South Africa Vs. Botswana for Safari Experience

We get asked all the time, what is the best country to do safari in?  And the short answer is, it depends on what you want from your safari.  Countries like South Africa, Kenya, Botswana and Tanzania are all wonderful but do offer different experiences.

Hello travel friends, it’s Shannon. I have just returned from a 14-day trip to South Africa and Botswana.  I have been lucky enough to be in both countries before, however, I had never done a safari in the two countries on the same trip.  So it allowed me to compare and contrast the experiences directly.

Here are my observations regarding the differences.

  • Accommodation
    • South Africa (for this comparison I will use the Sabi Sands area) The majority of your camps are not “tented”.  The rooms are hard-sided with air conditioning and in many cases a plunge pool. The rooms are also very large!  Camps can range from 6 rooms to 20 rooms.
    • Botswana.  Most of your camps are tented (sides and roof are canvas).  Many of them do not have air conditioning or pools.  Botswana accommodations offer the ability to hear the crickets, frogs, monkeys, lions, etc.  Additionally, most of your camps in Botswana will be 12 or less rooms.  
  • Transportation Logistics
    • South Africa.  There are direct flights from the US into Johannesburg and Cape Town.  And then you will generally fly into Mpumalanga, Hoedspruit or Skukuza, and from there you will land transfer to your camp, which can mean anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours in a vehicle.  Some of the ride will be paved roads and some on gravel/dirt.
    • Botswana.  There are no direct flights into Botswana from the US, therefore, you will likely have to overnight in Johannesburg prior to entering Botswana. And then you will likely fly into Maun and then take a smaller “bush” plane (20 seats) to an airstrip near your camp.  Most airstrips are within 20-30 minutes of your camp.
  • Range of safari activities
    • South Africa. 95% of the time, you will be doing a game vehicle safari.  Many lodges offer nature walks between the drives, but your activities are fairly limited.  
    • Botswana. Depending on the season, in most places you will have game drive, boat, canoe or mokoro and walking safaris available.  
  • Safari Vehicles
    • South Africa. You will be in a vehicle that is completely open, no roof.  This means game viewing is spectacular for everyone on the vehicle, however, it offers no cover from the sun or elements.  You will be given a ranger (who drives the vehicle) and a tracker that sits on the front of the vehicle.  The tracker is generally from the local community and his job is to find the animals based on tracks, movements and calls.  
    • Botswana. Your vehicle will generally have a canvas roof/cover. You will only have a ranger (in most cases); some areas will offer an additional tracker.  
  • Number of Vehicles
    • South Africa.  You will see other game vehicles from other camps in the concession.  Most places do a pretty good job of managing so that you only see 2-3 vehicles per sighting.  
    • Botswana.  The concessions are generally private (unless you are in Chobe National Park or in a Game Reserve), so you will likely only see one other vehicle from your lodge.  
  • Seasons
    • South Africa.  You can safari ANY time of the year.  You will always see animals.  Dry season makes it a bit easier to see them as they aren’t covered by tall grasses and foliage.
    • Botswana.  It is recommended to avoid October to January, it is HOT, really HOT.  Water comes into the Delta in June.  Peak season is June, July, and August and costs can be double at many camps.
  • Costs
    • South Africa. You generally have a WIDE range of camps at different price points.  Prices can range from $500 USD per night to $6000 USD per night. Your bigger camps will have more people on a vehicle and will be at a more affordable rate.  However, the Sabi Sands area is one of the more exclusive places to safari in South Africa. 
    • Botswana.  Most camps are based on their own concession.  Camps are eco-friendly, low footprint, and solar powered. Price start at around $2000 USD per night in low season.

Most importantly, animal viewing is phenomenal in both countries.  You honestly cannot go wrong.  There are certain animals that are easier to find in South Africa, like white rhino.  But you are guaranteed a great experience either way.  

So when you are ready to plan your next safari, give me a call.  Shannon at 3129518517 or