Botswana :: Central Kalahari
Category: Places :: Country
TOP ATTRACTION: Central Kalahari Game Reserve
TOP ATTRACTION: Chobe National Park
TOP ATTRACTION: Manyana Rock Paintings
TOP ATTRACTION: Mokolodi Nature Reserve
TOP ATTRACTION: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
TOP ATTRACTION: D'Kar Kuru Bushman Museum
TOP ATTRACTION: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Mabuasehube GR)
TOP ATTRACTION: Khama Rhino Sanctuary
TOP ATTRACTION: Gcwihaba Caves (Drotsky's)
TOP ATTRACTION: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Gemsbok NP)
TOP ATTRACTION: Dqae Qare Game Farm
TOP ATTRACTION: Tsodilo Hills (World Heritage Site)
TOP ATTRACTION: Okavango Houseboats
TOP ATTRACTION: Nxai Pan National Park
TOP ATTRACTION: Nata Bird Sanctuary
TOP ATTRACTION: Moremi Game Reserve
TOP ATTRACTION: Matsieng Footprints (Historical Site)
TOP ATTRACTION: Chobe River Boat Cruises
TOP ATTRACTION: Okavango/Moremi
TOP ATTRACTION: Lekhubu Island
If you love wildlife, Botswana is one of the best destinations in Southern Africa. Apart from geographical delights like the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari, both of which have an abundance of game and birds, Botswana has many parks and reserves where one can enjoy unfenced wildlife. Botswana’s protected areas are without doubt its biggest attractions and tourism contributes a large part to its GDP.
The Botswana government have adopted a high-cost, low-volume approach to tourism which means that this can be an expensive country to tour. Although a few areas cater only for fly-in safaris and exclusive lodging, there are many regions which are accessible to self-drive travellers who want to camp. Maun and Kasane are the main tourist hubs but travellers who prefer remote and rugged overlanding will choose the likes of the drier, wide open Mabuasehube and the Central Kalahari Game Reserves as well as Makgadikgadi National Park.
Photographers will love Kubu Island on Sua Pan, an outcrop of huge boulders and baobabs which stands alone in the pan’s vast lunar landscape. Nxai Pan National Park is home to Botswana’s famous Baines’ Baobabs, a clutch of these majestic trees which have stood for over a thousand years. Camping underneath one of these ancients is a magical experience.
For a cultural experience you can visit the Dqae Qare Game Farm near Ghanzi, where you can immerse yourself in the Bushmen (San) culture. To learn more about Botswana’s first people, a visit to the nearby D’Kar Kuru Bushmen Museum is a must.
BORDER POST RED TAPE:
When you’re travelling across African borders in a vehicle, certain documents will be required by all countries:
A valid passport, with at least six months remaining validity before expiry. (Double check that it’s stamped with the correct date of entry at immigration when entering the country).
A certified copy of the vehicle registration papers in the name of the driver. It is advisable to have extra copies.
A letter of authority from the registered owner if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle.
If the vehicle is still being financed, carry a letter of authority from the bank (must include dates of travel) together with the vehicle registration papers.
A yellow fever certificate. Some countries in Africa are endemic yellow fever countries. You will need a yellow fever certificate if you’ve come from such a country.
Also check which vaccinations are required for the countries you intend to visit and carry proof of these.
If you plan an extended trip through Southern Africa, it will be worth your while to get a Carnet de Passage. If you don’t have a Carnet you will need to obtain a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) on arrival at each border post. There usually is a fee payable. Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland only require a Carnet for vehicles entering from outside the Southern African Common Customs Area. However, upon entering South Africa, drivers of vehicles registered in neighbouring countries (Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) can register their vehicles with customs and get a permit free of charge which allows them access for six months.
Although only Namibia, South Africa and Zambia require proof of vehicle insurance, it’s best to travel fully insured. Double check that your insurance will cover you in all the countries you intend visiting.
