18 Best Things to Do in Botswana

Botswana is undoubtedly one of the most incredible wilderness areas on Earth. The south and east consist of the jaw-dropping Kalahari Desert and lunar-like pans at Nxai and Makgadikgadi. The north and west, on the other hand, comprise the dazzling water worlds of the Okavango Delta and Chobe River ecosystem.

This diversity in terrain lends itself to an array of activities to suit virtually anyone with an interest in the outdoors. Whether it’s your first trip to Botswana or your 10th, there is always something exciting to experience in one of Africa’s friendliest countries.

Deciding what to see and do in Botswana is no easy task – safari happens almost everywhere you look in this country! But we’ve been travelling the length and breadth of Africa and tailor-making Botswana safaris for thousands of travellers since 1998. To help you decide, we’ve nailed down our favourite things to do in Botswana:

1. Meet the San Bushmen

Synonymous with the Kalahari, the San are indigenous hunter-gatherer groups that are the first nations of Southern Africa. They conquered this challenging terrain about 20 000 years ago, honing their survival skills over generations. Today you can learn about everything from medicinal plants to folklore about how the eland got its long horns or how the world came into being.

Join the San on guided walking adventures while you learn about their unique culture, their incredible tracking and hunting skills, as well as their extraordinary knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants. If you’re keen to learn about the life of one of the oldest cultures on Earth, then is what to do in Botswana.

Best Suited For…

  • Cultural tourists
  • Active and adventurous travellers

Where to Go:

2. Guided Game Drives

As Africa Safari Experts, we go on a LOT of game drives and Botswana never fails to enthral. The guides are passionate and the animals in abundance. This is a wildlife paradise and going on a guided game drive is one of the most exciting things to do in Botswana. It’s almost as easy as throwing a dart at the map of the country and heading there. On a more serious note, if you want to experience Botswana in all its game-viewing glory, head to Chobe to see our planet’s biggest elephant herds and Moremi Game Reserve for a predator spectacle.

Best Suited For…

  • First-time safari travellers
  • Wildlife enthusiasts

Where to Go:

3. Aquatic Safaris in the Delta

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Historically the way to paddle around the Okavango Delta, traditional mekoro (canoes) were made from hollowed-out sausage tree trunks. Nowadays, lighter, faster and more environmentally friendly fibreglass canoes are used at almost all lodges. A ride in a mokoro is one of the most serene experiences you will ever have: you are poled along quietly, and your guide will point out beautiful lilies, tiny painted reed frogs and goliath herons. Don’t worry about hippos: the poler taps the side of the mokoro gently to warn them that humans are on the way! It’s the Okavango Delta’s quintessential game viewing ‘vehicle’ and allows you to get closer to animals in ‘the Venice of safari’.

The Okavango Delta is the world’s biggest inland delta and the hundreds of channels through its dense reeds make for excellent power boating. Your guide will cut the engines when approaching water-adapted wildlife like sitatunga antelope, hippo, crocodiles and elephants, but power boating allows you to go further away from your lodge and see more remote areas of the Delta.

Best Suited For…

  • First-time safari travellers
  • Adventurous travellers

4. Take in the Views From Top Lodges & Camps

Whether it’s the Savuti marsh, the Chobe floodplain or the Okavango Delta, Botswana delivers views in spades. Fairly flat through most of the country, the sky seems higher and bluer here, the clouds more intense and the sunshine more life-giving. Bring your wide-angle lens to make the most of Botswana’s amazing vistas.

Best Suited For…

  • Honeymooners
  • Discerning travellers
  • Photographers

5. Go Birding

Before going on a Botswana safari, many clients claim they’re ‘not into birds’. But then they experience the fun challenge of spotting the Pel's fishing owl in that distant tree or trying to get the perfect shot of a fish eagle’s take-off. After one safari to Botswana with its 550 species, they’re singing a different tune, becoming instant twitchers.

Go in summer (November to March) to experience Botswana’s best birdwatching months. This is when the migrants come in and join the residents for a place that’s chockful of ‘ticks’: pied kingfishers, oxpeckers, black egrets (who hunt fish by luring them into the darkness made by covering the water with their feathers), African fish eagles, giant eagle owls (often found, oddly, sitting on the ground), beautiful carmine bee-eaters; ground hornbills (the inspiration for Zazou from The Lion King), jewel-like malachite kingfishers, and the hardest to photograph of all, flighty lilac-breasted rollers.

Best Suited For…

  • Birdwatchers
  • Wildlife enthusiasts
  • Photographers

6. Enjoy the Best Predator Sightings

Lots of grass means lots of antelope. And where there are buck, zebra and other creatures coming to drink, you will find some of Africa’s biggest crocodiles. Able to lay still for hours at a time, they lull their prey into a false sense of security before attacking with lightning speed. A tip for photographers: crocs give no indication when they’re about to move and have an uncanny knack of doing something exciting at the exact moment you’re changing a lens or having a sip of water. They'll keep you on your toes. Head for Chobe, the deep water and lush riverbanks are prime croc territory.

