Why is Botswana such a great destination for a Family Safari?

Kate Pirie By Kate Pirie
19 Sep 2017
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Botswana is a perfect destination if you are contemplating a family safari to Africa. Coming from Botswana I am a little biased and think this is the best place, but of course there are other such wonderful family safari destinations such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and of course Kenya too.

In fact many families may indeed combine a couple of countries as part of their safari itinerary - for example seeing Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia with a safari in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe and then Chobe National Park in Botswana. Or combine time in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and then scoot off to South Africa and swop the Kalahari Sands for beach sand.

 

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A wonderful start to any family safari, is to ease yourself in gently with a few days in the Victoria Falls area – perhaps staying in the buzzy town and doing some adrenalin activities before moving on to Chobe.

Chobe Game Lodge just over the border is a wonderful place to start, this is the only lodge located in the national park, and hence you are surrounded by the wildlife while located right on the banks of the Chobe River.

One should do an afternoon boat excursion – it is my favourite and there is nothing as wonderful as sitting on the boat and watching the elephants coming down to drink. Chobe is home to one of the largest concentration of elephant in Africa and during the driest season one can see hundreds of elephants at one time drinking and playing in the water.

In many of the camps and lodges in Botswana, families on safari are obliged to have a private guide and vehicle, thereby giving you exclusivity and the day is planned accordingly around your family.

Perhaps stop in the shade of a Jackalberry or Wild Mangosteen tree on the banks of the river, whilst you watch the hippo snorting in the shallows and do some bird watching too.

 

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While you are spending a bit of quiet time, your guide will engage with the children, testing their new found wildlife knowledge. The Kwando Camps also have specific guides that know just how to engage and teach your children about wildlife in a fun way.

One way to really immerse yourself and experience the true meaning of being on safari, is to go on a private mobile tented safari, where you have your own guide and a crew that travels ahead putting up your tents, doing all the cooking and getting a very comfortable camp ready - just for you.

I recommend spending at least a week travelling through various parks and even going down to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve or Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Safaris Guides have excellent guides and tents and have guided several families for us, all reporting back that this was their best holiday ever.

You wake early with a light breakfast around the camp fire before heading out on a morning game drive – reading the nocturnal tracks to see what has passed by the camp in the night and then following the early morning roar of lions, regrouping after a kill. By totally immersing yourself on this type of safari experience, you can learn so much about all of the inhabitants and how best to respect the environment.

 

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After a few nights camping, you could stay in a safari camp on the edge of the Okavango, such as Okuti, with its beehive-styled canvas rooms with arched roofs and interior reeded ceilings. Okuti is located in the Xakanaxa area of Moremi Game Reserve, right in the heart of the Okavango Delta, so you can explore both by land and water – through reed beds which are filled with constant birdsong. It is quite a cacophony first thing in the morning and while reed frogs serenade you with their tinkling bell calls.

If your children are adventurous – mum and dad too, then the Young Explorers program in the Okavango Delta is simply fabulous. I have sent families on this three night safari and the children flatly and firmly refused to leave!

Accommodating only one family at a time, this is the most exciting concept in Botswana. The guides aim is to help you explore the bush, whilst never losing sight of the fact that being in the wilderness is also about having fun.

Mums and dads are entertained along with the children and this is a wonderful experience for everyone. You learn some bushcraft and safety, and rules regarding animal behaviour and how to track big game.

 

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Also about the night sky in the southern hemisphere and learn how to pole a mokoro, and to fish. Over the course of the stay you become accustomed to some of the sights, sounds and smells that make up the language of the African bush. In the evening you can take time to learn about the history and the people of Botswana.

And finally for a bit more fun in a totally different environment – head for Planet Baobab on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan National Park. One simply cannot miss the entrance – a huge decorative aardvark stands on the side of the road. 

The salt pans are vast and remote – the sheer isolation and sense of being alone in such areas is overwhelming. The pans and surrounding grass plains are home to some of the oldest baobab trees (average 4000 years old). Here, there are also brown hyena, meerkats and guests can explore the pans on quad bikes.  Beyond the baobabs lies the boundless lunar landscape of the Makgadikgadi. 

You can visit the local village and learn about Botswana culture, and the local primary school, 'Sekolo' with its outdoor classes which are held under the morula tree or visit a local cattle post and find stone aged tools and fossils on the pans.

 

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From December through June you may see the spectacular migration where 35-75000 zebra and wildebeest pass through the area as well a black manned lions.

And then at the end of the day, take the quad bikes into the middle of the very flat and brilliant white salt pans - with a 360’ view and nothing but silence and finally sink into your bedroll under a ceiling of sparkling stars and simply drift away.

So this is why Botswana really is a perfect destination if you are contemplating a family safari to Africa.

Pictures by courtesy of:

  • Kwando Safaris
  • Safari & Guide Serves
  • Desert & Delta Safaris
  • Ker & Downey
  • Uncharted Africa

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