Botswana Information

There once was a land in Africa with a great lake that was fed by an even greater river. Over millions of years, the forces of nature diverted and changed the face of this land. Today the Okavango River, which originates on the Benguela Plateau, in Angola, is the only evidence of this massive change. Through the Panhandle in the North-West the Okavango flows into Botswana and here it forms a fan-shaped Delta because of the reduction in the slope of the land. This is one of the largest inland deltas in the world.

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Botswana is roughly the size of France with a population around 2 million people and one of the lowest density in Africa. Botswana became independent in 1966 and is now one of the wealthiest non-oil producing countries in Africa. Botswana is one of Africa’s greatest success stories. The country is sparsely populated, politically stable and rich in resources. It follows a low-volume tourism policy and 39% of the land is used for conservation. It is home to some of the best unspoilt game reserves in Africa, which have operated a policy of quality, not quantity.

The early inhabitants were the San (Bushmen) with their rock paintings and today the Batswana are the largest tribe, forming about 50% of the population. Both English and Tswana are official languages of the country. English is spoken and understood widely across Botswana.

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Botswana is the place to go for excellent game-viewing and remarkably diverse scenery. The wildlife you are likely to see include elephant, giraffe, lion, zebra, buffalo, black-backed jackal, hyena, warthog, hippopotamus, wildebeest, impala, puku, tsessebe, kudu, reedbuck, waterbuck, lechwe, steenbok, duiker, baboon, vervet monkey, tree squirrel, mongoose and crocodile. Rare animals that you might encounter on a night drive or water cruise include leopard, cheetah, sable antelope, sitatunga, bush baby, African wild cat, bat-eared fox, side-striped jackal, wild dog, honey badger, genet, aardwolf, and more. A lot depends on which ecological areas are visited. Bird life is wonderful in Botswana, especially in northern Botswana.

The ideal time to visit Botswana is during the Winter/Spring months between May and September. This is the best time to view wildlife. While days are warm during this time of the year, nights can be quite cool. Botswana has a sub- tropical climate, with October to April being the rainy season with a peak in January/February. Temperatures are extreme up to 40 degrees and the nights in the Kalahari in the winter can drop below zero.

Ideally one should combine Victoria Falls (from the Zambian Side), Chobe/Linyanti Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta/Moremi.

Safety
Botswana in general is one of the safest countries for tourists, but in the cities adhere to the following:

  • Don’t walk alone in deserted areas, especially in and around the larger towns. It is preferable to walk with company or in groups.

  • Don’t carry large sums of cash in your purse or pocket or display expensive jewelry.
  • Be aware of the possibility of pick-pockets and bag snatchers in crowded areas..
  • Make photocopies of the first few pages of your passport, air ticket and other important travel documents. Keep this separate from the originals. Don’t leave money or valuables in a hotel room. Most hotels offer safety deposit box service, and ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage before leaving home. Ensure that all the doors in your hotel room are locked. In the wildlife areas always remember that while some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, or deviate from designated roads for that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points. Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant. The best way to get the most out of your safari is to take an active interest in everything going on around you, not just the number of species you can see in the shortest possible time. Ask all the questions you can think of and take reference books on not only wildlife but birds, insects and trees and read up about everything you see. You can’t visit Botswana without a camera or video-camera and binoculars.

    Accommodation
    Standards and services range from up-market to budget. Deluxe and first class hotels are found in the main cities. Luxurious lodges are set in exotic locations, while comfortable tented camps are found in the main game parks. Make sure from your Tour Operator about the facilities offered when participating in Mobile tented camps.

    Driving & Car Rental
    Driving is done on the left side of the road. Drivers require a valid license that must include a picture of the holder. Please take care not to drive during night time. Most of Botswana has no fence for cattle along the main roads and an accident can ruin your trip totally. If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Botswana it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you. Make sure which roads require 4×4 and off-road driving! However, roads in remote areas are often poor quality. Four-wheel drives tend to be the vehicles of choice, particularly if you want to venture off the beaten track. Two spare wheels and a couple of spare tubes are a must due to the condition of the roads. Spare jerry cans of fuel and water, a tow rope, compressor, winch and a spotlight are useful items to have. Many of the villages along the main routes offer tire mending services at a very reasonable fee. Be very careful in towns and villages not to leave your vehicle open and unattended. People with little are easily tempted. You should have no problem sleeping outdoors in designated camping areas or remote places along the way, but get into the habit of locking things away before you go to sleep. Car rental companies are represented at the major airports and in the cities, as are taxis.

    Transportation
    There are two international airports, one at Gaborone and Maun and a new airport in Kasane. From these airports, you can take chartered links to Maun near Botswana’s game parks and other areas throughout Southern Africa. Botswana has a fairly well developed road system. Flying into Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia are a mere 70km from Kasane (Chobe National Park) Flights form Europe and other countries into South Africa and from there to Botswana are recommended. Travel time from Europe to Johannesburg is from 10 to 11 hours.

    Clothing
    Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or sweater for early winter mornings and evenings. On safari keep clothes to a minimum and mostly of neutral coloring – khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant are a must. Bring a hat, good walking shoes and sun screen. Don’t forget swim wear and binoculars. Most hotels and lodges will offer a laundry service. In most places one could hire some one to do your washing

    Chemists / Pharmacies
    It is advisable to take out emergency medical insurance prior to entering Botswana. Bilharzia: The bilharzia parasite is found in many lakes, streams and rivers on the continent. Avoid swimming in them! Vaccinations for cholera, tetanus and yellow fever are advised. Malaria is virulent in Botswana……take prophylactics! Your chemist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs loose their effectieness. It is advisable to buy travel insurance covering accidents, illness or hospitalization for the period of your stay. People who may require emergency medical attention on safari are flown to South Africa for the best medical attention available in the country. Travelers should carry an adequate supply of medicines and first aid accessories with them as supplies are limited in the more remote areas of Botswana. Most chemists in the major towns are open from 08h30 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h00. Monday to Friday and 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays. Take note of the public holidays.

    Water & Electricity
    Tap water in the major towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. In the more remote areas always boil it first, except if you’re staying at a lodge or hotel where drinking water is perfectly safe. Power supply is 220/240 volt 50 cycles. Plugs are usually 13-amp 3 pin square (British type)

    Banks , Currency & Tipping
    Banking hours are standardized across the country. They are from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; from 8:15 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Wednesday and from 8:15 a.m. to 10:45 on Saturday. There are foreign currency transactions on Saturday in the larger towns and most hotels and lodges exchange money. The local currency is the Botswana Pula. Visitors can take out any foreign currency they bring into the country. Credit Cards, Cash and Traveler’s Checks, International credit cards are accepted by most restaurants, stores, hotels, lodges, camps, car rental firms, etc. However, many small shops in rural areas will not accept them. American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa and MasterCard Traveler’s Checks are widely accepted. A tip of 10% for good service is adequate. Service charges are frequently added and it is usual to tip tour driver or guide at least 30-50 Botswana Pula a day.

    Communications
    Postal services are fairly well organized in Botswana and you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. All major hotels have fax machines at the disposal of their guests as well as telex services. Telephone directories will list all the international dialing codes. Both local and long-distance calls are metered on a time basis. Mobile phones do have reception in the major larger towns.

    Customs & Visa Requirements
    Visitors to Botswana are subject to clearance through customs. Personal property which will be re-exported at the end of your visit is not subject to customs duties. Please ensure that you have valid Passport and familiarizes yourself with Visa requirements for each country you are visiting.

    Time Difference
    Throughout the year, Standard Time in Botswana is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, one hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time in the U.S.

     

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    Botswana Guided Tours

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    • Experiences the Bushmen’s (San-People) Culture and Rock Paintings, Go on a guided hike with a Bushmen and learn the secrets of survival in the Kalahari Desert.
    • River Rafting on the Okavango River. Chobe sun-set cruise boat-cruise (regarded as the best game viewing excursion in Africa!)
    • Hot air balloon Safari.
    • Mekoro Canoe trips on the Delta Channels.
    • Fly over the Delta in a small aircraft at sunrise or sunset (a must do!)
    • Explore 4×4 game tracks in Moremi Game Reserve, Linyanti and Savuti.
    • Guided Game- Walks on an island in the Delta.Day and night Game drives.
    • Birding all over Botswana
    • Tiger fishing
    • Exhilarating Boat cruise into the heart of Delta via narrow channels over-growned with papyrus and infested with crocodiles!

     

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    Botswana Custom-Made Safaris

    Guided or non-guided

    Bots31Most reputable safari groups will organize safaris to suite individual requirements, normally ranging from groups of six upwards. After discussion with Fleet Foot’s consultant, you can design your own itinerary and excursions and leave the organization to us. We know where to go, when to go, how to go, what to take and why you would like to go with us guiding the trip. We take your budget in consideration and then offer the most suitable package.

