Botswana's Wildlife

Botswana is regarded as one of the best wildlife destinations in Africa. Botswana’s wildlife is plentiful and thanks to diverse landscapes a large variety of animals can be admired when on safari. The water rich parks in the north lead to a high density of animals, whilst the dry Kalahari in south is testament to nature’s ability to survive in the face of adversity.

Elephant herd walking in tall grass Chobe National Park

WILD ANIMALS OF BOTSWANA

Each of Botswana’s wildlife areas and national parks are unique and different. Although there are some animals you may spot across many different parks, there are some which truly exemplify a park or wildlife area and make it so special. Here are some of our favourites, ranked according to who is likely to steal the show in each park/area:

AFRICAN ELEPHANT

Chobe National Park

Was there ever any question? If there is one creature that defines the Chobe National Park, then it is the elephant. With an estimated 120,000 elephants calling the Chobe region home, it is believed to be the region with the highest density of elephants in the world. Little wonder then that the Chobe National Park is often referred to as “The Land of Giants”.

Although home to elephants all year round, the dry winter months are the best time to see these gentle giants and it is during this time that they are in their highest numbers. There is nothing like being in the Chobe, on a boat safari and admiring the large elephant herds as they come to drink, swim and play at the river’s edge.

AFRICAN WILD DOG

Moremi Game Reserve

The Moremi Game Reserve serves as one of the best locations in Africa to spot the African Wild Dog. It definitely is a Botswana wildlife highlight. This endangered species, once plentiful in Africa can now only be found in a few countries. Luckily, Botswana is one of them. In fact, Botswana is home to approximately 30% of the world’s population of African Wild Dog.

One of the reasons why the Wild Dogs feel so at home in the Moremi Game Reserve in particular, is because they have enough space to roam between the Game Reserve and the adjacent private concessions. With huge home ranges and always on the move, Wild Dogs can be notoriously difficult to find on a safari. At the Moremi Game Reserve however, you may just get your chance.

ELEPHANT HUNTING LION

Savuti Region

Nature is constantly adapting and a specific lion pride in the Savuti region demonstrated this when they began hunting adult elephants. Lions hunting juvenile or injured elephants has occurred in other places too, but those were opportunistic killings. When the large lion pride of Savuti started actively hunting large, healthy elephants everyone was surprised.

Certainly not a sight for the faint hearted, one needs to remember that the lions needed to change their modus operandi and hunt larger prey in order to sustain themselves.  When climatic shifts caused most of their regular prey to move on, they needed to adapt. With the return of easier prey to hunt, instances of lions hunting elephants has once again rarer. But these elephant hunters are still there and you can still see them for yourself if you go to Savuti – one of the most exciting places for Botswana wildlife safaris.

Hippo walking into water

The wildlife of Botswana is as diverse as the different ecosystems, providing habitats on land, water, and in the air.

HIPPO

Okavango Delta

Is there any animal that comes to mind more when you think of the Okavango Delta than the hippopotamus? Whether you see them in the channels, on the flood plains or in the marshes, you are bound to encounter this clumsy and cranky animal on your travels through the delta and hear its honking as you are enjoying a sundowner.

Hippos love spending the warm daytime hours in the cool waters of the Delta. This is because their skin is very sensitive to sunlight and it can burn easily. However, they too must leave the water and head out onto the land at some point. What they do next is really quite genius: they produce their own sunblock. Hippos will secrete a red oily substance to protect themselves from the sun’s rays and at the same time, this substance will act as a moisturiser. Who knew that hippos produce their own natural skin care products?

PLAIN’S ZEBRA

Makgadikgadi Pan & Nxai Pan National Parks

The zebra is the national animal of Botswana. This should be reason enough to make it onto this list. But the zebras of Botswana have another story to tell. That of the longest migration in Africa. Since the removal of selected veterinary fences in 2006, Botswana’s zebras have been on the move.

During the wet (green) season, thousands of zebras migrate from the Chobe region down to the Nxai Pans which they reach typically during late December. There they can enjoy fresh green grasses before heading north again end of February / early March. Similarly yet independently, thousands of Okavango Delta and Moremi residing zebras travel to the Makgadikgadi Pans every year. They arrive at their destination slightly earlier (as they have less distance to cover). The secret migration in Botswana makes for excellent low season game viewing!

CHEETAH

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Imagine a vast flat landscape covered in brown grass, dotted with the occasional acacia on ancient dunes. This sets the scene for the arid Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is a harsh environment, but one that the cheetah can excel in. A low density of predators and a large number of small herbivores such as springbok, makes this one of the best places to see the fastest land animal in the world.

Due to a loss in natural habitat and increasing human encroachment, the number of cheetahs in the wild has dwindled to the point where they are now considered endangered. But in the Central Kalahari these elegant hunters can still be admired.

LEOPARD

Kalagadi Transfrontier Park

In the arid Kalahari you need a couple of tricks up your sleeve in order to survive. The leopards of the Kalahari have a few of these and that is why they are so successful in the dry Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The fact that leopards technically do not need to drink water and can survive on the moisture they get from their prey is in itself impressive.

But the leopards of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park have also shown that they are not very fussy eaters. That is another box ticked. The Kalahari leopards are recorded to eat over 20 different species, ranging from mice to large antelope. Keep your eyes peeled on the camel thorn trees in the Kgalagadi and hopefully, you can spot a leopard yourself.

African buffaloe herd savannah Botswana wildlife area
OUR EXPERT ADVICE

THERE ARE A FEW PLACES LEFT ON THIS WORLD WHERE NATURE STILL RULES SO SUPREMELY OVER THE LAND

Whenever we are on safari in Botswana, we know that we will witness diverse and spectacular wildlife. We find it impossible to say which we prefer: the rugged Kalahari or the bountiful north. We love the fact that one country can provide us with both!

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