Botswana Self-Drive Itinerary: An Epic Safari 2023

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Botswana Self Drive Itinerary: A Safari to Remember

Looking for an epic Botswana self-drive safari itinerary?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

Botswana is a paradise for nature enthusiasts with its abundant wildlife and incredible national parks. And there is no better way to explore it than on your own self-drive itinerary. 

We embarked on a remarkable two-month Camping in Botswana journey that allowed us to immerse ourselves in the wild wonders of this African gem.

Botswana: Perfect for a Self-Drive Safari

Botswana ranks among the best places for an unforgettable safari experience. From the iconic Okavango Delta to the remote and wildlife-rich Chobe National Park, Botswana is a remarkable place to choose for a self-drive safari.

In this article, we will guide you through our self-drive journey, sharing the places we stayed, offering essential tips for a successful 4×4 adventure, and providing contact details for each location to make your road trip planning easier.

We highlight the must-visit destinations and include essential and helpful tips for a successful and enjoyable Botswana itinerary.

a 4x4 bush camper with ten on top on our Botswana self drive itinerary
Our 4×4 bush camper in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana ©Lifejourney4two

Planning a Trip to Botswana?

Exploring Botswana: An Unforgettable Self-Drive Itinerary

Here’s a comprehensive overview of our ultimate Botswana self-drive safari that took us from South Africa through Botswana’s diverse landscapes.

⛺️ Night Before: Matamba Bush Camp – Tau Camp, South Africa 

⛺️ Day 1: African Ranch River Camp | 200 km +/- 2 hours 45

⛺️ Days 2 & 3: Khama Rhino Sanctuary | 200 km +/- 2 hours 45

⛺️ Days 4 & 5: Makumutu Camp, Orapa | 210 km +/- 2 hours 10

⛺️ Days 6 & 7: Central Kalahari Reserve – Piper Pan Campsite | 281 km +/- 9 hours

⛺️ Days 8 & 9: Central Kalahari Reserve – Sunday Pan Campsite | 115 km +/- 5 hours

⛺️ Day 10: Makumutu Camp, Orapa | 210 km +/- 5 hours  

⛺️ Days 11 & 12: Planet Baobab | 175 km +/-4 hours

⛺️ Days 13 &14: Nxai Pan – South Camp | 110 +/- 2 hours 45

⛺️Days 15 & 16: Nxai Pan – Baines Baobabs | 35 km +/- 1 hour 30

⛺️ Days 17 & 18: Makgadikgadi Pans – Kumaga Camp | 155 km +/- 3 hours

🛏 Days 19 Maun – Maun Studios | 151 km +/- 2 hours

⛺️ Days 20 & 21: Moremi Game Reserve – South Gate Camp | 84 km +/- 3 hours

⛺️ Days 22 & 23: Moremi Game Reserve – Xakanaxa Camp | 45 km +/- 2 hours

⛺️ Days 24 & 25: Khwai Concession – Magotho Camp | 70 km +/- 3 hours

⛺️ Days 26 & 27: Chobe National Park – Savuti Camp | 88 km +/- 2 hours 30

⛺️ Days 28 & 29 Chobe National Park – Ihaha Camp | 133km +/- 3 hours 30 or Kudu Lodge Camping, Kasane

⛺️ Days 30 & 31: Senyati Camp, Kasane | 75 km +/- 1 hours 45

⛺️ Day 32: Elephant Sands | 245 km +/- 2 hours 30

🛏 Day 33: Maun Studios or Sitatunga Camp, Maun | 370 km +/- 4 hours 30

⛺️ Day 34: Kalahari Rest Camp | 526 km +/- 5 hours 30

⛺️ Days 35 & 36: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Mpaya Camp | 288 km +/- 7 hours

⛺️ Days 36 & 37: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Mabua Camp | 30 mins

👉 Start Planning Your Botswana Trip

Botswana Itinerary Interactive Map

Link to our Polar Steps to see our GPS-mapped Botswana itinerary and photos.  

Renting a Vehicle for your Botswana Self-Drive Safari

4x4 bush camper with pop up tent in a campsite in Botswana
Our 4×4 Hilux with a pop-up tent ©LIfejourney4two

Renting a 4×4 vehicle allows you to navigate Botswana’s rugged terrains and remote areas, ensuring you get the most out of your self-drive safari. Many of the country’s National Parks can’t be accessed other than with a 4×4.

If you plan to camp during your self-drive adventure, a 4×4, equipped with a camper setup is your best option. This, in turn, offers the convenience of accessing remote camping spots and enjoying the freedom of the wilderness.

With numerous car rental companies to choose from, you can pick a vehicle that suits your individual needs and budget. But it’s essential to opt for a reliable and well-maintained 4×4 to ensure a smoother and safer journey.

