The Beauty of Botswana

by Brenna Holeman

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If you would have asked me a few years ago if I expected to visit Botswana any time soon, I probably would have said no. It’s not that I didn’t want to go, it’s just that the country wasn’t even on my radar. I probably couldn’t have even picked it out on a map without some major clues (African geography wasn’t my strong suit until I became obsessed with online quizzes a few years ago).

And then something changed. I decided that I finally wanted to pursue a lifelong goal of seeing African elephants in the wild, and I thought that my 30th birthday was as good a time as any to do so. When I started to research possible trips to Africa, I kept going back to the countries I had dreamed of visiting as a child, mainly Kenya and Tanzania. One problem: it wasn’t a great season for wildlife viewing in those countries during the months I wanted to visit (late spring). It was my dear friend Helen, an expert in African travel, who recommended Botswana.

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I booked my ticket a few days after talking to her, and in April of last year I flew to South Africa to start my journey. After a few days in Cape Town, I met up with my tour group (G Adventures) in Johannesburg to begin an eight-day adventure overland through Botswana, camping along the way.

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And while Botswana isn’t necessarily the first place people think of when they think of an African safari – I’d wager that most think of Kenya and Tanzania, or perhaps Kruger National Park in South Africa – Botswana absolutely dazzled me. From the dry landscapes of the south, where we spotted white rhinos by night, to the lush Okavango delta, where we floated along in dugout canoes in search of elephants, to the banks of the Chobe River, where we spotted some of the great beasts of the land, I spent my entire time in Botswana in a quiet reverence, hushed by its beauty and its abundance.

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I haven’t shared much of my time in Southern Africa last year, so here are a few photos that represent my time in that wonderful country of Botswana.

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A night safari in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary 

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An obligatory jumping shot of our tour group

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Driving to Maun

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A scenic flight over the gorgeous Okavango delta, an experience I’ve written about before

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Riding mokoros (a type of dugout canoe) through the delta

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Exploring the delta by foot

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On this trip we spotted herds of zebra as well as a solo male elephant, which we tracked for the better part of an hour. We even got within about 100 metres of it.

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That moment when you’re only a few metres away from a wild elephant

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We spent so long tracking the elephant that the sun started to set – not great when you’re on your own in a delta filled with wild animals. As we ran to keep up with our guide, I kept hearing what sounded like people calling out to us – I assumed it was the other guides, trying to figure out where we were. It was only later, when we were finally in the mokoro on the way back to our camp, that I realised I had been hearing the sounds of wild hyenas all around us.

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A nighttime mokoro ride

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I will do a longer post on my experience in Okavango Delta, but it was definitely a highlight of my time in Botswana.

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By a baobab tree, one of the strongest and longest-living trees in the world 

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Views from our bus window

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And then – a river cruise down the Chobe, where we spotted wildlife in all shapes and sizes.

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When we spotted this lone male elephant swimming/bathing in the river, my heart just about exploded. Although I saw an elephant in the delta and a few others from the bus window, this was the closest I had ever been to my favourite animal.

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But I had no idea what was to come. As the sun started to set, a family of elephants came down to the river bank to drink.

For as long as I could remember, my biggest dream had been to see African elephants in the wild. And now, on the cusp of turning thirty, I was fulfilling that dream. I listened to the click of the cameras and watched as the great beasts lifted their trunks to their mouths again and again, graceful and slow, drinking in the mud-coloured water. Small birds circled in the evening sky. The family had made their way down to the river in a chain, winding through the low green trees, their feet stirring up the brown dust that lined the banks of the Chobe. When they reached the river they seemed unaware of the tourist boats that surrounded them a short distance away, and we were granted with over half an hour of just observing them in their natural habitat.

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I was very emotional, to say the least.

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If you are looking for a country that offers beautiful scenery and amazing opportunities to interact with wildlife, I would highly recommend Botswana. It’s still relatively new to tourism in comparison to South Africa or Kenya, so you won’t find the huge crowds of tourists there. It’s also fairly cheap to travel in, with a week-long tour costing approximately £600 or $1000 (that’s for all transportation, accommodation, food, and guides).

A few years ago, I may not have had Botswana on my radar, but now I believe it should be on yours.

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Have you ever been to Botswana? If not, would you like to go?

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Kristina September 18, 2015 - 1:06 am

Loved this. Makes me think about trying other countries that I had perhaps not given enough credit to. Botswana has been on my radar tho 🙂

Good read as always bren
U do canada proud

Brenna Holeman September 18, 2015 - 10:25 am

Thank you, Kristina! I think there are a lot of places I have never considered going to that would be just as magical as Botswana. 🙂

Kristin Addis September 18, 2015 - 4:21 am

Totally made me nostalgic for Botswana as well. I had no idea what to expect and it ended up being soooo astoundingly beautiful and I could not believe the wildlife. Who did you tour with? It looks like we went to the same camp on the delta. I had so much fun trying not to tip over in the Makoros!

