Before I booked the trip with a local Belgian agency I didn’t really know too much about Botswana. I knew it was located in Southern Africa, that it’s home of the Okavango Delta, and that’s about it. During two weeks I learned and experienced Botswana. And you can discover it here with me!
This trip departs in Johannesburg, where I was staying for the previous two days. That itinerary will be on the blog soon!
I did this trip with the overland tour operator Drifters. This means that it was a group trip with a guide. They’re based in South Africa and know the Southern African region very well. It is possible that some of the spots in the itinerary are off-limits for others or exclusive to Drifters. Make sure to think about that if you are planning on doing this trip too.
Day 1: Getting to Botswana.
It’s an early morning: one of the many to come. At 5:30 am I get out of bed and prepare myself for the two weeks to come. Put everything I needed the past couple of days back into my bags and freshened up.
At 6:00 am we are all expected at the breakfast table, so we can get our tummies filled and hit the road at 6:30 am sharp. Something we did with ease. Looks like it’s a group of early birds!
The first stop is Zeerust in South Africa. A small village where we do some shopping for the coming days. Food, drinks, alcoholic beverages. Everything we might need. I make a selection of beers I haven’t tried before and put them in the cooler in our truck.
Border control at Skilpadshek
An hour later we arrive at the Skilpadshek border control. We check out of South Africa and into Botswana. It’s good to know that this can take a long time. It can get busy at the border and they do check your vehicle for illegal things like meat and vegetables. We were lucky and got through it in less than thirty minutes.
After all this, we got hungry. So we stopped in Jwaneng and had lunch at the local Nando’s. Not very local, I know, but sometimes you don’t have to be too picky.
Sleeping at the Kalahari Rest, Botswana
At around 5 pm we arrived at this place called Kalahari Rest. A camping spot with a nice restaurant in it. Some of us set the tents, while my sister and I decided to just put up a stretcher and sleep under the stars.
There are no animals there except for some wildebeest and impala. But they’re too shy to enter our camp anyway.
After our preparations for the night, we roam around a bit. We see an impala near the camp, I observe a small army of ants that are digging out a new nest, and we see the sun go down.
Sundown means dinner on this trip. So at 7 pm we all sit down in the restaurant and receive our ordered food. I had the Safari Burger. It’s nice meat with an egg on top. Delicious!
After some chatting up at the campfire we decide to hit the hay. As tomorrow is another day of adventure. A lovely first night in Botswana.
Day 2: First game sightings, Bushmen, and huge insects
In the morning, a late 7 am wake-up, I put my stretcher back in the truck, and had the first breakfast out of the truck. I instantly reconnected with all the products though, since they are the same as we had on our Namibia trip three years earlier. (Gotta love rusks!)
At 7:50 am we are all packed and sitting in the truck, ready to go for another day. Even before we left the campsite we saw some springbok and a family of Ostriches with their babies. A lot of babies!
By noon we arrived at our campsite at Dqae Qare. It was a bumpy road, perfect for those African massages. Luckily we were treated with kudu and impala during the drive. Just to ease the discomfort a bit.
Relaxation and culture
After lunch, we had some time to spare. Since they have a nice swimming pool and the temperatures were scorching, we took the decision to cool ourselves down.
At the swimming pool, we talked which each other. And I saw some cool insects. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my macro lens with me at that moment. So I need to go back one day to photograph the huge potter wasp and velvet ant.
Then, when we were cooled down, the bushmen of Botswana came and collected us. The San, as they are actually called, guided us around nature on the domain. Showing the ways they craft their equipment from natural resources, what plants they like to eat, how they heal the sick, and so much more.
Of course, the highlight was the moment they created fire with nothing more than a stick and some dry grass. It only took him a minute too!
Walking around for an hour and a half, talking about the food we could find, got us hungry. So we went back to the truck and had our dinner. Another campfire moment with beers (Castle and Hansa lager). That night everyone slept under the stars.
Day 3: Going deep into the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Waking up before the sun is up hurts. At 4:30 am we found ourselves packing up our stuff. We had to do a bit of driving and needed to arrive on time. So an early start was essential.
During our departure, there was a bit of time to see the sunrise though. And it did rise. A hot glowing ball of fire moving away from the horizon. I actually saw it moving. Something I never experienced before.
During the morning drive to our next stop, Swarm Stop near Sepopa, we already saw plenty of wildlife: Wildebeest, Impala, white back vultures feeding on a horse, and a warthog.
We also passed the first mouth and claw disease checkpoint. One of many. The thing here is to just drive your car through a puddle of disinfectant and clean your shoes on one of their disinfected ‘doormats’.
