Botswana camping safaris

“Botswana is one of Africa's most exclusive destinations. But travelling in a small group and sleeping under canvas brings one of the world's last wildernesses within reach.”

Highlights

Khama Rhino Sanctuary | Maun | Dugout canoe on Okavango Delta | Camping on islands in Delta | Moremi Game Reserve | Savuti | Chobe National Park | Kasane | Zambezi River| Victoria Falls | Optional: game flight, white water rafting, bungee jumping

Description of Botswana camping safaris

Botswana safari holidays offer a unique experience for travellers looking to explore in remote wilderness areas where other visitors are limited and wildlife watching is exceptional.

For 4 nights on safari we stay at designated campsites in national parks and towns. Formal campsites have hot and cold showers, laundry facilities & telephones. 7 nights we "camp wild" without fences in the wilderness areas. On these nights the crew will erect a bucket shower (with hot water off the fire) and a pit latrine (with seat!). 2 nights at a lodge in Livingstone with en-suite rooms and air-conditioning.

All of the 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 8 dinners will be provided by the Sunway crew, prepared at the vehicle and eaten around the camp fire except the last 2 breakfasts at the lodge in Livingstone.

If you’ve already experienced a camping safari, Botswana is no different in respects of transport as you’ll have the advantage of a specially built four-wheel-drive vehicle that comes complete with 12 seats facing forwards and canvas surrounds that can be rolled up to maximise wildlife watching.

For the first couple of days from Johannesburg to the town of Maun you’ll be travelling in a custom made 12-seater safari truck or an air-conditioned Mercedes 12-seater minibus.

As with most Botswana safari holidays the chance to help out and assist the guide team is certain to increase your experience, with a little help with washing up and baggage loading always appreciated by everyone on the tour.

Also, if there are nine or more travellers, an additional vehicle for supplies and a camping assistant will be included from Day Six to Day 11 to assist with prepping the meals and generally helping out to ensure things run even more smoothly.

From May to September Botswana experiences its dry winter season and you’ll find a much more generous selection of wildlife watching opportunities mainly due to the lack of vegetation and the reduction of watering holes. This time of year can also get a bit chilly, particularly in the early morning and late at night.

Alternatively, October to April, the Botswana summer, finds a wealth of lush, green foliage as well as a much greater intensity of migrating species of bird. Although game viewing can be a little more restricted it’s still a good time to visit, especially if you know a few key secret spots.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1:JOHANNESBURG to KHAMA RHINO SANCTUARY: Departing Johannesburg at 6:30am we head north into Botswana. We pass Serowe, birthplace of Botswana's first president, Sir Seretse Khama, on our way to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. This 4300 hectare reserve situated on the Kalahari sandveld, has several natural waterholes and provides prime habitat for white rhino, zebra and wildebeest. We take our first game drive around the open grassland of Malema and Serowe Pans. [camping -LD]
Day 2:MAUN: We drive through the Kalahari to Maun, the gateway to the Ikavango Delta. Situated on the banks of the Thamalakane River. Maun is a bustling frontier town where we prepare for the delta excursion. After setting up camp we have a relaxing afternoon at the swimming pool. [camping BL -]
Day 3-5:OKAVANGO DELTA: Our local guides will take us deep into the heart of the Okavango Delta on mekoro (dugout canoes). The delta forms as water from the Angolan highlands our over the Botswanan flat Kalahari Desert sands creating a delicate, green oasis for birds & wildlife. We will camp wild on remote islands in this amazingly dynamic environment & enjoy bush walks, bird watching & swimming in the clear water. Camping with our local guides we learn more about their lifestyle & culture. We return to Maun in the late afternoon of day 5 and have time for an optional (own expense) game flight over the Ikavango, which will reveal a different aspect of the delta. [camping Bx3, Lx3, Dx2]
Day 6-9:MOREMI & SAVUTI: We have 4 nights in these conservation areas with time to explore the various habitats. We spend our time on game drives watching the plentiful wildlife including wild dog, elephant, hippo, buffalo, lion & other game. Moremi Game Reserve rates as one of the leading wildlife areas of the world and we take our open 4WD vehivle inot Moremi for fantastic game viewing! Grasslands, floodplains, forests, lily lagoons and winding water channels combine to form a variety of game viewing habitats. Moving north over the sand ridge and into the Mababe depression we arrive at the Savuti Marsh. This open grassland area attracts herds of zebra and wildebeest, which in turn draw the large lion prides for which Savuti is famous. We camp wild in the central Chobe National Park at either Savuti or Zwei-Zwei. [camping BLD]
Day 10-11:CHOBE NATIONAL PARK: The Chobe River flows lazily along the northern boundary of the Chobe National Park attracting some of the largest herds of elephant in Africa. In the early morning we search for game on the flood plains of the Chobe River. The afternoon game viewing "sundowner"cruise is a highlight as we see the mighty elephant herds returning to the Chobe River to quench their thirst. We camp at Kasane on the Chobe River for night 11. [camping Bx2 Lx2 Dx1]
Day 12-13:VICTORIA FALLS / LIVINGSTONE ZAMBIA: Overnight for 2 nights in Zambia near Livingstone town on the banks of the Zambezi River . Enjoy a spectacular walk through tropical vegetation to the very edge of the "Mosi oa Tunya"or "the smoke that thunders" - Victoria Falls. Opportunities to white water raft on the mighty Zambezi River, bungi jump, or take a "flight of angels" (own expense) [lodge Bx2 - - ]
Day 14:ZAMBIA - LIVINGSTONE - TOUR ENDS: Tour ends at 08:00 after breakfast. Transfers to local airports are available [ - B - -]

