonderful way to see the wildlife of the Okavango as it takes travelers to those places where traditional safari vehicles simply can't reach. The annual flooding of the area leaves vast swaths of the Delta inaccessible to vehicles, making horses the most natural and exciting means to explore.

Travelers can expect their horses to gallop alongside herds of zebras or lechwes as well as to quietly stalk bigger game such as buffaloes and elephants. The wildlife in the area will not perceive travelers as intruders, as they now form part of a four-legged animal. Some caution is necessary when riding in the delta, as the predators will also be less afraid of approaching you, and you will need to follow your guide's directions carefully.

One of the best places from where to experience horseback safaris is Macatoo Camp, where travelers are accommodated in luxury tents that blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings. Each tent is set on its own large, raised platform, offering panoramic views of a flood plain that can be enjoyed from the bed or deck.

Bike your way through Botswana's wilderness: Hot on the heels of riding safaris are mountain bike safaris. Travelers on their bikes will feel completely immersed into the bush, as at any time they can come upon Botswana's wildlife and predators.

The best mountain bike safaris in Botswana are offered in the Northern Tuli Reserve, where travelers will be able to ride along ancient elephant migration paths along the Cycle Mashatu Wilderness Trails. These four-day expeditions provide a unique opportunity to cycle through vast herds of wildlife and to sleep under starlit African skies.

Travelers will stay at the luxurious Mashatu Lodge or the more intimate Mashatu Tent Camp. The Mashatu Tent Camp is a great choice for the traveler who seeks the ultimate 1-on-1 bush experience and who prefers an intimate environment. Mashatu Lodge is more suited for the client who is accustomed to luxury: 14 luxury suites lie along the camp's perimeter and are designed to allow absolute privacy and a communion with the bush and its inhabitants.

Admire the beauty of the country's wildlife from the air: If active holidays isn't what clients are looking for, there's always the spectacle of the Okavango Delta from the air. Scenic helicopter flights are a wonderful way to see the myriad of water ways that form the Okavango Delta. To gaze down at the many animals below is a unique experience travelers are not likely to forget easily.

What travelers need to know:

How to get there: Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama Airport located 7 miles north of Gaborone, the capital. For tourists, it is more common to fly into Maun Airport and Kasana Airport . There are no direct flights to Botswana from the U.S., and most travelers will fly through Johannesburg, South Africa.

Entry requirements: U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Botswana. However, passports need to be valid for at least six months after arrival, and all foreign visitors must carry a return ticket. Children under 18 need to have a certified copy of their full, unabridged birth certificate as well as a valid passport. If a child is traveling with only one parent or without their parents, he or she must have an affidavit from the parent(s) giving their consent for the child to travel.

When to go: Moremi, Okavango and Chobe are most popular and offer year-round wildlife viewing. They are at their best during the dry season (from May to October) when wildlife is easier to spot.

Health issues: There is a high risk of Malaria in central and northern Botswana and low risk in the rest of the country. The highest risk of transition is in the rainy season from November to June.

Safety concerns: Botswana is a very safe, politically stable country. If you are traveling on an organized trip and staying at lodges and camps, safety problems are very rare. 

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