How Travelers Can Stay Safe on Safari in Botswana

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Botswana is so different to the staged safari experiences you might find in South Africa. It's the true African wilderness.

Photo © Getty Images/mantaphoto

If you want to see larger-than-normal lions, hippos and the last great herds of elephants, then Botswana is for you.

Botswana is real Africa

Botswana is a luxury destination but for a good reason. To keep tourism numbers low and the environment well looked after, costs are set in a way that is sustainable for the local people and the wilderness.

You can't just buy a ticket and enter the game parks in Botswana. Most locations involve a flight or very long drives to reach the game lodges. Guides will arrive early to check the runways for elephants and lions – no joke.

But, before you see in animals in Botswana, from Moremi to Savuti or Chobe, there are a few rules to keep you safe and confident in the wilderness. 

  • Do not run or turn your back if you are confronted by a wild animal – which you are likely to encounter in the Okavango
  • The only animals that run away in Africa are the prey, and wild animals – especially lions – will chase you
  • It's not uncommon for guests in safari lodges, usually nestled on waterways, to get the occasional hippo at their front door.

Guards and guides will walk through lodges at night to scare off any hippos who do try and visit. Hippos don't charge because they are aggressive, they are usually startled and scared and will run through you to get back to the water. During the day it is rare to find them away from water, but at night they like to feed on grass, usually around lodges.

The real danger of safaris in Botswana

In 2000, an 11-year-old was killed by a hyena in Botswana's Okavango Delta, near the Moremi area. Wanting to see a hyena up close, he left food outside his unlocked tent at night.

Such attacks are not unprecedented. Tour operators described the incident as a cautionary tale of another foreigner who failed to appreciate the dangers inherent in a safari and fell victim to the animals he came to admire.

More visitors have been hurt or killed by wildlife in Botswana than any other country in southern Africa.

Botswana's record is one side effect of the niche the country has made for itself in the safari trade.

Animal attacks are not rare. Hippos attacking mokoros, lions investigating lodges at night, elephants protecting their young - the stories are certainly plentiful.

Always listen to your guides, they will save your life.

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1 Comment

  • The Thor’s said

    Okavango delta tent camp trip - 10-31-2019 8am my wife, poller/guide and myself were rammed and overturned in our Mokoro by a single bull hippo. The video I was taking shows the thick almost impassable vegetation on waters surface growing and clogged in this channel moving as the hippo was running under water in the narrow channel toward us. It slammed us over in less then a second and luckily continued past running on land away. We lost cameras and things but not our lives. The guides of the nearly 15 mokoros in front and behind us had no plans for our safe passage and knew a hippo was in the channel. No guide in our view could save you or make a plan that breaths safety in a very sinkable and not floatable mokoro. 1.) Your in the hippos living room and we are not welcome. 2.) the guides spoke a native language and did not share much information on where the hippo was or gave you the choice of proceeding. 3.) no one else jumped in to help us out or assist. 4.) vegetation in channel was far to thick for safe mokoro passage which slows you to a literal crawl through the thick crap (I pulled our mokoro by assisting dredging my arms and hands along side the front sides of mokoro most of the way back) 5.) vegetation free channels only help see dangers underwater... not a preventative advantage.
    Anyway - as romantic and safari appealing as this part of your planned safari is, this could become the end of your adventure. The Thor’s

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