Botswana is a perfect destination for a self drive safari. With amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery, it is an ideal safari getaway for travelers who want to experience an African safari like no other. Being a big country with so many places to visit, it can be a bit tricky to craft the perfect 3 weeks self drive Botswana itinerary.
For travelers that start their trip from Gaborone, it can be even trickier since most of the best places to visit in Botswana are so far away (and that explains why some travelers fly in directly to Maun to start their trip from there). But since I also started my trip from Gaborone, you can follow my Botswana itinerary to get an idea of where to go first and last. You don’t have to spend exactly the same number of days I spent in a place, but it can guide you split out your 3 weeks Botswana self drive easily. I am going to try to be as specific as possible and break down everything I did day by day but before you go, make sure you know all the tips on driving in Botswana
Here is a brief of what you’ll find in this 3 weeks self drive Botswana Itinerary
3 Weeks self drive Botswana Itinerary, day by day
Days (1-3): Explore Gaborone
On day one, I flew into Gaborone International airport. What I had anticipated as an exciting trip, didn’t start on the right foot. Reaching the airport, I had some issues with the immigration on whether they should let me into the country. Mind you, I hold a Ugandan passport which is visa-free to enter Botswana, but I spent a whopping 20 minutes being questioned as to why they should let me in. All this would be ok as it is expected but it becomes annoying when everyone else just reaches the immigration table, gets a stamp and within 1 minute, they’re granted access but I had to be moved aside and interrogated. I can’t say I wasn’t scared but I kept my calm since I had everything in order.
But generally, according to what I saw, entering Botswana is pretty easy but if you hold a Ugandan passport, it’s likely that you’ll be questioned for some minutes.
As if that wasn’t enough, I reached the baggage carousel to pick my backpack and it wasn’t there. You can imagine my frustration. And unfortunately, the office of the airlines I had used was closed which meant that I had to take another trip to the airport the following day to claim my lost luggage. And since it was at night, I had nothing to do but rather head to the hostel and sleep.
Day 2 started with me heading to the airlines’ office at the airport, to claim my bag. Luckily enough, when they checked in their system, my bag was on a plane that had just landed a few minutes before. I was helped by one of the staff and got my backpack. Yeah, it was pretty scary- I don’t know what I would have done if my bag got lost but thankfully, I got it back.
After getting my backpack, it was now time to explore the city of Gaborone. I will have to admit that there is not so much to do in the city but here are some of the places you can check out;
Three Dikgosi Monument
The Three Dikgosi Monument is located in the Central business district of Gaborone and according to the study conducted in 2007, the monument is the most visited tourist attraction in Gaborone. It is free to access the monument for everyone but you can pay for a guide at the entrance to tell you about the history of these three great men and what they did for their country.
The National assembly building.
Take a walk to the national assembly building and admire the architectural marvel of the white arches of the building. If you want to learn more about the political life of Botswana, you can arrange for a tour of the place.
The Game city mall.
This is one of the biggest malls in Botswana. Whether you want to watch movies at the cinema, dine at fine restaurants or even browse shops, this mall has everything you’ll need.
So for Day 3, that was when we had to pick up our roof tented car that we hired for the 3 weeks self drive safari in Botswana. We picked up the car, the renter taught us everything we needed to know to operate the car very well. And now that we had the car, it was time to go grocery shopping for everything we needed for at least a week. Everything was ready and it was time to hit the road and see other parts of Botswana.
Day 4: Drive to Kharma Rhino sanctuary
In the morning of Day 4, drive to Kharma rhino sanctuary which is just next to Serowe town. The drive from Gaborone to the Khama rhino sanctuary takes approximately 3h: 40 min. For the rest of the day, go for a game drive in the sanctuary. The sanctuary offers an opportunity to see both black and white rhinos but even though it is called a rhino sanctuary, you’ll be able to see other animals like giraffes, warthogs, zebras, and others. The sanctuary also has campsites, so you can stay there overnight.
Days (5-6): Nata
Game drives are amazing in the morning, so on the morning of the 5th day, before you hit the road again, enjoy another game drive in the Khama rhino sanctuary.
After the game drive, embark on the trip to Nata. The drive from Khama rhino sanctuary to Nata is approximately 5 hours. Nata Lodge is a great place to make a base camp as you explore Nata.
By the time we reached Nata Lodge, we were so tired to go for any activities. So we just chilled at the restaurant and at the pool.
On day 6, visit the Nata bird sanctuary. The Nata bird sanctuary harbors over 165 bird species with the majority being the Flamingos. The Nata bird sanctuary is one of the largest breeding sites of Lesser and Geater Flamingo in the world making it a perfect place for bird lovers.
Days 7: Kubu Island
From Nata, I recommend heading to Kubu island whose bumpy drive can take almost 4 hours. Kubu Island is a dry granite rock island in the Makgadikgadi pan that has breathtaking views, perfect for someone who wants to soak in all the nature as you take beautiful photos of the pan and the huge Baobab trees.
When we were driving there, we thought we would be the only ones on the island since we didn’t meet many cars on the way. But to my surprise, by sunset, there were so many groups of people on the island making it one of the off-beaten places I visited that had so many tourists.
Enjoy an amazing sunset at the island and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to stargaze if the time you travel there is perfect for the stars.
The island has big campsites but unfortunately, there are no ablutions, just a pit latrine. So be ready to skip a bath as there are no bucket showers as well. I’d recommend taking wet wipes to clean up a little bit.
Day 8: Visit Chapman’s Baobab
On day 8, drive from Kubu island to Gweta town to see the largest tree in Africa. Chapman’s Baobab is the largest tree in Africa and before it fell to the ground, it used to be one of the traveler’s landmarks in Botswana. While in Gweta, we camped at Planet Baobab Lodge, a lodge that is just on the main road of Gweta town. You can either book a campsite when you reach the camp or book online.
Day 9. Dive to Maun
Maun is one of the major touristic places in Botswana and you’re likely to find more tourists there than in any other place. This is because Maun is the closest town to some of Botswana’s main national parks like Chobe National park and Moremi game reserve. A drive from Gweta to Maun should take at least 2h.30 min.
Maun is a perfect place to go grocery shopping and refuel the car since the next stop will be the national parks. There is also a wildlife office in Maun if you want to make inquiries or make bookings of different activities.
Maun has a number of camping sites, but for our stay, we opted for Motsebe backpackers. This place might not have been the best camping site since campers with roof tented cars literally camp in the parking, but the river in front of the hostel makes up for that.
Days (10-12): Moremi game reserve
Moremi game reserve has a huge concentration of wildlife. The best way to see different parts of the reserve is to stay at different camps.
Game drives in the western area of the reserve
For our game drives, we opted to start with the western side of the reserve and staying at the third bridge camp. If you reach the camp before sunset, you can go for a sunset game drive.
For our 11th day, we decided to go for a boat cruise across the Okavango delta. The best way to enjoy the delta would be on a Mokoro but unfortunately, Moremi management didn’t have a mokoro trip on their activities at that time, so we opted for a normal boat cruise which was also pretty amazing. The cruise takes about 1-2 hours depending on what you prefer.
Then after the cruise, you can go for another amazing game drive safari. If you get yourself a Moremi tourist map, you will be able to see which loops to take for different game drives as each loop provides a different kind of vegetation and landscape.
On the second day at third bridge camp, we were lucky enough to get an amazing deal and we ended up sleeping at one of the tented houses, an experience which was absolutely amazing.
If you want to experience the Mokoro trip on the Okavango delta, you can book this tour.
Game drives at the North-Eastern side of the reserve
On day 12, its time to switch campsites and drive to the North East of the reserve. For the games drives in the North-East, we decided to sleep at Xakanaxa camp and we were so lucky to see a hyena at our campsite.
You can also do a sunset game drive. The staff members are always willing to tell you the best loop to take to see predators.
Day 13: Drive back to Maun
On day 13, we realized that we were running out of fuel and food so we decided to go back to Maun to restock before heading to Chobe National park. The good thing is that, as you drive back to Maun, you’re also on a game drive until you leave the park. Back in Maun, we went grocery shopping and slept at the Audi camp.
But if you have enough fuel and groceries, you can spend another day in Moremi game reserve to enjoy another full day of game drive.
