It can be tricky to book public campsites in Botswana’s national parks and reserves. Some campsites are run by private operators, some by the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), and some parks have a combination of both so that a single visit requires some juggling between the two to get the bookings you want. If you’re planning a trip to any of Botswana’s national parks, this is what you need to know.
1. Decide your ideal route and pick some backup campsites in the same area. Buy a map of Botswana or go online and get a general idea of where individual campsites are – if a campsite is booked for the dates you want, it can save a lot of time to immediately be able to ask for availability at a nearby alternative.
2. Know which operators manage each site. If an operator’s campsite is full there’s no point asking them for a booking at a nearby campsite that they do not manage. If you can rattle off a list of their camps it makes the process a lot smoother. Happily we’ve done that for you. All the relevant information can be found below.
3. If you’re staying at a mix of private and DWNP campsites, check availability at the DWNP sites first.
4. Don’t pay until you have the full trip confirmed, but once you have the DWNP camps provisionally reserved, you can contact the private operators and check availability there.
5. If the dates work, book and pay for the private camps and then return to the DWNP to pay for those bookings. The advantage of going this way round is that you can then send the DWNP your private camp vouchers at the same time and pay them for DWNP camping and park fees together. Park fees can only be paid to the DWNP once all camping fees – for both private and DWNP sites – have been settled.
6. If you’re staying at DWNP camps only (a visit to the Kgalagadi for example) then camping and park fees can be paid at the same time. If you’re only camping at privately run sites then you will need to book them first and then send your booking vouchers to the DWNP. Only then will the DWNP invoice you for the park fees.
7. Do all this before you leave home. It is possible to sort everything out in Maun, and there are regional DWNP offices in many of Botswana’s major towns if you need to make last-minute changes to your bookings, but it’s unwise to arrive at a park gate without a camp booking confirmed and paid for.
If there is availability and the phone lines are working, it is possible to book everything at the gate, but you may just as easily be turned away, especially on Saturday afternoons and Sundays when booking facilities are usually closed. The exception is park fees which can generally be paid in cash at the gate providing you have a paid-up campsite booking voucher. Some gates now also have credit card machines, but they do not always work so carry cash to be safe. Rands and major foreign currencies are also accepted at most park gates.
The Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks
The DWNP handles all park entrance fees and also operates campsites in some of the parks. DWNP-run camps:
- All campsites on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
- Eight campsites in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve: the three gate camps (Matswere Gate, Tsau Gate and Xade Gate), as well as Xaka, Kori, Deception, San and Phokoje Pans
- Two campsites in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park: Njuca Hills and Tree Island
For the Kgalagadi, park fees are P20 per person, plus P4 per vehicle. For the Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi, park fees are P120 per person, plus P50 per vehicle. Camping is P30 per person at all DWNP campsites across Botswana.
Private camps and community concessions
1. Bigfoot Tours
Khutse: All five campsites in Khutse
Central Kalahari: Piper Pan, Letiahau, Lekhubu, Kukama, Sunday Pan, Passarge Valley and Motopi
Tel +267 395 3360
Cost: Camping is P168 per person per day.
2. Gaing-O Community Trust
Kubu Island campsite
Tel +267 297 9612
Cost: Camping is P155.60 per person including fees and levies.
3. Kwalate Safaris
4. Xomae Group
Moremi: Third Bridge and Gcodikwe 1 Island Camp
Nxai Pan: Baines’ Baobabs and South Camp
Tel +267 686 2221
Maun office: S19.9769167 E23.4305
Cost: Camping is P300 per person, except for Gcodikwe 1, which is P400 per person.
6. Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Campsites and chalets near Serowe
Tel +267 463 0713
Cost: Camping is P93.50 per person and chalets from P600 per unit. Park entrance fees are P71.50 per person and P88 per vehicle.
7. Khwai Development Trust
Khwai community concession: Magotho Camp (for self-drives), and Matswere Camp and Sable Alley (usually reserved for operators)
Tel +267 680 1211
Maun office: S19.9782667 E23.4243333
Cost: P300 per person for Magotho and P410 for Matswere and Sable Alley.
8. Leap/Mababe Safaris
Tel +267 7386 3058
Cost: Camping is P220 per person
9. Tuli Wilderness (Tuli Block)
Molema Bush Camp – bush style campsites but unfortunately no self-drive in the game reserve allowed
Tel +2778 391 4220
Cost: Camping is P140 per person including P40 community levy.
10. Kwa Nokeng
Not quite a game reserve style campsite but keep Kwa Nokeng in mind if you’re planning on returning to South Africa via the Martins Drift border post. They’ve got campsites as well as chalets with a swimming pool and a restaurant.
Tel: +267 491 5908
11. Campsites near Nata
There are two campsites on the Nata road, heading to or from Kasane, depending on which way you’re travelling:
i. Nata Lodge – lodge style accommodation with campsites as well, swimming pool and restaurant available.
Tel: +267 620 0070
ii. Elephant Sands – Chalets and campsites with the elephant waterhole being the special attraction at this resort.
Tel: +267 734 45162
Using booking agents
If you don’t fancy doing all the legwork in Botswana yourself, you can always make use of a booking agent instead. A good tour operator to use…
A brief note on money… credit cards are widely accepted across Botswana, but facilities are unreliable in remote areas so don’t rely on them. Small-town ATMs can also run out of cash so carry enough hard currency for padkos and emergency fuel. Fuel prices vary slightly and are cheaper in the south, getting gradually more expensive as you travel further north.
Fuel is cheaper than in South Africa, but booze is more expensive. Rands are often accepted near the South African border (border permits can be paid in rands), but the further north you go, you’ll need pula or, on the Zimbabwean border, US dollars.
Please re-confirm the fees and all other relevant information before travelling as they are subject to change at each operator’s discretion.