Botswana is a country that is primarily known for its breathtaking wilderness. With its stunning landscapes, from the Kalahari Desert to the Okavango Delta and its vibrant wildlife, Botswana is a paradise for safari lovers. But the country has much to offer besides safari for visitors who want to see the other side of this great African nation.
In Botswana, you can meet different historic cultural tribes, explore aquatic life in the delta, go birding, sleep under a sky full of stars, do ATV rides, do mobile camping expeditions, enjoy cultural festivals, engage in unique dancing styles, visit museums and amusement parks, among other things besides safari.
What to Do in Botswana Besides Safari?
Here are all the things that you can do in Botswana besides safari.
Dance in Botswana Makes the Country Unique
Botswana, a country known for its diverse culture, offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in traditional dance alongside their exploration of the country’s natural wonders.
With a wide range of dance styles deeply rooted in Botswana’s culture, visitors can experience the unique rhythms and expressions that make Botswana’s traditional dance stand out.
Among the various dance styles in Botswana, some popular ones include:
- Kalanga hosana
- And the well-known San or Basarwa Dance.
These dances not only showcase the vibrant heritage of Botswana but also serve as a means of healing and storytelling.
One particularly remarkable dance style is the San dance, which consists of different variations. The trance dance, performed as part of a religious ritual, aims to heal the sick through clapping, dancing, and chanting. Similarly, the Hambukushu people have their own version of the trance dance called jaguar.
This dance takes place at night, with onlookers observing the performance that can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. As the dance progresses, the ill person gradually responds to the rhythmic movement, transitioning from a half-conscious state to a more invigorated one. The dance continues intermittently, with the sick person recovering during the breaks. By early morning, the sick individual is often fully or partially healed.
Another dance style is the hunting and gathering dance, also known as the rain dance. The San people, classified as hunter-gatherers, use this dance to celebrate successful hunts, while the Tswana ethnic group performs it as a rain-making ritual known as “go fetlha pula.”
These dances are an expression of gratitude to the gods for bountiful hunts or rainfall, respectively.
By partaking in Botswana’s traditional dances, visitors can witness the rich cultural heritage of the country and engage in its vibrant traditions. Dance serves as a gateway to understanding Botswana’s people, their beliefs, and their deep connection to their ancestral roots. Whether it’s the rhythmic healing trance dance or the celebratory hunting and gathering dance, experiencing these dances adds a colorful and authentic dimension to any visit to Botswana.
Enjoy Festivals Throughout the Year in Botswana
Visitors to Botswana have the opportunity to partake in and enjoy famous festivals that take place throughout the year, provided they are present in the country during the respective times.
These festivals offer a glimpse into the vibrant cultural traditions of Botswana and attract thousands of tourists who are captivated by the indigenous displays of African music and dance.
Two highly acclaimed festivals in Botswana are the Maitisong Festival in Gaborone and the Maun Festival.
The celebration of New Year’s Day in Botswana follows the global tradition, with street parties, dances, traditional music, and an abundance of food and drink. It is a joyous occasion to commemorate the arrival of a new year and embrace the festivities of life.
On World Wetlands Day in February, Botswana showcases its commitment to environmental conservation and tree planting. This event garners significant attention nationwide and includes a Wetlands March, emphasizing the importance of protecting the country’s unique wildlife and environment.
The Maitisong Festival, held in Gaborone during March, is a magnificent showcase of the performing arts. Spanning nine days, the festival features traditional music, dance, and theater performances held throughout the city and its suburbs. The entire population takes to the streets in a carnival-like atmosphere, making it a must-attend event.
In April, the Maun Festival takes center stage, highlighting traditional poetry, music, dance, and visual arts. This two-day celebration not only honors the rich tribal culture of northwestern Botswana but also supports local schools. It offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the vibrant traditions of the region.
May brings the Tjilenje Cultural Festival to the northeastern regional town of Nlapkhwane. This entirely traditional event showcases ancient games, dances, and stalls brimming with local food and drink, providing an authentic experience of Botswana’s cultural heritage.
For fans of off-road motorsport races, the Toyota 1000 Desert Race is a thrilling spectacle held in June. With quad bikes, motorcycles, and cars racing through various locations across the country, this event offers excitement and adrenaline for spectators.
Botswana’s President’s Day, a four-day national holiday in July, unites the country as inhabitants return to their home villages for celebrations. Traditional dances, speeches, and singing honor the occasion and showcase the cultural pride of the Batswana people.
Every August, the Kuru Dance Festival takes place on the Dqae Game Farm, the only Bushman-owned game farm in Botswana. This unique event enlivens the Kalahari Desert near D’Kar with three days of traditional dance and music, offering a remarkable experience of Botswana’s indigenous cultures.