Taking the boat to Peperi Island
At our arrival in Swamp Stop, we had lunch and some cool drinks. Then we all boarded a little boat and left the ‘mainland’. Going deep into the Okavango Delta to our island: Peperi Island.
A three hour trip by boat. It takes so long because you have to stop for all these amazing animals. Tonnes of birds, hippos, crocodiles, the African fish eagle, and elephants.
At around 6 pm we finally got to our little island in the delta. The crew was singing to wish us a warm welcome. We instantly noticed a rare gazelle near the camp too: a Sitatunga. Although I don’t have any photos of it.
Then it was time for dinner, a briefing about the animals that could enter the campsite at night, and what to do when they would do so.
Lions, elephants, and hippos. Exactly the kind of animal you want to encounter while going for a quick wee. Right?
Day 4: Close encounters of the absurd kind
Waking up was right at sunrise. When the animals start to get quiet again and usually leave your camp. That’s our queue to wake up, have breakfast and start the day.
That day we were doing two safari walks. One in the morning and one in the evening. With a siesta at noon to hide from the heat. Because in Botswana it can get hot!
The first hour or so, the guide taught us a lot about animal tracks and how to read them. The poo animals leave behind and what it can tell you about the animal. A very interesting experience.
When we arrived at the mukuro’s, a small kano-type boat, that would bring us to another island to spot animals, we suddenly had to run. The spotter who was tasked with our safety gave us the instruction to run to where we just came from.
I look back to where we were heading and see a big and dark blob charging for us. We stumbled into the pathway of a male hippo. They look cuddly on photos, but they actually cause the most deaths by animals.
Lucky for us, the guides are very experienced and brought us to safety. It was scary at first, but it soon became a nice story to tell. No one got hurt and the hippo lost interest in us very fast.
Stepping into the mokoro and floating on the canals made by the hippo’s right after that experience wasn’t really comforting. But hey, how many encounters can you have, right?
Luckily for us, we didn’t see any more hippos that day. We did track two male lion’s, but soon lost interest when we saw elephants nearby. So we went to check them out from a safe distance.
The sun was becoming too hot for us, so we decided to head back to camp and relax a little bit. Satisfied with our experiences.
The tracks we saw: Lion, elephant, hyena, hippo, water monitor, and baboons.
Evening walk with the animals of Botswana
In the evening, around 5:30 pm we went on another game walk. Again, not soon after leaving we noticed the tracks of an elephant. Mainly it’s poop. Soon after we had to run again. Luckily, this time it was more of a run so it wouldn’t notice us, than a run for your life type of situation.
After some reconsidering from the guide, he decided we should go around the elephants (and a baby), so we would be downwind. During our trek in a wide bow around the mastodons, we saw a warthog and her babies hiding under a bush. They ran away as soon as they noticed us.
After watching the elephants go away from us in the distance we did a bit more walking. We found the tusk of a, presumably, dead warthog. Later also a green bush snake slithered in between the feet of some group members.
After all those adventures we had a nice braai to fill our tummies with nice food. One of the group had his 60th birthday. As a fan of Drifters and a longtime customer, he had the honor to become one of the honorary guides.
Afterward, a campfire to have some beers, tell stories and play games. Oh right and avoid scorpions roaming around. The first scorpions I saw in my life. They’re funny little creatures. Just stay clear from their stingers.
Large claws mean harmless stinger.
Small claws mean bad, bad stinger.
Day 5: Adventures at the campsite
At 6 am everyone gathered for breakfast again. My sister and I decided to not go on the walks. The adrenaline rushes followed by a long period of nothing are bad for my mood. She didn’t like the continuous tension. A couple of others stayed in the camp too for various reasons. A hangover being one of them.
Luckily, the campsite wasn’t without adventures either. A troop of baboons entered the campsite and tried to steal from our kitchen. Too bad for them I was hanging around there. They can be very dangerous, but these ones aren’t used to humans.
I had a lot of fun popping my head through windows and doors and see their panicky reaction. It took a while though, after a while I was bored of them. An hour later they learned that there was no food to be stolen and they left again.
Right in time for me to see a large flock of epilated fruit bats fly into the camp and nest in the trees above our tents. As soon as they landed I lost visual of them. Good thing one of the people staying at the camp was a good spotter and helped me to find them during the siesta.
Upon the arrival of the group I learned, I did not miss anything mentionable. Perfect to prepare myself for the thing I was looking forward to doing. A helicopter flight over the Okavango Delta.
