Botswana, Africa – Lonely Planet’s no. 1 travel destination in 2016
Botswana is the number one destination on Lonely Planet Best in Travel List 2016, the roundup of the best travel destinations to visit the coming year. Singapore was first on the same list last year. Namibia, Botswana’s next door neighbour was second on the 2015 list. Both African countries are little known to Singaporeans. Do you know that Singaporeans can visit Botswana visa-free? In this post I will share more about travelling in Botswana.
Where is Botswana? Is it safe to visit?
Botswana is situated in the southern part of Africa and next to South Africa. The African continent have been referred to as the ‘dark continent’ as little was known about it. However, holidaying in Africa is growing in popularity. In fact, a lot of African countries are tourism-ready and you find a lot of well established infrastructure and activities for tourists to enjoy. It is a misconception that travelling in Africa is tough and dangerous, that is absolutely not the case. Especially in the southern part of Africa where countries are as developed, and some more developed than our Southeast Asian neighbours. Most destinations are very safe (with the exception of Johannesburg and a few other bad spots) and it is easy to organise a holiday there. Here’s some fun facts about Botswana!
African Safari & Top 3 Destinations in Botswana
Botswana is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites and boasts three of Africa’s best and most renowned African safari destinations. Namely the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and the Kalahari Desert. Here’s more information about Botswana safari destinations that are little known to Singaporeans but are well worth the visit.
1. Okavango Delta- An African Experience in the Delta
The Okavango Delta is a massive inland delta The scale of the delta is magnificent, each year around 11,000,000,000,000 litres of water flow into the Okavango Delta. How amazing is that! It’s no wonder that the delta is regarded as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.
Botswana is the by far the most expensive safari destination on the African continent, the country’s tourism policy is that of ‘high quality, low impact’. However, there are affordable ways of enjoying this exclusive safari destination. Rather than fly into an exclusive safari lodge in the Okavango delta, you could arrive via a mokoro. A mokoro is a traditional dug-out canoe used in the delta. Go on a bush camping trip organised by the Okavango Polers Trust, a community-based tourism initiative set up in 1998. It is community-run by native people of the Okavango Delta and provides them with extra income. A trip with them starts from $150SGD per person.
It offers the same wildlife experiences as the more expensive Botswana safari lodge stay and much more. I went on a 3 days 2 night trip in the delta with them and I found the trip very well-organised and intimate. The polers were so knowledgeable about the Okavango Delta and had interesting stories to share, about lion and hippo encounters. All logistics were taken care of and activities were planned. We got to go on a number of safari walks, saw elephants, giraffes and other African animals up close. Also, I got to learn how to row a mokoro, which isn’t as easy as it looks!
If you’re not up for bush camping, you can go glamping – glamorous camping. When you glamp, expect to be in the middle of nature but with comfortable beds, luxurious toilet facilities and even fancy bathtubs. However that would cost a lot, remember that Botswana is the most safari destination in Africa. Expect to fork out around $1.3k per night for speciality lodging in the Okavango Delta.
2. Chobe National Park- Botswana Safari
This park has the largest concentrations of wildlife, and of course elephants on the continent. Chobe national park is home to around 50,000 elephants, the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. Go for a game drive with a guide on a 4WD or take the river cruise. If you could only do one I’d go for the safari cruise down Chobe river. From the comfort of your boat you could see herds of elephants, massive African alligators and hippos.
The sunset on the Chobe river is magnificent. It happened to be the first sub-saharan African sunset I’ve witnessed too – having been to North Africa. It is completely different and much more beautiful than any other sunsets I’ve seen in my life. Sunsets are said to be amazing in Africa due to the dust present. Don’t know how true that is, but it’s definitely a dusty continent!
There are a few campsites at Chobe National Park and I stayed at the campsite of Thebe’s Chobe Lodge. Ablutions were clean, simple and there was a swimming pool which was a nice touch. But it was pretty cold and not ideal for a swim. It is best to time your visit to Africa in the dry winter months if you’re there for safaris. It would be really cold, sometimes below zero degrees (it is a myth that Africa is always hot!) but totally worth it. There’s less rain, less scrubs and therefore wildfire is more easily seen.
3. Kalahari Desert and the San Bushman
The Kalahari desert is massive, 360,000 square miles of harsh, arid and semi-arid landscape. It stretches across three countries, namely Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Be sure to do a night of camping (or glamping if you prefer) in the desert. Simply to admire the stunning cloudless sky filled with millions of stars! By day go explore, if you’re very lucky you might come across fascinating wildlife like the black-maned Kalahari lion.
Some Singaporeans in their twenties remember the San bushmen from geography or social studies lessons. They are the hunter-gatherer people indigenous to Southern Africa. Scientists believe that the San people is one of the clusters of population from which all known modern humans descend. That is why they say that Africa is the cradle of humanity! You can view old rock paintings from the first millennium AD with religious and spiritual significance in some parts of Botswana.
In the Kalahari you can meet the San people of the Kalahari. Dance with them, learn more about their ancient traditions and of course the famous click language. You might have encountered it in the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy. This native Khoisan language is only spoken in the southern part of Africa and consists of click sounds produced by the lips, mouth and throat.
Some of the best attractions in Botswana like the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park is in the north and pretty close to Victoria Falls. The falls border Zambia and Zimbabwe. You can fly into Livingstone in Zambia, check out Victoria Falls for a few days then drive for 5.5 hours to reach Chobe National Park. After which you can head on to Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta.
The cheapest and most direct flights to the southern part of Africa from Singapore would be to South Africa. You can fly into Johannesburg and make your way via land (14 hours drive) or plane (1.5 hours) to Maun. There are a lot of tours run by South African companies to Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park starting from Johannesburg and Cape Town. You can also fly into the capital of Botswana, Kasane and make your way to Maun.
Visa is not required for Singaporeans entering Botswana, for up to 90 days per year. No visa hassle at all!
- Hepatitis A & B
- Malaria prophylaxis – very low malaria risk present in Chobe National Park & Okavango Delta
- Yellow Fever – there’s no risk of yellow fever; vaccination required only if traveling from or passed through (including transits) a country with risk of yellow fever.
For the most accurate information about travel vaccinations for Botswana visit CDC.
Need more reasons to visit Botswana? Check out top 10 reasons to visit southern Africa!