Few would argue there is nowhere better on earth to go on safari than in the legendary Okavango Delta in Botswana.
The closest thing to an Eden left on earth, the Okavango Delta, sits at the heart of Southern Africa, and it is one of the most significant inland deltas in the world. In a time when wetlands are shrinking into obscurity, the Okavango still holds its place at the top as one of the most unique and magical places to travel to.
As rain waters trickle down through Africa over several months, from the highlands of Angola into Botswana towards the Kalahari desert, it breathes life into the Okavango Delta. The world’s most renowned wetland, the Okavango Delta, is unquestionably one of the greatest places on earth to go on safari.
Whether you’re falling asleep in a canvas safari tent listening to unfamiliar birdsong or spending hours bumping along in a safari truck tracking lions on the hunt, the Okavango Delta is an exclusive and extraordinary place on earth.
Nothing beats going on a safari holiday here in Botswana, and you’re guaranteed to have a lifechanging experience here. There’s no doubt about it, planning a safari in the Okavango Delta can be intimidating – where do you even start? How do you begin to prepare, and more importantly, how do you stay safe?
Here are my best tips for going on safari in Botswana, with everything you need to know to enjoy your African dream holiday.
1. Where to go
Spoiler alert – a safari in Botswana is expensive, and for a good reason. They try to limit the number of people visiting to protect the delta, which makes the prices a lot higher than what you might expect.
Luckily for you, going on safari is probably one of the most organized holidays you can ever indulge in. While you can certainly do it on your own, like self-driving, most people decide to choose a safari lodge or camp, which often sits in a private national park, and includes their own personal game drives.
Think of it as an all-inclusive experience, usually meals, accommodation, and game drives are included. Be prepared to drop thousands.
The gateway into the Okavango Delta is Maun, where you can fly into from various cities in Africa and Botswana. It’s also where a lot of the small chartered flights to the safari lodges in the delta depart from.
The lodges of the Eastern Delta, Inner Delta, and Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana are some of the most luxurious spots you can choose for safari. I ended up staying at Tubu Tree Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve, which is run by Wilderness Safaris, one of the premier safari providers in Africa. Often people will choose to stay at a few different camps while on holiday to take it all in, flying in between them over a week or two.
Do your research into the camps to see what kinds of activities are available along with what type of wildlife to expect. For example, you will likely see a whole heap of elephants here, but no rhino.
2.When to go
Before going on safari in Botswana, it’s essential to check out the seasons. In the Okavango Delta, high season (with matching price tags) runs from July to October, while the low season is from November to June.
Because the Okavango Delta is a wetland, the floodwaters from Africa begin to arrive in the main channels around May, and with it bring migratory herds of elephants, hippos, crocs, all kinds of fish and many more animals.
Your safari experience in Botswana likely will vary wildly from the wet and the dry season.
During the wet season, the delta turns into an island of channels where many of the safaris operate from a mokoro (wooden canoes) on the water. Between July and September, hundreds of thousands of animals migrate to this Eden.
For example, if you visit the delta during the dry season, you likely won’t be on safari by mokoro, a unique and quintessentially Okavango experience, so take that into account when booking dates.
In May and June, when the floodwaters arrive, the grasses are the tallest, making it harder to view wildlife.
Prepping for safari is pretty straightforward. In an ideal world, plan to be there for two weeks, spending at least three nights at different safari camps in different areas; that way, you can see almost everything. Generally, you’ll go on an early morning game drive and a late afternoon game drive each day when the animals are most active (a nap midday is recommended).
3. Be prepared
Botswana is likely one of the easiest and safest places to visit in Africa, especially on safari. For a first time visitor to the African continent, it’s a fantastic place to start.
First things first, buy travel insurance. Often it’s required with adventure companies anyways, and in a place where you are up close and very personal with a lot of wildlife, it’d be dumb not too. As someone who is a magnet for misadventures and why-me moments, travel insurance is non-negotiable.
You guys know I buy an annual policy every year with Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI), my now go-to provider for all things insurance-related on all my travels around the world. They also offer individual policies for trips too, which are really affordable.
Also, make sure you’re up to date on your travel vaccinations, especially Hep A, Hep B and Typhus.
The Okavango Delta lies in a malaria zone, which is at its riskiest in the wet season. Preventative malaria medication also isn’t fun. It can cost a fortune and comes with psychedelic dreams, but it’s worth it!
Whenever I go off the grid in places like Botswana on safari, I make sure to bring a kit in case I get ill, especially of the stomach variety. Nothing can ruin a trip more.
4. What to pack
Packing for safari can be a pain. Often the charter flights to the lodges are super strict about weight and baggage. They also usually require you to travel with a soft duffel bag too.
During the high peak season in the Okavango Delta, temperatures are mild, ranging from 20°C to 30°C, which is lovely. The rest of the year is usually hotter and with more humidity. When I was there, it was extraordinarily hot and dry, making light clothing essential.
The stereotype of khaki-colored clothing is mostly a thing of the past. However, there are plenty of safari-goers that are my parent’s age who love to rock zip-off trousers and hideous vests. I ended up wearing the same light green flowy dress on safari. It covered me where needed but was super airy and lightweight, keeping me fresh.
I also tended to cover up at dawn and dusk to avoid bug bites, as I am a magnet for mozzies.
The key is comfort and layers.
5. Photography tips
The vast majority of my shots from Africa are shot on a telephoto zoom lens.
On this trip, I decided to travel light and fast with my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera. Before heading back to Africa, I knew I wanted to bring a big and proper telephoto lens to shoot wildlife. After seeing all of my good friend Lauren Bath’s amazing animal shots from Zimbabwe, where she runs photo tours, I was ready.
Using the lighter Olympus OM-D system this year, I knew I had to get my hands on their 300mm telephoto for Africa (the equivalent of a 600mm focal length). A manageable lens and weight, I was able to capture photos of the most amazing creatures in Botswana without being bogged down by cumbersome gear.
I would recommend investing or renting a telephoto lens (with a focal length above 200) if you’re a keen photographer heading on safari.
Also, make sure to bring a couple of extra batteries and memory cards. Don’t forget extra hard drives or chargers for your camera gear too.
The last thing you want is a dead battery or a full memory card in the middle of a game drive.
But also remember that the best memories aren’t photographs, rather the experiences. Be sure to sit back and enjoy what you’re witnessing too.
6. Anything can happen, be flexible
Travel is nothing if not unpredictable. You can plan and plan and plan some more, but things can always change or go wrong. It’s essential to be flexible and be prepared for changes, especially on a safari holiday in Botswana.
This is another main reason I’ve learned to invest in travel insurance with SCTI.
From canceled flights and unexpected illness to losing your passport and breaking gear, travel is messy and complicated, even for the most organized of souls, of which I am not.
For example, while I thought we would be in the peak season of travel in Botswana, Southern Africa was experiencing one of the worst droughts in years. Most of the floodplains and waterways that would have been filled with life-giving water were high and dry.
This meant that we could only safari by vehicle. The ordinarily lush green landscape had shifted hues towards brown and gold.
Instead of paddling by islands, we were following temporary dusty roads, an experience I know many weren’t expecting. That being said, Mother Nature is always the boss, and my experience in the delta was extraordinary, and I would return in a heartbeat.
Is going on safari in Botswana on your travel bucket list? Do you dream of visiting the Okavango Delta too? Have any tips to add? Spill!
Buy an SCTI TravelCare policy before 29 February 2020 and you’ll go in the draw for a chance to win $5,000 to go in your travel pocket! T&Cs apply.