By Audley specialist Alex
Known for its small, luxury lodges that offer a very intimate experience for honeymooners, Botswana combines incredible wildlife density with the scenery of one of Africa’s last great wildernesses. Despite the luxurious nature of Botswana's lodges, they offer a truly remote experience: you will be hard pressed to find any phone signal here.
The country's main attraction is the lush Okavango Delta, a scenic labyrinth of waterways that attracts large herds of game. A trip here offers exclusive access to pristine wilderness, and although more expensive than other African destinations, is well worth the cost for a special occasion.
Safari in the Okavango
Mokoro trips are a popular way of exploring the Okavango Delta
I'll never forget my first glimpse of the Okavango Delta. Looking out the window of the light aircraft, a labyrinth of deep blue waterways, emerald floodplains and lush islands spread out below me. The sheer scale of it makes you realise what a vast wilderness you are entering and, once on the ground, the huge herds of game and tranquil atmosphere are simply astounding.
The delta scenery varies considerably from north to south and I'd recommend at least three nights here, but ideally six to allow you to visit two camps in different areas. A typical day will include a game drive in the morning followed by a mokoro (dug-out canoe) trip or walk in the afternoon.
The town of Maun, with its airport, is the gateway to the Okavango Delta with most camps just a 20 minute flight away. Within the delta, you travel from camp to camp by light aircraft.
Explore the Okavango on game drives
A wading saddle-billed stork
Game drive in the Okavango Delta
Game drives in the Okavango are highly rewarding with large numbers of animals and few visitors ensuring you can enjoy the wildlife without encountering any crowds. You'll typically spot lion, cheetah, elephant, and giraffe, and, if you're lucky, leopard. As most of the larger predators hunt at night, game drives begin early in the morning and last three to four hours.
Take mokoro trips around the waterways of the delta
A local dug-out canoe, or mokoro
The rare sitatunga antelope
One of the unique aspects of a Botswana honeymoon is the opportunity to explore by mokoro. A very peaceful experience, it feels like you have the whole delta to yourself as you glide silently through the waterways. It's also a chance to see the smaller species you might miss on a game drive and is particularly good for birdwatching. You may also see sitatunga, a rare amphibious antelope.
Enjoy a three course dinner under the stars
Dusk at Tau Pan Lodge in the Central Kalahari
The lodges in Botswana really know how to make guests feel special and honeymooners are treated to lots of little surprises. You may even find yourself taking an unscheduled stop late in the evening to be led to a circle of candles set around a table and chairs on a dry river bed for a surprise three course dinner. Sipping champagne under the stars, the silence will only be broken by the sounds of the wildlife.
Take the four day Selinda canoe trail
Elephant crossing a river in the Linyanti
The Selinda Spillway is a deep watercourse that runs between the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti Wetlands to the northeast. Flanked by tranquil lagoons and tributaries, you can explore it on an unusual canoe and walking trail that offers frequent sightings of elephant, buffalo and sable.
The peaceful, unhurried nature of the trip makes it an extremely romantic option with accommodation in rustic mobile camps each night. The tents provide simple comfort and everything you should need, including a bucket shower. To reach the Selinda Spillway you first take a light aircraft flight – usually from either Maun or Kasane airport, or the camp you’re leaving – to the Selinda Concession and then a 10 to 15 minute helicopter ride where you get a wonderful wide perspective of the waterways from the air.
Best honeymoon lodges in the Okavango Delta
Zarafa Camp in the Selinda Spillway
Intimate, luxurious lodges are the hallmark of a stay in Botswana and many rooms in the Okavango have a private deck and plunge pool.
One of the camps I love to stay at is Nxabega in the central Okavango, where the staff get absolutely everything right. The nine tented rooms are luxurious yet authentic with teak floors, cowhide rugs and big, white candles.
For pure indulgence, I'd recommend Zarafa, in the Selinda Spillway, which has just four extremely elegant rooms with colonial-era styling and every comfort imaginable, including air-conditioned beds. Although staying here requires a larger budget, the attention to detail makes it a very special option.