Many self-drive enthusiasts choose to rent a 4×4 vehicle in South Africa and then drive into Botswana. This is because there is normally a wider selection of rental options and the price can be cheaper.

🚐 Bush Camper Hire in South Africa & Botswana

We recommend using Motorhome Republic to find you the best deal – they search reputable African rental companies, including, Avis Safari, Britz and Caprivi Car Hire.

They do all the hard work for you and are available 24/7.

✍️  Find a Great Deal HERE Today

Botswana Self-Drive Itinerary: Day by Day

We began our self-drive experience in South Africa and then crossed into Botswana at the Stockpoort / Parr’s Halt Border.  Locals advised us to use this border crossing as it would be less busy than the Groblersbrug / Martins Drift Border Crossing. 

[Note that you can’t take animal products into Botswana at the border. This includes dairy products and they also restrict fresh fruit and vegetables.]

We stayed at a great campsite the night before leaving South Africa. So, we’ve included it as the start of this itinerary.

Obviously, you won’t necessarily be taking the same route as we did, but you can use these suggestions to plan your own Botswana itinerary.

Elephants with their trunks held up in Nxai Pan Botswana - part of our Botswana self drive itinerary
Elephants in Nxai Pan – one of the stops on our self-drive Botswana Itinerary ©Lifejourney4two

 1. South Africa: Matamba Bush Camp – Tau Camp

 Matamba Bush Camp is nestled in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo province in South Africa and is the perfect stopover on your way to Botswana if you are coming from that direction.  

We stayed at the Tau Campsite which has 5 camping pitches all about 200 metres apart.

The camp is unfenced so the game, which includes Sable, Livingstone Eland, Nyala, and Giraffe wander the woodlands around you. In the morning, we were lucky to have a giraffe wander by while we were eating breakfast. 

One of the highlights of our stay was the absolutely amazing outdoor bathrooms at Matamba. It was the most luxurious and incredible ablution that we encountered on our trip.

There is also a plunge pool at Matamba Camp, which was the perfect place to cool down as we were travelling in mid-January with temperatures in the high 30s.

If you enjoy walking, there are lots of walking trails signposted and you are also given a booklet with trail maps when you arrive.

2. Day 1 African Ranches River Camp, Botswana 

  • Distance: From Matamba Camp to African Ranches River Camp ▶︎ 200km  +/- 2hrs 45
  • Facilities: Shared Ablution Block, donkey heated showers, water tap and fire pit.
  • Contact: Email: [email protected]

The first stop on our Botswana self-drive itinerary was African Ranches River Camp.

Nestled along the banks of the Limpopo River, the camp is surrounded by mature shady trees. The branches above us teemed with birdlife and we spent a good deal of time watching a busy family of Woodland Kingfishers flit to and fro.

If you stay here, keep a keen eye out for vervet monkeys. Although funny to watch their antics, they are very quick and surprisingly cunning. So keep all food out of sight and car doors closed when they’re around. One tried getting through a small gap in our wound-down car window!

 When we arrived at camp, the toilets were locked but this was resolved when someone came to put the donkey (water heater) on to heat the showers, late afternoon.

After the impressive toilets of Matamba, this small toilet block was disappointing. However, along with the army of giant ants parading up and down the shower, there was hot water. This, we would later learn, isn’t a given in Botswana campsites. 

The campsite is in a fantastic location and is particularly good for birdwatchers. In mid-January there were plenty of flies and flying bugs around, probably because we were so close to the river, so we had to be vigilant in keeping the fly screens closed.

We were told that there were crocodiles and hippos in the river. Although we didn’t see any, we heard the hippos grunting at night, and thrashing sounds in the river. 

African-Ranches-Camp---two kingfishers in a tree
Woodland Kingfishers in African Ranch River Camp ©Lifejourney4two

3. Day 2 & 3 Camping Khama Rhino Sanctuary

  • Distance: African Ranch River Camp to Khama Rhino Sanctuary ▶︎ 200 km +/- 2 hours 45
  • Facilities: Large shady campsites with a water tap and fire pit | Shared ablution block  | Swimming pool | Restaurant | Park fees |
  • Contact: Email: [email protected]

Khama Rhino Camp offers you the opportunity to camp in the midst of this incredible rhino sanctuary and to observe these iconic animals in their natural habitat.

With over 4,300 hectares of land, it serves as a haven for both black and white rhinos, as well as other wildlife such as giraffes, zebras, and various antelope species.

The camping facilities at Khama Rhino Sanctuary include large shady campsites with a water tap and fire pit. The ablutions were a little tired but did have hot water. As I prefer to shower without spiders, moths and mozzies I had an easy tub wash in the camper instead. 

We saw white rhinos on both days. It seemed easier to spot them in the afternoons, as they were generally missing in action on our morning drives.

Unless of course, you stumble upon one asleep on the sandy track — as we did! 

