Botswana is a truly spectacular country to explore. The very thing that makes it so, are all the wildlife like the herds of elephant or buffalo, the ferocious hyeanas and lions, or the hippos, warthogs, and crocodiles. With so many wild animals roaming around, it’s not always easy (or wise) for people to do the same. But that doesn’t make our restless legs less antsy. During our time in Botswana, I compiled a list of our most successful, unitnerterupted, comfortable, safest, and beautiful hiking and running trails in Botswana.
Most days our camps were visited by elephants, hyaenas, curious game, hippos, monkeys… The landscape is harsh with sharp acacias and camelthorns. The thick mopanes can invite you into a nice, clear path only to realize it is an animal track that will easily turn you around by thick homogeneous bush.
While we had plenty of those bushy experiences, here we are only sharing our most successful and safest hikes throughout Botswana, although safe is the variable. Tread lightly and cautiously, beware of wildlife including snakes, scorpions, and spiders, wear proper shoes and often times long pants, and carry water. Below is a zonal map of Botswana and I have associated each hike with a zone. All hiking times are estimates and they can all be rated physically easy.
Kgale Hill, Gaborone District- A well trafficked hike up the hill on the southern part of town with views of the city, sunset and the dam. This is a popular hiking trail for locals in Gaborone in the evenings before it gets dark. There are also a handful of bolted climbing routes on the hill. Parking available across from the Game City Mall. Estimated time 2 hrs.
CURIOUS FOR MORE THINGS TO DO IN GABORONE CHECK OUT:
Moremi Gorge, Palapye District- This is a well-organized site with a lovely and well-thought out campsite and a newly built restaurant/ bar overlooking the gorge. They offer two hikes 1) goes to three waterfalls 2) follows the same path further up to the 5th waterfall- roughly 1 hour. They only do hikes up to the 5th waterfall in the mornings and you need to pre-book as the hike also takes you near a white vulture breeding area. The hikes are grouped with a guide and cost roughly 100 pula plus an additional 50 pula park fee. There are scheduled rests at each waterfall and viewpoint. This is one of the most established hiking trails in Botswana.
Moriti Wa Salema, Palapye District- The camp owners have cleared a path to an area with springs on the southern side of the Sua Pans. It is a pretty area to explore, not a lot of animals and will lead you to a water well used for the community. Easy walking- 1hr round trip.
Along the Limpopo river and the dry riverbeds in Tuli Block, Greater Phikwe District- This was a region we saw very few animals and felt safe in that regard. It has rich orange clay and interesting riverbed features. There are several resorts along the Limpopo river that offer horseback riding, mountain biking, and 4x4ing.
Around Solomon’s Wall in Tuli Block, Greater Phikwe District- You can explore this historic riverbed with a historic 30-meter-high basalt dyke naturally formed in the landscape.
Letsibogo Dam, Greater Phikwe District- A bit confusing to reach, be friendly and ask a local where the access is. On maps, it will take you to the security gate where you need clearance, but on the opposite side of the dam there are campsites and small dirt tracks to take you around the dam.
Khaitse Escapement, Boteti District- Here you have gorgeous views of the Sua Pans and the Khama compound. From the parking area you will pass a small stone wall and further on is a viewing deck. From there you can scramble down to the pans to a group of beautiful baobabs. Watch for loose rocks, golden orb spiders and scorpions. 3hrs.
Another option would be Khaiste Escarpment down towards Mosu along the dirt track.
Kukunje Island and pans, Boteti District- One of my favorite hiking trails in Botswana. We saw a single jackal and several cows while we were in the pans. Because of the dry terrain (in the dry season) and the lack of wildlife it gives you a freeing feeling to explore without fears, This island had delapetad camping facilities that appeared to have been abandoned. We spent 5 days alone on the Island. The walk around the island on the pan takes roughly 4 hours. The hikes on the Island will take about 2 hours round trip.