It's not only the size of the predators in Botswana that’s impressive, but the groups they move in too. The lions of the famous Marsh Pride in Chobe’s Savuti region are among the biggest in Africa. Years of strenuous hunting in deep water and thick marshland has built them into exceptionally powerful hunters known to take down elephants. But even when they’re not hunting (which happens late at night when you’re likely tucked up in bed), lions are still interesting.

The big cat action continues in Moremi Game Reserve, which is renowned for its frequent leopard sightings. This, remarkably, is the only officially protected part of the Okavango Delta, which is a World Heritage Site.

Of course, if you’re really lucky you might even spot lion cubs and leopards learning to take on the big world. Lions are the most social of all the cats and it’s easy to lose yourself in their playful interaction.

Best Suited For…

  • First-time safari travellers
  • Wildlife enthusiasts
  • Photographers

Where to Go:

7. Track the Big 5 in the Okavango Delta

The Big 5 – rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo – tops the list of what to see in Botswana for every first-time safari goer. There’s a very good chance you’ll see all of them in Botswana, especially in Moremi and the Okavango Delta. Rhino, sadly, are under great threat, but innovative conservation programmes are helping these magnificent creatures, who’ve survived for millennia, to live another day.

Best Suited For…

  • First-time safari travellers
  • Wildlife enthusiasts

8. Hang Out With Meerkats

Although they’re cute and cuddly, meerkats are fearless suricates with an amazing social structure and lookout system. Because they’re so fearless, they very soon become habituated to humans and, in fact, begin using us as convenient lookout posts! Head to the Kalahari – meerkats like drier, sandy conditions for burrowing – for one of the best family-friendly things to do in Botswana.

Best Suited For…

  • Families with children
  • First-time safari travellers

Where to Go:

9. Spot Rare & Unusual Wildlife

The Big 5 deserve their reputation as Africa’s heavyweights but smaller, more elusive game should also be on your list of what to see in Botswana. Thanks to successful conservation initiatives, wild dogs are back from the brink of extinction and the Moremi Game Reserve has several breeding packs of these remarkable canids.

Heading to Chobe National Park, look out for large groups of shaggy waterbuck. Very pretty antelope, they have large white rings on their rumps – it’s considered impolite to make wisecracks comparing them to toilet seats! A fairly rare antelope is the beautiful sable; the male’s half-moon horns and glossy blackish coat being the giveaway. Sables are often confused with roan antelope, which are also elusive and have white muzzles but much straighter horns.

The Delta is the best place to see two rare antelope species: the leaping red lechwe and the very shy sitatunga. Spotting a sitatunga is actually harder than finding a leopard!

Another hard-to-find and shy species is the African wild cat. Bigger than domesticated cats but with the same unmissable features, African wild cats are fast runners. They like open grassland – you may get lucky in Savuti or Linyanti.

One of the most stylish looking of Africa’s antelopes, oryx are more suited to semi-desert areas like the Kalahari. The more ‘rings’ a male’s horns have, the older he is. While in the Kalahari, keep your eyes peeled for other desert-adapted animals like brown hyena, aardvark, honey badgers and bat eared foxes.

Best Suited For…

  • Wildlife enthusiasts
Ready to Plan Your Botswana Safari?

10. Game Viewing on Horseback

Horse riding safaris are among the most exclusive things to do in Botswana and are recommended for experienced riders only. Your horse will be habituated to game and you can enjoy cantering through pristine floodplains searching for sitatunga, lechwe and the horse's equine cousin, zebra. Less experienced riders needn’t despair: many lodges offer gentle outrides for beginners.

Best Suited For…

  • Riders of all levels
  • Active and adventurous travellers

Where to Go:

11. Hot-air Balloon Safari Over the Delta

The beauty of ballooning is that you get a true sense of how large the Okavango is. It’s one thing to fly over it in a light aircraft; it’s quite another to float serenely above its ox-bow lakes, counting the hippos, elephants and buffaloes below. It’s a magical experience and certainly one of the best things to do in Botswana on your honeymoon.

Best Suited For…

  • First-time safari travellers
  • Honeymooners

Where to Go:

12. ATV Rides on the Pans

In Africa, ATVs are known as quad bikes, and Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pans National Parks are the perfect places for them: flat, smooth areas where you can cover good distances at good speeds to get to places of interest. Wrap up against the sun, get your motor running, and experience Botswana’s never-ending salt flats.