There are plenty of tracks to drive around, but we recommend heading to Malumba and Serwe Pans for the best sightings. 

Two rhinos head to head at Khama Rhino Sanctuary Botswana
White rhino at Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana ©Lifejourney4two

4. Day 4 & 5 Makumutu Lodge, Orapa 

  • Distance: Khama Rhino Sanctuary to Makumutu Camp, Orapa ▶︎ 210 km +/- 2 hours 10
  • Facilities:  4 campsites with electric, water tap, braii area | Private toilet & shower  | Swimming pool x 2 | Restaurant | Garden area | Free wifi
  • Contact:

 Makumutu Lodge was a great stopover on our way to the remote Central Kalahari Game Reserve.  

It had a newly built private shower and toilet blocks, and campers could also use the beautifully clean swimming pool.

There were plenty of shady spots to sit in the manicured garden next to the bar and restaurant. The shady tables also had power points and wifi worked well there (though not so well in camp).  

camper at Makumutu Camp
Makumutu camping area with private ablutions ©Lifejourney4two

5. Day 6 & 7 Central Kalahari, Piper Pan Campsite 

  • Distance: Makumutu Camp to Central Kalahari Reserve, Piper Pan Campsite ▶︎ 281 km +/- 9 hours
  • Facilities: Drop toilet, bucket shower and firepit | DWNP Park Fees payable
  • Contact: Piper Pan campsites are bookable through Bigfoot Tours, email: [email protected]

Piper Pan isn’t an easy campsite to get to, and it was the most remote we visited during our whole Botswana overlanding trip. 

But once you are there, you’ll realise it’s worth the long, and often times bumpy, drive.   

Botswana-Self-Drive-itinerary sandy-track in the Central-Kalahari
Driving a Central Kalahari road ©Lifejourney4two

Once you get to Matswere Gate, the main entrance to the Central Kalahari, it’s another 143 km before you reach Piper Pan Campsite.

On leaving the main road at the turn-off to the reserve, make sure to reduce your tyre pressure. There are many areas of deep sand and, in the rains, there can be boggy mud too.

Also, about 20km prior to reaching Piper Pan, there is a 10km section of sand riddled with deep ridges. This stretch is so corrugated that you feel like you’re riding a wild horse at a cowboy rodeo.

Contrary to the common perception of the Kalahari being a vast land of scorching sand, it’s very different in reality. Yes, it’s remote. And yes, there’s plenty of sand—more than 500 kilometres of it, to be precise—but you’ll discover that there’s so much more to the Kalahari.

Springbok with its baby
Springbok and baby at Piper Pan ©Lifejourney4two

Summer brings the Kalahari to life. Dense scrub bushes, golden grasslands and thorny acacia trees become part of a thriving habitat for various antelope species, and numerous other animals that attract the predators.

This camp is off-grid, and with no internet or cell phone signal, it makes for an ideal spot to destress and unplug.

There are two campsites at Piper Pan, but we recommend booking Campsite 1 because it is right beside the pan. Campsite 2 is further south, surrounded by bush.

For a more in-depth look at camping in the Central Kalahari, head over to our article; Camping in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where we share more camping tips and stories from our stay there.  

Open air drop toilet and bucket shower behind wooden slat walls
The open-air drop (pit) toilet and bucket shower are behind privacy screens ©Lifejourney4two

6. Days 8 & 9 Central Kalahari – Sunday Pan Campsite

  • Distance: Piper Pan to Sunday Pan Campsite ▶︎ 115 km +/- 8 hours
  • Facilities: Drop toilet, bucket shower and firepit  | DWNP Park Fees payable
  • Contact: Sunday Pan campsites are bookable through Bigfoot Tour: Email:[email protected]

Sunday Pan is located north of Piper Pan. We took the western route and enjoyed a great safari drive along the way.

Sunday Pan Campsites: There are three campsites at Sunday Pan.

  • Campsite 2 is near the pan but set back in a grove of trees.
  • Campsites 3 and 4 are near the waterhole – both set back in trees but are close to each other. These are probably the best sites because they are nearer to the waterhole.
  • Campsite 1 is actually by Leopard Pan, further north.

As with Piper Pan, Sunday Pan has a few circular tracks and a waterhole that attracts wildlife. We recommend waiting patiently at the waterhole because this is where the animals need to come to drink. 

We popped up to Leopard Pan just a few kilometres north and drove the Leopard Pan Loop a couple of times, where we mainly saw Gemsbok, Wildebeest, and Springbok.

However, we were also surprised to see a lone elephant, the only one we saw the whole time we were in the Central Kalahari.

two gemsbok drinking from a waterhole at Sunday Pan in the Central Kalahari Reserve
Gemsbok at the Sunday Pan Waterhole ©Lifejourney4two

7. Day 10 Makumutu, Orapa 

  • Distance: Sunday Pan to Makumutu Camp ▶︎ 210 km +/- 5 hours 
  • Facilities: 4 campsites with electric, water tap, braii area | Private toilet & shower  | Swimming pool x 2 | Restaurant | Garden area | Free wifi 
  • Contact: [email protected]

See notes above – this is the best campsite to stay at close to the Central Kalahari exit. 