Travel Team

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Our top tip:
Bring plenty of warm layers, especially if travelling from June-August - the days will be warm but the desert nights can get surprisingly chilly.
Trip type:
Small group, up to 12 people. Min. age 12.
Activity level:
Moderate.
Accomm:
6 nights campsites with hot showers, 7 nights wild camping with basic facilities.
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Single tents available with surcharge.
Included:
Tents, transport, safari guides, listed activities, most meals. Sleeping bags not included.
Meals:
13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 8 dinners.
'Free from' food:
We can cater for Vegans, Vegetarians, gluten free and celiac. We will just need to know this ahead of time when the bookings are being made.
LGBT:
With experience of personally guiding tours through a large number of African countries, and having previously led groups including LGBT travellers through those countries, I have not experienced any issues in accommodations or during the trip as a whole to date. The important thing is to know the local laws and gain an understanding of local points of view before you travel – we can advise you on these and the UK Foreign office FCO also has lots of country-specific information on local laws and customs. If a country is on the conservative side, generally being careful not to openly show affection in public for example is enough to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. All our guides are welcoming of LGBT travellers and will be happy to give advice on the trip when/where needed.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Environment
Message from co-Founder of this Tour Operator. My name is Bruce and I am a founder of this tour operation. I believe that the old conservation tactic of the setting aside areas of "exclusion" for conservation are outdated.

The reality is that in order for effective, sustainable conservation to take place, there needs to be an interest from the society of that country, conscious effort from government and local "buy in" from the local communities. Sadly the world is in a place where economic benefit is the overriding driving force of action and as such conservation is directly linked to economic benefit. Sustainable tourism is therefore absolutely essential for conservation to be effective. Not only for local communities to see value in conservation, but for countries as a whole to place value in protecting their natural heritage.

I believe there is a deep and instinctual link between our humanity and our natural environment. Inherently we all want to know that the wild places are still out there. And Eco-tourism gives us that opportunity, as we so often hear, to "rebalance" or "rejuvenate".

The various promises and commitments detailed below are only a representation of what it is that we do. I sincerely hope that our tours offer our clients an opportunity to experience the wonders of the African continent, and in some small way through focusing itineraries around wildlife and national parks, we contribute to environmental conservation both economically and spiritually.

If you join one of our trips, and have practical feasible suggestions about our responsible travel practices, please contact us. We strive to improve our operation and if we can do more for conservation in Africa, then we're all ears!

