Planning a safari adventure into Botswana is exciting, and maybe a little daunting for some. To make the best of your holiday experience, here are some things that you may want to consider ...
When planning your Botswana safari, do not forget to pack your camera…
If you are serious about your wildlife photography, it may be worth your while to book a private vehicle whilst on your safari. This gives you the freedom to sit with any game you may like to photograph at your leisure,without other guests wanting to move on to something new. You may also consider booking camps in concession areas where the vehicles are allowed to go off-road to get you up close to a good sighting. These camps are also allowed to do night drives, which will give you the opportunity for some nocturnal wildlife photography.
The choice of camera equipment and film will determine the quality of your photographs of the trip. For great wildlife photography of birds and animals, a good SLR camera and telephoto lens is necessary. The minimum recommended size is 200mm and a zoom lens can be extremely useful. The slower film, 100ASA is generally on sale in the curio shops, but if you are using different speed film, it is recommended that you bring your own. Also please bring a spare camera battery.
For video cameras, it is possible to recharge batteries at all the camps but it is wise to bring your own adapters as Botswana works on the 220v system. Do bring a spare video battery, as most recharging will be done during the day whilst you are out on game excursions. The camps/lodges all have generated power that runs during the day, recharging solar batteries, fridges, freezers etc. and are switched off at night. Please also remember to bring your own binoculars.
Pack lots of film or memory cards - Botswana is an once-in-a-lifetime destination. If you're going digital, be sure to bring a battery charger with an adapter for the local electrical outlets, and plenty of memory cards (a one-gigabyte card holds about 300 photos).
Bring at least two cameras - if you lose one camera, you'll have a backup. To protect your equipment, be sure to store in plastic bags. (Ziploc bags)
A flash is important as night drives can offer some amazing photos, because that is when many of the large predators are most active.
Research Botswana’s culture, history, environment, and geography before you depart. The better you understand a subject, the better you will be able to capture it on film. Understand and respect cultures as not all Africans want their pictures taken. Always ask their permission before you shoot.
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling to Botswana. Your policy should be purchased at the time of making your deposit, and cover you from then until the end of your trip.You should check any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.
What should your travel insurance policy cover?
A good policy should also cover you for :
Please ensure your policy will :
Lost baggage on flight
Do not rely on compensation from an airline if it loses your luggage. By law, airlines only have to pay a specified minimum value per kilo of lost luggage. This is unlikely to cover the full value of your things.
What you bring on a trip to Botswana will depend on your own personal preferences, length of your trip, where you travel and the time of year. We can give you some tips, based mostly on personal experiences, and you can then improvise accordingly.
Dress on safari is functional and casual, yet neat and presentable in the lodges. Your choice of color is important. As a general rule of thumb, khaki is your best bet. During game drives we suggest that you dress in subdued colors to avoid alerting animals. Khaki, brown, olive and beige colours are best for safaris and game walks.
White is not a suitable colour for these activities. Firstly it increases your visibility quotient to the animals that you want to get a closer look at, and secondly, it will get dirty very quickly. Wearing neutral-colored clothing will also reflect the sun, keeping you cooler.
On safari most people wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day and put on long sleeved shirt and long pants in the evening for warmth as well as protection from mosquitoes. Should you be particularly sensitive to the sun, a loose cotton shirt is essential during the day.
A fleece or sweater and a windbreaker are necessary for game drives. It is highly possible that you may go out on a hot day, but be faced with a chill evening on your return. Some areas have a steep temperature gradient, i.e. very hot days and very cool nights. Remember that layering your clothing will keep you warmer than relying on one thick item.
As you will experience a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, we suggest packing several layers of clothing. Bring clothing made of cotton or cotton-synthetic blends. If you like to hand-wash your clothes, bring socks and underwear, and even shirts and pants, made of silk, synthetics, or a cotton-synthetic blend that will dry out overnight.
When travelling with a companion, we recommend “cross-packing”, i.e. pack two outfits of your clothing in your companion’s luggage and vice-versa, in case one bag is delayed.
Include comfortable, but protective clothing for your safari. Long-sleeved shirts help protect your arms from the sun and long pants will help protect you from mosquitoes, especially in the evenings. You may also want to bring along a warm jacket for cool nights. In addition, you’ll want to bring some “dressier clothes” if you are planning to be in one of the larger African cities where more formal attire is appropriate.
A hat, sunglasses, sun screen, moisturiser, lip salve, strong insect repellent, anti-histamine cream and tablets should always be carried. All camps have shampoo and body lotion. Pack a medical kit with painkillers, bug repellants, anti-diarrhea pills, bandages and antiseptics for yourself.
In the summer months, between October and April, it is very hot, with temperatures regularly reaching 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The recommended clothing items during the day are shorts and a T-shirt. If you sunburn easily consider taking long-sleeved T-shirts for day wear. Choose clothes with neutral colours. In the evenings, when mosquitoes are active, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants
Between May and September the weather is dry and relatively cool. The daytime temperatures range from 23 - 28 degrees Celsius (73-83 Fahrenheit). While you will be comfortable wearing T-shirts and short sleeves for most of the day, early mornings and evenings can be very cold. Early morning game drives and boat trips usually return to camp after sunset, so it is important to dress suitably. Layers are the most practical for the fluctuating day/night temperatures of Botswana.
In addition to the list of clothing above, in the cooler months you should also carry:
Be sure to include good walking shoes that are comfortable and already broken in; don’t make the mistake of bringing brand new shoes. We also recommend you bring a pair of rubberized sandals for mokoro rides, showering, wearing around the lodge, and general warm weather use.
All the camps offer a laundry service that is included in your total safari cost. However, the camp staff does not wash underwear owing to local traditions.
The African sun is very harsh. High SPF sunscreen and lip balm are a must, as well as a sunhat, sun lotion and sunglasses. Covering up when in the sun is the best approach to ultraviolet ray protection
VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE
There is a very strict weight restriction on all light aircraft. The limit is 20kgs per person that MUST be packed into soft bags. This is to make it easy for the luggage to be stowed on the aircraft. Rigid suitcases will be rejected and left behind with our representative.
We do our best to have a minimum negative impact on local cultures and the natural environment in Botswana. Our goal is to leave no trace on the natural environment, or to leave places better than we find them. Here’s what we ask of you as part of this effort:
Conserving the Natural Environment
You can have some great ‘conversations’ with local people who do not speak English, even if you don’t speak a word of the local language. Indeed, this non-verbal communication can be a highly rewarding part of travel. To break the ice, bring along some family photographs, or a few postcards of your hometown. If you want to meet kids, bring a puppet or other interactive toy.
Setswana is the national language with minor differences in dialects. However, English is the official business language and it is widely spoken in urban areas with most written communication being in this language. However, knowing and using a bit of Setswana always helps and Batswana will be pleased that you have made the effort.
Here are some of the basic phrases in Setswana:
In general, people in Botswana have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming. Along with most countries around the world, mugging can be a problem in certain towns and we advise that you do not walk at night unless you know the area well. If you are driving yourself it is sensible to arrive at your destination before dark as animals enjoy lying on the roads at night.
It is always sensible when travelling to take precautions against theft. By far the best precaution is to avoid taking valuables with you on holiday. If you do carry valuables ensure you are discreet. Do not leave any valuables or luggage unattended in a vehicle, unless in a locked boot. Although your personal belongings are generally safe from theft in the camps and lodges, we recommend that you use the safekeeping facilities at reception.
Game reserves and other tourist areas are generally secure, but you should be alert to unpredictable behaviour by wild animals You should follow park regulations and wardens’ advice. You should not bathe in rivers and lakes, because of the dangers from both wildlife and water-borne diseases.
If you intend travelling to remote areas plan your trip with care, make transport and accommodation arrangements in advance and seek local advice on what precautions to take. Vehicles should be stocked with emergency supplies and be properly prepared for off-road driving conditions.
In major towns taxis are generally safe to take. You should agree a price before setting off.
Please be aware that your trip might bring you into close contact with wild animals, which can be a threat to your safety and your health. Many of the camps we use are unfenced and particular care must be taken. It is essential that you always follow the advice of your guides, do not walk out on your own and do not touch any plants, animals or insects. You should understand the risks involved and take responsibility for your own safety.
Please note that the safari lodges will require you to sign a personal indemnity form and you must be prepared to sign these.
UK and International driving licences are acceptable in Botswana for up to 90 days. If you intend to stay longer you should apply for a Botswana licence.
Botswana has good tarmac roads over most of the country but you should be careful when driving off-road. Dangerous driving, including speeding (the maximum speed limit is 120kph), and drunk driving cause serious and often fatal accidents.
Driving, particularly outside the major urban areas, is dangerous because wildlife and stray livestock can pose a serious hazard on the roads.
Local Laws and Customs
Drug taking and smuggling is an offence. The punishments can be severe.
Taking photographs or using video equipment near military and governmentinstallations is prohibited. Always ask permission before taking photographs of people in Botswana.
You should carry some form of identification with you at all times.
Health care in Botswana is good in the major towns but medical facilities and communications are limited in rural areas. For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation to South Africa may be necessary. Private hospitals will not treat patients unless you can pay and health care may be expensive. Outpatients must pay cash before receiving treatment. Emergency patients will only be accepted if you have full insurance cover.
Malaria is common in the northern parts of Botswana, particularly during the rainy season (November-April). However, due to above average rainfall in February 2009, malaria transmissions may occur across Botswana. Malaria prophylactics are highly recommended. Please consult your medical practitioner prior to travel. The use of additional precautionary measures, such as insect repellents and wearing long sleeved clothing, long trousers and socks when outside at night, is recommended.
No anti-malarial medication is 100% effective in preventing the disease. However, if malaria is contracted whilst taking anti-malarial medication, the severity of the malarial infection is generally milder than in those where the drugs have not been administered.
N.B. All travellers to malaria areas should discuss their travel plans with travel health professionals i.e.. travel clinics in advance of their departure in order to obtain the most appropriate anti-malarial medication.
Anyone returning from a high-risk malaria area experiencing influenza-like symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.
Any person entering Botswana from, or via, a yellow fever infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever.
There have recently been several reported cases of cholera in the region. If you suffer from acute diarrhoea and vomiting during a visit to Botswana you should seek immediate medical attention.
There are occasional outbreaks of anthrax amongst wild animals. You should seek advice locally from park officials and not touch dead animals or carcasses. If you suspect that you have come into contact with anthrax you should seek urgent medical advice.
If you intend to camp or walk in the bush you should be aware of the risk of tick bites.
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 280,000 adults aged 15 or over in Botswana were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 23.9% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Botswana and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the local travel clinic in your home town.
Please visit the Health Information for Travelers to Botswana on the CDC website for up to the minute information.
Passport/Visa Note: All visitors require a passport, return or onward tickets and sufficient funds to cover their stay in Botswana.
If you need a visa for Botswana, then you must get one before you arrive in country. Contact your local Botswana embassy or high commission - who are the best source to verify that the information here is still current.
Currently visitors holding passports from the following countries do not need a visa:
Citizens from these countries will be granted a one-month entry permit on arrival.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy/or consulate or the following website:
Passing through Customs
All persons arriving in Botswana are required to unreservedly declare all goods in their possession to a Customs official on duty on a baggage declaration document called, Form J.
Customs has a duty to protect Botswana from illicit goods. To do this, checks may be made on travellers and their baggage.
Duty Free Allowance
Customs duties are not charged on the following goods imported as accompanied or un-accompanied passengers’ baggage:
The following articles and consumables (excluding any goods the importation of which is prohibited), declared at the place where the traveller enters Botswana and not imported on behalf of other persons or by way of trade, may be admitted free of duty and, where applicable, Value Add Tax (VAT).
The importation of, among other things, the following goods into Botswana is completely prohibited. It is illegal to be found in possession of prohibited goods and may result in seizure and prosecution. These include:
Currency Although there is no restriction on cross-border movement of bank notes in Botswana, there is a need to monitor the movement of money into and out of Botswana for purposes of, among other things, collecting national statistics, monitoring capital flows and balance of payments, and enforcement of anti-money laundering measures.
When you are entering or leaving Botswana you are required to declare Pula and/or foreign currency bank notes in your possession the amount of which equals to or exceeds an equivalent of Ten Thousand Pula (P 10 000). You need not declare Travellers cheques and other monetary instruments.