Botswana for be­gin­ners

Your first visit to Botswana doesn’t have to be an in­tim­i­dat­ing af­fair – you don’t even need a 4x4! Here’s how to plan the trip of your dreams.

go! Botswana - - DO IT YOURSELF -

Are you sure I don’t need a 4x4?

Yes. If you’re in a 4x2, you just need to ap­proach your tour a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. Go to places that you can get to in a nor­mal ve­hi­cle, but where you can also do an out­ing in a 4x4 game-drive ve­hi­cle – or in a boat.

Ob­vi­ously, a 4x4 is the best ve­hi­cle for an ex­tended tour (whether it’s in Botswana or the Ka­roo) be­cause you’ll have bet­ter trac­tion if things go awry. Sec­ond best is a bakkie or SUV with a high ground clear­ance and lots of boot space. But there’s noth­ing wrong with your Golf, Corolla or As­tra. Just pack less stuff and show the guys in 4x4s how it’s done.

Visit Botswana dur­ing the dry sea­son (June to Oc­to­ber) so you won’t have to drive on muddy roads. See our maps on pages 12 – 15 – there’s a tar road all the way to Maun (start­ing point for ex­plor­ing the Oka­vango Delta) and Kasane (your base to visit Chobe Na­tional Park and Vic Falls). You might have to drive short dis­tances on sandy roads (sel­dom fur­ther than 5 km) to get from the tar road to your cho­sen lodge or camp. If you get stuck, there will be some­one nearby to help you.

See page 18 for in­for­ma­tion about the Great North­ern Loop – a 12-day cir­cu­lar route for the hol­i­day of a life­time. This is my first time – where do I start? Your first visit to Botswana might feel like an on­cein-a-life­time thing, but you’ll soon be plan­ning your sec­ond trip. It’s a big coun­try and the most scenic parts are in the north – this is where you want to be.

Plan your route from South Africa care­fully. Try to en­ter Botswana at one of the smaller bor­der posts to save time. You want to reach the north as quickly as pos­si­ble so your hol­i­day can be­gin. Get the long, hard drive out of the way.

Our Great North­ern Loop route in­cludes the Zam­bezi Re­gion in Namibia. Why? This slice of Namibia of­fers a sim­i­lar wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence to Botswana, but at a frac­tion of the price.

How do I make a book­ing?

Use our ac­com­mo­da­tion guide (pages 83 – 113) to find a place to stay. Most lodges and camps can be con­tacted by e-mail, oth­ers by phone. Some of the com­mu­nity camps are al­most im­pos­si­ble to reach, but book­ings are rarely needed and you can just show up.

The big­ger the group you’re trav­el­ling in, the fur­ther in ad­vance you need to book. If it’s just you and your hus­band, you’ll usu­ally get a place to sleep, even if you ar­rive with­out a book­ing.

Al­though it’s es­sen­tial to book at least a year in ad­vance to camp in Botswana’s top parks like Moremi and Chobe, this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily ap­ply to the rest of the coun­try. Still, play it safe and book be­fore­hand.

What do I need?

A re­li­able ve­hi­cle, your pass­port and money in the bank. Camp­ing gear, too – you’ll save money if you camp. You need a sim­ple tent (you don’t need a roof tent), camp­ing chairs and cook­ing gear – a gas cooker be­ing the most im­por­tant so you can start ev­ery day with a hot cup of cof­fee.

You don’t need ex­pen­sive sleep­ing bags – throw your du­vet in the back of the car and you’re sorted. It’s nice to have a small fridge in the car, but it’s not es­sen­tial. Buy meat as you go or at lodges. (Call ahead to check if they sell meat.)

Bor­row camp­ing gear from friends if you have to

– ev­ery­one has piles of un­used stuff in their garage. If you do de­cide to buy your own, in­vest in qual­ity gear that will last longer.

If you have the lug­gage space, pack a jer­rycan, a big con­tainer for water and an ex­tra spare wheel. The Great North­ern Loop is not too wild – fuel, water and help are never too far away.

Not a camper? No prob­lem. Your hol­i­day won’t be as cheap, but Botswana has many great lodge and self-ca­ter­ing op­tions.

Can I af­ford it?

You can if you save up! The parks in Botswana are more ex­pen­sive than their coun­ter­parts in South Africa and Namibia, but they also of­fer unique land­scapes. Set money aside for ac­tiv­i­ties like a flight over the Oka­vango Delta from Maun, a sun­set cruise on the Chobe River and a visit to Vic Falls.

Our best money-sav­ing tip? Drive slowly to keep your fuel con­sump­tion low and avoid speed­ing fines. (Botswana’s traf­fic of­fi­cials are on the ball.) You can eas­ily save more than R1 000 this way.

Can I travel with a tour com­pany?

Of course. A guided tour brings peace of mind. Your ex­pe­ri­enced tour leader knows where you have to go ev­ery day – you’re just along for the ride. See page 54 for a Botswana tour with go! and Mpafa (for­mal ac­com­mo­da­tion) and page 106 for a tour with go! and Bhe­jane (tented ac­com­mo­da­tion).

DO IT YOUR­SELF LIVE AC­TION. A boat cruise on the Chobe River will bring you so close to ele­phants you’ll hear them breath­ing.

DON A CAPE. Re­mem­ber to bring a rain jacket if you’re plan­ning to visit Vic Falls.

COAL KING. Camp your way through Botswana for a bud­get-friendly hol­i­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Botswana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.