8. Days 11 & 12 Planet Baobab 

  • Distance: Makumutu Camp to Planet Baobab ▶︎ 175 km +/-4 hours
  • Facilities: Electric, water, shared ablutions | restaurant & bar | swimming pool | Safari Trips | Baobab Trees
  • Contact[email protected]

Planet Baobab earned its name from the centenarian baobab trees on site. Despite being more commercialized than other camps we visited on this itinerary, it offers excellent amenities, such as a restaurant, bar, and Kalahari’s largest swimming pool.

You aren’t able to do any self-driving here, but you can take a safari tour to see the habituated meerkats. This tour was quite expensive (1480 Pula when we were there). As we travel on a budget, we couldn’t justify the trip, but we were lucky to spend time (for free) with a whole colony of meerkats while camping at  Kanaan Desert Retreat, in Namibia. 

We could pick up an internet signal by the pool, but not at the camp, which is a short walk from the main reception and facilities.  

Shelley laying on a hammock under baobab trees in Planet Baobab Camp
Relaxing under the giant baobabs at Planet Baobab, Botswana © Lifejourney4two

9. Days 13 &14: Nxai Pan – South Camp 

  • Distance: Planet Baobab to Nxai Pan – South Camp ▶︎ 110 +/- 2 hours 45
  • Facilities: Shared shower block, braii area, rubbish bin, basic tuck shop at reception | DWNP Park Fees payable
  • Contact: Xomae Group

The campsites at Nxai Pan are quite close together with most of them being shady. Campsites 1 and 2 are more private, with number 2, where we camped, overlooking the pan. 

There are several loops and waterholes around Nxai Pan, making safari drives easy to navigate.

Whether you camp at Nxai Pan in the winter or summer, there are good sightings around the waterholes. We also had elephants come right into camp when we camped there in early February. 

In the winter you have more chance to see predators at the waterholes, but in summer, herds of migrating zebra flock to the waterholes, along with elephants and wildebeest.

a herd of zebra at a waterhole at Nxai Pan
Zebra at Nxai Pan ©Lifejourney4two

 10. Days 15 & 16: Nxai Pan – Baines Baobabs

  • Distance: South Camp to Baines Baobabs ▶︎ 35 km +/- 1 hour 30
  • Facilities: drop toilet, bucket shower| DWNP Park Fees payable
  • Contact: Xomae Group

If you have read our post about staying at Nxai Pan, you’ll know that, despite giving it a good try, we never made it to our Baines Baobab campsite. 

We were camping in the summer, and the thunderstorms had dumped too much rain for us to safely make it.  If you are travelling in winter though, this is an ideal place to observe the starry night skies. 

There are two campsites, with Campsite Number 2 situated under two baobab trees. 

4x4 camper on salt pans near Baines baobabs, Botswana
We didn’t manage to cross the salts pans at Baines Baobabs as there was too much water ©Lifejourney4two

11. Days 17 & 18: Makgadikgadi Pans – Kumaga Camp

  • Distance: Baines Baobab to Makgadikgadi Pans – Kumaga Camp ▶︎ 155 km +/- 3 hours
  • Facilities: Shared ablutions, water tap, rubbish bin, braii area | Park fees payable
  • Contact: SKL Group: [email protected]

Makgadikgadi Pans’ main entrance, Phuduhudu Gate, is just off the main Gweta to Maun main road, and a short drive from the exit gate at Nxai Pan. If you enter here, Makgadikgadi’s Kumaga Camp is further south on the banks of the Boteti River. 

There are a few tracks to drive but the main one is the river route to Hippo Pools. 

While camping at Kumaga Camp, elephants came through our site several times, and we had hippo footprints in the sand in the mornings. During the night we heard lions and hyenas.

You might also get cows and donkeys in camp due to the close proximity of the local village. It always amazes me to see livestock wandering around in some of the reserves— they must be easy prey for the lions.

The Internet signal was good here, probably because the village was just across the river. 

When you leave, head south towards the Boteti River crossing at Kumaga Village. Depending on the season you may be able to drive across, as we did. If the river is flowing, a one-car ferry operates.  However, if the river isn’t high enough for the ferry to operate then you will have to drive back the way you came into the park instead. 

Large hippo out of the water at Makgadikgadi Pans
Hippo beside Hippo Pools in Makgadigadi Pans National Park ©Lifejourney4two

12. Days 19 Maun – Maun Studios 

  • Distance: Makgadikgadi Pans – Kumaga Camp – Maun Studios ▶︎ 151 km +/- 2 hours
  • Facilities: Kitchenette, A/C, lush garden, Plunge pool, Fantastic breakfast
  • Contact: Book Maun Studios Here

Before heading into the Okavango region, the next part of this itinerary takes you to Maun, the tourist capital of Botswana.