Lehkubu Island and pans, Boteti District- day visitors pay 40-60 pula per person for the island and the pans are free. Lehkubu hosts large baobabs and boulder features making it an excellent place to explore. The camping facilities are over-priced and poorly maintained and would suggest to camp in the pan.
Running in the pans, Boteti and Francistown District- Having a GPS or compass is helpful, it can be difficult to orientate yourself when the horizons are flat white plains. Be aware of strong winds, sun and dust. My rule of thumb, if you see a meerkat it is safe to run. Due to the curvature of the Earth and I am 5’2 I can only see 4.4 km based on this equation:
Distance (km)=3.56? height (m)
Boteti river, Boteti District- Along the western bank of the river are beautiful trees and palms. This runs along the opposite side of Makalakadi Game Reserve. Elephant, zebras, wildebeest, hippos and cats are all present. There are cattle posts as well so it is common to see donkeys, cows, and people.
Maun along the Thamalakane River, Maun District- With Maun as our home base we watched this environment change from our front yard. During the dry season we could cross and run on either side of the riverbed, there was a small pool with a solitary hippo and cows grazing in the riverbed. When the water arrived, we were limited to either one side of the river or the other. The arrival of the water brought hippos and crocs. Our last time there, the water lilies were in full bloom.
Drotsky’s Caves/ Gcwihaba Caves, Maun District- A short hike down into the caves, lots of natural light in the entrance. Bring a torch and explore them deeper. Beware of resident porcupines and bats the further you go. 10 minutes to entrance of cave.
Aha Mountain, Maun District- A flat path that requires some bush whacking. Options to scramble up the hill along various animal tracks. The Mopane autumnal colors were rich golds and the forest borders Namibia.
Tsodilo Hills, Maun District- One of two UNESCO sites in Botswana boasting roughly 4,500 rock paintings with religious and spiritual significance to the locals. There are three hills you can explore (male- highest, female- with the most rock art, and the child hill). Each hike is guided and separately paid for. The male hill is 1,390 meters controversially claiming it as the highest peak in Botswana. Some scrambling is involved, but elevation gained is only 360 meters. The tour was roughly 1 hour to reach the top and that included clearing the path after lockdown. The cost is 280 pula per person and you must hike with a guide.
Tsodilo Hills toward A35, Maun District
A flat, open dirt road. We ran a number of these dirt roads playing tag while the other one drove ahead. I was offered a ride from some locals uncertain why I was exercising and declined. Further down the road there was fresh spoor on top of Uwe’s tire tracks. Luckily I caught up with the car before I caught up with the cat (motivation).
FOR MORE WAYS TO EXPLORE THE OKAVANGO REGION CHECK OUT THIS GUIDE:
Old Hunters Road, Chobe District
The dirt road between Nata and Kasane that skirts along the Zimbabwe border. We travelled this road for almost two weeks and would run along the track from our bush camps then back. Beware of elephants, giraffe, game, and the Botswana Defense Force.
Around Kasane airport, Chobe District
Honestly, the airport security were a bit concerned for us. The dirt road edges a high electrical gate on one side and wild animals on the other side of our track. Regular run-ins and sightings of hyaenas, elephant, and buffalo.
Around the Mowana golf course, Chobe District
A 9-hole golf course, a pleasant low-impact walk with warthogs, baboons, and hippos.
Flood plains in Muchenje, Chobe, District
This is the stretch of land between the Ngoma Gate and Linyanti of Chobe Game Reserve that borders Namibia. This is a feeding ground for zebras, game, and buffalo. When the water levels dropped it revealed a grassy green field to run along lined with umbrella trees.
Flood plains in Linyanti, Chobe
This is further northwest of Muchenje and is another lush area with green grass and dark black soil. This soft ground makes it an ideal hiking trail in Botswana. Small rolling humps in the fields scattered with impalas and wildebeest. Careful at night as we heard gunfire from poachers.
For additional information The Botswana Tourism board has some lovely material about each of these regions that helped us discover areas we may not have knowed about like points of interest in the Tuli Block or Francistown region. There wasn’t much information about hiking trails in Botswana, which is why I wrote this.