When asked, Botswana is always top on my list of favorite destinations. It has been over six years since I went on safari in this southern African country, and I still consider it one of my favorite places to explore. I could gush on and on with memories galore from Botswana, but for your sake I’ve narrowed it down to five specific reasons why this country stands out. Here are my five reasons why Botswana hosts top safaris.
1.) Landing in Isolated Beauty
The second you squat into the tiny charter plane you are immersed in the remoteness of Botswana. With likely only enough seats for you and three other passengers your body is jetted away from anything routine or expected. Flying into the remote camps of the Okavango Delta requires you to leave behind your daily pace and routine of life. Here Mother Nature takes center stage, and you are merely a visitor. Even compared to other safari experiences, Botswana’s remoteness is unrivaled. My appreciation for this came when our tiny plane bounced onto the grassy runway, and instead of a vehicle waiting for us, we loaded our bags onto an aluminum boat. We still had another 45 minutes of cruising the delta’s water channels before we would arrive at our camp. Botswana’s isolated beauty grasped my attention from that moment on.
2.) Your Own Private Luxury
How the camps in Botswana manage to build luxury in the middle of the vast wilderness will always be a mystery to me! By some magical feat they have mastered the balance of complimenting nature while never overpowering it. My stay in Botswana was split between two different camps: Xugana Island Lodge and Camp Moremi. Both in the far north of the country, Xugana is hidden within the expanse of the Okavango Delta and Moremi situated just outside the saturated ecosystem. What set these two camps apart from other African concessions was the private nature of their design. Often, I would find myself on a near empty jeep being asked by the guide if I preferred to stay watching the giraffes or if I was ready to continue exploring. Of course, this level of customization can be found throughout Africa, but for a high price. In other countries you might have the jeep all to yourself, but you are surrounded by other tourists. What makes Botswana stand out, is often times you are the only party mesmerized by the animals in front of you. Unlike the jeep-jams at wildlife sightings in places like Kruger or Serengeti, Botswana is truly isolated. There were numerous occasions where the rapid click of my camera was the only noise while we watched the nature around us. This level of private luxury is nearly impossible to find on other safaris.
3.) Best Seen from the Water
Often people will incorrectly assume that all safaris are from a jeep bouncing along the dirt roads of the bush. But in the case of Botswana there are numerous ways to encounter the wilderness. For example, I was treated to canoeing, bush walks, game drives, and boating excursions. Each was completely different from the others, and offered a unique perspective of the landscape. Two of the most memorable were getting to walk the bush and gliding through it from a canoe. Of course, it is difficult to forget getting charged by an elephant while on foot. For the full hair-raising story read, Skip the Safari Jeep: Discover Wildlife on Foot. Heart racing encounters aside, there was something oddly enchanting about the canoes, locally known as mokoros. Unlike the canoeing I did while growing up in Minnesota, we were propelled by the help of a guide. Standing at the rear of the mokoro our guide moved us forward through the reeds with a long pole. If you’re picturing the Italian channels of Venice, then you are on the right track. It felt much like our own private gondola ride through the flat waters of the delta. A one-of-a-kind experience, and the perfect reminder that Botswana is a country best seen from the water. Where else can you glide in a canoe past the towering presence of elephants eating trunkfuls of grass nearby. If you are looking for a different take on a traditional safari experience, then Botswana offers the perfect balance between the exceptional and completely unexpected!
4.) Humbling Perspectives of Wildlife
Northern Botswana is blessed with a diversity of wildlife that much of Africa cannot sustain. The nutrient rich delta ecosystem can support a high number of animal species, while playing host to their unique and fascinating behaviors. Cruising the delta channels gives safari goers a new perspective on animals they feel like they have already encountered. For example floating by the world’s largest land animal slushing through water up past his belly is incomparable. To fully soak in that humbling encounter read my Travel Journal entry from encountering that elephant. Another candid wildlife experience I had involved one of Africa’s most formidable residents, the hippopotamus. Sharing space with any wild animal is awe-inspiring, but being in the presence of hippos is far more than inspiring, its hair-raising. Of course, our guides ensured that our motor-powered craft was a safe distance from any floating hippos. But anytime our boat entered an occupied lagoon, the entire group of two-ton beasts would be fixated on our every move. If provoked a hippopotamus can easily capsize a boat much larger than themselves. I’ve never had more respect for a large herbivore than when I was a guest in hippo territory. Thankfully, the distance we kept between us and them was sufficient in ensuring everyone was comfortable- mainly for the hippos’ sake. And though I never felt like I was in immediate danger, the hairs on the back of my neck reminded me of the power of Mother Nature.
5.) The World’s Best Sunsets
Safari guides are some of the most skilled sunset chasers you will ever meet. They are meticulous at finding that perfect spot to park, pour a “sun-downer” to sip, and enjoy the last golden views before dusk. What makes Botswana’s sunsets stand superior from the rest, is their endless reflections hitting the delta water. When the fiery African sunset doubles within the reflection, that’s where Botswana takes the cake. Each day was sealed with a golden kiss of light washing over the delta. My eyes have still yet to be treated to an array of colors as magical as a Botswana sunset. They are just too sensational to describe, and no picture can truly provide the proof to close this case. Instead a chance to see for yourself is essential to become fully engulfed by the wonder of these magical sunsets.
Even with six years between myself and these memories of Botswana, I fondly remember back to why I love this place as much as I do. Someday soon I will squat my way onto an itty-bitty plane that takes me to a place where Mother Nature takes center stage and I remain a humble visitor- in beautiful Botswana!