The thrill of driving through the haunting, yet unimaginably beautiful Kalahari wilderness, the endless horizons and remote landscapes of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, the excitement of camping under the immense African sky, game viewing without flocks of tourists… there are countless reasons why a self-drive safari entices many Botswana visitors.
However, a self-drive can be risky if you’re not prepared for this adventure. Liquid Giraffe shares their top ten safety and security tips for a self-drive safari in Botswana.
1. Prohibited items
Due to the prevalence of foot and mouth disease in Botswana, the following items are usually not allowed into the country – especially as you travel towards to Ngamiland and the Moremi Game Reserve:
-Meat and meat products from cloven hoofed animals
-Game trophies and skins
It is best to check on the latest information before you travel. Also note that two-way radios and drones are prohibited.
2. Driving in Botswana
Driving in Botswana is not as easy as you may think. Road conditions can be challenging in many areas and include soft sand, slippery clay or deep water. You can easily get stuck or damage the engine of your vehicle. If you do not have a 4×4, Liquid Giraffe can arrange vehicle hire for you from Maun or Kasane. Your car hire has 24-hour back up service in case of emergency.
3. Mobile network coverage
As you are prospectively travelling to places where there is no network coverage it is wise to travel with a satellite phone if possible.
4. Northern Botswana is a malaria area
There is a risk of malaria in Northern Botswana, including the Okavango Delta, Moremi and Chobe. The risk of malaria is higher in the wet season between November and April. Chloroquine is not effective in Botswana. Instead, consider one of the following antimalarial drugs:
-doxycycline or mefloquine
Use DEET insect repellent on exposed skin and flying insect spray in the room where you sleep. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, particularly at dusk and dawn, and sleep under a mosquito net.
5. Stock up with supplies
Always make sure you have more fuel than you need. When you enter any of the game parks, there are no fuel points. Carry extra, but not inside the vehicle.
Maun, the gateway to Moremi, has supermarkets to stock up on supplies. Firewood can be bought off the sides of the road as you leave the city. Remember you are not allowed to collect firewood inside any of the protected areas.
6. Stay inside your tent
Do not sleep with any part of your body protruding from your tent. Campsites in the game parks are unfenced, and lion and hyena do enter these areas. Don’t keep food or citrus fruit in your tents at night as wild animals have a powerful sense of smell.
7. Do not walk alone in national parks or wildlife areas
The regulations are clear: do not walk, or wander away from your vehicle or tent in wildlife areas. If you do break down, stay with your vehicle. Walking at night or early mornings are the most dangerous times as this is when wild animals, snakes and scorpions are most active. Remember that hippos can run fast and a hippo attack can be fatal.
8. Do not drive off the road
Off-road driving is prohibited in national parks in order to keep wilderness areas in a pristine condition and to protect the wildlife from harm. A broken sump or axle is also the last thing you want in a remote area.
9. Do not feed the animals
Never feed wild animals, as this will only encourage them to become less afraid of humans. This is true of any carnivore, such as hyena, but the same goes for other wild animals like monkeys. If you are bitten you will need a tetanus shot and if you are miles away from a clinic, you will have a serious problem.
10. Treat officials and bureaucrats with respect
Never lose your temper and become aggressive when dealing with police at roadblocks or game rangers in the parks. This will get you nowhere. Remember the 3 Ps: politeness, patience and perseverance.