    Customers tell us what they eat and what they drink and have the choice to take their own.In this case clients may also just rent a driver/guide and bush chef. Reservations for accommodation and excursions can be done by Fleet Foot or by the client himself. Fleet Foot also offers a workable itinerary and can assist with reservations for accommodation, Parks Entrance fees, car rentals, flight tickets and arrangements and excursions fees.

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    Kalahari Desert


    Bots23Derived from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning “the great thirst”, or Khalagari, Kgalagadi or Kalagare, meaning “a water-less place”, the Kalahari has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. Drainage is by dry valleys, seasonally inundated pans, and the large salt pans of the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana and Etosha Pan in Namibia. However, the Kalahari is not a true desert. Parts of the Kalahari receive over 250 millimeters (9.8 in) of erratic rainfall annually and are quite well vegetated; it is only truly arid in the southwest with under 175 millimeters (6.9 in) of rain annually, making the Kalahari a fossil desert. Summer temperatures in the Kalahari range from 20 to 45°C (68–113°F).

    The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the Central Northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season, which is havens for wild animals from elephant to giraffe, and for predators such as lion, leopard and cheetah.
    The Kalahari Desert was once a much wetter place. The ancient Lake Makgadikgadi dominated the area, covering the Makgadikgadi Pan and other areas, until its final drainage some 10,000 years ago. It may have once covered as much as 275,000 square kilometers (106,000 sq mi) and was approximately 30 meters (98 ft) deep.

    Bots28The Kalahari has a number of game reserves—the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR, the world’s second largest protected area), Khutse Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Animals that live in the region include brown hyenas, lions, meerkats, giraffes, warthogs, jackals, several species of antelope (including the eland, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest, steenbok, kudu, and duiker), and many species of birds and reptiles. Vegetation in the Kalahari consists mainly of grasses and acacias, but there are over 400 identified plant species present (including the wild watermelon, or Tsamma melon).

    Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR)

    The CKGR is an extensive national park in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. Established in 1961 it covers an area of 52,800 km² making it the second largest game reserve in the world.

    The land is mostly flat and gently undulating covered with bush and grasses covering the sand dunes, and areas of larger trees. Many of the river valleys are fossilized with salt pans. Four fossilized rivers meander through the reserve including Deception Valley which began to form around 16,000 years ago. Deception Valley, during the rainy season, is regarded as one of the best game viewing areas in Africa.

    The Bushmen, or San, have inhabited the lands for thousands of years since they roamed the area as nomadic hunters. However, since the mid-1990s the Botswana government has tried to relocate the Bushmen from the reserve claiming it is a drain on financial resources despite revenues increasing by tourism to the reserve. In 1997, three quarters of the entire San population were relocated from the reserve, and in October 2005 the government had resumed the forced relocation into resettlement camps outside of the park leaving only about 250 permanent occupiers. But in 2006 a Botswana court proclaimed the eviction illegal by allowing people to return in Central Kalahari Game Reserve

     

    Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

    Bots18The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large wildlife preserve and conservation area in southern Africa. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and comprises two adjoining national parks: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The total area of the park is 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi). Approximately three-quarters of the park lie in Botswana and one-quarter in South Africa.
    The terrain consists of red sand dunes, sparse vegetation, occasional trees, and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auto rivers. The rivers are said to flow only about once per century! However, water flows underground and provides life for grass and camelthorn trees growing in the river beds. The rivers may flow briefly after large thunderstorms, a cause for celebration among the wildlife, who will flock to the river beds and slake their eternal thirst.
    The park has abundant, varied wildlife. It is home to large mammalian predators such as black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas. Migratory herds of large herbivores such as blue wildebeest, springbok, eland, and red hartebeest also live and move seasonally within the park, providing sustenance for the predators. More than 200 species of bird can be found in the park. Raptors and vultures are abundant. The weather in the Kalahari can reach extremes. January is midsummer in southern Africa and the daytime temperatures are often in excess of 40 °C (104 °F). Winter nights can be quite cold with temperatures below freezing.
    Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their adjacent national parks, the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa as a single ecological unit. The boundary between the two parks had no physical barriers, although it is also the international border between the two countries. This allowed for the free movement of animals. On 12 May 2000, President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa formally launched Southern Africa’s first peace park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

     

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    Chobe National Park

    Bots2Chobe National Park, in northwest Botswana, has one of the largest game concentrations in Africa continent. By size, this is the third largest park of the country, after the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Gemsbok National Park, and is the most diverse. This is also the country’s first national park.