We stayed in several different places in Maun but if you are looking for some downtime and relaxation then we’d recommend Maun Studios.

This gorgeous B&B is only 7km from the village and 6 km from Maun airport. There are three studio suites and a luxury meru tent all nestled within a lush tropical garden overlooking the Thamalakane River. 

Entrance to the accommodation at Maun studios showing terrace and lush garden

Best Guesthouse in Maun
✔️ Cooked Breakfast
✔️ Free Wifi

This is. a great opportunity to plan a half-day cultural tour of Maun where you can immerse yourself in the town’s culture, have a go at basket weaving and sample local dishes.

For more day trips from Maun check out our recommended best day tours from Maun.

13. Days 20&21: Moremi Game Reserve – South Gate Camp 

  • Distance: Maun Studios  – Moremi Game Reserve, South Gate Camp ▶︎ 84 km +/- 3 hours
  • Facilities: Shared ablutions, braii area, water tap | DWNP park fees payable
  • Contact: Kwalate Safaris email: [email protected]

This leg of the itinerary involves a drive from Maun to Moremi Game Reserve, the most renowned reserve in the Okavango Delta. 

Although we enjoyed our time in Moremi Game Reserve, the best time to visit this part of Botswana is in the winter.

In summer, the rains can make driving conditions particularly challenging. But if you are travelling in summer do still include it  — we had some great sightings — just check the conditions at the gate for the roads to avoid.

There are ten campsites at South Gate Camp, but all are quite close together.

We had elephants around the camp a lot of the time and vervet monkeys looking for food. They were agile and brave enough to steal a bag of lettuce while my back was turned for just a second.

If the track conditions allow, take a safari drive towards First and Second Bridge and take a loop around Black Pools.

Check out this short taster video for a quick peep at what it’s like in Moremi Game Reserve. 

lion stood in long grass roaring in the rain
Lion in the rain near South Gate Camp, Moremi Reserve ©Lifejourney4two

14. Days 22 & 23: Moremi Game Reserve – Xakanaxa Camp 

  • Distance: South Gate Camp to Xakanaxa Camp Moremi Game Reserve ▶︎ 45 km +/- 2 hours
  • Facilities: shared ablutions, braii area, water tap | DWNP Park Fees payable
  • Contact: Kwalate Safaris email: [email protected]

The campsites at Xakanaxa (Ka-ka-naka) were shady and well-spaced with shared ablutions.

Xakanaxa Camp was our favourite camp in Moremi. Though, the fact that we came across a leopard on the track, as we drove into camp, and saw a couple of cheetahs nearby, might be influencing our opinion. 

On our first night there, we fell asleep listening to a leopard roaring, hippos grunting and the sing-song chimes of tree frogs in the reeds. 

There are several tracks for game drives; you can easily reach Third Bridge and Mboma Island to the west and Paradise Pools to the east.  

Cheetah peering through the bushes near Xakanaxa Camp, Botswana
Cheetah sighting between Xakanaxa Camp and Third Bridge ©Lifejourney4two

15. Days 24 & 25: Khwai Concession – Magotho Camp 

  • Distance: Xakanaxa Camp Moremi Game Reserve to Khwai Concession – Magotho Camp ▶︎ 70 km +/- 3 hours
  • Facilities: Shared Rustic Shower Tents, spacious sites
  • Contact: Managed by Khwai Development Trust. Email [email protected]

On arrival, we drove to reception (not signposted too well, and we had to ask other campers the way)and were then shown to our campsite.

The toilet and shower tents are dotted around the campsite and you will more than likely have to drive to them, as they were slightly too far to walk safely.

While we were there, the sites weren’t cleared like most camps in Botswana, so we were stepping out into longish grass, making it harder to see what may be lurking underfoot.

Not ideal if you are worried about scorpions and snakes.

Camped at Magotho Camp on long grass in Khwai
Magotho Camp, Khwai Concession ©Lifejourney4two

Our main sightings while camping at Magotho Camp in Khwai were elephants and African wild dogs.

So, would we recommend a visit here?


We also met quite a few other visitors who’d seen lions but we weren’t lucky on that occasion. Seeing the wild dogs two days in a row though more than made up for it.  

four African Wld dogs in Khwai Concession, Magotho Camp
African Wild Dogs in Magothi Camp, Khwai ©Lifejourney4two

16. Days 26 & 27: Chobe National Park – Savuti Camp

  • Distance: Magotho Camp to Savuti Camp, Chobe National Park  ▶︎ 88 km +/- 2 hours 30 
  • Facilities: Shared ablutions, water tap and braii | Basic tuck shop | DWNP Park Fees payable
  • Contact: SKL Group: [email protected]

There are about 10 camps at Savuti with the best one being Paradise Campsite, which overlooks the dry river bed. 

