Lucas T. Jahn
10 Things to know before Camping in Botswana
Are you thinking about going on a safari camping roadtrip in Botswana? Then this article is for you.
1. Fences are optional.
Camping in Botswana can be an exhilarating experience, especially considering that the majority of campsites aren‘t fenced in. Yes, you read that right. There are no fences around the campground. And yes, that means that wild animals can and will roam freely around the campsite.
During our stay at Third Bridge Campsite in Moremi Game Reserve, we had a group of elephants standing in our campsite during the day. Later at night, a pair of lions walked in 20 meters distance past us, and shortly afterwards a spotted hyena ran close by. This campsite was wild but it was an unforgettable experience!
2. Sit with your back to the car.
Considering the wilderness of most of Botswana‘s campsites, it is always advisable to sit with your back towards the car. It rarely happens that an animal decides to attack humans, but you really don‘t want to take risks here. If you position yourself with your back towards the car you can always quickly move inside, should you feel threatened by an animal. Additionally, predators such as lions preferably attack their pray from the back using the element of surprise - an option that you make unavailable to them that way.
3. Make a campfire.
Aside from sitting with your back towards the car, you should always consider making a campfire. Not only does it give off warmth in the chilly nights, it furthermore deters wild animals from approaching too closely and give them a warning, that somebody is already there.
4. Campgrounds can be very expensive.
If you decided to camp in Botswana, because a wilderness lodge was too expensive, we have bad news for you. Some campsites in Botswana, especially those within the game reserves and national parks can be very expensive. We paid no less than 100 USD for staying a single night at the basic Third Bridge Campsite in Moremi Game Reserve, and more than 60 USD for staying at Khwai Community Camp.
5. Pre-book campsites.
If you want to camp in some of the national parks of Botswana, such as the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, you will have to pre-book your campsites. Without a booking for a campsite, you may not be allowed to enter the national park at all. There is no option to pay for a campsite upon arrival, as there are rarely any camp wardens. Booking at the national park offices is also rarely an option, as the enter process has been digitalised more or less.
We were able to book some campsites online, while we had to visit different offices in Maun to book the remaining campsites we wanted to stay at during our trip.
6. Wilderness camping is allowed.
To offset the high costs for camping in the national parks, you had the chance to wilderness camp in large parts of Botswana. That refers to all places outside of protected areas and private lands. If in doubt whether a land is private or not, make sure to ask the locals.
Wilderness camping in Botswana can be extremely exhilarating, as you are completely alone in the grand outdoors. Always make sure to leave everything nice and tidy, and under no circumstances leave any trash.
7. Rooftop vs. ground tent.
Before embarking on your trip, you‘ll have to make the decision if you want to sleep in a regular tent on the ground, or staying on top of a car in a roof-top tent. Generally speaking, most people on a self-drive camping safari through Namibia opt for the second choice. Sleeping atop a car gives you an added sense of security in the wilderness.
Generally speaking, camping is safe, even in the non-fenced campsites. Most animals do not perceive tents as tents with people inside, but interpret them as large animals or objects, hence an attack is very unlikely.
8. Wet vs. dry season.
Before you plan your trip, make sure that you are aware of the difference between the wet and the dry season. Depending on where you are in Botswana, there might be a lot of rainfall during the wet season, which can influence the enjoyment of your camping trip. It also means that mosquitos will be thriving and roads may be closed. In the dry season, the conditions for camping are almost universally perfect, with blue skies, no rain, predictable temperatures and open roads.
9. Bring an extra blanket and warm clothes.
Despite daytime temperatures regularly rising above 40°C (104°F), it is advisable to bring an extra blanket and warm clothes for your camping trip in Namibia. With nightfall the temperatures begin to plummet, sometimes even ending up below the freezing point. Days in the desert are hot, while the nights are cold. Be prepared for this rapid change of temperature.
10. Don‘t leave your shoes outside.
If you do not want to step into a scorpion or a spider in the early morning, we recommend to not leave your shoes outside. Scorpions and spiders appreciate the warmth of shoes and hide in them during the night, so the first thing for you to do in the morning is to properly shake out your shoes. Alternatively, wear flip flops before sleeping.