Read our reviews of the best Botswana Guidebooks, Travel Guides & Safari Guides to find out which one might suit you the best.
Best Botswana Guidebooks
There are not that many traditional guidebooks available for Botswana. The two standout options are the Bradt Botswana Safari Guide and the Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia Travel Guide.
This guidebook is the much more detailed option, with in-depth coverage of the safari parks, best routes to drive, an animal & bird guide, and many accommodation options. However, it doesn’t cover all of Botswana but only the northern half. This does include most of the popular tourist destinations, including the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, the Northern Kalahari (including the Salt Pans and Central Kalahari) and additionally the Victoria Falls.
The guidebook contains a wealth of information, and not just about safari destinations. It also includes historical sights such as Tsodilo Hills and gives an introduction to the history and culture of Botswanan people. The wildlife guide contained within includes not only mammals and birds but also reptiles and amphibians. There’s also a useful chapter on planning and how to organise a self-drive safari.
The only downside to this book is that it doesn’t cover Khutse Game Reserve, Mabuasehube Park or the Tuli Block in Botswana’s southeast. However, the guide still has many general safari and planning tips that will still help you in these areas.
Lonely Planet Guide
This guidebook is both thinner than the Bradt Guide and it covers two countries, so naturally it doesn’t contain so much information. It does however give a basic overview of both countries and covers most places tourists visit. If you get this guidebook you’ll have to do some additional research yourself online about planning a trip. The wildlife guide is very basic, covering only a few animals, so if you get this guidebook you should also buy a separate wildlife and bird guide.
Best Botswana Map
The best map of Botswana is the Tracks4Africa Botswana Map*. There isn’t really any competition. The Tracks4Africa (or T4A) map shows all the roads, usefully including the road surface e.g. tarred or untarred, and estimated travel times. There are also several useful comments on the map. Additionally, there are zoom-in maps of the main wildlife areas showing the game viewing tracks and the location of campsites. Fuel stations are also marked, and reliable versus unreliable stations are distinguished.
Best Botswana Wildlife Guides
There are many different guidebooks to the wildlife of southern Africa, of which Botswana is a part. Some are very short and basically only have photos of animals with their names. Others give extended descriptions of each animal including how to identify their footprints and droppings. Below I mention a few standout guides.
Basic Guide to most Animals, Birds and Plants of Southern Africa
The Wildlife of Southern Africa*: this book contains a brief description and photos of most of the animals, birds and several plants and tree species that you’ll see in Southern Africa. It doesn’t go into detail about any of them but it is useful for identification. If you want one simple book to cover everything this is a good option.
In-depth Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa
Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa*: This guide covers only mammals (so no crocodiles etc.) but has a lot of detailed information and photos about each species. If you’re not so interested in the smaller things like reptiles and insects, and you have a separate bird book, this Mammals Guide is a great option. There are pictures of the footprints and droppings of most species along with helpful information about how to identify all the animals. It’s particularly useful for identifying antelope, which to the untrained eye can look similar.
Fairly Comprehensive Guide to most Wildlife in Africa
National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife*: This book is a fairly comprehensive guide to all animal and bird species across Africa. If you are going only to southern Africa, you’ll find some species in the book that you’ll never see in real life. This means it can be slightly slower to identify the species as there are more options to choose from, though the book does indicate where each species lives. If you are travelling across more than just southern Africa, it can be the perfect wildlife companion.
Bird Watching Guides
Even if you aren’t currently into birdwatching, having a bird guide is a great idea on safari in Botswana. There will be times when you can’t see any of the larger wildlife but the birdlife is fairly constant. You can even watch the birds when relaxing at your campsite or by the pool. Once you start identifying a few birds using your guide, it’s easy to get sucked in. Birdwatching will soon become an obsession. I note down in my bird guide where and when I see each new species and I’m always super excited to identify something new. Life without a bird book is much more boring.
For identifying birds in Botswana, you’ll want the bird guides that cover Southern Africa. Your main choice of guides will then be a slim book or a very thick book. The thin guides have most of the common bird species and often one photo per bird with a short description. The thick guides have almost all of the birds plus several photos of each bird species and more detailed information.
Slim Pocket Guide
Thick Complete Guide
If you’re just starting out, a small bird guide is the best one to get. They’re much easier to flick through and find the correct bird, while with the thicker guides you can get dispirited wading through the many hundreds of pages. In a few years of safari in southern Africa, I’ve only ever seen three birds that were not in my small guidebook, Pocket Guide: Birds of Southern Africa*. Sometimes it would be nice to have more photos of each species for identification purposes, though this doesn’t outweigh the ease of use of a thin book.
If you’re a more advanced birdwatcher, you may be frustrated with a small guide and want a more in-depth one. The Sasol Birds of Southern Africa* (updated in 2020) is perhaps the best complete bird guide, though because of its completeness it’s rather thick and heavy. The guide contains several photos of each species – of males/females, adults/juveniles, from the back/front and top/underside. Along with detailed descriptions, you should be able to identify any bird you see.
I hope you enjoyed our guide to the best Botswana Guidebooks, Travel Guides and Safari Guides. If you want to find out more, check out our overall online Guide to Botswana.
Useful things for a holiday in Botswana
- Travel Debit Card: we have Wise Cards* which allow you to cheaply convert most currencies into Botswana Pula. You can then pay by card (a few lodges have card machines), wire transfer or withdraw cash from an ATM inside Botswana for no extra fees.
- Travel Insurance: we use SafetyWing*, it’s simple to buy online and they have a downloadable letter proving you have travel insurance which includes Covid-related issues.
Don’t forget to take…
- Binoculars* – a must-have for any safari that makes seeing the animals so much more enjoyable.
- Headlamp* – essential for walking around in the dark and keeping your hands free. Whether camping or staying in a lodge, having a light is always useful.
- Power Bank* – useful to charge your phones and cameras if you stay somewhere without electricity. You can charge up your power bank when you are connected to the grid or while driving along in your car.
- Car Charger* – depending on the age and model of your vehicle, you may need a USB converter to charge from the cigarette lighter.
- Thermos Flask* – we often made a thermos flask of tea first thing to take with us on the chilly morning game drives.