How to organise a Roadtrip to Botswana
Would you love to go organise a roadtrip to Botswana but all you hear is that it’s very expensive and you need to book everything in advance? Well, I can tell you exactly how to travel there on a budget without any bookings. This is how to do it!
HOW TO GET THERE
As intercontinental flights into Botswana are a bit more pricy consider flying into major hubs close to the border. A good one is Johannesburg. From Jo’burg it’s only a couple of hours drive to Martin’s drift border crossing from where you can easily follow the rest of the itinerary. If you are in Africa already, fly to Gaborone (but leave soon, not much to do there), Maun or Kasane and start your Botswana roadtrip from there.
HOW TO GET AROUND
The best way to travel in Africa is by 4×4. You can either stay in lodges or get one with a tent on the roof. We did the latter and loved it! I can recommend Zebra Campers for hire, they helped me organize my roadtrip to Botswana. I really like smaller companies like this that take the time for you and truly care about the vehicle and your trip. The benefit of travelling in a 4×4 is that you can also do self-drive safaris through the National Parks instead of booking expensive guided safari tours. Also, you can reach areas (such as Kubu Island) that otherwise cannot be reached. If you are on a tight budget, however, you can pack a tent and travel around by public transport. I met a couple of people doing this and they said it is totally doable.
Oh and, no need to rent a GPS, just download MAPS.ME for detailed maps and GPS – every road, campsite, petrol station etc is on there!
WHERE TO STAY
Even though Botswana is known for its very expensive accommodation, a lot of lodges actually have (much cheaper) campsites too. This allows you to use all the facilities (read: amazing swimming pools) of the lodge while staying there for a much better rate. All the campsites I have been had the most beautiful camping spots and were very, very spacious and safe. If you already know when you are gonna be there, book them in advance on their websites. However, we didn’t do that for any of the campsites (even the ones in the National Parks) and always got a good spot. Just make sure you don’t miss out on the following 5 campsites on your Botswana roadtrip.
1. Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Drive around this sanctuary and see black and white rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, wildebeest, antelopes, zebras, foxes and so much more. The park is not that big so you see the animals quickly – no driving around for hours and hours. Go to the pan in the middle of the park for sunset! Camping is 480 Pula per night for 2 persons. If you go, make sure to get the steak fillet at the restaurant (the BEST steak we ever had!!)
2. Kubu Island
A really cool island full of Baobab trees in the middle of the Makgadikgadi Pans, the remains of what used to be a massive inland ocean. The island is small – about 1 km – so you can easily walk around. Spread over the island are about 10 campsites (camping is 480 Pula per night for 2 persons incl. park fee). However, there is no shower, no running water and no electricity so make sure you bring everything you need. Also, you cannot reach the island in wet season, so double check the roads before you go. Very beautiful drive!
3. Planet Baobab
Great campsite close to the Makgadikgadi Pans. The campsite organized tours to villages and the nearby Pans (they also organize tours to Kubu Island, don’t expect it to be cheap though). It is a great place to catch your breath for a day and chill at the swimming pool, the sites are very spacious and even have a little picnic area in the shade. Of course there is a baobab tree.
4. Okavango Delta
Maun is the gateway into the Okavango Delta and the place to organize your trip in there. Stay at the Old Bridge Backpackers (has a few camping spots as well – 80 Pula per person per night). The place has an awesome vibe and a lovely restaurant next to the river.
Make sure you do the Mokoro tour with them and explore the Delta in a local Mokoro and do a walking safari on one of the islands. It is really good fun! The tour can be done in 1 day (770 Pula) or two days – you will camp with a guide and hear lions growl. Another must do is flying over the Delta, this is a bit more expensive and therefore we did not do it. However, this is one of the things we regret not doing as we met way too many people speaking way too enthusiastic about it ($^**&$#). Therefore, make sure you get a good deal and get the chance to admire the delta and wild animals from the air (how cool!).
5. Chobe National Park
One of the best parks in Botswana for wildlife spotting is Chobe. To visit the park, stay in Kasane at Chobe Safari Lodge, a beautiful place next to the Chobe River. From here you can do a self-drive safari into the park (120 Pula per person + 50 Pula per car, valid for 1 day) or book on of their tours such as the river cruise (a must do for sunset – 3 hours, 250 Pula per person). At the river cruise expect to find yourself in the middle of bathing elephants, hippos and see countless animals making their way to the river before the sun goes down. As a camping guest you can use all the facilities of the lodge (really nice swimming pool, good wifi etc.). A MUST: ask for a site next to the river.
Other places you can visit on a roadtrip to Botswana:
✦ You can drive from Maun to Kasane on dirt roads through the Okavango Delta. This is what most people do. It, however, does require time and a little bit more money. We decided to not do this but leave something for our next visit!
✦ Spend a couple of nights in Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This is the world’s second largest game reserve (about the size of Denmark). You have to book the campsite here in advance though as they ask for it at the entrance of the park.
✦ Stay at Elephant Sands. At this campsite there is a waterhole right in front of the lodge. You can sit there or lay in the pool and see the herds of elephants coming to drink water.