You’ll need to drive to the shared ablutions from that camp, which are surrounded by an elephant-proof concrete wall. The grey concrete blocks don’t make for the prettiest of buildings, but at least the ablutions were clean and working.

There are plenty of routes to drive around in Savuti, and we had one of the best safari experiences of our trip here. We were escorted across the open savannah by about ten Southern Carmine Bee-eaters which was just incredible.

You can watch some of the footage here, and see more of our time in Savuti in this short video

Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Dark pink and blue bird) in flight near Savuti camp
Southern Carmine Bee-eater – a migratory bird to Botswana ©Lifejourney4two

17. Days 28 & 29 Chobe National Park – Ihaha Camp / or Kudu Lodge Camping in Kasane

  • Distance: Savuti Camp to Ihaha Camp ▶︎ 133km +/- 3 hours 30
  • Facilities: Shared ablutions, braii area | DWNP Park fees payable
  • Contact: Kwalate Safaris email: [email protected] 

Ihaha Camp in Chobe National Park sits overlooking the Chobe River. We’d expected great things at this camp but unfortunately, it rained pretty much the whole time so our sightings weren’t great.

We did have a huge herd of buffalo grazing near to camp though and giraffes and impala regularly wandered by.  

Ihaha camp itself was pretty run down — we found a dead rat in the shower cubicle! There had also been reports of camper break-ins, so we were on high alert at night and made sure to take all our valuables in the back of the camper with us. 

 Apparently, the army was patrolling the area, but we didn’t see any type of security while we were there. 

We’d recommend asking about the situation when you are booking and if concerned, book a campsite in Kasane and do a day self-drive into Chobe instead. 

We did this when we returned to Chobe after overlanding in Namibia and camped at Kudu Lodge. The campsites there have power, and are only about a ten-minute drive to the entrance gate at Chobe. 

Kudu Lodge organises game drives and Victoria Falls trips too. 

Buffalo in Chobe National Park with red-billed oxpeckers on its back
Buffalo with red-billed oxpeckers in Chobe National Park ©Lifejourney4two

18. Days 30 & 31: Senyati Camp, Kasane 

  • Distance: Ihaha Camp, Chobe National Park to Senyati Camp, Kasane ▶︎ 75 km +/- 1 hours 45
  • Facilities: Private ablution and sheltered area, electric power, use of pool, restaurant, bar
  • Contact: Senyati Safari Camp email: [email protected] 

This is a lovely camp to stay in.

One of its main attractions is the waterhole in front of the restaurant/bar/verandah area that attracts elephants and other wildlife each day. There is also an underground hide where you can sit and watch the ellies up close.  

There is free wifi, but as in much of Botswana, the connection can be intermittent.

The lodge also offers trips to Chobe and Victoria Falls.  

seven elephants at Senyati Camp waterhole
Elephants in Senyati Waterhole ©Lifejourney4two

19. Day 32: Elephant Sands

  • Distance:  Camp to Elephant Sands ▶︎ 245 km +/- 2 hours 30
  • Facilities: Shared ablutions, use of pool, restaurant, bar 
  • Contact: Email: [email protected]

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any shade at the Elephant Sands campsites. Neither was there power or a water tap. There is a shared ablution block though, where the elephants regularly walk past on their way to the waterhole adjacent to the camp. 

The waterhole and the elephants that it attracts is the main attraction here. You also have access to the swimming pool and bar/restaurant. 

Large elephant walking past a camper at Elephant Sands Camp
Elephant walking through Elephant Sands Camp ©Lifejourney4two

20. Day 33: Maun Studios or Sitatunga Camp, Maun

  • Distance: Elephant Sands to Maun Studios or Sitatunga Camp, Maun ▶︎ 370 km +/- 4 hours 30
  • Facilities: Maun Studios B&B or Sitatunga Camp with pool, power, water tap, restaurant
  • Contact: Maun Studios or Sitatunga, Delta Rain, Email: [email protected] 

💡 You could make this your final stop on your Botswana itinerary, because Maun Airport is only 6 km from Maun Studios.

You might also plan to start your itinerary here if you want to hire your vehicle in Maun. 

If you have more time or are heading into Namibia or South Africa, the next part of the itinerary is an ideal segue crossing into either country. It will take you through the impressive Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. 

21. Day 34: Kalahari Rest Camp 

  • Distance: Maun to Kalahari Rest Camp ▶︎ 526 km | +/- 5 hours 30 mins
  • Facilities: Shared Ablutions, water tap, power
  • Contact: Email: [email protected]

This is a good stop-over en route to the Kgalgadi. The site has power and is just off the main road. 