Low impact tourism & supporting local communities:
• Small group travel: We specialise in small group travel with a maximum group size of 12 clients & minimum of 4. Small groups ensures a small impact on the destinations we visit when compared to larger groups. Smaller groups create an intimate safari experience, and mean that when we interact with local cultures and stay in environmentally sensitive areas, we do not leave a large footprint.
• Fuel consumption: By travelling in a small group your carbon foot print is approximately ½ of self drive safari. The average pick-up car hire runs on approximately 12ltr/100km with generally 2 people per vehicle and this equates to approximately 6ltr/100km pp. Our average safari truck runs on 25ltr/100km with an average of 9.5 clients per tour and this equates to 2.6Ltr/100km pp. So, by joining a small group tour, your fuel consumption is less than half of doing a self-drive 4WD or pick up trip.
• Cooking: We cook using gas as far as possible and, whenever feasible, avoiding cooking using fire or coal which depletes limited wood resources.
• Wooden carving curios: We do take clients to local curio markets to support the local communities. If they want to buy a carving, we encourage clients purchase only small wooden carvings instead of large pieces. This is in an effort to again conserve the forests around the carving markets.
• Waste: We ensure that we take all of our rubbish out of wilderness areas and use proper waste disposal facilities on all tours (and in the workshop, including oil traps, oil recycling, cleaning products etc).
• Entrance fees: All entrance fees for the national parks in each country are used by the local authorities to maintain the condition and infrastructure of the national parks, and run regular anti-poaching patrols. These are often supplemented by government grants. The national parks support a large number of local community members often providing housing and schooling for the staff families. For us as a tour operator, supporting the various national park boards is an essential element to each tour.
• Accommodation: On all tours wherever possible we use locally owned accommodation establishments which are involved in local responsible tourism initiatives. This provides direct benefits to local communities through employment. We avoid large hotel chains and more commercial properties but opt for simple self-catering lodge, B&B’s and tented camps for accommodation in rural areas. By doing this we create an intimate environment for group away from large scale tourism and the communities around the accommodation benefit directly through employment and this creates pride and further interest in sustainable tourism as the communities have tangible benefits from tourism. Our tours focus on out of the way destinations, and as such, our “spend” is distributed into rural areas.
• Drinking Water: Each client, drinking 5 litres per day from 1 litre plastic bottles produces 100 waste plastic bottles on a 3 week safari. On this calculation, we would pollute the environment (and waste energy resources in plastic production) with over 250,000 plastic bottles per year! So as solution, each of our vehicles has a tank of clean drinking water that is filled up along the journey. This is safe tap water. We do not provide bottle water we encourage clients to drink the local clean drinkable tap water wherever possible in order to minimize the amount of plastic bottle waste produced by the purchase of bottled drinking water.
• Water conservation: We are acutely aware that in many areas that we visit water is a scarce resource. Clients are encouraged to be conscious of water usage and not to take long showers or waste water.
• Wildlife: On all game drives, our trained and qualified guides ensure that our groups interact with wildlife in the appropriate way. Slow movements, no loud noises and to respect the animals “personal” boundaries. Our philosophy is that we are visitors in the amazing places that we visit, and we do not want our presence to impact the wildlife and environment in any negative way. We also enforce a policy of not feeding any wildlife (animals habituated to human feeding will turn aggressive in the future which often results in authorities being forced to kill that animal) and to appreciate the natural state of the areas that we visit and to leave the area in exactly the same condition that it was when we arrived.
• Local guides & communities: On each tour you will travel with two guides for the entire trip. In addition, we also employ local guides for certain activities on tour. These local initiatives help to maintain local cultures and also sustain the ideals of wildlife conservation. Tourism, goodwill and conservation all work together and we aim to maintain the delicate balance at all times! The employment of local guide adds value to our clients visit because they can gain specific local knowledge and expertise from the people who actually live permanently in the area they are visiting. These interactions also give our clients the chance to meet local people and see how tourism is benefiting Africa, piece by piece.
We use local guides at:
Botswana: Okavango Delta, Chobe NP, Ghanzi San Bushman excursion, national parks
South Africa: Mkuzi village walk, Qunu Mandela historical site, Kozi Bay
Swailand: Hlane walking
Lesotho: Malealea Lodge pony trekking guide
Malawi: Boat excursion on Lake Malawi
Mozambique: Dhow excursions
Namibia: Brandberg walk and drives (part of the Tsiseb Community Conservancy), Spizkoppe walk, Gariep River canoeing, Sossusvlei 4WD drivers,
Zambia: Lower Zambezi Canoe excursion, South Luangwa game walks and drives, Vic Falls optional activities
Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe Monuments, Matobos NP, Hwange NP, Victoria Falls
For more information on each of the community projects please talk to your guide or contact us.
• Underprivileged Children Groups: We operate a number of tours into the national parks of South Africa for underprivileged children from schools based in Johannesburg, South Africa. PEN Organisation is an independent, non-governmental and social development organisation. Its activities focus on neglected and abandoned children and orphans, as well as disadvantaged families. We try to run these tours as often as possible during the course of a year. We believe that the youth are Africa’s future and that environmental education is important. This opportunity allows them to see for themselves wildlife (perhaps for the first time), nature conservation at work, and also show them employment opportunities that are available in the conservation or tourism industry, and possibly encourage them to follow a career in tourism (for this reason we aim these groups at 14-18 year olds).
• Local crafts and produce: At all local markets where fresh produce and crafts are sold and produced, we encourage the clients to barter (gently and in good humour) with the local people. This not only allows the clients to get involved with the local way of life, and interact directly with the local people, but also provides them a platform to experience local life first hand. Having said that, we explain to the clients by bartering too hard for a good deal might seem like a lot of money at the time, but if the amount being haggled over is converted to either US$, Euro or GBP, it amounts to very little. This is the local livelihood and we advise them to keep this in mind at all times.
• Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre: We assist a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Springs, Johannesburg. Judy Davidson runs a licensed rehab centre from a small holding. A variety of birds are cared for, from injured barbets, doves, and crows to a brown snake eagle, a Gymnogene, and spotted eagle owls. All birds are treated in a small makeshift clinic, and then kept in aviaries until they have recovered. Once able to fly, or care for themselves again, they are moved to a 'flight' aviary, for a period until they have regained strength. They are then released back into the wild. Those birds which are unable to be released are kept in large aviaries and fed through various donations. We assist the project with donations of practical equipment including shade netting, paint and other items on their wish list.
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

