When you plan to travel to Botswana, the best way to experience the country’s wildlife up close is by camping. Whether you choose to go for a self-drive safari or hire a mobile safari, Botswana’s wildlife will blow your mind. When I got the opportunity of camping Botswana, as a camping beginner, I was both excited to experience the camping life and at the same time do it right in the middle of the wild- an experience that can’t be put in words. Imagine waking up to the views of Elephants and spotting a hyena right before you sleep!
But before you embark on what is likely to be the greatest adventure of a lifetime, there are some few things you need to know about camping in Botswana.
Things you need to know before camping in Botswana.
1. You’ll need to have a 4×4 wheel drive car.
Whether you opt for a tour company in which case they will have 4×4 safari vehicles or go for a self-drive safari, you must have a 4×4 wheel car since Botswana has sandy roads. Actually, in places like Chobe National park or Moremi game reserve, you won’t be allowed to enter if you don’t have a 4×4 wheel drive. I saw some pretty good cars stack in the sand, now imagine how challengingly it would be for a 2 wheel drive.
2. Camping sites in Botswana are not fenced
If you’re camping in national parks, you should be aware that Botswana camping sites are not fenced and that you will sleep right in the middle of the wild animals’ territory. This means that wild animals are free to come as close as they want to the campsites. All you have to do is to never bother them or they’ll charge you if they feel threatened in any way. (This shouldn’t scare you as they don’t just attack for no reason. Leave them in peace and they’ll do the same for you).
While camping at third bridge camp in Moremi game reserve, a hippo came at our campsite and a hyena at Xakanaxa campsite. While this was exciting to see a hyena nearby after days of not spotting any during game drives, it was a bit scary knowing that by any slightest mistake, these wild animals could charge us. In Chobe national park, elephants became our frequent visitors to the campsite- it’s like the shrubs at the campsite tasted better as they always showed up every morning! So as you plan to go camping in Botswana National parks, you should know that wild animals will become your immediate neighbors at any time of your stay.
3. Most Campsites have no electricity.
Even though Botswana has done an amazing job in establishing amazing campsites with ablution blocks having flush toilets plus hot and cold water, the campsites still don’t have electricity unless you’re camping in cities and not in Game reserves. But who needs electricity in the middle of the National park- there is so much beauty to focus on than worry about electricity! For light, just pack a strong headlamp like this one and you’ll be fine.
4. There is no phone service or wifi.
The experience of camping in Botswana doesn’t just give you the opportunity of enjoying Botswana’s wildlife and a chance of spotting the big five animals but also to disconnect from the outside world and take in all the beauty and tranquility that Botswana has to offer.
Even though at some campsites you might get a chance of accessing wifi but only at the campsite offices, be prepared to go through Botswana safari the old fashioned way without having to check emails or facebook every now and then.
Although at first, I thought it would be a challenge for me since I am always on my phone browsing the internet, after 2 days, I was already used to the idea and it turned out to be the “internet detox” I needed and an opportunity to connect more with nature and the people who were around me.
5. There is no guarantee that you’ll see the big five animals.
Even though Botswana is a country of the big-five, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to see all of them. I mean you’re taking a safari in a national park, not a zoo where all animals have been lined up for tourists.
So while on a Botswana camping safari, just try to pay attention and look out for animals. If you don’t see any big cats, that would be unfortunate but you can’t force the animals to be at a specific place.
I have to admit I went on a Botswana safari with my mind ready to see the big five animals but it obviously didn’t happen. I was only able to see four of them ( Lions, African Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalos) but missed out on the Leopards. It can be a bit hard to lower your expectations but not spotting one of the big fives shouldn’t make your wilderness safari in Botswana less exciting.
6. Be ready to prepare your own meals
Before you go camping, you need to know that Botswana camps do not have restaurants so be ready to prepare your own meals. And since all the National parks are miles away from shopping centers, you have to plan for your meals accordingly. What I would advise you is to count the number of meals you intend to have within the park and buy food accordingly. It is also prudent to buy food for at least 2 extra meals just in case. Its always better to have more than you need than not having enough. Do not also forget to carry enough water and snacks.
7. Download the iOverlander app
The iOverlander is an incredibly useful app that anyone camping in Botswana should download before they go. I used this app to locate all the campsites I stayed at. It doesn’t just show you campsites, it details all the amenities that are found at that particular campsite, honest reviews of previous guests and the exact location of the campsite.
The app also has a filter function where you can search for the type of campsite you’re looking for, whether established campsites, wifi availability and all amenities you can think of. I honestly can’t recommend downing this app enough because it was a great deal of help when it came to locating campsites in Botswana.
8. Get yourself a tourist map
In an era where there are great navigation offline apps like maps.me (which btw I highly recommend that you download), you might think that you won’t need a tourist map. I would agree with you if you were just taking a road trip in Botswana but since you’re going for safaris in National parks, I’d suggest buying the respective tourist maps. I got myself a Chobe National tourist map and a Moremi game reserve tourist map, which were extremely useful in showcasing safari loops, coordinates, viewpoints, and major spots you shouldn’t miss on your safari. The tourist maps can be bought from the respective campsite offices or at any Botswana wildlife office.
9. Follow the basic rules of camping in Botswana
Other than the common Botswana camping tips and etiquette, there are some basic rules you should follow while camping in national parks and game reserves of Botswana. Even though campsites are not highly supervised, it goes back to you as an individual to observe the rules for your own safety and that of the wildlife. Here are some of the camping rules in Botswana that you should observe.
- Camp only at designated campsites
- Do not feed or play with wild animals even if they come close to you.
- Do not drive at night.
- Dumb rubbish in the trash bins at the campsite.
- If you have to take a bush pee, don’t leave the toilet paper there.
- Campfires should be put out at the end of the evening.
- Do not leave your campsite in the middle of the night
10. Carry enough cash when going camping
Although you may not carry out any major transactions when wild camping Botswana, but it is important to have Pulas on you. Yes, some camps accept cards when paying for a campsite but what will happen if you need to buy firewood for a campfire, how about tipping a really helpful staff or a tour guide. So before you go for a camping safari in Botswana, make sure you have a reasonable amount of cash.
When to go camping in Botswana
The best time to visit Botswana is during the winter period from May to October when the days are hot and the nights cold. This period is also Botswana’s dry season which makes the sandy roads easily passable unlike during the rainy season. Camping in Botswana is ideal during the dry season since most water pans dry out increasing the chances of seeing a large concentration of wild animals in one place as they flock to the remaining water sources within national parks. And since there are no rains during this period, mosquitoes are few and the chances of catching malaria are minimal.
What to pack for Botswana camping
While packing for Botswana camping might not differ much from any African packing list, there are some things that you ought to carry while camping in Botswana.
Since the nights are really cold, I carried a pair of these warm socks. My hands could not bear the cold, so I also took a pair of warm gloves. These gloves are touchscreen, meaning you can use your phone without having to remove them.
I also love a good pair of these research convertible pants, as they are super comfortable and you can wear them a couple of days in a row.
A good quality camera to capture the amazing scenery and wildlife. You can read this post to get inspired about which camera to buy as a traveler.
A Botswana Loney Planet guide book. If you’re contemplating leaving out some stuff, the Botswana lonely planet guide book shouldn’t be one of them. I used this travel guide book and I can guarantee that it was one of the best things that made my Botswana camping safari fun and much easier.
Have you ever gone camping to this best safari country in Africa? What was your experience? Did you see the big five animals? Share with me your experience. And if you’re just planning to go camping in Botswana, I hope you found this article useful but if you have any more questions, just leave them in the comment section and I will answer them as soon as possible.
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