Zambia vs Botswana: Which to Choose for Your Next Safari

Embarking on a safari adventure is a dream for many, and when considering Zambia vs Botswana, both countries emerge as prime contenders. Each destination offers exceptional wildlife and national parks, yet they cater to different styles of travellers.


In this blog, we’ll guide you through the unique offerings of Zambia and Botswana wildlife reserves. We’ll help you understand how they align with your safari preferences by contrasting the unique offerings of each country, exploring landscapes, wildlife, accommodations, budgeting, and health considerations.

Table of Contents

Overview of Safari in Zambia

Nestled in Southern Africa, Zambia is a landlocked treasure, which shares borders with The Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Angola.

 

The main conservation areas, including South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, North Luangwa, Kafue, and Liuwa, are all part of the diverse tropical woodlands, wetlands, and savannahs.

 

In Zambia, the rhythm of safari is much ‘wilder’ and less habituated, a result of seasonal camp closures that let nature reclaim its space. This unique characteristic crafts a raw, unscripted, and deeply authentic safari experience.

 

Zambia has a rich palette of dramatic wildlife experiences that come to life as the plains become a stage for dramatic encounters. You can discover endemic species such as the Thornicroft Giraffe, test your adrenaline with elephants engaging in mock charges, and watch lions, leopards, wild dogs, and other predators engage in harsh pursuits, offering safari enthusiasts a front-row seat to the untamed circle of life-the real Africa.

 

When exploring Zambia’s national parks, there are several notable destinations to consider.

  • South Luangwa National Park is renowned for its incredible predator sightings, particularly during the dry season when animals congregate around the Luangwa River and is also known as the birthplace of the Walking Safari.
  • Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa (and the largest in Zambia), offers a diverse range of habitats and wildlife, including rare antelope species such as the sable and roan antelope.
  • Lower Zambezi National Park, located along the Zambezi River, provides a unique opportunity for wildlife encounters both on land and in water. Here, visitors can witness elephants, hippos, and various bird species in close proximity, creating a truly immersive experience.

In addition to the predators and iconic species, Zambia is home to a variety of rare and elusive animals. The African wild dog, also known as the painted dog, is a common resident in South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi.

 

Furthermore, Zambia’s national parks harbour a remarkable diversity of birdlife, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. From the elusive Pel’s fishing owl to the colourful carmine bee-eater, there are countless wonders for you to discover.

 

Visit Zambia to embrace the purely primal energy of predator action with unparalleled moments of untamed observation and connection.

Overview of Safari in Botswana

Aerial shot of the Okavango River, Botswana

Botswana, characterised by semi-desert landscapes, shares borders with Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia.

 

Its main conservation areas, including Central Kalahari, Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan, Okavango Delta, Moremi, and Chobe, offer a diverse and captivating safari experience.

 

Botswana, offers wildlife in diverse habitats, creating an iconic and ambient safari experience across its reserves.

 

At the heart of Botswana’s wildlife ecosystems lies the Moremi Game Reserve, a sanctuary that presents the best opportunity for enthusiasts eager to encounter the iconic Big 5, all within a relatively short span. The landscape here is mostly lush wetlands and sprawling savannahs.

 

Botswana’s wildlife extends beyond the Big 5, showcasing a diverse array of unique species such as the tsessebe, a distinct antelope known for its remarkable speed and elegant appearance. Bird enthusiasts will be thrilled to spot the elusive Pel’s fishing owl, a rare and sought-after sighting. The red lechwe, a graceful antelope adapted to wetland environments, and the sitatunga, a semi-aquatic antelope, are also common in Botswana’s wildlife reserves.

 

In the dry winter, Chobe National Park takes centre stage in Botswana’s wildlife spectacle. The park becomes the setting for a world-famous massing of elephants, a remarkable phenomenon where these majestic creatures congregate in hundreds, if not thousands, around the Chobe River to find sufficient water.