Okavango Delta: We use local community 'polers' to take us into the Okavango Delta. The polers have an intimate knowledge of the Okavango Delta, and their employment as guides ensure that the local community benefit from tourism and ensures that these areas are conserved for future generations.
The Okavango Delta, 1000th World Heritage Site, is an important wildlife refuge for many animals, both resident and migratory. It attracts thousands of tourists to Botswana annually, and maintaining the pristine nature of the environment is very important to the country. Water from the Delta is integral to the continued sustainability of the Botswana tourism industry. Without water, the environment would no longer support such diversity. There have been many talks about damming upper sections of the Kavango River which feeds the Okavango Delta. Should this go ahead it will disrupt the natural system of the Delta and adversely affect the wildlife and the industry as a whole. Tour leaders will explain all of this to clients so that clients are made aware of what potentially could happen if this plan is implemented. The more people who are made aware of the threats to this ecosystem, the less likely it is to happen. By people visiting the Delta, creating jobs, and allowing the delta to make much needed funds, the less likely it is that the planned dam will go ahead.

Okavango SOS trees project - Okavango Botswana: For hundreds of years, the local communities in and around Botswana's Okavango Delta have used the wood of the sausage tree to craft their traditional mokoro (dugout canoes). The knowledge and skill have been passed down from generation to generation and, up until recently, has been a sustainable practice. With increasing numbers of people visiting the Delta each year, more mokoro are needed and as a direct result, more and more Sausage Trees (Kigela Africana) are being felled and the tree is sadly disappearing from the region. A traditional wooden mokoro will have to be replaced every five years, thereby placing increased pressure on the dwindling Sausage Tree supply.
As a solution we have established a project to encourage polers in the local communities to buy replica fibreglass mekoros, which have a lifespan of approximately ten years, are more stable and are produced with much less negative affect to the environment. As such, sponsorship for each fibreglass mokoro is needed, and a portion of the tour cost will be donated to the project, but we also will offer our clients the opportunity to contribute to this worthwhile cause. Please feel free to contact the our office for more information on the SOS Trees project or if you would like to make any contributions towards this project. It is something that is close to all of our hearts and we have been successful in replacing 30+ (circ. 2015) mekoro thus far.