Days (14-17): Chobe National park
Chobe is one of the best National parks in Africa and the third-largest in Botswana. Chope national park has 4 distinct areas; Chobe riverfront, Nogatsaa, Savuti, and Linyanti but the most visited areas are the Savuti marsh and the Chobe riverfront as they have the highest concentration of wildlife- so we also opted to go there. Since Chobe is bigger than Moremi, I’d suggest staying here for four night to be able to enjoy the greater area of wildlife.
Game drives in the southwestern area of the park
On day 14, drive to Savuti campsite which is the closest camp to the Savuti marsh. The roads are extremely sandy, so it’s imperative that you drive carefully.
So on the 14th and 15th day, just enjoy the safari game drives in the southwestern area of Chobe national park. You’ll be able to spot herds of elephants, zebras, wildebeest, impalas, and soo many animals.
Game drives in the Northern area of the park
After exploring the Savuti marsh area, it’s now time to drive to the Chobe riverfront area on day 16.
The Chobe riverfront which is also known as the Serondela area has the highest concentration of wildlife within Botswana and attracts huge herds of Elephants and Buffalos in the dry season of May to October.
The major activity to do at the Chobe riverfront is to go for amazing game drives. Morning and sunset game drives are the most rewarding as the chances of spotting predators are high- Yeah, we were able to see a pride of lions at the Chobe riverfront, just a few meters from our safari car.
You can also go for a sunset cruise along the Chobe River. The cruise offers an ideal opportunity to see animals up close and those that might have come to drink water at the river banks. You can book for the sunset cruise along Chobe river from here.
While at the Chobe riverfront, we decided to camp at Ihaha campsite as it offers amazing views of the Chobe River. Actually, all campsites are just in front of the river, which is a great way of spotting hippos without even leaving your campsite.
4 nights are ideal to spend in Chobe national park and by the time you leave, you’ll be absolutely in awe of the amazing wildlife that Botswana offers.
Day 18: Drive to Kasane and then Victoria falls town
Unless you plan to visit Zimbabwe on its own, its prudent to add a visit to the Victoria falls before you leave Botswana. And the best part about ending with Chobe riverfront is that it is close to Kasane, which makes it super easy to connect to victoria falls town in Zimbabwe.
After Chobe national park, drive to Kasane town. Our initial plan was to have a sleepover in Kasane but since the drive from Chobe to Kasane is just 2 hours, we just decided to make a stopover in Kasane for like1 hour and later headed directly to Victoria Falls town.
A stopover in Kasane is a good idea to get everything in order for border crossing. If you don’t have dollars for the Zimbabwean visa, take care of that while in Kasane as there is no other town along the way to do that from. You can also do more groceries at Kasane if you don’t have enough.
Border crossing from Botswana to Zimbabwe
The process is fairly easy and fast, but check your visa requirements before you do. As a Ugandan passport holder, I don’t need a visa to enter Botswana, but if you require a visa on arrival, it only goes for 30$. One thing that surprised us was that we had to pay for the vehicle to be allowed into the country and as a commercial vehicle, not a private one. We didn’t know about this so it was a shock to us. So before you go, make sure you have enough cash for all the vehicle paperwork, which cost around 100$.
After clearing everything we hit the road again and went straight to Victoria Falls town. We had not made any reservations so the first thing we did was to look for a campsite and we found one at Victoria falls Rest camp which is just a few minutes walk to the town at to the Falls themselves.
After settling in, you can go for an evening walk around the town as you browse craft markets.
Day 19: Visit the Victoria Falls and later take a sunset cruise
Victoria Falls, a UNESCO world heritage site is considered to be the largest waterfall in the world and the only waterfall with a height of more than a hundred meters and a length of more than a kilometer. The noise made by the falls can be heard from 40 kilometers away, making it a natural wonder that its beauty can’t be explained but rather felt.
The victoria falls are accessed from the main entrance of the Victoria falls national park and the entry fee is 30$ for non-residents.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to see the falls. The victoria falls had been on my bucket list for like forever and this dream was coming true on this exact day. The views are breathtaking, the noise is soo incredibly loud, the mist makes it even perfect. And the best thing is that the viewpoints are clearly marked from the first to the last which makes it easier to see the falls from different angles and not to miss any amazing viewpoints.
