10 Reasons Why Botswana and Zimbabwe are the Ultimate Safari Destinations

Written by Harriet Nimmo

Botswana and Zimbabwe are two of Africa’s premier safari destinations. Both have fantastic and varied wildlife and good levels of service.

There are relatively few tourists compared to some of the busier reserves in South Africa and Kenya.

Both countries have extensive networks of large protected areas, with few fences and offer a wild, authentic safari experience.

These are the 10 reasons why Botswana and Zimbabwe are the ultimate safari destinations.

1. Big Wildlife!

Of course you go on safari to see animals, and both Botswana and Zimbabwe offer fantastic wildlife sightings.

They both have a great reputation for predators, such as lion, leopard and, if you’re lucky, cheetah. These two countries are also some of the best places in all of Africa to see the critically endangered African wild dog, or painted wolf.

You can’t go on safari without seeing elephants. Botswana and Zimbabwe now host some of the biggest populations of elephants in all of Africa.

2. Wild Africa

To me, Botswana and Zimbabwe still represent ‘wild’ Africa.

Botswana is the leader in low-impact, upmarket tourism. This eco-friendly approach promotes a true wilderness experience in this unspoiled country.

Zimbabwe is one of the most beautiful African countries with some of the friendliest people. The previous political troubles have not impacted on the safari destinations. With the new political beginnings, now is the time to go.

3. Walking Safaris

Both countries offer walking safaris with some of Africa’s most renowned guides and trackers.

You will have a chance to look at the smaller creatures, spot animal tracks, listen to bird calls and learn about the plants and trees.

If you are lucky you may also track big wildlife on foot, under the watchful eye of your experienced guide.

A walking safari is a unique opportunity to experience the details of life in the bush. It adds a completely different dimension to being in a vehicle.

4. Cultural Visits

Both countries offer cultural visits to meet and engage with the local people or projects.

Machaba Safaris offers day trips to programs in the local community such as day trip to the Painted Dog Centre.

This gives you a much greater insight into the country you’re visiting and adds a valuable additional element to your holiday.

5. Night Drives

A number of camps offer night drives. It is a thrilling experience to be in the bush after the sun has gone down.

It is a chance to see some of the nocturnal animals, such as owls, genets, porcupines and bush babies.

And of course, nighttime is when lions and leopards tend to be most active, so there is always a chance of seeing these big cats on the move.

6. Canoe Safari

Both Botswana (Okavango Delta) and Zimbabwe (Mana Pools) offer the opportunity for canoe safaris.

These are a very different experience to being in a land vehicle. Gliding silently through the water at eye level with the reed frogs and antelopes, and perhaps with elephants sploshing past, is just magical.

7. Birding

Another reason why Botswana and Zimbabwe are the ultimate safari countries is that they are prime destinations for bird watching.

Both have a wealth of different habitats, including wetlands and savannah, riverine forests and flood plains, attracting a vast range of bird species. Some of the Botswana specials include Pels fishing owl and skimmers.

Hwange National Park is one of Zimbabwe’s birding hotspots, with more than 420 species recorded.

Summer (November to February) is the best time for birding. The skies are full of migrants, including cuckoos, bee-eaters and raptors.

8. Night Skies

With very little light pollution, a safari in Botswana or Zimbabwe includes glittering night skies, speckled with the Milky Way.

Your guide can teach you the southern hemisphere constellations. There is nothing more magical than gazing at the night skies, with the woop of hyenas or lions roaring in the distance.

9. Tented Camps

If you choose the right operator, a safari in Botswana or Zimbabwe offers you the experience of staying in a tented camp.

These usually consist of luxury tents, with en-suite bathrooms. Sleeping under canvas is a far more authentic, intimate experience, rather than being sealed inside a brick chalet. In a tent, you can hear the noises of the African night.

10. Easily Combined with a Trip to Victoria Falls

My final reason why Botswana and Zimbabwe are the ultimate safari destinations, is that they can easily be combined with visiting Victoria Falls.

Deemed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls shares a joint border with Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is famous for being the largest waterfall in the world in the wet season.

Victoria Falls should be on everyone’s Bucket List and is a wonderful add-on to combine with your safari.

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