Wild Camping in Botswana: As a camping tour this means our environmental impact is minimal. We stay in designated campsites, and leave it in a pristine condition. Litter is strictly policed. The potential of creating wildfires is great, so the group is briefed on smoking restriction and how to dispose of cigarette butts.
All camps are un-fenced, so the potential is there for the wildlife to come into camp and clients are briefed as to the restrictions of keeping to camp and not wandering away from the confines of the campsite.

Khama Rhino Sanctuary: The Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) is a community based project that was established in 1992 to assist is saving the endangered rhino, restore the wildlife area (8585 hectares) and provide economic benefits to the local community through tourism. Rhinos were introduced in the sanctuary as it is being used as a breeding centre for the re-introduction of both black and white rhinos into the national parks of Botswana after the natural population had virtually been hunted to extinction by poaches. Proceeds from visitors to the park help with the rhino breeding programme and go to the local community.
While there have been further reintroduction of rhino’s by operators in Botswana by bringing rhino in from South Africa, Khama Rhino Sanctuary is still an integral part of rhino conservation in Southern Africa.

Climate

17 Reviews of Botswana camping safaris

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 05 Oct 2019 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was having a shower with a few elephants watching us from 200m away was an experience! Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Sep 2019 by

It was all wonderful, camping out in the wild , hearing the hippos splashing in the water outside our camp in the Okovango Delta, the wonderful game drives. Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Aug 2019 by

Memories are many and varied - Victoria Falls was spectacular. The wildlife - Elephants, Lions, Hippos, Crocodiles and a Leopard to name just a few. Wild camping and the animal noises in the night. The guides (Ali & Jami) were knowledgeable and passionate about Africa. The blood red sunsets are like nothing you have ever seen before. Read full review

Reviewed on 29 Jul 2019 by

Seeing the animals at very very close quarters, led by very knowledgeable guides was the most memorable part of the trip. Read full review

Reviewed on 20 Jun 2019 by

The most memorable moment was when we spotted a leopard at a distance and we approached it with the vehicle, it was just us and the leopard and all we could hear was cameras shooting and the animal's breath, truly unforgettable! Read full review

Reviewed on 06 May 2019 by

All was exciting. The scenic view above Okavango delta, Moremi reserve game, Savuti, Chobe and Victoria Falls. Game Walk (in the delta) and all the Game Drives... Read full review

Reviewed on 21 Dec 2017 by

Having stayed in lodges in the past I would say that camping in the wild is by far the best way to safari. Read full review

Reviewed on 15 Aug 2017 by

The highlight was probably when elephants strolled into our camp one afternoon! Camping in the wilderness and being up close to elephants, lions, rhino, giraffe, buffalo and hyena, hippos, leopards and fantastic bird life was wonderful. ... Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Aug 2016 by

Wonderful from start to finish. I didn't want it to end. Read full review

Reviewed on 20 Jul 2016 by

Awesome! I would wholeheartedly recommend the wild camping aspect of this trip as an amazing extra dimension to the experience over a lodge or fenced campsite. Read full review

Reviewed on 23 Nov 2016 by

Going to sleep in my tent, in the heart of the bush knowing that I was surrounded by all the wild life that I had come to see was my most memorable moment... You just can't get this fantastic feeling in a lodge or hotel. A wonderful experience. Well managed and more fun than I would ever have imagined. Read full review

Reviewed on 22 Sep 2016 by

Excellent - saw more game than we could possibly have hoped for and loved Botswana. Read full review

Reviewed on 02 Oct 2016 by

Best bits: The Okavango Delta safari and the Chobe safari Read full review

Reviewed on 17 Aug 2015 by

I am really happy we did it and I will never do a holiday as memorable and extraordinary again! Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Nov 2015 by

Best bits: The wildlife, glimpses of birds and lions, wild camping, professionalism of guides. Read full review

Reviewed on 13 Oct 2014 by

Indescribably lovely...the most memorable parts were wild camping and interactions with wildlife! Read full review

Reviewed on 29 Apr 2014 by

10 out of 10....The truly wonderful and magical Okavango boat journey. Softly, silently being punted through the waterways, between the reeds and framed by trees and punctuated by birdsong and and gentle soft water ripples. Victoria Falls - seeing is believing. Read full review

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