From the sky and waters
At 1 pm the helicopter landed on an open spot a little bit outside of the camp. My sister, another group member and I jumped in and we left the solid ground for half an hour.
From the sky, we had a nice view of the landscape and the animals in the Okavango Delta. Elephants and hippo’ roaming in the water, warthog running around, herds of cows, crocodile resting on little sandbanks, the sitatunga again, red lechwe and the mighty baobabs.
It was a lot to take in. Thirty minutes seems short, but it’s enough time to have a look at all the animals.
After another short break, we all hopped in the boat again. The last safari in the Okavango Delta: a boat safari. The guide knew of a place where normally there’s plenty of buffalo. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any.
Good thing we saw plenty of other animals. We got (too) close to a hippo, saw elephants from nearby, saw the soaring African fish eagle, red lechwe, (baby) crocodiles, black shoulder kite’s, and waterbuck. The guide was annoyed because he felt he was failing because we didn’t see any lion or buffalo, but I was happy with all the animals we did see.
When we got back, dinner was ready and we all ate some nice food. We gathered around the campfire again and then went off to bed.
Later that night I woke up to the sound of lions roaring. It was in the distance, but I was afraid enough to stay in bed while I needed to pee. Good thing I had an empty water bottle.
Pro-tip for people that are scared of possible animal-encounters during the night and have a small bladder. Take one of your empty 5l water-bottles in the tent. This is a nice bush-toilet you can close off and empty in the morning. I did it, no shame!
Day 6: Another day of traveling
After some breakfast, we left the island. At around 6:30 am we hopped into the boat and hit the small and large channels again. We encountered some more elephants, had to rush over a hippo pod blocking the way, and saw a crocodile clinging onto a dead cow in the water.
At 9:30 we arrived in Swarm Stop again. Loaded our bags into the truck and left for Maun. A large city in the center of Botswana. On the road, nothing really spectacular happened.
In Maun we did some shopping for food and drinks again and then went to the Green Fire Lodge of Maun. There we all had tents again, but this time with a real bed. Heaven!
After installing myself a bit I jumped into the swimming pool. Cool beer at the side. Some wifi to text my girlfriend about all the adventures I had. Brag my hippo-story to some friends. And then enjoy the sun setting before we had a meal that was cooked in an actual kitchen.
Day 7: Time for the real animal deal
The next day we had a ‘late’ breakfast at 7:30 am and left another hour later. First some more shopping in Maun and then off to the South Gate. Gate to where? To Moremi Game Reserve.
In Moremi, we would stay for two nights. Camping in the wild between the animals. On the road to the campsite, we already encountered plenty of animals.
- Arrow Marked Bubla
- Yellow-Billed Hornbill
- Impala: also little ones!
- Elephant: and lots of them.
- Giraf: not a lot, but they were present.
- Kudu: I just love the horns on the males.
- Steenbok: So many again
- Warthog: tails up and running fast.
- Cheetah: Three of the roaming the open spots
- Leopard: hiding in a bush, just 3m from me
- African buffalo: a small herd plowing through the mud
- Hyena: It was far away, but clearly a hyena
- Jackal: He actually warned us for the leopard, thank you, little guy
- Lechwe: I mean they’re everywhere!
- Hippo: it was more comfortable to see them from the safety of a car
- Wildebeest: Still angry about that Mufasa thingy.
- Baboon: Some troops with babies, it’s super cute!
- Zebra: They actually came as a surprise, but I was happy seeing them.
- Banded mongoose: cute little ones.
At around 6:30 pm we arrived at our camp. Some of the helpers had arrived there before us and had set up the tents and toilets. After dinner, briefing and using the toilet I was ready for bed.
Well, first warning the guides about eyes I saw looking at me while on the toilet. I clearly saw the light reflecting. Turned out it was a group of Impala using us as a shield for predators. I don’t know if it worked out for them.
Day 8: Game drive and more game drive
Basically, the entire day was spent driving around. Apart from a small break from 11:30 am to 4 pm. The highlight of the day was definitely a group of wild dogs ripping apart a baby impala. Watch out for graphic photos.
A list of the animals we saw:
- Wild dog ripping a baby impala
- Vervet monkey
- Marabou stork
At 7 pm we arrived back at the camp and had dinner around the campfire. The guides told us a couple of stories and we all talked some more. For me, it was bedtime at around 9 pm.
At night I woke up from movement behind the tents. Apparently a hyena was brave enough to come close and bite one of our water containers. Too bad for him he didn’t succeed.
Day 9: The animal everyone was hoping for…
Another morning in the wild. This day we moved camp from Moremi to Savuti. Another region in the Chobe National Park. We headed from camp to North Gate. There we checked out of Moremi and headed our way to Savuti. Another part of Botswana’s most beautiful region: Chobe National Park.