    The park is probably best known for its spectacular elephant population: 50,000 elephants today, it is actually the highest elephant concentration of Africa. Moreover, most of them are probably part of the largest continuous surviving elephant population on Earth. The elephant population seems to have solidly built up since 1990, from a few thousand. They have not been affected by the massive illicit exploitation of the 1970s and 1980s.

    Elephants living here are Kalahari elephants, the largest in size of all known elephant populations. Yet they are characterized by rather brittle ivory and short tusks, perhaps due to calcium deficiency in the soils.
    At dry season, these elephants sojourn in Chobe River and the Linyanti River areas. At rain season, they make a 200-km migration to the southeast stretch of the park. Their distribution zone however outreaches the park and spreads to northwestern Zimbabwe
    The original inhabitants of this area were the San Bushmen (also known as the Basarwa people in Botswana). They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who were constantly moving from place to place to find food sources, namely fruits, water and wild animals. Nowadays one can find San paintings inside rocky hills of the park.

    In 1943, heavy tsetse infestations occur throughout the region, making the idea of creating a national park momentarily left aside. It was only in 1953 that this project received governmental attention again: 21’000 km² were suggested to become a game reserve. As a result, the Chobe Game Reserve was born in 1960 with an area smaller than originally wanted. Finally, in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park.

    At that time there were several industrial settlements in the region, especially at Serondela, where the timber industry proliferated. These settlements were gradually moved out of the park, and it was not until 1975 that the whole protected area was exempt from human activity. Nowadays traces of the old timber industry are still visible at Serondela. Minor expansions of the park took place in 1980 and 1987.

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    Makgadigadi Pans



    Makgadikgadi is technically not a single pan but many pans with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sua (Sowa), Ntwetwe and Nxai Pans. The largest individual pan is about 1,900 sq mi (4,921.0 km2). By way of comparison, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is a single salt flat of 4,100 sq mi (10,619.0 km2), rarely has much water, and is generally claimed to be the world’s largest salt pan. A small amount of water is supplied by the Boteti River from the Okavango delta.

    These salt pans cover 6,200 sq mi (16,057.9 km2) in the Kalahari basin and forBots12m the bed of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi that started evaporating many millennia ago. Archaeological recovery in the Makgadikgadi has revealed the presence of prehistoric man through abundant finds of stone tools; some of these tools have been dated sufficiently early to establish their origin as earlier than the era of Homo sapiens. Pastoralists herded grazing livestock here when water was more plentiful earlier in the Holocene.
    As the ancestral Lake Makgadikgadi shrank, it left relict shorelines which are most evident in the southwestern part of the basin. As the lake shrank numerous smaller lakes formed with progressively smaller shoreline.

    Kubu Island and Kukome Island are igneous rock “islands” in the salt flat of Sua pan. Kubu Island lies in the southwestern quadrant of Sua Pan, contains a number of baobab trees, and is protected as a national monument.
    The pans themselves are salty desert whose only plant life is a thin layer of blue-green algae. However the fringes of the pan are salt marshes and further out these are circled by grassland and then shrubby savanna. The prominent baobab trees found in the area function as local landmarks.

    Very little wildlife can exist here during the harsh dry season of strong hot winds and only salt water but following a rain the pan becomes an important habitat for migrating animals including wildebeest and one of Africa’s biggest zebra populations, and the large predators that prey on them. The wet season also brings migratory birds such as ducks, geese and White Pelicans. The pan is home to the only breeding population of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa. The only birds here in the dry season are ostriches, Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) and Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius). The grasslands on the fringes of the pan are home to reptiles such as tortoises, rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), snakes and lizards including the endemic Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makgadikgadiensis).

    There are some protected areas within the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park. The Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve is the scene of large migrations of zebra and wildebeest from the Boteti River across to Ntwetwe Pan, while the Nata Sanctuary in Sua Pan is a place to see birdlife and antelopes. In Nxai Pan you can still see the baobabs painted by 19th century British artist Thomas Baines. The area can be accessed between the towns of Nata and Maun or from the town of Gweta.