All vehicles must display their international licence plate country code (bold block letters in uppercase on a small white oval plate or sticker) near the number plate on the rear of the vehicle.
Some countries like Botswana, require additional documentation:
Minors travelling through the country's borders will be required to produce certified copies of unabridged birth certificates. In the event that one parent is not travelling with the child, the other parent's affidavit consenting to such travel should be available. Temporary guardianship must be given if neither parents are travelling with the minor, as well as the abovementioned requirements. However, an affidavit will not be required if the father's name does not appear on the child's birth certificate.
Third-Party Insurance: The following countries accept COMESA Third Party Insurance: Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately you can only buy COMESA insurance in one of these countries. If you don’t have COMESA insurance you will have to buy the local insurance on arrival at the border.
In addition to Third Party Insurance, the following fees are payable:
Botswana: A National Road Fund (NRF) contribution as well as a Road Permit fee.
Customs: Border post officials have the right to search or inspect your vehicle for illegal imports, contraband or imported items which exceed allowable limits. While this right is not often exercised, you should remember that they’re perfectly entitled to perform such searches; getting angry or indignant about it isn’t going to make things better.
Have a list of all your valuable electronic equipment (with serial numbers) available and declare them
Foreigners have to declare all valuables such as cameras, electronic and camping equipment (e.g. rooftop tent) when they enter South Africa.
Travelling with pets is challenging. Some countries require an import permit for your cat/dog and all countries require a veterinary health certificate, issued at your point of origin. How long this certificate is valid for varies from country to country, and some might require your pet to undergo a period of quarantine when entering. Such quarantine facilities are not available at border posts, usually only at airports, so it is best to check before travelling.
Prohibited goods: Counterfeit money and goods. Pornographic material. Any form of narcotics, habit-forming drugs and related substances. Military firearms, ammunition, explosives and dangerous weapons. Endangered species of plant, live animals and their products are prohibited under CITES. Plants and plant materials. Meat of swine and by-products of swine origin from South Africa. Live poultry and hatching eggs originated from Asian and European countries. Live cloven-hoofed animals (bovine animals, sheep, goats, swine, buffaloes, antelopes, etc) and animal products thereof, originating from the State of Mato Grosso in Brazil and its neighbouring states. Distilled beverages containing essences or recognized harmful products as absinthe, or ether-derived products. Select items of cultural heritage.
A special note on meat, fruit and vegetables: The importation regulations on meat, animal products, fruit and vegetables change frequently because they’re reactive to disease outbreaks in the southern Africa region. Visitors have to declare all plants/plant products and animals/animal products upon entering Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
When in doubt, abstain from taking any firewood, meat, milk, fruit or vegetables into these countries as these products might be confiscated at the border.
Namibia and Botswana have internal veterinary fences where the movement of raw meat and animal products, including unpasteurised milk, is controlled. Consult our travel guides for more detailed information on these regulations.
Drones: The use of drones for recreational purposes has become increasingly popular in recent years. What an amazing way to record your trip and share it with others! However, you can’t just pack your drone and go filming as you wish.
If you want to use your footage commercially, you have to obtain a permit in advance. Some countries require permits for recreational drone use as well. These have to be acquired at least 30 days before you enter the country.
At the time of writing (January 2021) the following countries in southern Africa required permits for drones for recreational purposes: Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As new laws may come into effect at any time, it is best to check with the aviation authority of the country/countries you plan to visit.
Botswana pula (BWP).
DRIVING IN BOTSWANA:
Drive on the left-hand side of the road and adhere to British driving rules. Botswana’s highways are all paved (tarred) and form a basic network of access routes around the country. But as soon as you leave the main highways, you are faced with unpaved tracks which require an off-road vehicle with good ground clearance and 4WD.
The main roads are well maintained but in the remote areas road maintenance is very bad; thus, road conditions often depend when it was last graded and the season.
In some places the sand on these tracks can become deep. Southern Botswana’s roads are notorious for their corrugations. The long grass which grows in the middle of the road after the rainy season makes for a very real risk of a vehicle fire if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
During the rainy season places like Moremi and Makgadikgadi will flood and many of the smaller tracks will become muddy, waterlogged and simply undrivable. Driving in the Okavango Delta requires many water crossings. If you plan on travelling during the rainy season, you need to enquire about road conditions from lodge/camp owners or fellow travellers. Make sure you have enough fuel and recovery equipment with you as you might have to retrace your tracks or get yourself unstuck.
The general speed limit is 60 km/h in towns and villages, 80 km/h when passing intersections or villages on the main roads and 120 km/h outside urban areas. These limit are strictly enforced by authorities so watch your speed. In any case, the limits are always very clearly marked.
The driver and all passengers must wear safety belts and it’s illegal to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. 4-Way stops (indicated by a red STOP sign with the number 4 below it) are commonly found at the quieter intersections – the first vehicle to arrive has priority. On roundabouts, give way to the right and proceed with caution.
If you see branches in the road (especially freshly cut) you should immediately slow down as it possibly signals that a vehicle has broken down ahead. A red cone or oil drum in the road signals a police or veterinary fence checkpoint – slow down immediately and be prepared to stop.
Fuel is usually available in most towns and, generally speaking, of good quality. That said, it’s a sensible idea to fill up at every fuel station you pass, regardless of how full your tank is. The distances between towns can be sizable and sometimes a fuel station will run out of fuel or the fuel pumps might be out of order. This is especially true when the demand for fuel peaks, e.g. during the holiday season when small settlements need more fuel than normal. For this reason it’s a good plan carry at least 40 litres of extra fuel if you don’t have a long-range fuel tank.
Keep in mind that low sulphur diesel (50 ppm) is not available everywhere. You will only find it in the main centres. It’s advisable to buy your diesel from reputable fuel stations; some travellers have discovered, at great cost, that they’ve been sold impure diesel by an informal vendor.
Before you set off on game drives, let the lodge/camp owners know that you’re going out, which route you’ve planned and what time you expect to return.
Botswana’s roads are not fenced and domestic animals like cattle, donkeys, goats and dogs roam the roads freely. Cattle have right of way.
Never drive at night because of the danger of stray animals crossing the road.
Always carry a good high-volume compressor and a pressure gauge so that you can adjust tyre pressure as required. Before you leave on your trip for the day, ensure that your tyre pressures are correct for the kind of roads you plan to travel and the weight you’re carrying. If at all possible, carry two spare tyres.
A tyre repair kit is essential.
Keep your lights on at all times, this allows you to be seen in dusty or low visibility conditions.
If you don’t have any 4WD experience, do a course before you venture into remote areas.
Due to the risk of burning out your vehicle (caused by long grass collecting near or on your hot exhaust) you should always have a fire extinguisher readily accessible.
If you see a road block, stop at the stop sign and only proceed to the officer once he/she waves you forward. Don’t drive past the stop sign to the official without stopping as you can be fined for not stopping at the stop sign, which is usually 50-100 m before the actual road block.
Shakawe River Lodge campsite just east of Shakawe village is a convenient place to stay if you want to visit Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site.
Campsite number 3 at Mabuasehube Pan has a wonderful view across the pan. Lions are regularly seen and there’s a permanent waterhole about 800 m to the north. Stands 2 and 3 are quite close together and thus ideal for a big group.
Piper Pan is arguably the best camping area in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve for observing wildlife.
The wildlife around Moremi’s Third Bridge is generally excellent, but it is important to check on the accessibility of the bridge. It’s affected by water levels so if it’s part of your route ask park staff at the reserve gate whether the bridge is open.
GMT+2 Central Africa Time.
Nationals from the following countries don’t need visas for Botswana: Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Samoa, San Marico, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
These nationals can travel in Botswana for a maximum of 90 days per year, thereafter they have to apply at the Ministry of Home Affairs for permission to extend their stay.
Other visitors must apply for visas at their nearest consulate prior to departure.
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