Botswana - How to Enjoy Your Safari Safely

Safety is paramount to experiencing the amazing wildlife Botswana has and get yourself a local guide who knows where to go.

Photo © GettyImages/mantaphoto

Botswana is an animal lover's dream. It's a long way from the staged "safari experience" of South Africa.

It's the true African wilderness, and a credit to the Botswana people and nation.
Botswana has a perfect gathering of animals in an environment of extreme beauty.
If you want larger-than-normal lions, hippos and the last great herds of elephant, then Botswana is for you.

Warning: Botswana is Real Africa

Botswana is a luxury destination. The reason for this, is the extraordinary amount of wilderness available and the cost involved in getting there.

This is not just a game park you can buy a ticket for. Most places involve you flying into the game lodges - and yes, guides will arrive early to check the runways for elephant and lion (scary but true).

But before you see in animals in Botswana, from Moremi, to Savuti or Chobe, there is one a ground rule.

These will keep you safe and confident in the bush.

Guides will tell you if confronted by a wild animal, which you are likely to encounter in the Okavango - Do not run, or turn your back!

The only thing which runs in Africa is prey, and wild animals, especially lions, will chase you. And surprise, they run faster.

It is not strange either for guests in safari lodges, usually nestled on waterways, to get the occasional hippo at their front door.

Guards and guides will walk you 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.

A Sad Case Study

In 2000, an 11-year-old was mauled and killed by a hyena in Bostwana's Okavango Delta, near the Moremi area.

Wanting to see a hyena up close, he left food outside his unlocked tent at night.

The boy was ripped from his tent and carried away, killed by a pack of hyenas.
Such attacks are not unprecedented in Botswana's safari world. Tour operators here 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.

Though the boy and his mother had been on safari elsewhere in Africa and understood the dangers wild animals posed, it is clear that neither was aware that more tourists on safari are attacked and killed by animals in Botswana than any other country.

Tourists in Botswana have a rough time in the bush, more have been killed and hurt than any other place in southern Africa.

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

Remember, it is not a place frequented by tourists like South Africa, it is a real wilderness experience. But a beautiful one.

As you will see from above animals attacks are not rare.
Hippos attacking mokoros, lions investigating lodges at night, elephants protecting their young - the stories are certainly plentiful.

But as a traveller going to Botswana, hear the tales first-hand, you will be happy you went - it's a paradise that will make every African dream a reality.
But just a warning, make sure you don't become one of the tales - listen to your guides, they will save your life.

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