20 Unmissable Outdoor Attractions in Botswana

Elephants are one of the main tourists attractions
Elephants are one of the main tourists attractions | © designerpoint / Pixabay
Photo of Phemelo Maribeng
Journalist25 April 2019

Botswana is a wild and unspoiled country, home of the famous Kalahari desert, as well as grasslands, savannahs and the capital city of Gaborone. There is also the largest inland delta in the world, the Okavango, and a wealth of wildlife to discover. Here is our guide to Botswana’s 20 unmissable attractions.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

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The baobab trees of Kubu Island in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans | © hbieser / Pixabay

One of the largest salt pans in the world, Makgadikgadi was once a lake covering a vast 10,000 square kilometres of north-eastern Botswana, but for thousands of years, it has been the dry and inhospitable terrain you’ll discover today.

Chobe National Park

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Giraffes in Chobe National Park | © Bernard Gagnon / WikiCommons

A truly beautiful sight to behold, the Chobe National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Africa and makes Botswana a must-visit destination. Located in Kasane, the park comprises of swamps, floodplains and woodlands, and is home to a wide array of wildlife and birds. This is the best place in Botswana to see buffalo and elephants.

Tsodilo Hills

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Ancient rock paintings in the Tsodilo Hills | © Joachim Huber / Flickr

In 2001, the Tsodilo Hills were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Famed for its religious significance, it is comprised of rock paintings, shelters, depressions and caves. Over 4,500 cave drawings have been found throughout the site.

Nxai Pan

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Baobab trees in Nxai Pan | © Ana Isabel Alia / WikiCommons

Although technically part of Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Nxai Pan was created as an extension to expand the conservation area. A national park and wildlife reserve in its own right, Nxai Pan is a 40 square kilometre fossil lakebed. During the rainy season from November to April, the lakebed becomes lush and green, playing host to the incredible wildlife that migrates through the area. Nxai Pan is open to visitors all year but the rainy season is arguably the best time of year to go, as visitors are more likely to see a wide range of wildlife including lions, giraffes, kudu, springbok, impala, ostriches, jackals, bat-eared foxes and birds. The pan reserve is surrounded by indigenous forestry and the waterhole is a popular attraction. Currently there are no lodges available within the immediate area, but there are plans to open two in the near future.

Manyelanong Game Reserve

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See vultures in Botswana | © hbieser / Pixabay

This incredible game reserve is home to a large population of the endangered Cape Griffon vulture; a colony of around 140 birds. The name “Manyelanong” literally means, “where vultures defecate” in Setswana and refers to the guano-covered cliffs where the vultures live. This is one of only three places in the whole country where you can see these vultures.

The David Livingstone Memorial

This site is located 40 kilometres from Gaborone where Dr David Livingstone and his family once resided. The site is comprised of a church, remnants of his house and clinic, and the family graveyard. At the time of his death, Livingstone is believed to have travelled over 80,000 kilometres through Africa over 40 years.

Moremi Game Reserve

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You'll see elephants in Moremi Game Reserve | © Ian Sewell / WikiCommons
Covering one third of Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Moremi Game Reserve, also known as the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, is home to a dense concentration of African wildlife. It was the first reserve in Africa that was established by the Batawana tribe when Chief Moremi III’s wife proclaimed Moremi as a game reserve in 1963. It is also the only officially protected area in the Okavango Delta. The park is accessible and has well-maintained trails, plus a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Rhinos have recently been reintroduced and it is also home to the largest red lechwe population in Africa.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

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Traditional Khoisan famil
A traditional Khoisan family | © Aino Tuominen / Pixabay

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is one of the most remote reserves in southern Africa. It is also the second largest wildlife reserve in the world. CKGR was established in 1961 with the sole aim of providing the San people with a place to live and preserve their traditions and culture.

Moremi Gorge

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The descent into Moremi Gorge | © Thomas Holzinger / Flickr

The gorge has been the subject of many folktales and legends. Located in the central part of Botswana (east of Palapye), it’s a fascinating and awe-inspiring walk through the hills to the national monument, where the sound of crashing water surrounds you with the three cascading waterfalls in the gorge.

Sedudu Island

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Cape buffalo on Sedudu Island | © Hp.Baumeler / WikiCommons

This island is only 5 kilometres long and located along the Chobe River. It almost became a battleground during a war between Botswana and Namibia, with each country laying claim to it. The International Court of Justice resolved the matter, and ruled that the small piece of land belongs to Botswana. No one lives on the island, as it is often seasonally submerged during floods.

Tswapong Hills

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These hills rise close to 400 metres above the surrounding landscape. Believed to be 1 billion years old, they extend 60 kilometres west of the village of Moremi and measure a full 20 kilometres in breadth. They are made up of sandstone, ironstone and quartzite, which give them their characteristically rich hues. The area holds numerous fascinating and beautiful archaeological, historical and natural history sites.

Nata Bird Sanctuary

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Some of the residents of the Nata Bird Sanctuary home | © Joachim Huber / Flickr

This community-run project was established in 1988 and opened its doors to the public in 1993. Every year, close to 250,000 Lesser Flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor) and Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) visit the sanctuary during mating season. The Nata Bird Sanctuary is home to 165 different bird species, as well as wildlife such as springboks, kudu and other antelopes.

Lake Xau

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Lake Xau is located at the end of the Okavango River Basin and is a unique river system that ends in the middle of nowhere. It stretches from the Angolan highlands to the flat plains of the Makgadikgadi. The waters from the rivers Cuito, Cuanavale, Cubango, Kavango, Okavango, Thamalakane and Boteti all end at these scenic flat plains.

Linyati, Selinda and Kwando migration route

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The wildlife migration route along the Linyati, Selinda and Kwando rivers and swamps | © Hp.Baumeler / WikiCommons

One of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, the Kwando, Selinda and Linyanti concessions are nestled between the Chobe National Park to the east and the Okavango River basin to the south. Kwando river and Linyati swamps serve as a migration route for the hundreds of animals from the northern part of the country seeking greener pastures and water during the rainy season.

A leopard relaxing under a cool shade ©designerpoint / Pixabay | © designerpoint / Pixabay
These recommendations were updated on April 25, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.