On September 30, the Batswana celebrate Botswana Day, commemorating the progress the country has made since independence. Traditional events, street parties, and parades mark this significant day, allowing visitors to witness the joyous celebrations that showcase Botswana’s pride and achievements.
During the festive season, which includes Christmas, Batswana celebrate their Christian faith with various events across the region. Local choirs perform in iconic African style at carol concerts, while Western-style restaurants and pubs offer Christmas dinners. It is a time of togetherness and celebration for everyone.
If visitors are fortunate enough to be present in Botswana during these festivals and celebrations, they can immerse themselves in the vibrant cultural heritage of the country, enjoying the captivating performances, traditional customs, and joyful festivities that define Botswana’s festival calendar.
Botswana has So Much to Offer Museum Lovers
For museum lovers visiting Botswana, there are several notable museums that offer a rich exploration of the country’s history, art, and cultural heritage. These museums provide a unique opportunity to delve into the diverse aspects of Botswana’s past and present. Here are some of the famous museums worth exploring:
Kuru Art Project
The Kuru Art Project showcases the remarkable artistic talents of the San people, also known as Bushmen. Located in the Ghanzi District, this museum exhibits traditional and contemporary artwork created by San artists. It offers visitors a chance to appreciate the unique artistic expressions and cultural significance of the San community.
Situated in the capital city of Gaborone, the National Museum is a comprehensive institution dedicated to preserving and presenting Botswana’s natural and cultural heritage. The museum features exhibits on archaeology, paleontology, ethnography, and art, providing insights into the country’s history, traditions, and biodiversity. It is an ideal place to gain a deeper understanding of Botswana’s diverse cultural tapestry.
Khama III Memorial Museum
Located in Serowe, the Khama III Memorial Museum is a tribute to Khama III, the paramount chief of the Bangwato people. This museum commemorates his life and leadership, highlighting his significant contributions to Botswana’s history and the struggle for independence. Through photographs, artifacts, and interactive displays, visitors can learn about Khama III’s legacy and the historical context of Botswana’s journey toward independence.
Situated in Gantsi, the Gantsi Craft Museum celebrates the craftsmanship and artistic skills of local artisans. It showcases a wide range of traditional crafts, including pottery, basketry, weaving, and wood carving. Visitors have the opportunity to witness artisans at work and learn about the cultural significance of these crafts in Botswana’s heritage. It is an excellent place to appreciate the intricacy and beauty of traditional Botswana craftsmanship.
The Space Botswana
Located in Maun, The Space Botswana is a contemporary art gallery and museum that promotes and exhibits the works of local and international artists. The museum features various art forms, including painting, sculpture, photography, and installations. It serves as a platform for artists to showcase their creativity and offers visitors a chance to engage with contemporary artistic expressions in Botswana.
Cultural Experiences of Botswana Make the Country Beautiful
From vibrant traditions to diverse ethnic groups, Botswana offers a captivating tapestry of cultural experiences. Here are some specific aspects of Botswana’s cultural beauty that visitors can explore:
Botswana is known for its exceptional craftsmanship, and visitors can witness the creation of traditional crafts firsthand. Local artisans skillfully produce intricate beadwork, basketry, pottery, woodcarvings, and leatherwork, reflecting the artistic traditions of various communities. Exploring craft markets and workshops allows visitors to appreciate the talent and creativity that goes into these handmade works of art.
Botswana is home to several tribal communities, each with its own distinct customs and traditions. By engaging with these communities, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of their way of life, beliefs, and social structures. Whether it’s the San people with their ancient hunter-gatherer culture or the Tswana with their agricultural practices, interacting with tribal communities offers a unique insight into Botswana’s cultural diversity.
Cuisine and Traditional Food
Botswana’s cuisine is a delightful blend of traditional flavors and local ingredients. Visitors can savor dishes like seswaa (shredded beef), morogo (wild spinach), and bogobe (sorghum porridge), which are staples in Botswana’s culinary heritage. Exploring local markets, trying street food, or participating in traditional meals with local communities allows visitors to experience the diverse flavors and culinary traditions of Botswana.
Festivals and Celebrations
Botswana’s festivals and celebrations provide a window into the country’s cultural vibrancy. Festivals like the Maitisong Festival, Kuru Dance Festival, and Maun Festival showcase traditional music, dance, arts, and crafts. Visitors can witness colorful parades, enjoy live performances, and engage in the festive spirit alongside locals, creating lasting memories of Botswana’s lively cultural scene.
Meet the San Bushmen
Immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of the San Bushmen, the indigenous hunter-gatherer groups of the Kalahari. These resilient communities have inhabited this challenging terrain for thousands of years, developing unique survival skills, folklore, and deep knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants. Join the San on guided walking adventures to learn about their culture, tracking skills, and hunting techniques. This is your time to discover the secrets of one of the oldest cultures on Earth.
