Botswana has topped Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 list, and not without good reason. With the release of a new Hollywood movie, A United Kingdom, commemorating the 50th anniversary of independence, this landlocked African country has rightly earned its place in the sun.
Best known for its rare combination of desert and delta, as well as a vast array of wildlife, over 17% of the country is dedicated to national parks, and in 2014 the Okavango Delta became Unesco’s 1,000th World Heritage Site. That means a Botswana safari offers up varied safari holiday across a broad expanse of savannah, desert, saltpan and wetland in one of the most pristine wildlife destinations in Africa.
Specialist safari operator, Sanctuary Retreats, operates four unique luxury boutique properties in Botswana – three of them in exclusive private concessions in the Okavango Delta – Sanctuary Baines Camp, Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp and Sanctuary Chief’s Camp (about to reopen after an extensive refurbishment), and Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero overlooking the Chobe River. Says Michael McCall, Sanctuary Retreats’ Director of Sales Australia, NZ & Asia, “No destination in the portfolio better epitomizes the company’s philosophy of Luxury, Naturally than Botswana. In recent years its popularity has grown exponentially with Australian travellers, and we have more guests stay with Sanctuary Retreats in Botswana than any other country”.
According to McCall, when to visit is the most common question asked by travellers contemplating a Botswana holiday. The answer to that, he says, depends on what visitors are looking for, as all camps are open year-round and each season also has its own attractions.
November – March. The Green Season.
The Green Season sees Botswana’s parched landscapes come back to life after enduring the long, hot summer. Says McCall, “This is my favourite time of the year when the temperatures cool and everything turns green. The skies are usually bright and sunny in the mornings, with the occasional band of clouds rolling in during the afternoons, sometimes accompanied by thunderstorms.”
He adds, “The upside is that room rates drop so guests not only get more for their money, but can often have camps and lodges almost completely to themselves. So, if you’re looking for big dramatic African skies and lush green bush then this is definitely the time to visit. Despite there being more places for game to hide, our guides know exactly where to look, meaning visitors can still tick the ‘Big Five’ off their bucket-list. Migratory birds return to Chobe National Park at this time of year, which also makes it a very popular time of year with twitchers.”
April – May. Blue skies, lush vegetation.
During April and May, Botswana is characterized by clear blue skies and lush green vegetation. For many visitors, this is the ideal season to visit, with its warm sunny days and cool evenings. McCall advises that Mokoro boat rides normally recommence in the Okavango Delta around this time (although timing can vary depending on the floods) and run through to October or November. He also notes that it’s a great time of year for families to visit as it coincides with Easter school holidays. Says McCall, “As it’s still the shoulder season, many lodges and camps still have quieter days, so you might be lucky and have a sighting of one of the Big Five all to yourself.”
June to August. Game Spotting Heaven.
If your priority is big game spotting, Winter in Botswana is considered the peak time to visit, as the land dries out and wildlife starts to congregate around highly sought after water holes. Less foliage makes animals easier to spot, while nighttime temperatures plummet to 5˚C. The other benefit according to McCall, is less bugs so guests can go easy on the insect repellent. With the Delta now in full flood, at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero mokoro rides are a popular alternative to jeep-based safari drives as herds of animals head to the river for a drink.
September – November. Hot, Hot, Hot.
This is the height of the African summer and daytime temperatures can often soar well above 40˚C. With high temperatures and a lack of rainfall, the land starts to become arid and water and foliage scarce. Animals congregate at water holes, making tracking predators a great deal easier – and the perfect time for some big game viewing. Fans and air-conditioning are turned up to the maximum as evenings remain warm and balmy. And McCall says guests should bring lots of insect repellent as bugs are active in the heat, especially in the mornings and evenings.
EXTENDED STAY OFFER
No matter what time of the year you are planning a visit to Botswana, now is definitely the perfect time to book with Sanctuary Retreats’ extended stay offer, when you stay at one or more of its camps and lodges.
Stay 3 – 4 nights and save up to 30%.
Stay 5 – 7 nights and save up to 35%.
Stay 8+ nights and save up to 40%.
Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero from US$354 per person per night (normally from $590)
Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp from US$330 per person per night (normally from US$550)
Sanctuary Baines Camp from US$450 per person per night (normally from US$750)
Sanctuary Chiefs Camp from US$754 per person per night (normally from $1,160).
NB All prices are based on 8+night stays.
Terms and conditions apply.