Few other safari destinations can match Botswana’s density of wildlife. It's a place where buffalo and elephant gather in herds of hundreds.
The country’s heavyweight destinations like the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park attract the most attention – and rightfully so. But some of the best game viewing is found away from the famous parks and in the private game reserves of Botswana. Completely exclusive and allowing access to privy places, Botswana's private safari areas offer all the classic big game thrills while staying at magnificent lodges and camps. But before we reveal our favourite private game reserves in Botswana, let’s have a look at the key differences between a safari in a national park and a private game reserve:
Private Game Reserve vs National Park
|Private Game Reserve||National Park|
|Ownership||Privately owned and managed||Government-owned and managed|
|Admission||Only guests of the reserve||Public|
|Self-drivers & Tour Buses||✖||✓|
|Safari Vehicles From Private Reserves||✓||✓|
|Guided Game Drives||✓||✓|
|Night Game Drives||✓||✖|
|Off-road Game Viewing||✓||✖|
|Vehicle Limit at Animal Sightings||✓||✖|
Advantages of a Botswana Private Safari
Guided walking safaris are a privilege reserved for guests staying in Botswana’s private game reserves – one not afforded to those visiting the national parks. On these expeditions, you are accompanied by an armed tracker and an expert guide as you experience Africa like the first explorers did. Leaving the safari vehicle behind and approaching big game on foot is an exhilarating experience. You will also come to appreciate the smaller, more intimate details of the bush such as bird calls, animal tracks and dens, medicinal plants, and wild flowers.
Night game drives can only be experienced in private game reserves, as national parks require all vehicles to be off the roads by sunset. In a private game reserve, your guide can finish up the afternoon game drive at a scenic viewing spot (with a sundowner drink in hand) and then head back to the lodge slowly, sweeping a spotlight from side to side, catching the eyes of bush babies, giant owls and perhaps even Africa's big cats (lions and leopards) which hunt at twilight.
Crowd-free game viewing is probably the biggest perk of a Botswana private safari. Seeing Africa's iconic animals up-close in their natural environment, undisturbed by a fleet of safari vehicles, is a richly rewarding experience. Usually there’s only a handful or even just a single safari lodge on each private reserve or concession, ensuring that only a small, set number of guests are on the reserve at any given time.
Best Private Game Reserves in Botswana
1. Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, Chobe National Park
Taking its name from the Linyanti wetlands that lie between Chobe National Park and Namibia’s Caprivi, the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve reaches down into the Chobe and Savute regions. A breathtaking landscape of open floodplains, mopane woodland and tangled riverine forest, Linyanti is serious big game territory – especially late in Botswana's dry winter months (about June to September). This is when impressive elephant and buffalo herds crowd the riverbanks and waterholes. The dry season is a dramatic time and an excellent opportunity to see Linyanti’s famously large lion prides in action; these big cats have made an art of hunting Africa's heavyweight mammals like buffalo and elephant. Linyanti is also renowned for its phenomenal birdlife; avid twitchers will be in awe of the thousands of exotic birds that migrate to this region during Botswana’s Green Season.
- One of Southern Africa's best birdwatching destinations
- High concentrations of elephant and buffalo
- Excellent predator sightings, especially lions
- Helicopter flips over the reserve
2. Selinda Reserve, Okavango Delta
There are only a few thousand African wild dogs left in the wild and Botswana’s Selinda Reserve boasts regular sightings of a thriving pack of these rare and exceptional hunters. Furthermore, this private reserve is home to elephants by the thousands and the stars of National Geographic’s Birth of a Pride, the famous Selinda Lion Pride. The Selinda Spillway is a shallow channel that mysteriously started flowing in 2006 and connects the northern Okavango Delta to the Linyanti and Chobe River systems. It’s the ideal destination for canoe and walking safaris; one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on the planet.
- Remote and untouched wilderness
- Large numbers of elephant, buffalo and lion
- Regular sightings of rare wild dog
- Phenomenal canoe and walking safaris
3. Vumbura Reserve, Okavango Delta
The Vumbura Reserve features classic Okavango Delta scenery: large, tranquil lagoons edged with forests of towering teak trees lie between grassy floodplains dotted with tree-islands. Here is where you’ll see water-loving antelope like lechwe grazing alongside beautiful woodland species like sable. This is one of Botswana's most scenic areas, with a reputation for big cat sightings and excellent year-round bird watching – you can tick off species like slaty egrets, wattled cranes and the elusive Pel’s fishing owl. With a fantastic variety of habitats, a great diversity of wildlife and an enormous traversing area, Vumbura is one of the best private game reserves in Botswana.
- Superb predator sightings
- Excellent year-round bird watching
- Motorboat and mokoro excursions
- Hot-air balloon safaris
4. Mombo Concession, Okavango Delta
Lying in the exclusive Mombo Concession of the Moremi Game Reserve, Chief’s Island is the Okavango Delta’s largest piece of dry land, a position that means it’s packed with animals. Famous as the Delta’s ‘predator capital’ – wild dogs are prolific here – Chief’s Island is also where both black and white rhinos were reintroduced to the wild after decades of absence. It’s still not easy to see rhinos in the country, but a Botswana private safari in the Mombo Concession gives you a decent chance.
- Some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Okavango Delta
- Exquisite camps and lodges
- Mokoro safaris
- Rare rhino sightings
5. Khwai Private Reserve, Okavango Delta
Thanks to its perfect position between the Chobe National Park and the Moremi Game Reserve, game viewing in the Khwai Private Reserve benefits from the magnificent wildlife (especially elephant) that roams from these productive conservation areas. In addition, the reserve’s Khwai River is also a magnet for big game and a plethora of bird species, especially raptors. Khwai is a haven for antelope like sable, impala and roan, as well as predators like lion, leopard and wild dog.
- Incredible game viewing, especially elephants and big cats
- Fantastic birdwatching
- Intimate and authentic safari camps
- Aquatic safari activities like boat and mokoro cruises
- Spending a night in a star-bed
Ready to Start Planning Your Botswana Private Safari?
Chat with someone who’s been there. Get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts to help tailor-make a trip to some of the best private game reserves in Botswana: