Exploring Botswana on a Self-Drive Safari 10-day Itinerary
If you are planning a trip to Botswana, you are in the right place. The best way to discover the country is to go on a self-drive safari in Botswana.
I combined my Namibia trip itinerary and Botswana between December 2019 and January 2020, and I am here to share all I have learned and discovered along the way.
In this very detailed Botswana Self-Drive Safari 10-day itinerary, I covered the most important regions from Chobe National Park to the Okavango Delta.
During my 10-days in Botswana, I self-drove my 4×4 rental truck to the most amazing safaris in Botswana, I slept in the tent on top of the truck, cooked all my meals, took thousands of photos, and learned it all about how to explore Botswana independently (not an easy task!).
Enjoy this Botswana Self-Drive Safari detailed itinerary, and make sure to visit the RESOURCES section at the end for all information you need to travel safe and smart to Botswana.
BONUS RESOURCES: In this Botswana Self-Drive Safari itinerary, you can find all the best tips and practical information you need. In the end, you can find a bonus section for all the RESOURCES you need to plan and book your self-drive trip to Botswana, and to make your experience as easy, safe, and fun as possible.
Botswana Self-Drive - PIN IT FOR LATER!
10 days in Botswana: My Self-Drive Itinerary
DAY 1: Road trip from Caprivi Strip to Chobe National Park
DAY 2: Safari at Chobe National Park
DAY 3: Safari in Chobe National Park road trip to Savuti
DAY 4: Safari in Savuti
DAY 5: Safari in Savuti and road trip to Moremi Game Reserve
DAY 6: Safari in Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta
DAY 7: Safari in Moremi Game Reserve & Okavango Delta
DAY 8: Safari in Okavango Delta
DAY 9: Safari in Okavango Delta
DAY 10: On the road to Namibia
Mwandi View Campsite
Mwandi View Campsite
Third Bridge Campsite
Third Bridge Campsite
Botswana Map - 10 days itinerary
Before you continue, PLEASE READ THIS:
Botswana has a very unique tourism industry, based on a sustainable tourism model. Botswana relies on a low volume hight revenue tourism strategy, and it serves as an example all over Africa and the Planet. In other words, it is not cheap to visit Botswana!
The business model in Botswana helps the local economy and assists with keeping balance in the fragile ecosystem controlling the number of tourists. Higher prices help to support this sustainable system of tourism in Botswana.
TRAVEL INDEPENDENTLY: If you choose to travel independently to Botswana, keep in mind that the planning will take time and (a lot of) patience. It took me about 3 months of hard work to put this itinerary together, especially, to be able to book all the campsites. Communication with Botswana is challenging and it may take days, or even weeks to answer back to you. Plus, consider that you will be driving in very remote and isolated areas. You will need to have some basic mechanical skills (changing tires), and expertise driving off-road (mud, deep sand, crossing water, etc.).
TAILOR-MADE TRIP: A popular alternative to self-drive is to hire an expert local company. They can incorporate any destination into your travels or even any animal species that you hope to see. You can create a bespoke itinerary, and design your ultimate safari to match your interest, budget, and travel dates. I highly recommend a Wild Wonderful World, and part of the profits are used on amazing conservation efforts.
Botswana Self-Drive Safari Detailed Itinerary
DAY 1- CROSSING THE BORDER FROM NAMIBIA
I had spent the previous 10 days self-driving Namibia and it is a great itinerary to combine Namibia and Botswana. I crossed the border to Botswana on the ground at the Ngoma border crossing in the Caprivi Strip.
The driving from Namibia to Botswana on Caprivi is one straight line all the way to the border. You will pass many villages, plenty of cows and people walking on the side of the road.
I stopped along the road to donate all my food (meat, fruits, and vegetables) as we cannot enter Botswana with food. It is a great opportunity to get to know some local people, and also, they will appreciate you sharing the food with them.
I got my Botswana Visa at the border checkpoint. There was a line, and it took about 1-hour to get my visa and pass the inspection of my car and food. The procedure was easy and uncomplicated!
Even better, I had the chance to make new friends while I was in line. I met this very nice couple from Zambia that were traveling home. They asked if I could give them a ride to the Zambia border which was on my way to Botswana.
My Botswana road trip officially started!
First stop was at the Zambia border to drop off my friends.
Next, I stopped in Kasane to refill my gas tanks (the truck had 2 gas tanks), got some money from the ATM, bought food and water – This is the last opportunity to refill before you head to the National Parks.
WHERE TO STAY: I spent 2 nights at the Mwandi Camp in a private tent with a bathroom. They also offer homemade food, which is amazing, and there is a pool with a view to a pond where you can see many animals going to drink water at night. It was a phenomenal experience in general, and they are only 11 miles from the gate into Chobe.
LODGE OPTION: The Residence Kazungula is a marvelous guest house located in Kasane, with free Wi-Fi, parking on-site, a complete kitchen, and a pool. They can also arrange a variety of activities including game drives, boat cruises, and day trips to Victoria Falls.
ALL-INCLUSIVE OPTION: If you are looking for a great accommodation option, with a restaurant and breakfast included, free bikes, a swimming pool, and a bar, Tlouwana Camp is the best option.
DAY 2: SELF-DRIVE CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
On day 2 of my Botswana self-drive itinerary, I spent 10-hours driving safari at Chobe National Park.
Chobe is one of the best places for a safari on the Planet, and I really recommend spending at least 2 days here.
Even if I had done other safaris before, this is the most I have seen animals in one single day: hundreds of zebras, waterbok, giraffes, springboks, and of course elephants.
At around 1:30 p.m. I stopped to see a herd of elephants at a waterhole close to the Elephant Grave when more elephants arrived from everywhere and I was surrounded by hundreds of elephants. This was the highlight moment of my trip to Chobe.
The best spots to see the big cats, including lions is at the Ihaha Camp. I drove in the morning and afternoon but didn’t get any lucky enough to see any.
Back to the Mwandi Camp to enjoy the sunset from the infinity pool, while watching some elephants at the waterhole, cook dinner, and crashed from this tiring day.
DAY 3: SELF-DRIVE CHOBE NATIONAL PARK & DRIVE TO SAVUTI
On my second and last day of self-drive safari at Chobe National Park, I started my day very early (5 a.m.) and enjoyed 5 hours of safari.
Another specialty and a must-do is to go on a river-cruise safari. Seeing the wildlife from a boat is totally different experience than from a car.
After lunch, I began my journey south through Chobe to my next destination: Savuti. There are no gas stations or stores until you exit Okavango Delta. Make sure you are full on fuel, water and food before leaving Chobe (Kasane town).
The driving to Savuti was very challenging (and scary) and it is not for the faint-hearted! I only recommend self-drive here if you are a very experienced driver and have some basic mechanical knowledge because things can, and will happen to the car.
The “road” is very isolated, and only a 4WD can drive here. The “roads” you will follow are nothing more than dirt roads and trails. At times you will follow some old tire tracks through grass fields, and other times you will be driving through deeply rutted sandy “roads”. You cannot drive on a rainy day (or wet season). I drove for 7-hours without seeing another car. I had 1 flat tire and had to change it on a very deep sandy road and got stuck on the sand a couple of times. The speed limit is around 15km/h and you will be driving very slowly on very bumpy roads.
Arriving at the remote Savuti Gate and I had to pay for my entry permit – it costs US$85 for 3 days of the game reserve. The only way to enter the Savuti Gate (and all other gates) is to have proof of camping reservations.
I finally arrived at the Savuti Camp near dark, found my reserved camping spot, and cooked dinner. The camping staff came to warn me that it was life-threatening to be out of my tent at night because it is very common for hyenas and lions to visit the campsites at night.
WHERE TO STAY: I spent 2 nights at the Savuti Camp. All 14 campsites lie under shady trees while some have a view of the Savuti Channel. There is a large elephant-proof ablution with shared bathrooms and showers. The campsite is operated by SKL Camps.
LODGE ACCOMMODATION OPTION: If you are looking for a lodge at Savuti, Ghoha Hills Savuti has accommodations with free WiFi and free private parking for guests who drive. There’s a fully equipped private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries. The lodge offers a continental or buffet breakfast.
DAY 4: SAFARI AT SAVUTI
The Savuti is a region within the heart of the Chobe National Park that is secretly located. It is the best place to spot big cats, including lions and leopards. It is also renowned for masses of game, and it has its own unique scenery such as the Baobab Gallery trees and rock paintings.
I recommend spending at least 2 days in Savuti.
My first day of safari at Savuti started early, as the chances to see active animals are higher. I started my first day seeing a lion eating his kill and it was a pretty amazing experience to just park my car very close, behind the bushes, and just observe, smell, and hear while he was enjoying his breakfast.
During my day of safari at Savuti, I saw many giraffes, springbok, and elephants. In the afternoon I visited the Baobab Trees and the rock painting.
I saw many bones of animals and mostly close to the campsite – whichmakes me think that predators hang out around campsites.
At night I was visited by a very large hyena and I also could hear the lions roaring all night from a distance. Exciting!
DAY 5: SELF-DRIVING SAFARI IN SAVUTI & DRIVING TO OKAVANGO DELTA
Early in the morning, I saw 2 lionesses with 9 cubs – 7 older and 2 younger. I heard from the locals that they live under the bush, and they were just enjoying the early morning sun. I parked my car, and took amazing pictures and observed them for over 1-hour from a very close distance. They didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence. This was certainly one of the highlight moments of my trip to Botswana.
I saw many other animals during my second day of safari in Savuti, and even if I really wanted to see leopards, I had no luck to see any.
After lunch, I started driving to the Okavango Delta and I drove all the way to the next camping site destination in Khawai. It was 3.5 hours of very bumpy and sandy road, and again, driving at a very low speed.
Upon arrival at Khwai Gate you need to pay for the permit again; remember to have cash with you as they don’t accept credit cards.
The camping site is situated in an area called Dombo Hippo Pools, and guess what you can see a lot? You are right, hippos.
WHERE TO STAY: The Khwai Camping Site is very basic. The camping site has a tree, running water, and a fire pit area, and a small ablution is available. The game views and bird watching in this area are superb. The campsite is operated by SKL Camps.
VILLA ACCOMMODATION OPTION: If you are looking for a great option, Khwai Villa provides accommodations with free private parking. All units come with a balcony with river views, a kitchenette with a fridge and an oven, and a private bathroom with a shower.
LODGE ACCOMMODATION OPTION: Mogotlho Safari Lodge features accommodations with an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar. The lodge offers a continental or buffet breakfast included in the price.
DAY 6: DRIVING TO OKAVANGO DELTA
The day of my self-drive safari in Botswana was exploring the Khwai region, part of the Okavango Delta.
The Okavango Delta is like the crown jewel of safaris in Botswana, as this area is usually known for the abundance of water, stemming from the Okavango river – which starts in Angola – and is also dubbed “the river that never finds the sea”. Instead of ending in the ocean, the water seeps away into the Kalahari desert.
I was up early and went on a long game drive to explore this region. There are large tracts of Mopane forest with pools and floodplains interspersed. I saw a lot of different animals including hippos, crocodiles, water buffalos, red lechwe, waterbucks, and blue wildebeest.
This area is challenging to drive, as their are deep mud pools on many of the trails and some wet areas that make it impossible to pass.
WHERE TO STAY: I spent 2 nights at the Xakanaka Campsite. This area offers many options for day trips, such as Khwai and Third Bridge. There are two boat stations close to the camping site. The camping area is very simple and is located by the water, that is the reason there are so many hippos on this campsite. An ablution (communal bathroom) is available.
DAY 7: OKAVANGO DELTA
I didn’t sleep very well, as the animals are very active at night around this area. I could hear lions and hippos, and I saw a couple of hyenas searching my campsite for food at night. The only thing the hyena found and decided to take with her was my sneakers…ha!
After spending 2 nights at the Khwai Campsite, I moved on to another camping in the Okavango Delta, Xakanaka – so I could explore different areas.
The drive to Xakanaka took around 2-hours and it was also very challenging. The roads are rutted and winding. During the rains, it is almost impossible to drive, with some very deep waterholes in the road and the journey can take up to 4-hours.
The game reserve in this area is phenomenal – but a day doing self-driving safari is exhausting – the vegetation is very dense and there are a lot of dead trees on the ground. Also, there are so many holes with water and mud, which makes the driving very challenging if you are trying to spot animals, take pictures and drive.
After a whole day of self-drive safari – with a 1-hour break for a nap under a tree in the middle of the day – time to go back to the camp, cook dinner, and get some rest.
While I was cooking, a hippo crossed right in front of me which left me speechless for a few minutes – “What was it? a hippo!?” Yes, it was a hippo!
DAY 8: OKAVANGO DELTA
My day 8 of my self-drive safari in Botswana was spent driving around the Xakanaka area.
Xakanaxa occupies a narrow strip of land surrounded by marshes and lagoons. At night you can easily hear the animals, especially elephants, or be serenaded by hippo grunts.
This area is one of few offering a year-round land and water game-viewing experience, possible to explore by car or powerboats.
On a day of safari in this area, it is easy to spot a large variety of animals such as elephants, buffalo, hyena, giraffe, hippo, wildebeest, kudu, lechwe, and if you are lucky, lion and leopard, among many others.
After lunch, I head to my next camping destination, Third Bridge Campsite.
In a dry season, it is an easy drive but there was very deep sand after the 2nd bridge. Got to the camping, and this was my favorite campsite in Botswana because the location is absolutely gorgeous, just by the river and the wildlife is very abundant here.
WHERE TO STAY: I spent 2 nights at the Third Bridge Campsite. This campsite was my favorite during my self-drive in Botswana. It is an excellent choice as there are so many options for game drives and there is always animal activity in camp. There is a boat station at the camping site, making water activities extra options. Booking is through Xomae.
DAY 9: OKAVANGO DELTA
I spent my last day of my self-drive safari in Botswana doing the best thing you can do in Botswana: safari.
The wildlife in this section of Okavango Delta is incredible for safari, and you feel all the time that you are truly amongst the wildlife.
At lunchtime, I was back at the campsite to skip the mid-day sun and cool down in the shade of the trees, while cooking lunch. When a herd of elephants had the same idea and I had to share my shade with them. It was a magical moment, and one of the highlights of my trip to Botswana.
I took the afternoon to do a water safari and it was just incredible, I strongly recommend if you are visiting the Okavango Delta to go on water safari, as you will have a different view and will see so many different animals. I had the chance to visit the Hippo Pool, which is a lagoon with hundreds of hippos.
While on a water safari at Okavango Delta, it is the best option for bird-watching too. The tour took longer than planned – around 4 hours – because our boat broke and we had to ask for help.
In the evening, my campsite got visited by many hyenas and I spent my last night sleeping under the stars in Botswana hearing the lions roaming. Absolutely fascinating!
DAY 10: RETURN BACK TO NAMIBIA
I woke up very early (as usual) and spent a few hours driving around on a self-drive safari before heading back to Namibia.
I saw a large variety of animals just around the campsite, and I started to feel sad to leave Botswana. I certainly had one of the best trips of my life. Just being in the wild, surrounded by majestic animals and enjoying the solitude of incredible nature. I truly recommend doing a self-drive safari in Botswana as once in a lifetime adventure.
The drive back to Namibia was long but safe. The road conditions are mostly well-paved the whole way.
I stopped for an overnight in Ghanzi, as it was dark and it is not recommended to drive in the dark because of the wildlife on the roads. If you don’t have an extra day, I would recommend to skip the morning safari in Botswana and start to head back to your departure destination.
I spent another day and night in Namibia before I headed back home, as this was a great farewell from my amazing Africa trip!
Final Thoughts of my 10-day Self-Drive Safari in Botswana
This is my very detailed 10-day itinerary for a self-drive safari in Botswana, and I hope this can help you to plan your Botswana Trip!
I have done other safaris in Africa before, but Botswana surpassed my high expectations. Nature, the diversity of wildlife, and the hospitality in Botswana made it an incredible trip.
Botswana is not a cheap destination to visit, therefore if you want to visit on a budget just like me, be prepared to have to start planning your trip well in advance in order to book your accommodation (good luck with that!), book your car and start to study the maps, since you will be driving on very remote and isolated areas. You need at least to feel somehow familiar with the region you will be driving.
I truly recommend anyone to go on a trip to Botswana, and if you are convinced, continue reading as I prepared the whole RESOURCES section here for you!
trip planning resources
PLANNING A TRIP TO BOTSWANA
If you are going to travel to Botswana, pre-planning, research, and understanding what you are looking for in a destination will help make your travels far more successful and safe. Here is some further information I think you might need to plan your self-drive safari in Botswana itinerary.
For planning my trip to Botswana I used the Lonely Planet guidebook, which contains helpful information.
I have prepared a very complete guide of 28 things you need to know before you go camping in Botswana – and I strongly recommend you to read this before your trip.
Also, visit my Botswana Travel Guide for more information about your trip to Botswana.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BOTSWANA
The best time to visit Botswana is during the dry season between May and October when you can expect warm, sunny days (22°C-35°C) and chilly nights. This is also when the water levels in the Okavango Delta are at their highest, creating the waterways and channels Botswana is famed for.
The green season – from November to April – is a great time to travel if you don’t mind the odd shower. Visitor numbers and prices are lower, the scenery pops with verdant foliage, and animals give birth to their young.
AIRPORTS IN BOTSWANA
Botswana’s main airport is Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE), located 11km/7miles north of Gaborone, the capital.
If you are flying from South Africa, you can take a direct flight from OR Tambo International Airport (JNB), Johannesburg, or Cape Town International Airport (CPT).
It is also common to fly into Maun Airport (MUB) and Kasana Airport (BBK). When combining a safari in Botswana with a visit to Victoria Falls, it is common to fly into Maun and depart from Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) in Zimbabwe or Livingstone Airport (LVI) in Zambia.
BORDERS OF BOTSWANA
Botswana is bounded by Namibia to the west and north (the Caprivi Strip), Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, and South Africa to the southeast and south. The Zambezi River border with Zambia is only several hundred yards long. The point at which the borders of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe meet in the middle of the river has never been precisely determined.
PRICE TO TRAVEL TO BOTSWANA
When you travel to Botswana you can easily spend 1,000 to 2,000 Dollars per day/ person. This kind of money will bring you to some of the most exclusive lodges, and to areas that aren’t accessible any other way, including private flights to the lodges. Of course, you can plan your self-drive safari in Botswana and save tons of money – which will force you to do a lot of planning yourself.
10 nights accommodation for 2 people
Rental car US$2,000
10-day renting a 4WD
Additional cost with rental car US$800
this includes fuel & mechanical (prices may vary)
Food & Drink US$420
For 2 people cooking all the meals at the campsite
Game Reserve Entry Fee, visa, boat tour
TOTAL PRICE FOR 2 PEOPLE US$4,600
doesn't include international flight
ACCOMMODATION IN BOTSWANA
Keep in mind that booking wild campsites in Botswana is extremely challenging and requires lots of patience and persistence.
The campsites in Botswana are run by different private operators, The gates and reception have booking agents, but I strongly advise you to reserve your accommodation before your trip to Botswana, as the number of campsites is limited. You will be turned away if no space is available, and you will have a long trip back to the nearest town.
Things in Botswana move much more slowly than I am used to. The booking in Botswana is a very manual process, still, carbon copy receipt based rather than Internet bookings. Please read everything you should know before you go camping in Botswana before you make any reservation.
If you are planning to stay at lodges, Booking.com is the best option as it is a reliable source and they have a 24-hour cancellation policy that I have used several times.
RENTING A CAR IN BOTSWANA
You will need to have a 4×4 vehicle to go on a self-drive safari in Botswana, either if you decide to go with a tour operator, or if you decide to go on an independent adventure.
If you are arriving in Botswana and starting your drive, I recommend renting a car with Rental Car, as they have access to cars from all the major companies which are compared on a grid format that clearly displays the prices from each provider. Click on the bottom below to get the best deals on rental cars in Botswana.
If you are driving from Namibia, readers of this blog have a great discount with Zambezi Car Rental.
I have great news for you! Paula Pins the Planet readers get a special offer for a 4×4 Car Rental in Namibia. Request your special price below, and I will send you an awesome Promo Code.
SELF-DRIVING IN BOTSWANA
Self-driving in Botswana can be a challenge depending on your level of experience but also depending on the season.
I recommend you rent a fully equipped 4×4 car, preferably with a GPS with camping sites and other important GPS coordinates pre-programmed. This will help guide you to stay on track and able to orientate yourself, ensuring your drive will be a safe one for you and your close-ones.
You can always ask one of our staff members for advice on what routes are recommended at the moment since this might change from one part of the year to another. Remember; in the African bush anything is possible so coming prepared and aware are factors that can help your drive be a successful one that will give you, your friends, and family memories for life.
TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR YOUR TRIP TO BOTSWANA
Please, do not take the risk to travel to Africa without travel insurance, stuff happens and travel insurance is absolutely essential for a Botswana self-drive safari.
Considering that anything can go wrong with any trip, we don’t want to risk the fun, right? Risks are of breaking down, losing your luggage, or even worse, having an accident and getting injured.
I recommend and also use reliable insurance through World Nomads. You can just do a quick quote below, and you will be surprised to find out how little it can cost, for the benefit you will get.
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP TO BOTSWANA
- Currency: The local currency in Botswana is Pula. They widely accepted South African Rand. You can use an ATM in one of the main towns. Always carry money with you, as most places do not accept credit cards.
- Fuel: on long drives pick up fuel regularly in the major towns as there can be long distances between stations.
- Supplies: snack and drinks are available at most of the fuel stops and the bigger towns had a well-stocked Spar Supermarket.
- Maps/GPS: Download maps onto your phone which can be accessed offline. Also, keep a paper map in the glove box just in case!
- SIM cards: it’s easy to pick up a pay as you go SIM in the airports as well as local mobile network stores.
- Internet: If you are planning to go on a mobile camp safari, note that you won’t have access to the internet. I spent 10 days in Botswana without internet access.