Explore Aquatic Life in the Delta
Experience the Okavango Delta’s unique wonders with a serene mokoro ride. Glide through the waterways in traditional dugout canoes, now replaced with lighter fiberglass versions, while your guide points out the exquisite flora and fauna. This peaceful journey provides an opportunity to observe water-adapted wildlife such as sitatunga antelope, hippos, crocodiles, and elephants. For a more extensive exploration of the Delta, embark on a power boating adventure, venturing into the remote areas of this extraordinary inland paradise.
Take in the Views From Top Lodges & Camps
Botswana’s breathtaking vistas are best appreciated from the comfort of its top lodges and camps. Whether situated in the Savuti marsh, the Chobe floodplain, or the Okavango Delta, these accommodations offer panoramic views that will leave you in awe.
The expansive sky, intense clouds, and radiant sunshine create a truly captivating atmosphere. Capture these majestic landscapes with your wide-angle lens and savor the beauty that Botswana has to offer.
Botswana is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, with over 550 species of birds to discover. Even if you haven’t considered yourself a bird enthusiast before, the incredible diversity and beauty of Botswana’s avian population may change your perspective.
Spot iconic birds such as the Pel’s fishing owl, African fish eagle, lilac-breasted roller, and carmine bee-eater. Birdwatching in Botswana is a rewarding and enjoyable experience for all.
ATV Rides on the Pans
For an exhilarating adventure across the vast salt flats, explore Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pans National Parks on quad bikes.
The flat and smooth terrain allows you to cover considerable distances and discover unique points of interest. Safely navigate the area, enjoying the feeling of freedom as you race across the expansive landscape.
Be sure to protect yourself from the sun and immerse yourself in the never-ending beauty of Botswana’s salt flats.
Sleep Under the Stars
Botswana has so much to offer to nature lovers. Experience the awe-inspiring spectacle of Botswana’s starry nights by spending a night under the open sky. The lack of light and air pollution in the wilderness provides a perfect environment for stargazing.
Sleep in a comfortable open-air bed, with only a mosquito net separating you from the infinite blanket of stars. Listen to the enchanting sounds of the African night, including hippos, hyenas, and distant lion calls. Choose a starbed in a private reserve or the Makgadikgadi Pans for an unforgettable celestial experience. And yes, this is not dangerous at all when you book it with a reputable lodge.
Sunset Cruises on the Chobe River
Conclude your Botswana safari with a memorable sunset cruise along the Chobe River in Chobe National Park. From the boat, spot an array of wildlife, including fish eagles, crocodiles, hippos, and a diverse array of bird species.
Capture stunning photographs from unique angles as you witness the breathtaking crossing of elephant families from one bank to another. This experience provides an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate the beauty of nature at twilight.
Measure Yourself Against a Baobab
Visit the extraordinary baobab trees that dot the landscapes of Botswana. These massive trees considered a symbol of strength and resilience, are a sight to behold. Explore Baines’ Baobabs, also known as the Sleeping Sisters, in Nxai Pan National Park.
These iconic baobabs were immortalized in the paintings of Thomas Baines, a renowned British landscape artist.
Learn about the legends and folklore associated with these magnificent trees while marveling at their remarkable adaptability.
Yoga in the Desert
Unwind and connect with the tranquility of Botswana’s landscapes through yoga. Many camps now offer yoga sessions, providing an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the natural surroundings. At Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi, practice yoga in a specially designed pavilion overlooking the expansive salt pans. Find inner peace and rejuvenate amidst the stunning desert backdrop.
Mobile Camping Expedition
Experience the thrill of a mobile camping expedition, allowing you to venture deeper into Botswana’s wilderness. Instead of staying in lodges, you will stay in tented camps, moving every few days to new locations by road or air. This authentic and comfortable safari experience brings you closer to nature, with opportunities to encounter elephants, honey badgers, ground squirrels, and even elusive predators like leopards. Embrace the beauty of the wild and cherish the proximity to Botswana’s remarkable wildlife.
While countries like Botswana are characterized by their wildlife safaris, they have much to offer in general. But before starting any specific activities in Botswana, don’t forget to research about it as it will further assist you in enjoying your trip.
Bariki was born and raised in Tanzania, the land of the magnificent Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Manyara wildlife parks. He grew up surrounded by Africa’s natural beauty. Visiting his grandpa in Moshi Kilimanjaro, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, provided him with early exposure to wildlife and the natural world.
As a technology and human rights blogger, he has always been passionate about writing. With many relatives working in the tourism industry, he has stayed abreast of the industry’s successes and challenges, which led him to write about African safaris.
Now residing in the USA, Bariki is using his firsthand knowledge to help foreigners plan their dream safari in Africa. At Posire, he shares his expertise on everything you need to know about planning a safari, from choosing the right destination to the best time to go and what to expect during your adventure.