Discover all the Botswana National Parks and Game Reserves in this guide with map, the best parks, wildlife, accommodation and more.
Map of National Parks and Game Reserves in Botswana
Tips for visiting Botswana National Parks and Game Reserves
- Visit both the north and south of Botswana to experience the best of the national parks and game reserves
- The Tracks4Africa Botswana Map* is the best road map of the country and an essential planning guide
- Get some binoculars* before you go
- There’s no fuel or groceries in the National Parks of Botswana so stock up beforehand
- You need an equipped 4×4* to explore the parks by yourself
- It can be very warm in the day and cold at night – especially in the desert game reserves
- We visited all the parks mentioned on our 45-day road trip through Botswana which you can read more about in my book*.
There are seven National Parks and Game Reserves in Botswana. These are Mabuasehube (part of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park), Khutse Game Reserve, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Nxai Pan National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park (which is often split into the Chobe Riverfront and Savuti). Although not a national park or game reserve, Khwai Community Concession is a large protected wilderness area of Botswana so is also included in this guide. All the Botswanan parks mentioned contain many animals and so are great for safaris.
All of these areas (apart from Khwai) are managed by the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and you must pay a daily entrance fee (see box below). In Botswana, there is no practical difference between a national park and a game reserve.
Surprisingly, most of the Okavango isn’t within a national park. Moremi Game Reserve covers a small part of it but the rest has little official protection. However, it’s mainly a very remote swampy area where the land isn’t good for cultivation and few people live.
Best National Parks in Botswana
I thought the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was the best national park in Botswana because of the combination of wilderness, beautiful sunsets and amazing stars, plus fantastic animal sightings. Many of the campsites within the reserve are kilometres away from the nearest other site and it feels like you’ve got the entire Kalahari to yourself. The landscape is mainly open so you can see large herds of antelope spread across the plains and the quality of the light is extraordinary. Predator sightings are very special because you’ll normally have the animals to yourself and can enjoy them in a relaxed manner, there’s no argy-bargy with other vehicles.
The riverfront section of Chobe National Park is the most popular National Park in Botswana, which makes it quite busy. The concentration of game is super high, especially towards the end of the dry season in August to October, but the busyness does detract from the overall experience. A river cruise through the national park is a really great experience and a highlight of any trip to Botswana. There are also fewer boats on the river than vehicles in the park. If you are self-driving, the middle of the day is way less crowded, but the animal sightings may be worse.
The national parks of northern Botswana are very different to those in the south so on a trip to Botswana visiting at least one park in each area would give you the most diverse experience.
If you have to pick only one of the desert national parks, the best is Central Kalahari. If you have to pick only one of the wetter northern national parks, pick Moremi Game Reserve or Chobe Riverfront.
Summary of all the National Parks and Game Reserves in Botswana
For more details about each park, click on the links.
Desert Game Reserves
Mabuashube: In the far southeast of Botswana and part of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which also extends into South Africa. This park has some beautiful campsites overlooking the pans and feels very far from anywhere. It’s famous for lions visiting the campsites though the wildlife can remain slightly far away in the centre of the pans, with the tracks only circling around the edges of the pans. There are several campsites but no lodges in the park.
Khutse: An add-on at the southern edge of the Central Kalahari, this small (for Botswnan standards) game reserve is centred on several lovely pans and waterholes that attract all kinds of animals. Busy on the weekends but empty during the week, you may just have this park to yourself when you visit. Lions are fairly common and most of the campsites are lovely and remote. There are several campsites but no lodges in the park.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve: The largest protected area in Botswana and one of the largest game reserves in the world, right in the centre of the country. For a sense of true wilderness, come here and have a real chance of spotting lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, brown hyenas, caracals, honey badgers and of course springbok and gemsbok. There are several campsites and a couple of luxury lodges within the park, and a few more lodges just outside the northern boundary.
Salt Pans National Parks
Nxai Pan National Park: This park is centred on an area of pans that attracts many grazers and can be a good place for lions and cheetahs. The sunsets here are amazing. In the southern, remoter area of the park stand the famous Baines Baobabs and three lovely camping spots nearby. There are two campsites and a lodge in the park.