 

In addition to Moremi and Chobe, Botswana offers a range of exceptional wildlife destinations such as:

  • The Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that presents a unique inland water wonderland. This pristine oasis attracts hippos, crocodiles, and rare bird species.
  • The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, known for its vastness and untouched wilderness, is home to desert-adapted species such as the brown hyena and the elusive black-maned Kalahari lion.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Safari in Zambia

Pros

  • Exceptional luxury experiences at half the cost of Botswana.
  • Private, exclusive-use houses, chalets, and eco-lodges are ideal for families and larger groups.
  • Unique attractions: Victoria Falls, Earth’s largest falling sheet of water, and Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made dam by volume.
  • Low-density exclusivity, offering a luxury safari without breaking the bank.

Cons

  • Poor-quality highways and challenging-to-access wilderness areas for self-drive travellers.
  • Seasonal closures of camps and lodges due to impassable roads during heavy rains.

Pros and Cons of Safari in Botswana

Pros
  • Convenient self-drive safari destination in Southern Africa with decent connecting roads.
  • Abundance of wildlife and affordable campsites.
  • Effective bureaucracy for convenient camp and national park bookings.
  • Luxurious safari destination with first-rate lodges, especially around the Okavango Delta.
Cons
  • Difficulty finding quality mid-range and more affordable luxury accommodations.
  • Limited availability of well-priced campsites for budget travellers.

Accommodation Options

Both countries have similar accommodation options in many ways. However, Zambia is not as busy and is still undiscovered; it has fewer large resorts/lodges, and a large part of the accommodations are owner-run. Although both countries have options to fit every traveller’s budget, Zambia offers a larger range of mid-market properties, filling the gap between camping options and high-luxury options.

Safari Accommodation in Zambia

Zambia is known for its charming and intimate accommodation options that immerse you in the rustic wilderness, often with just a few other guests. The simplicity enhances the close-to-nature feel, and many properties are run by the owners themselves.

 

For a stylish twist, some more luxurious camps like Kafunta allow you to combine upscale amenities with the gorgeous remoteness of Zambia, at a reasonable price.

Safari Accommodation in Botswana

Botswana dazzles with ultra-luxurious safari lodges equipped with unique features showcasing the country’s spectacular nature. A number of camps embrace simplicity with platform tents and al fresco showers to let the Kalahari or Delta surround you. Great for back-to-basics safaris.

 

Camping is better in Botswana as they have good roads and are well-prepared to accommodate campers.

 

Special mobile camping trips traverse Botswana’s diverse areas by 4×4, boats, or on foot with stops to sleep under the stars in the remote wilderness.

When to go?

Best Time for a Safari in Zambia

Zambia has a more defined seasonal rhythm. Many camps close from November through April when wet weather makes roads impassable. Prime season for wildlife abundance runs May through October when the landscape is lush and camps reopen.

 

For Victoria Falls, visits during higher water flow from February to May are recommended, but the experience remains magnificent well into August and September.

Best Time for a Safari in Botswana

Flood levels shape optimal times in Botswana. Delta waters peak between April and August, creating a watery wonderland perfect for mokoro rides and motorboat excursions. June through October is prime time to find more concentrated game around the shrunken dry season waterways and pans.

Best For...

What is a Zambia Safari Best For?

Zambia suits adventurous travellers who will appreciate the hiking, walking, canoeing and epic birding possibilities in flourishing wilderness playgrounds. Hundreds of bird species and a paradise for avid twitchers make it a top birding destination. Accommodation options are more authentic and small-scale.

What is a Botswana Safari Best For?

Botswana indulges discerning travellers craving luxury in the magnificent Delta’s tranquil waterways or eclectic activities and cultural discoveries across different ecosystems from the Kalahari to woodlands.
Clouds just before sunset, Botswana

Our Final Thoughts

Choosing between Zambia and Botswana is a deeply personal decision, shaped by your preferences and the experience you seek. Zambia offers exclusive luxury, unique attractions, and a wilder, less-travelled experience. Botswana, with its diverse terrains, luxurious lodges, and emphasis on safari, caters to discerning travellers.

 

Whether you opt for Zambia’s intimacy or Botswana’s diverse safari modes, both countries promise an unforgettable journey into the heart of Africa’s wilderness. The canvas is set; it’s time to paint your safari adventure.

 

Contact us if you can’t decide and we will be more than happy to help you plan your perfect safari.

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