Botswana is a heavyweight in the safari industry, offering incredible, authentic wildlife experiences in a truly untouched natural wilderness. But like with any region in Africa, where to go in Botswana to see this vast range of wildlife is just as important as the country you choose. The diverse landscape of this landlocked Southern African country ranges from the glistening waterways of the famous Okavango Delta to the rolling savannas of Chobe National Park to the beautiful semi-desertscape and wooded grasslands of the Kalahari. The wildlife in Botswana are the stars of the show though, with game drives through game reserves and national parks yielding sightings of everything from the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) to adorable meerkats and elusive spotted hyenas.
The stunning terrain and unique animal encounters make Botswana vacations an unforgettable experience for any nature lover. But before you hop on the plane over to Africa, take some time to familiarise yourself with the wildlife of Botswana:
Quick Overview of Botswana
The best time to visit Botswana for wildlife is during the dry winter months of May to October. Game viewing is at its peak throughout these months as animals concentrate around the remaining water sources – which are scarce in the drier weather.
The below table lists the wildlife in Botswana that you are likely to see when on a game drive in one of the country’s reserves or national parks:
|Bat-eared Fox||Fairly Common|
|Wild Dog||Very Rare|
What Botswana Wildlife Can You Expect to See on Safari?
Tswana Name: Thakadu
A peculiar-looking creature with a name that translates to ‘earth pig’, the aardvark’s long tubular snout is the only characteristic that resembles a swine in any way. But it’s not its likeness (or lack thereof) to pigs that makes this fascinating mammal a sought-after sighting on safari. Aardvarks are a rare sighting on game drives anywhere in Africa and are high up on the list of travellers’ bucket-list must see – so if you catch a glimpse of one in Botswana, count yourself as part of a lucky few!
Where Can You See Aardvarks in Botswana?
Aardvarks can be found throughout Botswana, usually inhabiting grassland and woodland areas. The Kalahari Salt Pans and reserves in the Okavango Delta provide the best chance of seeing these nocturnal creatures out and about.
2. Bat-Eared Fox
Tswana Name: Motlhose
The bat-eared fox is a small, endearing creature that closely resembles a jackal and is from the same family. Their silver-grey coat and large, bat-like ears are their most noticeable features. Bat-eared foxes are often found in tiny groups that only consist of a mated pair and their pups. This is because bat-eared foxes are monogamous mammals by nature.
Where Can You See Bat-Eared Foxes in Botswana?
Bat-eared foxes are likely found in Botswana’s drier regions, like the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Nxai Pan National Park and Makgadikgadi Pans.
Tswana Name: Nare
Huge herds of buffalo can be found roaming all over Botswana during the dry season – which is great if seeing the Big 5 is at the top of your must-see safari list. Heavyset and ox-like with massive horns atop their heads, buffalos come with a fearsome reputation that stems largely from the retellings of hunters – a piece of information that only adds to the animal’s intimidating stature. Fortunately, this is far from the truth. When coming across this sociable bovid in the wild, you will find it to be quite a placid animal – unless provoked to defend itself!
Where Can You See Cape Buffalos in Botswana?
Buffalos are a fairly common sighting in many parts of Botswana, but since water is essential to their survival, you’re more than likely to spot them in the waterways and floodplains of Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta.
Tswana Name: Serolobotlhoko
Easily mistaken for an extra on the Disney classic Bambi, bushbucks are adorable medium-sized antelopes with a light brown coat sporting up to seven white stripes and white blotches on their sides. They are fearful and skittish, so don’t be surprised when one freezes up before darting off quickly into the bush when spotted on a game drive.
Where Can You See Bushbucks in Botswana?
You have a good chance of finding bushbucks around the Okavango Delta, as well as in Kwando-Linyanti and Chobe National Park.
Tswana Name: Thwane
Rare, majestic and beautiful – three words that perfectly describe a caracal. Medium-sized and highly elusive, this big cat is sleek and built for sneak attacks on prey. Not to mention, they’re extremely fast and remarkable hunters – rodents and small antelope don’t stand a chance! Count yourself lucky if you have the good fortune of seeing this animal in Botswana.
Where Can You See Caracals in Botswana?
Caracals are widespread throughout Botswana, but the Kalahari and Savuti provide the best chance at a sighting of this elusive cat.
Tswana Name: Lengau
Cheetahs are one of the most endangered species in the world. It will come as no surprise that this majestic creature is becoming an increasingly rare sight in Botswana – which makes seeing them out in the wild much more special. Although cheetahs are the fastest land animals and successful hunters, they find themselves at the bottom of the predator scale in Botswana. This is because the country has a high predator population that puts cheetahs under a lot of pressure to survive. It doesn’t help that they tend to get bullied by other predators (and even vultures), who oftentimes steal their kill if they don’t eat it quickly enough.
Where Can You See Cheetahs in Botswana?
These spotted big cats love to call grassland and woodland areas home and can be found throughout Botswana. However, your best chance of seeing cheetahs is in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti regions.
Tswana Name: Phuti
Duikers are a painfully shy and rarely spotted antelope species that are known to feed on insects, small reptiles, birds and carrion, as well as leaves, fruit and seeds. The name ‘duiker’ is derived from the Afrikaans word duik, which means ‘to dive’ – a humorous nod to the animal’s affinity for frequently diving into vegetation for cover.
Where Can You See Duikers in Botswana?
Although duikers are part of the group of animals in Botswana that is found across a range of habitats, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Savute in Chobe National Park offer the best chances of seeing this creature in the wild.
Tswana Name: Phofu
The eland is the largest antelope in the world – much bigger than your average cow – and was once prevalent throughout Africa, found in nearly every corner of the continent. Today, it is a rare occurrence to see eland outside of a few protected areas in Botswana due to its dwindling population in the wild. Be sure to cherish the moment if you’re one of the lucky few who spots this huge beast in its natural habitat.
Where Can You See Elands in Botswana?
Elands are known to reside in arid grasslands and savanna woodlands, meaning that the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Nxai Pan National Park are your best bet at finding the world’s largest antelope in Botswana.
Tswana Name: Tlou
This is one member of the Big 5 that you’re all but guaranteed to tick off the list when on safari in this Southern African country. Of all the wildlife in Botswana, the elephant population in the region has the greatest numbers in Africa with over 50,000 individuals. What’s more, Botswana elephants are well-known for being ‘safari friendly’ - meaning these gentle giants are likely to be a defining presence on your game drives throughout the country’s wildlife-rich regions. You’ll especially want to keep your eyes peeled on boat safaris in the Chobe River, as seeing these majestic creatures in the water is an exceptional sighting.
Where Can You See Botswana Elephants?
You can see elephants in nearly every corner of Botswana, but the highest concentrations of these large land mammals can be found in Chobe National Park and the Linyanti region.
Tswana Name: Mogolori
Botswana is home to abundant flocks of both greater and lesser flamingos. When visiting the country on safari, you’ll also gain a rare insight into the breeding grounds of one of the world’s most unique and mesmerising bird species. One fact that might surprise you is that not all flamingos are characterised by fashionable hot pink feathers and stilt-like legs. The feather colours of flamingos range from pale pink to hot pink to crimson, while another difference between species is their height.
Where Can You See Flamingos in Botswana?
Flamingo flocks in Botswana tend to congregate on the Makgadikgadi Pans after the seasonal rains but can be found in many other areas, including the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.
Tswana Name: Kukama
Known as an oryx in English, the gemsbok is possibly the most handsome and striking of all the antelope species in Africa. This majestic creature thrives in hot, arid regions using its unique method of surviving. Gemsboks have a fine network of veins in their nostrils which enables the movement of air to cool the blood down before it flows to the brain with every breath. In turn, this allows the gemsbok’s body temperature to rise with the outside temperature while the blood temperature remains constant.
Where Can You See Gemsboks in Botswana?
Gemsboks populate the arid regions of southern and central Botswana, including the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Makgadikgadi Pans.
Tswana Name: Thutlwa
Towering above the acacia trees and giant wildlife of Botswana, giraffes are the tallest land mammals in the world and are easily one of the most popular and recognisable game sightings on safari. Known for their incredibly long necks and legs, you might not know that giraffes also have the largest heart of any land mammal to pump enough blood to their distant extremities. And out of all the animals in the Okavango Delta, giraffes pulled the short straw, suffering from an eye infection that often blinds them in both eyes – making them an easy target for predators.
Where Can You See Giraffes in Botswana?
A game drive through northern and central Botswana should yield sightings of giraffes, especially in the Okavango Delta and Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Tswana Name: Kubu
At first glance, hippos look as if they wouldn’t hurt a fly. You assume that a creature that appears so cute and cuddly, who spends most of its time submerged in water is a gentle giant, like an elephant. This illusion will disappear the instant you see a hippo with its mouth wide open and realise how much damage those chompers can cause out in the wild. These majestic animals might look harmless, but they are actually one of the most dangerous living land mammals in Africa. Keep a look out for these gigantic mammals when exploring the waterways on Okavango Delta safaris.
Where Can You See Hippos in Botswana?
Hippos are one of the many Okavango Delta animals that call the waterways and wetlands of this region home and are where they are most likely to be found. These semi-aquatic creatures can also be found in the Chobe River in Chobe National Park.
Tswana Name: Sephiri
Hyenas gained an unfair reputation as harbingers of evil thanks to the beloved trio of Shenzi, Banzai and Ed in the beloved Disney classic The Lion King – their spine-chilling calls of long whoops don’t help their cause either! Thankfully, this villainous depiction is far from reality. Hyenas are highly intelligent, sociable creatures with fantastic hunting prowess – not to mention, they’re as cute as a button. Of the three living subspecies, the brown and spotted hyena can be found in Botswana. Spotted hyenas are more widespread than their brown counterparts, who are more elusive.
Where Can You See Hyenas in Botswana?
Brown hyenas inhabit semi-desert and savanna landscapes, which means they are usually found in the Kalahari Salt Pans and Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Spotted hyenas, on the other hand, dwell in forested and savanna areas, like the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve.
Tswana Name: Phala
Impalas are commonly mistaken for springboks due to their similarities in appearance, but the two antelopes are vastly different – so much so that impala belong to a separate family. Chestnut in colour with black and white stripes running down its rump and tail, impalas are one of the most widespread and successful antelope species in East and Southern Africa.
Where Can You See Impalas in Botswana?
Although they are common throughout Botswana, the impala is rarely found west of the Okavango Delta or south of the Nxai Pan. For the highest chance of a sighting, the northern areas of Chobe National Park and forested parts of the Delta are the best places to explore.
Tswana Name: Ditholo
With a shoulder height of up to 155 centimetres (61 inches) and a weight range that can climb up to 250 kilograms (551 pounds), the kudu is one of Africa’s larger antelope species. Characterised by their grey-brown coast and several strips on each side, kudu is common throughout Botswana and is often seen in small herds.
Where Can You See Kudus in Botswana?
Kudu thrives in a wide range of habitats, from well-wooded areas to arid semi-desert regions. In Botswana, they are mostly spotted in the Savute and Linyanti reserves, as well as Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta.
Tswana Name: Nkwe
The leopard might have a reputation for being evasive and secretive, but it’s one of the more frequently sighted members of the Big 5. Leopard populations are the most numerous of all of Africa’s big cats and can be found in all major conservation areas and across most habitats. That being said, a leopard sighting won’t be handed to you on a silver platter – it’s what makes them such a unique safari drawcard – but the odds are in your favour here.
Where Can You See Leopards in Botswana?
Leopards have been spotted in many parts of Botswana, but Moremi Game Reserve offers the best chances of seeing this majestic creature with your own eyes.
Tswana Name: Tau
The mighty king of the jungle – or more accurately, the king of the savanna – is on top of every traveller’s must-see list when on safari in Africa. Fortunately, Botswana is where to see lions in Africa, as your chances are favourable. Africa’s largest cat is a formidable predator and working together in a pride can take down prey as big as buffalo and giraffe. However, don’t expect to see them hunting much during the day, as they are often seen resting in the shade while the sun is up.
Where Can You See Lions in Botswana?
The Savute region in Chobe National Park offers the best opportunities to sight lions in the wild, while the Okavango Delta also provides a good chance of seeing these spectacular big cats.
Tswana Name: Kotoko
Yes, it’s true, meerkats are indeed as adorable and loveable as The Lion King made them out to be. These endearing little scamps will burrow their way into your hearts with their photogenic poses and fascinating social behaviour. In certain parts of Botswana, meerkats are semi or fully habituated, and at some Botswana safari lodges, they have no problem scurrying up to humans and grabbing a shoulder to perch on.
Where Can You See Meerkats in Botswana?
Meerkats are semi-arid desert creatures that are usually found throughout the Kalahari – particularly in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
20. Nile Crocodile
Tswana Name: Kwena
Crocodiles are a fascinating species. Not only are they one of the oldest species on Earth (even predating and outliving the dinosaurs), but it’s also more than likely that they’ll be here long after we are gone. These large semiaquatic reptiles possess a unique metabolism. They can slow down their functions to such an extent that they do not have to eat for more than two years and still survive.
Where Can You See Nile Crocodiles in Botswana?
Nile crocodiles can be found in Botswana’s permanent water sources in the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and Linyanti River.
Tswana Name: Tshukudu
A once abundant species throughout Africa, the black and white rhinos are today both on the verge of extinction. However, thanks to countless conservation initiatives and projects that have been unwaveringly fighting the good fight to safeguard rhinos from poaching for future generations.
Black rhinos might be the smaller of the two subspecies, but they are also more aggressive than their cousin. White rhinos are larger, heavier and more placid than their counterparts – meaning, they are more visible and approachable than black rhinos.
Where Can You See Black and White Rhinos in Botswana?
Black and white rhinos are the scarcest of the Big 5 and will probably be the ones you struggle to find the most on safari. Your best chances of seeing black and white rhinos are in Moremi Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta.
22. Roan Antelope
Tswana Name: Tshepe
After the eland, the roan antelope holds the title of the largest African antelope and is a truly striking creature that is sure to be a highlight on your safari adventure in Botswana. Regal and horse-like in stature, roan antelopes are distinguished by their reddish coats, distinctive markings and stiff mane.
Where Can You See Roan Antelope in Botswana?
Roan antelope are often found in Chobe National Park and the Linyanti region.
23. Sable Antelope
Afrikaans Name: Kwalata
Sable antelopes are often regarded as one of Africa’s most handsome antelopes and it’s easy to see why. They are easily picked out thanks to their striking, glossy black coats, white bellies and badger-like white face stripes. Their horse-like structure is accentuated by a powerful neck and long, backward arching horns.
Where Can You See Sable Antelopes in Botswana?
You can find sable antelopes in Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, Kwando-Linyanti and Moremi Game Reserve.
Tswana Name: Tshepe
Springboks gained their name from their best-known attribute: their ability to gracefully leap up to 2 metres (7 feet) into the air. These nimble and beautiful creatures are Southern Africa’s only member of the gazelle family. They can be identified by their finely marked short coat with fawn-brown parts, a white belly, and a dark brown band on the side of their bodies.
Where Can You See Springboks in Botswana?
Game drives through Nxai Pan National Park, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Makgadikgadi Pans are all but guaranteed to turn up a few sightings of springboks.
Tswana Name: Phuduhudu
Cute, tiny and harmless are words that come to mind when looking at steenboks. But despite their gentle appearance, steenboks are known to aggressively defend their territories and young against intruders and predators at all costs.
Where Can You See Steenboks in Botswana?
Steenboks are widespread throughout Botswana but are commonly found in the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.
Tswana Name: Tsessebe
Tsessebe is considered by many as one of the funniest-looking animals in Africa. Fortunately, this is not the only characteristic they’re known for – they’re also the fastest antelope on the plains.
Where Can You See Tsessebes in Botswana?
The northern parts of Botswana are home to the highest concentrations of tsessebes, especially Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve.
Tswana Name: Kolobe Yanaga
Warthogs have earned the reputation as one of Africa’s most lovable animals thanks to favourable portrayals in books and movies, like Pumba in The Lion King. The good news is that warthogs are not undeserving of this high standing. They are incredibly brave creatures with fearless character that sees them often facing off with predators, like lions and hyenas.
Where Can You See Warthogs in Botswana?
These pig-like animals can be seen near the Chobe River, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, and the Linyanti region.
Tswana Name: Pitlhwa
Contrary to the name, waterbucks are not aquatic creatures, but they prefer to live near permanent bodies of water. This is not for the purpose of staying hydrated, but more as a form of protection. When sensing danger, waterbucks will dash into the water in the hopes that predators will give up the chase – a theory that is held as the reason waterbucks are hunted less than other prey.
Where Can You See Waterbucks in Botswana?
Waterbucks are predominantly found in the Chobe National Park, Linyanti Wildlife Reserve and on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta.
29. Wild Dog
Tswana Name: Letlharewa
Also known as the painted hunting dog, wild dogs are one of Africa’s most compelling animals. Yet they are also one of the most endangered mammal species in the world. Fortunately, Botswana is considered to have one of the largest populations of wild dogs on the continent, with over 700 of the remaining 6,600 individuals roaming the country’s wilderness.
Where Can You See Wild Dogs in Botswana?
Wild dog sightings are rare, but Moremi Game Reserve and the Linyanti region offer the best chances of seeing these amazing hunters in the wild.
Tswana Name: Pitse
Only Burchell’s zebra is found in Botswana, and it is the national animal of the country. Characterised by their famous black and white striped coat, zebras are one of the most popular and best-recognised African animals in the world. And there is no better place on the globe to witness this creature in all its splendour. Botswana is home to Africa’s second largest migration (after the Great Wildebeest Migration). The Zebra Migration sees up to 25,000 individuals crossing the pans in search of fresh grazing opportunities.
Where Can You See Zebras in Botswana?
With its popularity in Botswana, it’s no surprise that zebras are widespread throughout the country. The best spots for seeing them are in the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and the Savute region.
The Best Ways to See Animals in Botswana
Classic game drives in a 4x4 safari vehicle through the wilderness is a great way to see Botswana’s wildlife and animals in the Okavango Delta, Chobe and other game-rich areas. But there is more than one way to explore the wilderness on a Botswana luxury safari:
|Activity||Best Place to Do It|
|Hot-air balloon safari||Okavango Delta|
|Nature walks||Chobe National Park
Moremi Game Reserve
|Horseback safari||Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Kalahari Salt Pans
|Quad bike (ATV) safari||Makgadikgadi Pans|
|Boating & mokoro excursions||Okavango Delta
Chobe National Park
|Cultural experiences||Central Kalahari Reserve
Kalahari Salt Pans
|Scenic helicopter flights||Okavango Delta|
Ready to See the Wildlife of Botswana for Yourself?
Get in touch with our African Safari Experts to start planning your safari to see Botswana’s wildlife in person. With over two decades of experience and knowledge, we are professionals in crafting tailor-made itineraries that are sure to be the trip of your dreams.