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    Moremi, Savuti & Linyanti National Parks

    Bots22The Moremi Game Reserve covers much of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta, and combines permanent water, with drier areas – making for some startling, and unexpected contrasts. Prominent geographical features of the Reserve are Chiefs Island and the Moremi Tongue. In the Moremi one can experience excellent savannah game viewing by 4×4, as well as bird-watching on the lagoons. There are also thickly wooded areas, which are home to the shy Leopard. Although just fewer than 5,000 square kilometers (1,900 sq mi) in extent, it is a surprisingly diverse Reserve, combining mopane woodland and acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons. Only about 30% of the Reserve is mainland, with the bulk being within the Okavango Delta itself.The Moremi Game Reserve, although not one of the largest Parks, presents insights and views even for the most experienced of travelers. Home to nearly 500 species of bird (from water birds to forest dwellers), and a vast array of other species of wildlife, including buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal, impala, and red lechwe. African Wild dog, Lycaon pictus, is resident and has been the subject of a project run in the area since 1989; thus this species is often seen wearing collars emplaced by researchers. The Moremi area contains one of the most significant extant habitat areas for L. pictus.

    The Savuti Marsh area is 10 878 km² large, constitutes the western stretch of the park (50 The Savuti Marsh is the relic of a large inland lake whose water supply was cut a long time ago by tectonic movements. Nowadays the marsh is fed by the erratic Savuti Channel, which dries up for long periods then curiously flows again, a consequence of tectonic activity in the area. As a result of this variable flow, there are hundreds of dead trees along the channel’s bank. The region is also covered with extensive savannahs and rolling grasslands, which makes wildlife particularly dynamic in this section of the park. At dry seasons, tourists going on safari often view warthogs, kudus, impalas, zebras, wildebeests and above all elephants bullying each other. At rain seasons, the rich bird life of the park (450 species in the whole park) is well represented. Packs of lions, hyenas, zebras or more rarely cheetahs are visible as well. This region is indeed reputed for its annual migration of zebras and predators.

    The Linyanti Marsh, located at the Northwest corner of the park and to the North of Savuti, is adjacent to Linyanti River. To the west of this area lies Selinda Reserve and on the Northern bank of Kwando River is Namibia’s Mamili National Park. Around these 2 rivers are riverine woodlands, open woodlands as well as lagoons, and the rest of the region mainly consists of flood plains. There are here large concentrations of lions, leopards, wild dogs, Roan antelopes, Sable antelopes, hippopotamuses and above all enormous herds of elephants. The rarer red lechwe, sitatunga or crocodile also occur in the area. Bird life is very rich here.The Moremi Wildlife Reserve is rated as one of the top two eco-destinations in the world by the editors of the authoritative Weissmann Travel Reports. Here’s what they say: “What makes this park so spectacular is that it features an ‘ark’-full of big game ……..lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, elephants…..as well as a dramatic array of bird-life. The reserve encompasses the ecologically unique Okavango Delta, so visitors can go on a game drive in the morning, then, in the afternoon, glide along narrow, papyrus-lined streams to watch eagles, herons, storks, egrets and cranes soar overhead.”

    Logistics
    The Reserve offers the opportunity to explore not only in 4×4′s but on foot and by mokoro—a dug-out canoe, hewn from either ebony or sausage-tree, and poled by your personal guide.Game viewing is at its peak from July to October, when seasonal pans dry up and the wildlife concentrates on the permanent water. From October until the start of the rains in late November or early December, the weather can be extremely hot.Malarial mosquitoes are prevalent throughout the Reserve and it is strongly recommended that visitors should take precautions before, during and after a visit.An eco-tourism policy of high yield, but low impact, has resulted in visitors being able to experience an Africa at its most natural, unspoilt and stunningly beautiful. Thus the Reserve itself has very few lodges, and only four areas set-aside for camping (at South Gate, Third Bridge, Xakanaxa, and Khwai).Travel between lodges is accomplished by light aircraft transfers, as most lodges have their own airstrips. Therefore, you can easily combine a number of lodges in a variety of areas.

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    Combo & Other Safaris

    Bots37Fleet Foot has over the years come across all kinds of Nationalities who require different means of travel and comfort and we know best to advice a particular client to enjoy the ultimate in Africa’s highlights. Combination safaris by Fleet Foot give the client the following options in one single itinerary:

    • Game Drive Safaris within the National Parks of Neighboring countries
    • Fly-in safaris to remote islands where time is limited
    • Mobile tented camps for some day
    • Exclusive Lodge and hotel accommodation

    With Fleet Foot’s mobile offices in Namibia and Botswana and our sister Travel companies in neighboring countries we can offer the following shorter excursion safaris:

    • Guided walks in National parks
    • Mokoro (dug-out canoe) safaris in the Delta
    • White Water and River rafting
    • Horse safaris
    • Hot Air Balloon safaris
    • Quad Bike safaris
    • Birding safaris
    • Houseboat safaris

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