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Before You Go on Safari in Botswana and Namibia

By Judy Koutsky

Always wanted to go on an African safari? What you need to know before you go to Botswana and Namibia.


Namibia is a vast and sparsely populated country; it's the size of Britain and France combined, but with less than two million inhabitants. This is a country of startling contrasts that straddles two great deserts. The Namib (for which it was named) is the oldest desert on the planet and its sea of red sand dunes lies along the Atlantic coast. In the eastern interior lies the Kalahari, a rugged savanna that sprawls along neighboring Botswana. A safari to Namibia attracts those travelers who want to experience being in one of the most starkly beautiful, remote places in the world.


Botswana is a unique safari destination because the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world, sits smack dab in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. This unique water system makes the land lush, green and brimming with life while the rest of the country -— 80 percent of it —- is desert. This region is considered by many to be one of the most incredible wildlife and wilderness sanctuaries in Africa. Nearly 40 percent of the country has been set aside for wildlife.

Wildlife in Botswana

The delta is home to a variety of animals including the "big five" -- Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and rhino. Additionally, vast herds of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest wart hogs, hippos, kudus -- and animals most people never knew existed -- can be found.

Exclusive Botswana

Botswana is a hot tourist destination. The country decided long ago to restrict tourism to photo-safaris with low density/low volume visitor controls. Therefore it's the most expensive safari destination on the continent, attracting a very select, very high-end part of the tourism market. When visitors stay in one of the luxury camps in Botswana, they'll be one of 10-16 guests in a camp (if it's full) with exclusive usage rights to about 600-1000 square miles of land. There won't be dozens of safari vehicles lined up in the parks and reserves; visitors are more likely to run into animals than tourists.

When to Go

High season for both countries is in winter (American summer) from June-September. Temperatures can be quite cold at night (hovering around freezing) but very pleasant (in the 70s) during the day. This is the dry season and it's the best time to see game, as animals will cluster around the watering holes each day.

What to Pack

Bright and white colors are not recommended for safari. The key is to pack light as many small planes in Africa have a weight restriction (often around 20 pounds). Most safari camps include daily laundry service in their room rates.
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