After an amazing visit to the victoria falls, in the afternoon of day 19, we took a walk around town, visited Art galleries, checked out tour companies to book some fun activities to do around victoria falls.
So since we had booked a sunset cruise, on the evening of day 19, we went for an amazing boat cruise on Zambezi river. Other than the amazing feeling of cruising on the river, you’ll be able to spot animals like giraffes, hippos, and crocs. Actually, I saw the biggest crocodile in my life on the banks of the River Zambezi.
Day 20: Go for the flight of angels and later a bridge swing
On the morning of day 20, we were picked up for our helicopter flight! I have to say this is one of the amazing things, I’ve experienced in my life. First of all, I had never been on a helicopter and flying over the incredible victoria falls was an incredible experience – something out of this world.
The views from the helicopter are absolutely everything, the flight is just 13 minutes but its done in a way that you’re able to see all sides of the falls and the Zambezi river.
If you were thinking of skipping the flight of angels, you might want to reconsider because it is like a once in a lifetime experience. It is an expensive activity but worth every single penny.
In the afternoon, we had another activity lined up- the Bridge swing.
I still get chills every time I remember it, even as I write this, I am like I can’t believe I did that. It is the most adventurous activity I’ve ever done in my entire life.
The bridge swing is a swing over the victoria falls bridge which is 128 meters high above the lower watermark with a free fall of 80m. Now that is not for the faint-hearted. I am not gonna lie, I was extremely scared but I finally did it.
As you lose your breath while swinging, the media team of Shearwaters takes amazing photos and videos of you screaming while you free fall. At the end of the activity, you’re given an opportunity to watch them and you can purchase them if you like. The advantage of booking a bridge swing with shearwater is that you get a certificate of taking part in the activity. Want more activities to do around Victoria falls? Read my post about the incredible things to do at Victoria Falls.
You can also book some of these amazing activities from below
Day (21-22): Drive back to Botswana
After the epic few days at the victoria falls, we had to go back to Gaborone. The journey from Victoria falls to Gaborone is soo long and can’t be done in one day! So it’s better to make a stop at one of the towns.
Our stop was at Francis town
Since we had been to other different towns of the country, we opted to stop in Francis town as it was more logical to break the journey into half and because we hadn’t been to Francis town before.
For the night, we camped at Dumela Lodge, a nice and quiet lodge just a few minutes away from the main town. The place was nice but it was surprising to see that we were the only guests at the campsite yet it was the peak season in Botswana.
For day 22, we hit the road again up to Gaborone and stayed at Mokolodi Backpackers for a night.
Days (23-24) : Gaborone
For day 23, we cleaned the car since we had to return it to the rental company the following day. We later switched hotels and checked into Masa square hotel, a luxury stay that we needed to relax for 3 nights before we left the country. You can also experience the luxury stay in the heart of Gaborone by making a booking from here. OR you also can read about my honest review of Masa Square hotel before you make that booking.
The following day we returned the car, just relaxed and took walks around Gaborone city until the day we left the country.
If you have more time
With this itinerary, it gives you a taste of what to do all around the country and how to plan out your activities. Because of the limited time we had, we were not able to see some of the amazing places in Botswana yet we didn’t want to rush through activities just for the sake of seeing everything, we wanted to experience everything in a more broadway. But if you have more time, you can add these places to your Botswana safari self drive itinerary.
- 3 -4 days at Central Kalahari game reserve
- 1 day at the Tsodilo hills
- Tuli Block
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Note: You don’t have to religiously follow this itinerary if your trip is not starting from Gaborone, it is just to guide you on how to spread out your time in Botswana. This 3-week self drive Botswana itinerary can even be started from behind if you’re coming from Zimbabwe and heading to Gaborone.
From Victoria falls- Chobe national park-Moremi game reserve-Maun- Chapman’s baobab- Kbu Island-Nata sanctuary- Khama rhino sanctuary and then to Gaborone.
Have you been to a Botswana self drive safari? Are there any tips or places that you added to your Botwasna road trip itinerary? Inspire others to check them out by leaving a comment below.
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