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Why Botswana should be on your ADV riding bucket list

Season 5: Destination Unknown

15 September 2021

Botswana. I never heard any good stories about it, nor bad stories. It was one of those countries I simply didn’t know much about. When I decided to continue my African adventures from Namibia into Botswana, I needed to do some research about what there was to see and do. 

Not much, was my conclusion after a quick Google search. The main highlights of Botswana are all within National Parks where you can see wildlife. And well, on a motorcycle you are not allowed to enter those. I expected to quickly pass through Botswana without seeing or experiencing many adventures. But, also Botswana took me by surprise, similar to what happened in South Africa. Let me now tell you what made Botswana so special for me as a motorcycle adventurer! 

Wildlife galore

Most of Botswana’s wildlife can be found in National Parks, but unlike South Africa and most of Namibia, there aren’t a lot of fences around these parks. Large animals like elephants roam freely through large parts of the country, meaning you are likely to encounter them, even on a motorcycle. 

After spending 5 months in South Africa and Namibia, where I only saw a rare desert elephant and an even rarer desert lion, I became used to riding around without looking out for large animals. In Botswana that's an entirely different story! Here you have to be constantly on the lookout for elephants. Even though they are huge, they are almost invisible in thick bushes. Somehow, despite their size, they tend to suddenly pop up and then quickly disappear again between the trees. They surprised me over and over again. 

Generally, even though these animals are wild, they are relatively used to seeing cars. Motorcycles, not so much. Two-stroke engines specifically, seem to really irritate elephants. I was glad I explored Botswana with Savannah, who has a four-stroke engine and didn’t scare the elephants that much. Regardless, wild animals are always dangerous, and I can tell you what a rush it was to come so close to wildlife while riding my motorcycle. 

On my rides through Botswana I had several close encounters with elephants, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, hippos and lots of different types of antelopes. Each encounter made my heart beat a little faster and gave me the feeling I was truly in the heart of Africa. 

Local people and food

Perhaps I shouldn’t put a tag on an entire nation, after only meeting perhaps a hundred locals, but I’m going to do it anyway. The people of Botswana are amazing! It’s not that I wasn’t welcomed by the South African people, or by the Namibians, but the people in Botswana were just extra special. They shared my sense of humour and it was so easy to connect and laugh with them, making me feel very relaxed and welcome in their country. 

Remember the situation where I met some of the women who were cooking food on the side of the road. We had an instant connection and they were very easy to talk to. Trying out some of the local food is something I try in every country I go to, and street food is usually some of the best. These women even got me as far as trying out their signature dish: cow intestines! You can see it in Episode 72

Many other adventures available

Besides National Parks, Botswana has a lot more to offer! There are many adventures to have as an ADV rider. You can search for a poling station and jump aboard a makoro (local kano). You will for sure keep yourself occupied for half a day trying to navigate the tracks around the swampy Okavango Delta. 

Or visit an elephant orphanage and cross some nerve-wracking wooden poles bridges. I have also navigated the tricky salt pans in search of islands full of ancient baobab trees. When I did ride through a wildlife park, I was warned not to stray off the main track or they would shoot me, the anti-poaching team that is. 

Although I didn't stay as long in Botswana as I did in South Africa or Namibia, the time I spent there was absolutely worth it! 

Accomodation

Botswana has a lot of 5 star lodges throughout the country. People spend thousands of dollars per night to stay in one of these. But, if you travel more budget like me, you will easily find small guest houses and homestays which are a lot cheaper and in my opinion, more welcoming than those big hotels!

Those small guesthouses are also a great place to meet some of the local people and share stories and meals with them. As always, I use the app iOverlander and booking.com to find such places. You can also read my blog 'How to find accommodation' which gives you more insight in how I find those gems! 

Add Botswana to your bucket list

Although Botswana has roughly the same number of people as Namibia, it feels a bit more crowded. That is because the country is quite a bit smaller than its next door neighbor. That being said, I have to add that I didn’t ride into the Kalahari Desert (not allowed for motorcycles) or the Kgalagadi desert (same story). I am sure that both these areas will feel as empty as the vast deserts of Namibia.  

After my short time in Botswana, I am convinced that this country should be on an ADV rider's bucketlist when visiting the southern region of Africa! 

Comments
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I look forward to the “You have Itchy Boots mail” in my inbox every month. Love reading your blog posts and I enjoy the 360 experience videos! What a variety of experiences you share with us from Dakar racing to learning to cook local cuisine and of course miles of endless roads and tracks and scenery. It just NEVER gets old following along with you. Much thanks!

secondcreekrider  | 

I watched the videos as it came in and the blog nicely summarised the Botswana adventure and reminded me of the beautiful moments you've had. Your lunch at the road side food stall was priceless.
Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Rasheeda  | 

we were so excited to see you visit places we'd been to in Botswana. And meeting elephants on the road was an experience we'll never forget, and thought was almost guaranteed when you crossed from Namibia. Seeing you go across that salt pan, and navigate those crisscrossing tracks on the way brought back how confusing, stressful and exhilarating getting from Gweta to the pan was. Seeing you pull into Elephant Sands also brought back wonderful memories, as that is an amazing place to stop, and just watch elephants. Love your work, we look forward to every new episode.

VincentNZ  | 

Great summation of your Botswana adventures Noraly.
The Husqvarna Norden 900 seems like just a race bike for pro's. But then I'm grumpy ...LOL
Hope you have just as great of time in Zimbabwe.


Guess I tried reading when you were updating the .com site.

Mike - P.  | 

Love everything about you and your videos since episode 1, they kept me entertained while 'stuck' in NZ for 9 months last year. Just returned from a great ride round the Peak District in England, following an old friend of 86 years on a Honda 250, like Savannah, nearly as quick as you! Combined ages 162 and both been riding continuously since 16.
Best wishes, Michael Smith

Michael Smith  | 

That sounds like a wonderful ride. Respect for your old friend!

Noraly  | 

Great blogs! Loved your excited expressions at Victoria Falls. Very beautiful video as usual!

Vulcanguy  | 

Your African adventure has been so fantastic Noraly, that it's hard to top the many positive and eloquent comments on your stunning videos without repeating the same adjectives! I have so enjoyed learning more about the different countries and their cultures, geology, wildlife and actual geography! I have watched and liked every video since Series 1 and your adventures and interactions are simply wonderful. Your whole personality, knowledge, sheer guts and most importantly independence sets you apart from all the others! Keep on and don't change a thing Noraly! Btw...the expression on your face when they showed you the cow intestines was priceless! Fair play on trying it and showing respect to those lovely ladies!

RV200  | 

How good are your travel..good humour and a cheery disposition is the best thing when travelling I always look forward to your next episode..cheers and safe travelling..Paul.

Brickman  | 

Stunning videos, Noraly, and what beautiful landscapes! Botswana was amazing and now cannot wait to see how you get on in Zimbabwe!

Jonathan2  | 

It will be great too!

Noraly  | 

'Not much, was my conclusion after a quick Google search.' Love the style! 😊

Starlings  | 
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