Makgadikgadi Pans National Park: Opposite Nxai, this is a park of two halves – the Boteti River on the western edge and the large, often dry expanse of plains and pans in the east. This park is famous for the zebra migration, who together with other antelope can be found in great numbers by the Boteti River in dry season and in the eastern area of the park in the wet season. There are two campsites within the park and lodges both on the opposite side of the Boteti River and just outside the eastern park boundary.
Wet National Parks of Northern Botswana
Moremi Game Reserve: The first park north of Khwai, with elephants, buffaloes, hippos, wild dogs, leopards and much more. The park can be severely flooded and closed in the wet season (Dec-Feb). The routes to Third Bridge Campsite and nearest to the centre of the Delta can involve many water crossings. There are four campsites and three lodges in Moremi, and many fly-in lodges in the rest of the Okavango Delta region.
Khwai Community Concession: Although not a national park, Khwai is a protected wildlife area between Moremi and Chobe where you can find all sorts of animals, sometimes more than in the neighbouring parks. Elephants wander all around Khwai, including through campsites, and wild dogs and lions are commonly seen here. There are three campsites and many luxury lodges in Khwai area.
Savuti: The southwestern section of Chobe National Park, Savuti is famous for its elephant-hunting lions. Although they don’t tend to hunt elephants anymore, lions are commonly seen here and it’s a very wild, remote place in the middle of the bush. There’s a campsite and several lodges in the centre of the park.
Chobe Riverfront: The most popular and busiest National Park in Botswana, easily accessible from Kasane town. Large herds of antelope and buffalo, loads of elephants playing in the water, lions and if you’re lucky leopards can be seen by the water here, though the high number of vehicles can slightly spoil the sightings. If you stay inside the park, you’ll have the very early morning and evenings all to yourself. There’s one campsite, one lodge and one mobile tent within the park.
Other Reserves in Botswana
Khama Rhino Sanctuary: Not a national park, but a fairly small reserve that protects some of the remaining rhinos living in Botswana. There’s a campsite and basic chalets in the reserve and it’s a great stopover on the way to South Africa.
Goo-Moremi Gorge: Not many animals here, but a walking area in the southeast of the country near Palapye. You can hike into a Gorge to see waterfalls and Cape vultures.
Kubu Island: Few animals here either, but a truly unique place to camp, amongst magical hills and rocks in the middle of the salt pans.
Best time of year to Visit the National Parks in Botswana
The Dry Southern Desert Game Reserves
The Kalahari is very dry, so dry that the pans don’t have water in the dry season and animals disperse into the bush making them harder to spot. In rainy season the new grass in the pans attracts the animals, making them easier to see. However, especially in the Central Kalahari, tracks can get quite muddy after heavy rains.
The Wet Northern National Parks
Water attracts game to the rivers in the dry season, especially Chobe Riverfront and Moremi. Conversely, in the rainy season animals disperse again into the bush and areas such as Moremi. Days are always warm, with the hottest being September and October, while nights are always cool. In Moremi especially, high water levels flood the tracks in the rainy season making some areas inaccessible.
The Salt Pans National Parks
The pans flood in the rainy season, attracting a lot of game but making tracks hard to drive. In the dry season the tracks are easy to drive but the animals gradually leave for the permanent water sources. In contrast, on the west side of Makgadikgadi is the Boteti River. This area comes alive with animals in the dry season.
Botswana National Park Entrance Fees
National Park Entry fees in Botswana went up significantly in April 2022. Rates are per person per day. This means if you camp for one night in the park, you must pay two days of entry fees. Children under 16 are half-price and children under 8 are free. You can pay entrance fees in advance or at the park gates in cash only.
|Others** (ex Mabua)||20||145||190||20/75||10/40|
** Khutse, Central Kalahari, Nxai Pans, Makgadikgadi
Contact Details for Botswana National Parks
Department of Wildlife and National Parks: Botswana Parks and Reserves Reservation Office, +267 397 1405 or +267 318 0774, [email protected]. Office hours 07:30-16:3, closed weekends.
See our Camping in Botswana for more details on campsite fees and locations. We booked all our campsites and paid for park fees through Botswana Footprints, a company that for a small fee can arrange all this for you.