Brenna Holeman September 18, 2015 - 10:24 am

I know – me too! I really didn’t expect it to be that beautiful, I don’t really know why. I went with G Adventures, it was a pretty good trip! The journey to the Okavango Delta was my favourite part, along with the river cruise on the Chobe.

Isabel September 18, 2015 - 8:50 am

This sounds and looks BEAUTIFUL Brenna! Botswana is definitely on my radar now, thanks to you! This must have been a truly amazing experience.

Brenna Holeman September 18, 2015 - 10:24 am

Aw, that’s great! I hope that you get there very soon. 🙂

Paula September 18, 2015 - 9:31 am

You have convinced me! I have never been to Africa and that trip should be a good way to start the Continent:)

Brenna Holeman September 18, 2015 - 10:23 am

I think it’s a great introduction to Southern Africa! I hope you get there soon. 🙂

Anca | Globaloud September 18, 2015 - 10:31 am

I have a thing for hippos and I must say they look so cute on these photos.
I would like to do a safari once in Africa, and since I’m always looking for the less crowded options I think I’ll consider Botswana as my safari country, especially cause it’s so close to South Africa, so hopefully it’s easy to get from one country to another.

Brenna Holeman September 18, 2015 - 10:39 am

Yes, it was amazing to be so close to the hippos… though they are quite aggressive animals!

You can easily get from South Africa to Botswana – I suggest doing an overland camping trip like the one I did, so you’d probably start in either Johannesburg or Livingstone, Zambia and then travel across the country. Have an amazing time!

Maria September 18, 2015 - 8:57 pm

Wow, these photos are amazing Brenna! Without a doubt, I would like to visit Botswana and generally Africa someday! Something about African traditional music, the African wildlife or the nights under the bright stars really intrigues me… The curious beauty of this continent is truly breathtaking! I guess I’ll spend another night dreaming about safaris or bustling and colorful cities somewhere in Asia or, or, or… 🙂

Brenna Holeman September 19, 2015 - 3:38 pm

I’d love to explore more of Africa, too – it’s such a huge continent with such a diversity of countries! I hope you get to travel to Botswana soon. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Maria!

the welshbird @ plucked from the slush pile September 19, 2015 - 1:51 pm

As others have already said, your photos are beautiful. I would start crying like a total girl as the sight of those elephants so close up. Southern Africa is my bucket list travel goal. One day (soon).

Brenna Holeman September 19, 2015 - 3:36 pm

Thank you very much! I definitely cried when we were that close to the family. I hope you get there soon!

Helen September 21, 2015 - 12:05 am

Aw, I love this so much!!! I’m so glad you had such an amazing time!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

The elephants, the sunset, the flight over the Delta – simply gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Brenna Holeman September 21, 2015 - 12:30 am

Thank you Helen! It was all thanks to your recommendation xxx

Sara September 21, 2015 - 7:01 pm

Actually, I’ve been looking into doing a trip to Botswana in the next year or so–this article couldn’t have better timing. My MBA program offers an opportunity to work with local businesspeople in various countries–and Botswana is one of them. Definitely high on my list after seeing this. Did you spend any time in any of the cities? What did you think?

Brenna Holeman September 22, 2015 - 10:43 am

Oh wow, how cool! I definitely recommend Botswana. I didn’t spend much time in cities… only a night in Maun, if I remember correctly. The person to speak to might be Helen whose blog I linked in the article… she knows a lot more about Botswana than I do! Good luck. 🙂

Zalie October 6, 2015 - 6:20 am

This was such an incredible experience and a wonderful way to celebrate your 30th birthday! I love all of these pictures!

Brenna Holeman October 6, 2015 - 10:56 am

I wish you could have been there with me! xo

My 2016 Travel Goals - This Battered Suitcase October 30, 2015 - 3:28 am

[…] and done a lot of the things that were on my dream list of places for years: India, Guatemala, Southern Africa to see wild elephants, the Trans-Siberian railway, scuba diving in the Galapagos, and many others. Upon settling in […]

Katie Featherstone February 23, 2016 - 6:07 pm

Hi Brenna,

To be honest, it’s been one of the countries at the top of my mental list for a couple of years now, but you’ve just cemented that in my mind. What gorgeous photos! I can’t believe you saw quite so much wildlife- I love your photos of the hippos. Amazing!

Thank-you for sharing your experiences.

Katie 🙂

Brenna Holeman February 24, 2016 - 10:29 am

Aw, I’m glad you liked the post, Katie! It’s an absolutely beautiful country.

Amiya October 6, 2019 - 4:23 am

Hi Brenna I am in 6 grade and my teacher told me to write about travel writing and your Blog is very exciting and good.I want visit to Botswana, I love to see wild animals so I better book whenever I want to do.I want also to be travel blogger I also tell. you want is seems like then I can show you the pictures to all of you that I have visited to this place in the country. This country is a beautiful place to visit it.

Daniela February 1, 2020 - 1:43 am

Hello I would like to know more about dates. Thank you!


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