Best Suited For…

  • Adventurous travellers
  • Families

Where to Go:

13. Sleep Under the Stars

Night-time in Botswana puts on its own spectacle: a dizzying array of stars. The awe-inspiring Milky Way really shine here, thanks to no light or air pollution. Frankly, anywhere out of the towns like Maun and Kasane should give you great stargazing. But for reliable cosmic splendour, consider the Kalahari for one very good reason: the skies will likely be cloudless!

One of our favourite things to do in Botswana is spending a night in one of its amazing star-beds. With only a mosquito net between you and an infinite blanket of stars, drift off to the sounds of chortling hippos, giggling hyenas and the distant calls of lion. A ‘star-bed’ is exactly what the name suggests: a comfortable, open-air bed out in the wilderness. Some are simply made in romantically candle-lit riverbeds, while others are cradled in rustic ‘bird’s nest’ style platforms above the treeline. Some are even featured in luxurious tree houses equipped with en suite bathrooms and running water. Head to Botswana’s private reserves for an unforgettable night in the wild or the Makgadikgadi Pans for out-of-this-world stargazing. If you’re planning a honeymoon safari, this should be on your list of what to do in Botswana.

Best Suited For…

  • Adventurous travellers
  • Honeymooners
  • Couples

Where to Go:

14. Sunset Cruises on the Chobe River

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Situated up north in Chobe National Park, the Chobe River is often where safaris to Botswana end. And what a finale! The classic way to crown your day is with a sunset cruise where you can spot fish eagles, crocs, hippos, myriads of birds and even water monitors from the boat. A bonus of boat-based game viewing is the unique angles it offers for wildlife photography. But the absolute showstopper is always the crossing of elephant families from one bank to another.

Crossing patiently, the leader feels for submerged rocks and logs, tests how deep the water is, and essentially chooses the safest route. The babies, as always, are in the middle of the group, often paddling like crazy with their little legs when it gets too deep. It’s a humbling encounter and one of the best things to see in Botswana.

Best Suited For…

  • First-time safari travellers
  • Families
  • Photographers

Where to Go:

15. Measure Yourself Against a Baobab

Local Tswana folklore calls the baobab ‘the tree God make in anger’. Apparently, he grew frustrated with the baobab and tossed it out of heaven where it fell to Earth, landing clumsily with its ‘roots’ in the air – giving it another moniker, ‘the upside-down tree’. Baobabs are extraordinary: their massive trunks hold a lot of moisture and elephants regularly mangle the bark with their tusks to get to it. And yet, the baobabs survive these pachyderms’ quests for hydration.

There are many extraordinary baobabs in the Makgadikgadi area, but the ones most worth visiting are Baines’ Baobabs in Nxai Pan National Park. This stunted cluster of seven baobabs, also known as the Sleeping Sisters, was immortalised by the paintings of Thomas Baines, a British landscape artist tasked by the Royal Geographic Society in 1862.

Best Suited For…

  • Families
  • Photographers

16. Yoga in the Desert

Safaris are infamously all about eating when you’re not game viewing, but more and more camps are now offering active options. Yoga is a great way to slow down and allow yourself the mental presence to really connect with your tranquil surroundings. Salute the sun at Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi where a special yoga pavilion overlooks the pan.

Best Suited For…

  • Active travellers
  • Mindful travellers

17. Mobile Camping Expedition

Mobile camping is a great way to get back to basics and venture a little further into the wilderness. It’s one of the more popular things to do in Botswana, thanks to being an authentic, affordable and comfortable safari experience. Instead of staying in lodges, you stay in a series of tented camps in private concessions, national parks and game reserves, moving every few days by road or air to a new location. Although you’re ‘giving up’ a swimming pool, air conditioning, spa treatments and Wi-Fi, all the important creature comforts are still in place like flush loos, hot showers, charging stations and delicious food. Plus, you gain an incredible proximity to nature that is hard to beat – it’s not unusual to have elephants, honey badgers, ground squirrels and even the occasional spotted hyena or leopard near camp.

Best Suited For…

  • Intrepid travellers
  • Families

18. Green Season Safari

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It’s indicative of how important rain is to the country that its currency is named the ‘pula’, which means ‘rain’ in the Tswana language. Rain means life and Botswana has one of the most life-giving rainy seasons anywhere: from about November to April, the land turns green, the air is free of dust, birds fill the sky, and baby animals (and predators!) are everywhere. Chat with your Africa Safari Expert about why it pays (often literally – rates are much lower at this time of year) to travel to Botswana in the Low / Green Season.

Best Suited For…

  • Thrifty travellers
  • Photographers

Ready to Start Planning Your Botswana Safari?

Chat with someone who’s been there. Get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts to help you tailor-make a trip around what you want to see and do in Botswana: