Looking for where to go on a safari in Botswana? Here are the best Game Reserves and National parks in Botswana that will give you the best safari experience
When you think of the best safari destinations in Africa, Botswana comes to mind immediately and that’s because of its impressive National parks and game reserves that have a huge concentration of wildlife.
To put it into perspective on how Botswana is dedicated to wildlife and national parks, 17% of Botswana’s land is covered by National parks and game reserves with a number of them left untouched with various landscapes and biodiversity.
With bumpy and sandy roads, a safari in any of the National parks in Botswana will add an extra layer of thrill to the already exciting safari.
What’s even more interesting is that there are a number of game reserves in Botswana to choose from with each providing a different kind of experience and opportunity to get up-close with the wildlife.
So whether you’re into birds, reptiles, want to see a huge concertation of elephants, want to spot all the big five, there is a national park in Botswana that offers something for everyone.
But before we look at some of the best National parks in Botswana, here are a few things you should know.
A few things to know before going to any of the Botswana Game Parks
- The roads in the Botswana national parks are sandy so you’ll need a 4X4 wheel drive to be able to drive on them.
- The roads are unpassable in the rainy season. So the best time to visit is in the dry season between April to October which is also Botswana’s winter season.
- Campsites are not fenced in case you’re planning to go camping in Botswana. This means that you should take extra precautions and look out for wild animals during your stay as you’ll be in their habitat.
- The best safaris are in the Mornings and Evenings when it’s not too hot for the wild animals to come out of hiding.
- Make sure that you pack all the necessary safari items before you embark on a journey to one of these Botswana game reserves. But if you don’t know what to take, below are a few items you shouldn’t leave behind.
What to pack for a safari in Botswana
- Camera: Duh! You’ll need to capture all the amazing beauty in Botswana’s wild. You can check for my recommendations here.
- Extra memories and batteries: Imagine the disappointment of your camera going off because it wasn’t fully charged or you can’t take more photos because your memory is full. So to avoid that, take extra batteries and these extra memory cards.
- Sunscreen: Botswana is quite hot, so you’ll need to take sunscreen not to burn out. This sunscreen is what I love.
- Chapstick: I promise you, by all means, your lips will dry while game driving in the scorching sun of Botswana. So take this Chapstick to keep them moisturized.
- Binoculars: Are you even on a Botswana safari if you don’t have these Binoculars? Certainly not! So carry a pair before you go
- Safari Hat: It gets extremely hot in Botswana. So you’re better off taking this kind of hat to block the sun.
- Sunglasses: Just like the hat, make sure that you protect your eyes from the sun. You can opt for these polarized glasses.
And for a complete list of what to take, check out this ultimate packing list for a safari in Africa.
So now that you know all you need to know, here are the best game reserves in Botswana you shouldn’t miss.
Best National parks in Botswana
1. Chobe National Park
Located in northern Botswana, Chobe national park definitely tops the list of the best game parks in Botswana. Covering an area of 11,700 square kilometers, Chobe is ranked the third largest National park in Botswana and boasts the largest concentration of elephants in Africa.
The park whose biodiversity ranges from dry desert plains to rich and unique wetlands harbors the big five animals; the Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, and Buffalo which makes it a perfect safari destination in Africa.
What makes game viewing easier and fun in Chobe National park is the presence of the Chobe River which is the major source of water in the park.
This means that when all the water holes within the park dry out, most of the animals head to the River to quench their thirst hence having a number of animals in one place.
On top of Chobe riverfront, the park is constituted of 3 more distinct regions that are perfect for game viewing; Savuti Marsh where the desert land meets the grassland creating an impressive landscape – it also has a high concentration of wildlife, Linyanti wetlands which offer higher chances of seeing the rare wild African dogs, and Nogatsaa, a remote area in the park that offers untouched wildlife.
Regardless of which region you explore, Chobe national park is guaranteed to give you one of the best wilderness safaris in Botswana.
Where to stay in Chobe National Park
Chobe offers a number of accommodation types from cozy lodges, tented campsites, to campsites if you have your own camping gear or a roof tented car.
But if you’re into camping, Savuti and Ihaha campsites have all the amenities you’ll need as you enjoy the best Botswana safaris. However if you want a mix of comfort with camping, tented campsites are your gem – check out Camp Linyanti.
Best tours to take in Chobe National park
A sunset cruise along Chobe river is a must to get up-close with the aquatic life of the park. This cruise is what I recommend to get the most out of your trip.
And if you want to go on a guided game drive, this guided tour comes with friendly and knowledgeable tour guides who will answer all the questions you might have and take you to areas where the chances of spotting the big five are high.
More recommended Chobe National Park tours
Related post: The complete guide to visiting Chobe National Park
2. Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game reserve may not be as big as Chobe National park or even as famous but its close proximity to the Okavango Delta has made it a popular attraction in Botswana.
Occupying the eastern part of the Okavango Delta which is one the largest inland deltas in the world, Moremi game reserve is a perfect safari getaway in Botswana.
It boasts a unique biodiversity that compromises of mopane woodlands, acacia forests, floodplains, and lagoons providing various chances to spot the wildlife on every chance you get on this rather untouched reserve.
From various mammals to endangered animals like the lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, black rhinos, elephants to a number of other animals, Moremi gurantees some of the best safaris in Botswana.
Bird watchers are also in luck as the reserve is a habitat for over 500 different bird species which adds more to what to see to this already exciting Botswana safari destination.
Besides game drives, the highlight of any trip to Moremi game reserve is the traditional Mokoro ride (a traditional canoe) which goes through the Okavango Delta giving an exceptional and an up-close experience of the wild.
With the chance to see the big five and spot various bird species, it’s not hard to see why Moremi qualifies to be on the list of the best national parks of Botswana.
Where to stay in Moremi Game Reserve
Just like Chobe, Moremi Game reserve has a number of accommodation types from the normal car camping campsite to the most prestigious lodges in the area.
If utmost luxury is what you’re after, you won’t regret staying at either Chief’s camp, Mombo Camp, or Okuti Camp.
Tented camps are also available and the ones I recommend the most are Camp Xakanaxa, O Bona Moremi Safari Lodge, Third Bridge tented camp and Camp Moremi. Actually a number of campsites that have “normal” campsites also have tented camps on the premises.
For rooftop tented campers, you’ll love Third bridge campsite, Khwai campsite, South Gate campsite and Xakanaxa campsite. You can also check out the rates on Booking.com.
Best tours to take in Moremi Game Reserve
Hands down a Mokoro ride along the Okavango Delta is the highlight of any safari in Moremi game reserve. But if you go on a day when they’re not running, then you can still cruise the Okavango on the normal boat – though it’s not as adventurous as the Mokoro ride.
Pro tip* Inquire from the management of the campsite/lodge you’re staying at and they will arrange the Mokoro ride for you. Alternatively, you can book it from here in advance to make sure that you don’t miss it.
If you’re on a self-drive, you can easily do game drives on your own, but if you want a guided tour, then this game drive is what I recommend.
Related post: Best National Parks in Africa
3. Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Located in the Kalahari desert in Botswana, Central Kalahari game reserve is the largest game reserve in Botswana covering an area of 52,800 square kilometers which is 10% of Botswana’s total land area which also means that it is the second-largest game reserve in the world.
Considered as the remotest game reserve in the whole of Southern Africa, the Central Kalahari game reserve is a habitat for a number of endangered animals like the giraffe, cheetah, white rhinoceros, ostrich, Jackals, honey badgers, bat-eared foxes, and a number of others.
But due to its large area, the animals are scattered all around with a major concentration in the northern part of the park.
Driving through this remote area gives an illusion of a never ending landscape of sand acacias, grassland with a mix of sand dunes that creates a prime opportunity for great photography.
Though it may not be the perfect game reserve in Botswana for people going on a safari for the first time due to its remotes and the sparsely populated animals, it’s definitely one of the Botswana game reserves that are worth visiting especially if you want to escape the crowds in either Chobe or Moremi.
Where to stay in Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Central Kalahari game reserve may not have so many accommodation options but you sure will experience a home away from home experience if you stay at some of its lodges like Haina Kalahari Lodge which offers luxury like no other.
If you prefer camping, Kalahari Plains Camp and Tau Pan are actually the only campsites in the park.
Related post: Things to know before traveling to Africa
4. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Located in north-eastern Botswana, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park which was originally Lake Makgadikgadi before it dried up is the second largest salt flat pan in the world.
With little to no vegetation life, the pans offer an illusion of an endless white sand beach from afar but coming up-close will even create a more incredible sight!
Since the pans are a collections of a number of salt pans, these can be seen from a number of places in the country; Sua Pan, Nxai Pan and Ntwetwe Pan.
Even though it’s located in the middle of dry savannah, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is home to some wildlife that varies depending on the season of the year.
The summer rains change the pans to lush grasslands attracting herds of zebras and wildebeests but as the pans fill up with water, a huge number of migrating birds make it their home with the lesser flamingos dominating.
A visit to this national park will also treat you to some of the famous Boabs in the country, like the Baines’ Baobabs, and the most iconic one, Chapman’s Baobab which was the biggest tree in Africa before it fell down back in 2016.
Also walking on the salts pans or watching a sunset on the far end above the pans is an experience of its own making Makgadikgadi Pans National Park one of the best Botswana National parks.
Where to stay in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Since Makgadikgadi Pans National Park covers a relatively large area, where you stay depends on the location you’re in.
However some of the lodges you can stay at include; Nata Lodge for lodging and camping if you’re in the areas of Nata, Planet Baobab for both lodging and camping, and Meno A Kwena Tented Camp for a tented camping experience.
For high-end travelers, lodges like Leroo La Tau will offer you views of the park and Jack’s Camp that is in the middle of nowhere will allow you to fully disconnect.
5. Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Located in Serowe in Eastern Botswana, Khama Rhino sanctuary may not be a registered game reserve in Botswana by the government but a rather community-based wildlife project that was established to protect Rhinos, but it still provides a great safari experience.
However, in recent years, the sanctuary has increasingly become one of the best places to visit in Botswana for an amazing safari.
A project that started with only 4 rhinos has now become a popular place to see a number of Rhinos. Since it’s also a breeding place for the same, a number of Rhinos have been moved to other parks to make sure that rhinos are distributed all around the country like in the past years.
And no, it’s not just the black and white rhinos, Khama Rhino Sanctuary is home to over 30 other animal species and more than 230 bird species.
Some of the other animals that can be seen on a game drive in Kama Rhino sanctuary include; blue wildebeests, kudus, zebras, leopards, springboks, ostriches, jackals, giraffes, warthogs, and many more.
Where to stay in Khama Rhino Sanctuary
The best place to stay while visiting Khama Rhino Sanctuary is inside the reserve itself even if it’s not very far from the nearby town of Serowe. The sanctuary has well-maintained campsites and chalet facilities for travelers who don’t want to rough it out.
Accommodation can be booked right when you reach the reserve and you’ll be able to choose the type you prefer.
Related post: The Perfect 3 Week Self drive itinerary for Botswana
6. Nxai Pan National Park
Located in North- Eastern Botswana adjacent to Maun and Nata, Nxai Pan National Park is one of the Botswana National Parks that are covered in Salt Pans.
One of the things that makes this park popular is the Baines Baobabs area which is home to a number of huge trees that are a thousand years old.
So if you’re looking for some of the Botswana safari holidays to go on, then don’t skip Nxai Pan National Park. Being one of the largest salt pans in the world, Nxai Pan National Park offers a unique experience of immense wilderness, desert scenery combined with chances of game viewing and bird watching.
The fact that Nxai Pan National Park is a breeding ground for herds of zebra, elands, gemsbok, wildebeest, it makes it an important landmark in Botswana and hence the large concertation of wild animals in the park, especially after the rainy season.
On top of those animals, others you can expect to see in Nxai Pan National Park include lions, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, giraffes, jackal, bat-eared fox, etc.
Bird watchers will also feast their eyes on a large concentration of birds of different species ranging from the common Flamingos to the rare Korhanns and Red-necked falcons.
The park may be open all year-round but the best time to visit is immediately after the rainy season as a number of animals flock here to quench their thirst. However, if you visit in the dry season, don’t expect to see much wildlife.
Where to stay in Nxai Pan National Park
Nxai Pan National Park is one of those remote National parks of Botswana which makes a number of hotels far from it. Your best bet is to opt for wild camping in some of the campsites around even though they have no proper amenities.
But if wild camping is not for you, then you can try Kwando Nxai Pan which is the only camp located with the park.
7. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Shared by 2 countries, South Africa and Botswana, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large park with a beautiful landscape that comprises of red sand dunes, some trees, sparse vegetation, and dry river beds that make this reserve worth a visit.
Being a Transfrontier Park, each part of the park in the 2 countries originally took on its own name with the one in Botswana called Gemsbok National Park and that in South Africa, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. However, the largest part is in Botswana which accounts for three-quarters of the entire park.
Aside from the beautiful scenery of the mishmash between the red dunes and the sparsely dotted trees, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is home to some of the big five and other endangered species ranging from the Lions, Cheetahs, Hyenas, Wildebeest, African Leopards, Eland, etc.
And since the park is a Lion Conservation Unit, there is a huge concertation of lions for people who want to see huge prides of the big cats.
Where to stay in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park offers a number of accommodation types from tented camps, safari lodges to ordinary campsites.
Polentswa Tented Lodge is a perfect tented camp, and Rooiputs Lodge is perfect if you prefer chalets to camps. However, both these sites do not have a campsite for people who prefer camping.
Related post: How to get to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
8. Molokodi Nature Reserve
If you find yourself in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital, then don’t miss going on a game drive in Molokodi Nature reserve. It might not be as big or as popular as the likes of Chobe or Moremi game reserves but it’s quite interesting to go to especially since there is not so much to do in Gaborone.
This private not-for-profit game reserve is not far from the city Centre of the capital making it a great day trip from Gaborone. But don’t let its nature deceive you, you can still have an amazing safari in the reserve with chances of spotting various wild animals.
Some of the animals that call Molokodi Nature Reserve home include Rhinos, Giraffes, Zebras, South white Rhinoceros, kudu, gemsbok, impala, and so many others. The reserve also has a reptile park where a number of reptiles can be seen.
So if you’re looking for Botswana game reserves and national parks to go to and enjoy a safari in the areas of Gaborone, then Molokodi Nature Reserve is your best option.
Where to stay in Molokodi Nature Reserve
Since Molokodi Nature Reserve is usually treated as a day trip, you may not need to sleep there! But if you still prefer sleeping in the reserve, they have campsites and chalets which you can book when at the reserve of from their website.
And if you’re looking for places to stay in Gaborone (where you can day trip from), here are a few options – Bannerloft Guest house , Protea Hotel by Marriott Gaborone Masa Square , Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone, Botswana and Elegant & Exclusive Boutique GuestHouse
You can also check out all other places to stay in Gaborone from here.
Related post: Incredible things to do at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
9. Khutse Game Reserve
Another game reserve in Botswana that is in close proximity to the nation’s capital is Khutse Game Reserve.
It is a locals’ favorite for those who want to escape the hustles and bustles of Gaborone for a couple of days. But it’s not just the locals, tourists also pass through it as it is a prime getaway to the Kalahari area.
It may not boast a large concentration of wildlife but it’s a good escape to connect with nature as you also spot some animals. Some of the wild animals that call Khuse Game Reserve a habitat include Springbok, Lion, African Leopard, wildcats, cheetahs, brown hyena, kudu, etc
On top of the animals, Khutse reserve gives a feel of what Kalahari looks like as it takes the scenery of the same consisting of dry riverbeds, pans, grassy plains, and fossil dunes creating a beautiful landscape to look at or even photograph.
Where to stay in Khutse Game Reserve
Unfortunately, there are no lodges in the reserve. However, there are over 20 campsites but no basic amenities like water or toilets. The only campsite that has water and other basic facilities can be found at the gate of the reserve.
Related post: Where to stay in Gaborone, Botswana
There you have it, folks, those were some of the game reserves in Botswana for an amazing Botswana safari. Have you been to any of these Botswana national parks? Let me know which one you enjoyed the most! I personally loved Chobe National Park the most followed by Moremi Game reserve.
And while at it, don’t forget to share this post with your friends to inspire them discover the immense beauty of Botswana wildlife.
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