On the way out, we saw another huge amount of animals. Like the first lions of the trip. Just lying there under a bush. The lazy guys!
A complete list of animals we saw before noon:
- Chacma baboon
- Sable antelope
- African buffalo
- Red lechwe
- Southern ground hornbill
- Grey heron
- Marabou stork
Right after we saw the lions, we took a lunch-break in the wild. I wasn’t really comfortable, because it really wasn’t that far. Anyhow, after a nice lunch we continued our drive in the wild. And we saw even more animals.
- Black-backed Jackal
- Roan antelope
- Sable antelope
- Red lechwe
- Yellow Mongoose
- Kori Bustard
- Northern black korhaan
- Southern yellow-billed hornbill
- Secretary bird
- Pearl-spotted owlet
At around 6:30 pm we finally arrived at the camp. Our guides were so kind as to go ahead again and set it all up for us.
We had some dinner again, another circle around the campfire and then to bed.
Day 10: A day of younglings in Botswana
Another day in Chobe National Park, Botswana. In Savuti to be precise. At 6 am the game drive started again. The day before we spotted an elephant carcass, so our guide safely assumed we would see some animals gather there.
And right he was. At the carcass, we found a pride of lions feasting on the meat. A male overlooking the scene, some mothers eating, some mothers napping, and cubs going all over the place.
We also spotted many elephants later on. One was climbed a hillside, which even surprised our guide. At a pool, we discovered a giant herd of more than 50 elephants. Little ones too. It was so cute and impressive to see!
Some more animals we saw at the morning game drive in Savuti.
- Yellow Mongoose
- Kori Bustard
- Black-bellied bustard
In the afternoon we had a siesta and a very quick shower under the trees.
At 4 pm we left the camp again. By mere luck we found a female leopard sleeping just next to a bush. We had a very clear view of her, making it a nice experience.
Our guide knew about a hyena den not too far from the camp. There we would wait a bit until the mother would come back and greet the little ones. For a minute we discussed with another car that claimed no hyenas were there anymore. Our patience was rewarded, as they did live in the den. Cute hyena puppies greeting the mom.
It was getting late again, so we had to go back to camp. Another dinner around the campfire and off to bed. The next day we would have to go back to Maun.
Day 11: Roads, roads, and roadkill
At 6 pm we departed camp again. Heading for Mababe gate. The day before we had some rains, so the road wasn’t in perfect condition. And we didn’t see a lot of animals during the drive.
After some driving we arrived at the Mababe gate, leaving Savuti. A bit outside the camp we saw an impala that was clearly hit by a car. A bit further an aardvark as well. It was the first aardvark I ever saw, so it was really sad to see it lying there on it’s back and bled-empty.
Another veterinary control point to disinfect our shoes and tires before we arrived at Maun again, the touristic capital of Botswana. There we bought some more food and drinks and headed for the Greenfire Lodge again.
I spent the whole afternoon swimming in the pool and relaxing. I did take some time to focus on photographing the insects. But since I don’t know the local ones, it was hard to get good pictures of them.
After dinner, we did the impala drinking game, but since I wasn’t feeling too good I went to bed pretty early.
Day 12: Saltpans and thunderstorms
The next day was pretty relaxed. We had plenty of time to reach our next destination: The Makgadikgadi saltpans. So the morning I spent in the swimming pool again. Does it show I love water a lot?
We had a late breakfast and then lunch before we left. From 12:30 pm to 4:30 we spent driving. It could have been faster, but we had to take a couple of breaks since I became carsick out of nowhere.
One we arrived at One-tree island in the Makgadikgadi salt pans I started to feel better again. We made some group photos and then had dinner. The guides made some of the best-fried chicken I ever had.
After lunch, when we sat around the campfire, we noticed the horizon getting filled with lightning bolts. One after the other. I don’t think I ever saw so many lightning bolts. This was probably the most memorable night of my stay in Botswana.
At first, we decided to sleep under the stars. After a while, the stars disappeared behind the clouds. The lightning didn’t come close though. But the rain did. So at midnight, we decided to put up our tents.
Day 13: Byebye Botswana
After a very short night’s rest, we had to get up again. At 5 am we started packing and eating some breakfast. The first part of the road was very bumpy again, but we soon hit paved roads again.
On the road we witnessed an elephant mother and baby separated. The mother got over a fence and the little one was still too small to do it. So the mother tried to explain how, but the little one was panicking a bit too much. We had to continue, but our guide told us they always find a way to solve this problem.