Wildlife in Botswana National Parks
We’ve got a great guidebook to the mammals of southern Africa* in which we note down where and when we first see the different animals in every new country. We also have the
Pocket Guide: Birds of Southern Africa* which means there’s never a dull moment on safari or at the campsites. I wasn’t into birdwatching before I got this book, but now I love it! I also note down where and when I see the new species.
Predators in Botswana National Parks
Predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs live all over Botswana in all the National Parks and Game Reserves. Lions are the easiest of these to spot because of their large size and confident nature. Wild dogs are probably the next easiest to come across because they hang out in large packs and also aren’t too shy. Leopards are much harder to spot (no pun intended) because they are more scared of people, they are often solitary and they camouflage themselves amongst the undergrowth and trees. Cheetahs are maybe the most difficult of all to see in the Botswana National Parks because there aren’t that many of them.
To see lions, any of the parks are an option. They can be easiest to spot in the desert national parks because they stand out in the landscape and are naturally drawn to the waterholes and pans. These parks are great places to see the lions because there are very few other vehicles so you might have the sighting to yourself. In Chobe Riverfront you may also find them, or rather find all the other vehicles that found them before you.
Crocodiles live in the water and are mainly limited to Moremi Game Reserve and especially Chobe Riverfront where they’re easy to see.
Hard to See
Wild dogs are less common in the very south of Botswana but are known to live in the Central Kalahari around the Deception Valley area, in Khwai Community Concession, in Moremi and Linyanti. The packs are quite mobile so sometimes move from one year to the next. They are most active at dawn so this is our best chance to see them before they retire to their dens for the day.
You have to be lucky to see a leopard. They live in the highest numbers in and around the Okavango Delta and Moremi and Khwai are well-known for their leopards. Savuti also has some rocky hilly areas where leopards live. In the desert parks you might see a leopard visit a waterhole in the early morning, or randomly in a bushy area in the middle of the day as we did in the Central Kalahari.
Cheetahs are very elusive in Botswana, though if you’re lucky you can see them in the Central Kalahari Deception Valley area, the Salt Pans National Parks or Linyanti and Savuti. They are mainly seen in open grassland areas and unlike other big cats they hunt during daylight hours.
Brown hyenas have a smaller range and in Botswana are mainly found in the Central Kalahari and the Salt Pans. You can find out more about brown hyenas (and lions) in the Central Kalahari by reading Cry of the Kalahari*, a great book about monitoring these species and living in the wilderness for months at a time.
Niche Wildlife in Botswana
There are many other super cool animals that live in Botswana but are not so ‘famous’. The Central Kalahari in particular is a great area for less commonly seen animals such as caracal, honey badgers, Cape foxes, bat-eared foxes and meerkats.
Grazers in Botswana National Parks
Iconic animals such as elephants, hippos, buffalos, giraffes, zebras and many species of antelope all live in Botswana. The water-loving animals such as hippos, crocodiles and buffalos are confined to the regions near the Okavango Delta, while elephants are also most common in these regions though wander about in much of northern Botswana and south all the way to Khutse.
Elephants are very common in northern Botswana and you’re almost guaranteed a sighting. In the dry season they visit waterholes and rivers in huge numbers, in the wetter season they spend a lot of time in the bush but are still very visible. Chobe Riverfront is well-known for elephants playing in the river, while in Khwai elephants often wander through the campsites. Moremi Game Reserve and Nxai Pans also have many elephants. Small groups of male elephants wander further afield, through Makgadikgadi Pans, the Central Kalahari and down to Khutse.
Buffalos are more confined to the watery regions, seen in large herds in Chobe Riverfront and Moremi, though they also can be seen in Savuti and Linyanti.
Hippos spend most of the day in the water and are found in Chobe, Moremi, Khwai and Linyanti. A few also live in Savuti. As the sun goes down hippos emerge from the water to start grazing. They are a very dangerous animal – never get between one and the water.
Giraffes and zebras can be seen almost everywhere in Botswana. Makgadikgadi Pans is known for its zebra migration – they walk from the permanent Boteti River to the drier eastern side of the park every year and can be seen in huge numbers.