For something a little different, Kanana Camp, also in Nxabega, gives guests staying for three nights the choice to spend the night on a raised platform in the bush under night skies, with the sounds of the animals all around you.
If you'd like a more hands-on wildlife experience, Abu Camp in the southwest offers elephant encounters, where guests get to know the resident herd of elephant, walk through the bush as part of the herd, and learn about elephant conservation.
Leaning more towards adventure, Letaka is a simple mobile safari that explores contrasting areas of the Okavango Delta and Savuti Game Reserve. You can choose between six and nine night safaris, which run to set departure dates. The tents are smaller and more rustic, with bucket showers, but the payback is the chance to get closer to the wildlife
Safari in Chobe National Park
Elephant on the bank of the Chobe River
An expansive national park covering everything from lush floodplains to sweeping grasslands, Chobe is home to vast herds of elephant with thousands lining the river banks in the dry season. Wildebeest, impala, giraffe and tsessebe are also seen in large numbers as well as leopard, cheetah and lion.
The sheer concentration of animals here is what makes the park stand out. A national park rather than a private concession, it is cheaper to visit but also busier, which makes the experience less personal. It is easy enough to split your honeymoon between Chobe and the central Okavango, spending three nights in each, which is a good way to keep costs down and still have some time in the more exclusive Okavango.
Chobe is northeast of the Okavango and easy to access by road from nearby Kasane Airport, with most lodges a 30 to 50 minute drive away, or the Victoria Falls.
Best honeymoon lodges in Chobe National Park
Ngoma Safari Lodge in Chobe National Park
From my time in Chobe, the best accommodation option is Ngoma Safari Lodge. It's a really small camp by Chobe standards, with just 12 rooms set in an elevated position overlooking the floodplains on the western edge of the park. Each room has a private plunge pool and floor-to-ceiling windows, which really come into their own at sunset, and you might even wake to the sight of elephant herds grazing below you in the morning.
Walk with bushmen in Makgadikgadi Pans
San people (or Saan), also known as Bushmen
A vast, shimmering salt pan with ancient baobabs contrasting with a blinding white background, Makgadikgadi Pans is an otherworldly sight east of the Okavango, a one hour flight from Maun.
One of the best ways to explore is to go walking with the Kalahari bushmen, who you will teach you how they live off the land, track animals and use local plants to make everything from toothpaste to medicines. You can also take a quad bike trip across the vast salt pan.
Best honeymoon accommodation in Makgadikgadi
Camp Kalahari is situated just outside Makgadikgadi Pans
I'd recommend either rustic Camp Kalahari, for a very authentic safari experience with simple tents, traditional lamp lighting and the romantic air of colonial Africa, or for something more luxurious, Jack's Camp. Antique furniture, four-poster beds and loads of local artefacts give Jack's a very stylish atmosphere, and although it's at the higher end cost wise, it's a very special place for a honeymoon stay.
Best time to honeymoon in Botswana
Lion cubs swimming in the Okavango Delta
Botswana is a great honeymoon destination at any time of year, though the best time to see wildlife is during the dry season from June to November when animals congregate around the waterholes and the vegetation is less dense. I particularly love to travel in Botswana in May or June as the wildlife is easy to spot and the vegetation lush thanks to the high floodwater, but there are fewer people and lower prices.
Extending your honeymoon
Tongabezi Safari Lodge in Zambia
Victoria Falls combines well with Botswana and is just two to three hours away by light aircraft and road. A good place to relax, you can enjoy the walking trails around the falls, take a scenic sunset cruise on the Zambezi River or visit local villages.
I'd recommend a two or three night stay at Tongabezi Safari Lodge, with its quirky cottages loaded with character. I always try to stay in the Tree House, which is suspended in an ebony tree overlooking the river.
Another recommendation is Waterberry Zambezi Lodge, a pretty riverside property that seems to have perfected the art of friendly, welcoming service.
It is also possible to combine Botswana with the Seychelles or Mauritius, although it requires an overnight stay in Johannesburg. Direct flights are also available to Cape Town if you would like to combine your safari experience with honeymooning in a city.