22. Days 35 & 36: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Mpaya Camp 

  • Distance: Kalahari Rest Camp to Kgalagadi Mpaya Camp ▶︎ 288 km | +/- 7 hours
  • Facilities: Drop toilet, cold shower, water, (but don’t rely on this — the water doesn’t always work) 
  • Contact: Inter-Tourism Group: [email protected]

As with many of the campsites we’ve included in this itinerary, in the Kgalgadi, on the Botswana side at least, you need to be totally self-reliant. This is because the camps here are so remote.

Even though some of the camps state they have water, you cannot rely on the shower or water taps working.

Mpaya Camp No 1 overlooks the salt pan but has little shade, whereas camps no 2, 3 and 4 have A-frames which provide some relief from the African sun. 

We had incredible big cat sightings here, with lions coming through the camp on several occasions. Many campers report the same thing, but unfortunately, we’ve also heard stories of campers baiting the lions with meat. This will not bode well for either the lions or humans. 

Apart from the lions, you will also see springbok, gemsbok, Cape Ground squirrels and the odd mongoose or two. Hyenas are around too as one stole one of Lars’s shoes he hadn’t hung high enough out of reach! 

It is the remoteness of the Kgalagadi that is the attraction here. It is also close to the border so attracts quite a few visitors from South Africa.

Camping in the Kgalagadi  with an A-Frame shelter beside the camper
Camping in the Kgalagadi ©Lifejourney4two

23. Days 36 & 37: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Mabua Camp 

  • Distance: Mpaya Camp to Mabua Camp ▶︎ 30 mins 
  • Facilities: Drop toilet, cold shower, water, (but don’t rely on this – it doesn’t always work) 
  • Contact: Inter-Tourism Group: [email protected]

It was in Mabua that we had a lion come into camp and sniff around where we had been only a few minutes before.

We’d been taking a strip wash, when we heard an extremely close roar. You can read all about our camping adventures and detailed info about camping there, in our post Camping in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. 

After Mabua, we crossed the desert into the South African run part of the camp. We arrived first at Nossob, and then drove onto Twee Riverien Camp, with a plan to leave through the Mata Mata Border Crossing to Namibia.   

Lion in the Kgalagadi
Lion in the Kgalagadi ©Lifejourney4two

What is the best time of the year for a Botswana trip?

What is the best time to go on a self-drive safari in Botswana? Most responses to this question will tell you that the best time of year for a Botswana trip is during the dry season, which falls between May and October.

However, the ideal time for your camping adventure in Botswana really depends on your preferences and interests. A Botswana self-drive offers diverse experiences in different seasons.

A Self-Drive Safari in Summer

In summer in Botswana, the temperatures are mild and the landscapes are relatively dry. It is also the peak time for safaris because the wildlife congregates around water sources, so it’s easier to spot them.

We overlanded, following this itinerary, from mid-January to mid-March, during the rainy season. We therefore, experienced Botswana’s lush summer, incredible birdlife (summer sees the arrival of hundreds of migratory bird species), the occasional spectacular thunderstorm, and plenty of wildlife sightings.

Summer is also the time when many animals have their young, making for an enriched safari experience. 

Camper with tent on top with a thundery sky and lightning
Thunderstorms in the summer, Botswana’s rainy season © Lifejourney4two

Travelling in the summer, with sudden rainstorms turning the tracks to mush, did make travelling challenging in some places.

The heat was also uncomfortable at times. While we were in the Central Kalahari, temperatures reached the 40s and we found ourselves going through much more water than we had allowed for.  This in turn meant we had to leave a day earlier than expected due to our low water supplies which wouldn’t be enough to sustain us if we got into any difficulties.

A Self-Drive Safari in Winter

In Botswana’s winter months, the vegetation thins, tracks are more accessible and cooler daytime temperatures create comfortable camping conditions. Dawn and dusk can be particularly chilly, though, dropping to below freezing in some places, so make sure you have some warm clothes.

This sought-after season requires careful planning, as campsites fill up quickly. Between June and August, the Okavango River floods and the Delta showcases its waterways to its fullest, making mokoro trips and boat cruises popular experiences. 

Regardless of the season, self-driving in Botswana is the perfect way to explore this incredible country and its mesmerizing wilderness.

Elephant in river spraying  water
An Elephant in Khwai River ©Lifejourney4two

Travel Tips for Your Botswana Itinerary

This whole article is full of information to help you embark on a self-drive itinerary, but here are a few extra pointers we thought would be helpful. 

1. Visit As Many National Parks As Possible

 When planning your self-drive tour in Botswana, we recommend that if you have time, to visit as many of the National Parks in Botswana as possible.

Each has its own unique eco-system and the more you visit, the more well-rounded and enriching your journey will be. You will also be contributing to sustainable tourism efforts in the region

2. Stopover in Maun

On your Botswana road trip, include a stopover and visit to Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta. 