Red lechwe and puku live only near the water in northern Botswana. Coming from the south, the Okavango Delta near Maun is the first place you might spot red lechwe. They are also quite common in Moremi and Chobe. Puku can only be found at Chobe Riverfront in Botswana, though they are more common in Zambia to the north. Sitatunga are another water-loving antelope. They mainly live deep in the Okavango Delta and are very rare, you must be very lucky to see one.
Sable and roan antelope live in the Okavango Delta and Chobe Riverfront, though they can be difficult to spot as they are quite rare. Impala live from the Salt Pans up through the north, while springbok live from the Salt Pans down to the south. Wildebeest are common throughout the National Parks of Botswana. As are kudu, red hartebeest, steenbok and waterbuck (in then north).
Botswana National Parks Accommodation
For more information on campsites within the Botswana National Parks see our Botswana Camping Guide. Here we briefly list the lodges within and near the parks.
Lodges in the Desert Parks
Mabuasehube & Khutse Parks contain only campsites. There are no lodges nearby so the only way to see these parks is to camp.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve contains two luxury lodges, Kalahari Plains Camp (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) and Tau Pan Camp (Website, Tripadvisor*). Bordering the northern side of the reserve in a large private conservancy are three more luxury lodges. Evolve Back Gham Dhao Lodge (formerly Haina Kalahari Lodge, Website, Booking Reviews*), Deception Valley Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) and Dinaka Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*).
Lodges in the Salt Pans
There is one lodge within Nxai Pan National Park called both Nxai Pan Camp and Kwanda Nxai Lodge (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*). There are no lodges within Makgadikgadi Pans. However, there are several lodges both on the western edge by the Boteti River and further east in the centre of the Salt Pans. Additionally, there are other lodges, both luxury and affordable, around the edges of the salt pans area. See here for a complete list.
Lodges in the Northern National Parks
There are three lodges within Moremi that you can drive to and a few more on Chief’s Island that you must fly to. The three lodges you can drive to are in a great location at the end of Moremi Tongue. These are Camp Moremi (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*), Camp Xakanaxa (Website, Go2Africa Reviews*) and Okuti Camp (Website, TripAdvisor Reviews*).
There are many other fly-in lodges in the Okavango Delta, see a list of the best lodges here*. I love looking at the gorgeous lodges but they are very pricey. Avoid peak season (Jun-Sep) and you’ll see rates drop significantly.
In and around Khwai Community there are several luxury lodges that you can find here. An advantage of not being in a National Park, these lodges can offer night drives.
There are four lodges in Savuti. Three of them are near the centre, while Ghoha Hills Savuti (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is further north. Of the three central lodges, Camp Savuti SKL (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) and Savute Safari Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) are moderately priced. More expensive is the ultra-luxurious Savuti Elephant Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*).
There are many lodges in Kasane, just next door to Chobe Riverfront. Within the park there are only two lodges: Chobe Game Lodge (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) a more classic lodge, and Chobe under Canvas (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), a rustic yet still fairly luxurious mobile tented camp.
Discover more about Botswana
I hope you enjoyed our guide to the National Parks and Game Reserves of Botswana. If you want to visit Botswana, check out our Botswana Safari Guide or learn more about a Self-Drive Safari in Botswana or about Camping in Botswana. Alternatively, read our overall Guide to Botswana.
Guidebooks & Maps to Explore More of Botswana
The Lonely Planet Guidebook* covers all of Botswana, but not in much detail. The Bradt Guide* has a wealth of information and is great for planning a safari around northern Botswana, but doesn’t cover southern Botswana. The Tracks4Africa Map* is an essential item for driving around the country and its national parks. For more information, see our Best Botswana Guidebooks article.
We went on a self-drive safari in Botswana for two months in our trusty Defender. Find out more by reading the travel book I wrote, No Footprints in the Night: On Safari in Botswana*.
FAQS: Botswana National Parks and Game Reserves
There are four national parks and three game reserves in Botswana managed by the Botswanan Department for Wildlife and National Parks. The National Parks are Chobe, Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan and Kgalagadi/Mabuasehube. The Game Reserves are Central Kalahari, Khutse and Moremi.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the largest game reserve in Botswana, covering 52,800 square kilometres. This makes it bigger than half the countries in Europe.
National Parks and Game Reserves cover 17% of Botswana. Additionally, there are several private game reserves and areas protected by the local community.