Luxury safaris in Botswana

Imagine drifting off to sleep in a comfortable king-sized bed beneath a canopy of stars, and waking to a tray of tea and biscuits just before dawn as a fiery Africa sunrise, accompanied by a full orchestra of birdsong, gets underway. All around, the bush is beginning to stir, and from your deck you’ve got a front row seat.

“A sense of wilderness is such an important element of a luxury safari,” says Rebecca Blakey from our partner Wayfairer Travel. “Activities like sleep-outs, either on a deck or on a roll mat with no netting, the kind of thing people tend to do around their third safari, really give you that. Sometimes people need a bit of persuading, but they go on to say it was the best night of their trip.”

Seemingly counter-intuitively, a truly luxurious safari can mean stripping the experience all the way back to basics. The opulence isn’t found in the plunge pool, champagne breakfast or vintage bathtub out on the deck, but in getting as close as possible to nature.
Creature comforts, with the emphasis on the creatures
And nowhere immerses you so vividly in the wilderness as Botswana.

Dominated by the sprawling Kalahari sands, Botswana has made a deliberate decision to emphasise high-end tourism, keeping visitor numbers to a minimum. That way, when you encounter an elephant herd in Chobe National Park or a big cat on the prowl in Linyanti, the chances are you’ll be the only ones there – no long queues of jeeps, where the click of the cameras drowns out the sounds of the bush.

“Botswana stands out because there are so few other people around,” says Simon Mills from our partner Native Escapes, which specialises in luxury Africa holidays. “That and the sheer density of the wildlife.

“A safari here is a very special experience. Botswana safaris cost more because of the model the government has pursued, which is to say high cost, low impact on ecologically sensitive areas. Each concession can build just a small number of lodges with a small number of rooms in each, which limits the number of guests, making it more exclusive and therefore more expensive.”

The lodges, bush camps and permanent tents are the last word in elegance, tucked into wildlife-rich areas so remote that the only realistic way of accessing them is by small aircraft. But once you get there, the animals come to you (sometimes, literally) – it’s no rarity to find an antelope wandering around beneath your private deck.

Luxury safaris in Botswana typically focus on the lush north of the country: Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and the bleached expanse of the Makgadikgadi Pans. Your itinerary can see you flying between two, three or more locations (in small, prop-engine planes that are less-polluting. We no longer sell trips featuring jet flights of under an hour). You can find less expensive holidays in Botswana that feature overland travel and wild camping. But most people that safari here come expecting to spend a lot of money, because they know the kind of experience they’ll be getting in return.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Luxury safaris or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Luxury camps & lodges in Botswana

Seasoned safari seekers gravitate towards Botswana for its sense of exclusivity and because luxury here comes as standard.
Luxury safari lodges in Botswana typically cater for small numbers of guests – perhaps a maximum of 10 or 12 (with the much larger Chobe Game Lodge a notable exception) – and they are often located deep inside reserves in the more remote reaches of the country, places that are harder to get to but swarming with wildlife. At times, you’ll see animals wandering around from your own private terrace; it doesn’t get much more immersive than this.

As you’d expect, because luxury lodges in Botswana are normally limited to just a few guests, there is great emphasis on comfort and service. The Botswana government also insists on strict environmental standards, so lodges and camps reduce waste, use renewable energy and minimise water consumption. Plus, many of these properties support a range of local conservation and community initiatives.

You can find luxury safaris across Africa, but nowhere else does it come as standard. Handsome fly-in lodges and camps that offer all the amenities you need yet still fit perfectly into the natural environment. Carefully curated activities like bush walks and animal tracking stewarded by expert local guides and pioneering conservation projects that receive significant funding from our responsible partners. Luxury travel and responsible travel go hand-in-hand in Botswana.

What do luxury safaris in Botswana involve?

Getting around Botswana by road & air

Botswana may be flat, but it is vast, and many roads are little more than bumpy sand tracks. The most practical way of getting from place to place is usually by light aircraft. A 25-minute flight would take 6-8 hours to cover a similar distance overland. Some luxury lodges in Botswana have even invested in their own private airstrips. Naturally, this bumps up the price of a Botswana safari, but it does mean that you can see the key natural parks and reserves in just a week or so, and that as little of your time as possible is spent travelling. Plus, of course, views of the Kalahari and Okavango Delta from above are magnificent.
Flying over in a little light aircraft was spectacular because you see the vastness of the delta… you can look at a map, but it means nothing.
– Debbie Grainger from our partner Wildfoot Travel

Hands-on conservation

“It’s not a clear-cut thing,” says Rebecca, “but luxury safaris do tend to allow for a more responsible business model. Running a conservancy costs a lot, so your money directly impacts the species living there.

“And with a luxury safari, in many cases you can also be directly involved in conservation, rather than just making a donation. A lot of the camps let you actually join in with these projects, which you can’t really do with more budget operations. I once helped to track lions with a GPS unit and it was an amazing experience.”

Delicious & sociable dining

The cuisine on a Botswana luxury safari holiday can be exquisite, although because you’re way out in the bush, menu choices will be fairly limited. Many accommodations have extensive wine cellars, and you’ll clink glasses with your fellow guests, as mealtimes are typically communal affairs.

“Dining together is an absolute must for me,” says Simon Rowlands from our partner Wildfoot Travel. “Socialising with different and interesting fellow guests is a great part of a safari, but I appreciate it’s not for everyone. Some five-star lodges in Botswana don’t offer shared dining, which I feel goes against the essence of a safari.”

Activities tailored to you

Meals are often an opportunity to discuss the following day’s activities. Since most Botswana luxury safaris are tailor made, resident guides with up-to-date knowledge of wildlife movements and weather conditions will be on hand to ensure you maximise your chances of sightings. Game drives can use smaller jeeps due to fewer guests, so that guides have more time to answer questions and you’ll have less trouble hearing the answers.

And the sense of isolation on while wildlife watching is incredible. You’re unlikely to see another vehicle, especially in the places such as the Okavango Delta, Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, Savuti Marsh and the Makgadikgadi Pan.

The wildlife viewing in Botswana is exceptional, whether spotting prides of lions basking in the sun from a jeep, in Chobe, or crocodiles and hippos from a mokoro dugout canoe in the Okavango Delta. You’ll zoom in on smaller animals, right down to bug-level, on a walking safari led by a San Bushman, and there’s the option to zoom out with a hot air balloon flight, for sensational views of meandering elephant herds.

Luxury Botswana safaris are often combined with a few days at Victoria Falls, which is just an hour’s drive from Chobe National Park. There’s an astonishing range of adventure activities here, from bungee jumping to rafting and helicopter flights over one of the largest waterfalls in the world.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bram Vranckx] [Intro: pjmalsbury] [Luxury camps & lodges in Botswana: Wildfoot Travel] [Getting around Botswana by road & air: Visite Botswana] [Activities tailored to you: thejack]