Advice for the Self-Drive Safari Fanatic
Botswana Travel Guide

© Beware of elephants. Beware of leaping buck. Dont speed. Dont drive after dark
Travellers have asked me: "I want to go on safari in Botswana in my own vehicle, but I do not have the necessary equipment to camp in the rustic camp sites in the parks! Is there some way I can still experience the country in my own car without camping?"

By Leigh Kemp

First - You Need a 4 x 4

A stumbling block for many people is the idea that all the lodges are only accessible by aircraft. Although many of the camps are only accessed by air and many others are in private concessions it is possible to drive to those in the public areas and concessions adjoining the public areas.

Although not the preferred means of accessing the lodges and camps, self-drive is nonetheless within reach of anyone with a 4 x 4 vehicle, and the will to spend hours labouring across the country.

Your map may say 60 kilometeres to your destination, but in some places you will be lucky to be doing 30kmh. Meaning your 60 km trip will take 2 hours. Not the 30 minutes you could do on open road.

Lodges provide comfort and luxury and the Botswana self-drive safari is ideal for getting to see as much of the country as possible.

A Wilderness within Reach

Botswana's legendary wilderness areas have remained wild and relatively undeveloped in regards to the road infrastructure. Granted the roads to all the major centers have been upgraded but in the parks they have generally remained as they were twenty years ago.

Botswana lodges and safari camps have seen a huge change in the level of luxury with each new property becoming more luxurious. But the roads have stayed the same!

Maun and Kasane are easily reachable in an ordinary sedan vehicle but further than that, 4x4s are essential.

Getting to the Northern Parks

Maun is the jump-off point for safaris into the parks of Botswana, although Kasane on the Chobe River can be considered the same for a safari coming in from the Victoria Falls side. Both towns have almost everything needed for an extended safari, including fuel and motor spares.

Both towns can be accessed from Johannesburg / Gaberone on tarmac road today but the danger of wildlife is as great, if not greater, than in the past due to the greater speeds that the tarmac allows.

It is not recommended to travel on these roads at night as elephant and buffalo are very difficult to spot on the dark surface and many accidents have occurred over the years. Cattle on the roads are still a huge problem for motorists.

Warning! Corrugations and Thick Sand

©Bridge at Moremi Crossing

I have personally witnessed the damage to a land rover from an elephant incident on the Nata/Kasane road and also once saw what happens to a speeding Mercedes when coming into contact with an ostrich. These incidents can be avoided by driving at a reasonable speed and keeping off the roads at night.

The Botswana parks are not for the faint-hearted and it must be taken into account that the road conditions in the parks of Botswana range from bad to lethal - with severe corrugations and thick sand making up a great deal of the roadway.

The roads are predominantly single tracks and interesting situations can occur when vehicles coming from opposite directions meet on a sandy stretch.

Travellers must be self-sufficient when they leave Maun or Kasane as there are no fuel depots or major stores to be had between the two points. When planning fuel consumption it is not only distances that should be taken into account as maps can be misleading. Weather may also cause deviations in the route. The conditions are fuel-consuming and extra supplies have to be costed in when planning a trip.

Read: Things You Must Know Before You Go

The peak season in Botswana is still considered to be the dry months due to the concentration of game around the permanent water sources but truth be told Botswana is a year round safari destination. It must be said though that during the rainy season the roads may become impassable in some areas.

From the spectacular wildlife to the character-building roads and scorching landscapes a Botswana safari will never disappoint.

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