By lunch, we arrived in Kasane at the northern border of Botswana. We had lunch on a rather large boat. While we ate the captain left the shore and started our cruise on the Chobe River. We technically didn’t cross the border, but I still feel we kind of visited Namibia again.
During the cruise, we got close to some hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes, and waterbucks.
At 2 pm we arrived at the border with Zimbabwe. It didn’t take too long for us to go through customs. Plus the guard made it a pleasant experience. Asking us about the languages spoken in Belgium and Lukaku.
Another two hours later we arrived at the Greenfire lodge in Victoria Falls. For me and my sister, this was the last stop on the trip. We booked an extra day in the city while the other hit the road again to Johannesburg two days later. But it’s not the end of the trip yet.
After the dinner the cook made us, we had a short briefing and were then requested to go to the breakfast-hall. There, the people of Wild Horizons explained to us all about Victoria Falls and the activities we could do there. My sister and I booked our days as full as possible.
After our bookings were completed we headed to the lodge bar and drank the local Zambezi beer. I can actually recommend this one!
Day 14: I’m regretting this decision
At 7:30 am my sister, another group member and I were picked up for our first activity. White water rafting on the Zambezi river. The bus picked up some other people at different lodges and hotels in town and took us to a bar.
There we started the safety instructions. While they explained to us all about the hazards we may encounter and how to react, I was a bit afraid. It all sounded so serious and dangerous. I did my best to keep myself together and just get through the day.
We then hopped into one of the boats and started practicing. Seven participants and a guide. It was a funny guide. He gave good instructions, made good jokes and overall made it a very pleasant experience. He also was very comforting.
That day we did 19 rapids. All ranging from level 1 to level 5. The one level 6, named Commercial Suicide, we skipped. The name can tell you why.
All in all, we had a good go. After the first three or four rapids, I felt confident. I can even say I had a lot of fun. We jumped into the water at a certain point and just went with the current for a bit. It was a nice cooldown.
We only flipped the boat once. At Oblivion, where 9 out of 10 boats flip, we turned the boat around and all landed in the water. The first 10 seconds I was underwater were a bit scary, but I remembered the instructions our guide gave: just sit it out, the lifejacket brings you back up in 10 seconds.
So I did, and as promised I resurfaced soon enough. The rest of the group was already some distance downstream. They even already flipped the boat back to its normal position. Along with my way swimming to them, I found the Dutch woman I met earlier. She was panicking a bit and was not comfortable with the situation at all. I decided to hang around her and just have a chat. I actually enjoyed the swim.
Upon arrival at the boat, we did the last rapid. Which was only a level one and then stopped the tour. We climbed back up to the top of the gorge. The climb is exhausting, luckily they have a nice lunch prepared for you at the top. With some nice cold drinks. A perfect end of an adventurous trip.
In the evening, starting at 4 pm we did a sundowner boat cruise. Basically it’s this bigger boat going up the Zambezi river looking for animals while you enjoy an all-inclusive bar. Not a bad deal at all.
Afterward, we had a last-dinner with the entire group in the Three Monkeys restaurant in the city center. A nice place to eat local meats and other food. The service there is polite and kind and the food arrives pretty fast.
We all had drinks together and then ended our nights in several ways. I just went to the lodge so enjoy a bit of peace and a beer.
Day 15: Goodbye’s and spa-day
In the morning we all woke up early again. The group had to drive back to Johannesburg, over Francistown, to get back to their flights. My sister and I booked an extra day in Victoria Falls and would fly home from there.
After a lovely breakfast and hugs, the truck left us. My sister and I went to sit near the pool and relax a bit. At 10 am we had a pick-up meeting to bring us to the spa. I had a massage and my sister enjoyed a pedicure.
We then left for the Victoria Falls park. We had lunch at the Rainforest Café first. It’s a great place to enjoy the coolness of the spray, good coffee, and a nice hamburger.
Then we had our first actual view on the Victoria Falls. It’s an awesome sight to see all the water going over the cliffs and falling 100m lower.
After our walk through the park, we headed to the pickup point for our visit to Livingstone Island. After a short walk through customs, we were in Zambia, home of Livingstone.
A very short boat ride and some instructions led us to the Devil’s Pool. There you can sit on the edge of the waterfalls. Looking down 100m while the water washes over you. It’s an awesome experience I can only recommend.
We had high-tea on the island and then returned to our lodge. Finished with our trip and ready for bed. The next day was filled with traveling back home. From Vic Falls to Joburg, to Paris, to Brussels, to Antwerp, to bed again.