Maun has many tour operators which makes it easy to organise a guided tour, be it a safari drive, scenic flight or local cultural experience.

We’d recommend you try at least one tour during your self-drive through Botswana. It’s a nice break from all that driving and good to experience something a little different.

It can be tiring on a self-drive tour, so taking some time out here is convenient. We stayed in and highly recommend Maun Studios – the perfect place to relax for a night or two. 

There are also various connecting flights into Maun – so you may even wish to start your trip from here. 

3. Familiarise Yourself With The Animals You Might Encounter

Your self-drive experiences will be so much more enriched if you know what kind of animals to expect, what they look like, and how to behave around them if you happen to encounter them.

Remember that the national parks and reserves aren’t fenced in Botswana so you have to be on guard while camping in the wild. Having an understanding of certain animal behaviours in the African Bush, especially elephants will help you feel more prepared for surprise wildlife encounters. 

We had several up-close elephant encounters in Botswana, which were not only exciting but also unnerving at how close they will come to you in camp. 

Three bat-eared foxes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Bat-eared Foxes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve ©Lifejourney4two

Botswana Self-Drive Safari | Trip Planning Resources

 If you are planning a self-drive holiday in Botswana,  there is a wide range of resources to help you plan your trip.

This article is a great starting point, and be sure to check out all our other informative posts on Botswana travel.  

Other resources that we recommend to simplify the planning of your Botswana self-drive trip are:

  • Tracks4Africa Guides and Maps  – including their GPS App map for Africa that works offline. 
  • Online Forums: Overlanding Africa and Travelling Namibia & Botswana 
  • Ultimate Routes – This agency can plan and book all your campsites for you
Kalahari Sign
Central Kalahari signage © Lifejourney4two

What to Pack for Botswana

 So what do you need to pack for your Botswana self-drive trip?

This is a short list to start you off on the right foot:

  • Comfortable and breathable clothing is best
  • Make sure you have a few lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect yourself from the sun and potential insect bites 
  • Mosquito spray
  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sturdy walking shoes
  • A good pair of binoculars (we recommend a pair each if travelling as a couple)
  • A good camera with a zoom lens – see our photography equipment here

What Are The Pros and Cons of a Botswana Self-Drive Safari?

A Botswana self-drive safari offers both advantages and disadvantages for wildlife enthusiasts.

We are a little biased towards the pros because we love travelling in our 4×4 with a pop-up tent, and have spent so much time in Africa doing just this. But among the enormous benefits, we have to admit there are times when it can be challenging. 

Overall though, a Botswana self-drive safari offers flexibility and an incredible experience. It does, however, require careful planning, navigation skills, and a willingness to face potential challenges along the way.

But that’s just part of the safari self-drive adventure.  

Pros of a Self-Drive Safari

 One of the main benefits of a self-drive safari, which is why we love it so much,  is the freedom it provides. You have full control over your itinerary, allowing you to spend more time in the safari locations you are enjoying and the ability to explore off-the-beaten-path.

Also, a self-drive safari adventure provides a more intimate and personal experience with the wildlife in Botswana. There is less chance that you will be sharing your sightings with others. 

The cost of doing a self-drive safari also works out cheaper than booking a safari tour where you stay in luxurious lodges. 

Desert agama - brownish hued small lizard
Desert Agama ©Lifejourney4two

Cons of a Self-Drive Safari

Navigating the remote and rugged terrains, however, can be a challenge. This is particularly so for first-time visitors or those not confident driving in 4×4 conditions. 

The lack of infrastructure and limited signage can make it difficult to find specific campsites. Because of this we highly recommend getting Tracks4Africa maps and their GPS map app which works offline.  

Another drawback is that a 4×4 rental, and purchasing necessary safari equipment can be costly. Though, it still works out cheaper than staying in luxury lodges — particularly if you want to spend a good amount of time in several areas of Botswana. 

Furthermore, driving in national parks and wildlife reserves can be restricted for self-drivers, limiting access to certain areas that may be accessible to tour guides.

Secretary bird in long grass
Secretary Bird – a common sight in the Kalahari and savannah areas in Botswana ©Lifejourney4two

More Resources

Botswana Self-Drive Itinerary Safari… That’s a Wrap

Botswana is undoubtedly one of the best places to explore on a self-drive itinerary, with all of its unfenced National Parks and Reserves, it is just begging to be explored. 

Venture deep into the wilderness, where conventional roads fade away and the allure of the wild beckons.

Camp beneath star-studded skies, surrounded by the nocturnal symphony of the wild.

Your Botswana journey awaits – a symphony of wheels and wilderness to enjoy.

Botswana Itinerary Pinterest pin


These are some of the travel resources we use when planning our trips.

For a more thorough list visit our Travel Resources page here.

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