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For the past few years – since the end of 2009 to be precise – all public campsites in Botswana’s national parks have been run by private operators, and visitors have been required to book camping accommodation separately from park entrance and conservation fees.

To make things a little more complicated, the various camps within a single park are usually run by completely separate operators, which means checking dates and availability with two or three independent companies before finally approaching the Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) for your park entry permit.

The private operators cannot issue entry permits and the DWNP cannot make camp bookings, so while you can pay your park entry fees in one of the offices in Maun or Gaborone, or at the park gate, you won’t be able to get more than a day pass unless you can produce a valid accommodation receipt from one of the camp operators. The one exception to this (that I know of) is Nxai Pan National Park, where it is possible to book camping for Baines’ Baobabs and the South Gate campsite at the park gate. Both camps are run by the Xomae Group and no pre-booking seems to be required, although you’ll still be taking a risk with availability if you leave things until the gate.

Not having been to Botswana before, I can’t compare this somewhat convoluted approach to the previous system. However, once we’d figured out what needed to happen and where we needed to go, it all actually worked quite well.

We decided to play it completely by ear and didn’t make a single advanced booking, instead spending a busy morning driving around Maun, gathering permits and receipts, and generally building up our itinerary as we went. Without exception, the people we dealt with at the private booking offices were friendly, efficient and helpful – offering to call other camp operators across town to check availability and advising us on road conditions.

By the end of October, Botswana’s main peak season rush has tailed off and we managed to get bookings at all our first choice public campsites in both Moremi and Chobe – not to mention bookings at the fantastic and highly recommended Baines’ Baobabs which we got at the park gate on arrival. If, however, you’re planning to visit during the middle of peak season (July to October), it’s probably best to book in advance and remember: the key is to get camp bookings first – DWNP permits can be picked up when you get there.

Here are the details you’ll need. I’ve copied them out verbatim from the booking agents themselves, from operators’ pamphlets and from photocopied pages on the wall of the DWNP pre-fab which serves as their booking office on a back street in Maun. I cannot guarantee any will still be correct by the time you read this, but hopefully it’ll be a good start.

Click here to download a more detailed excel spreadsheet of the below, including prices for Moremi, Chobe and Nxai Pan campsites and GPS co-ordinates of the camps and booking offices in Maun.

Here are some of my favourite photos from our trip.

Camp(s) Park Operator Tel Email Website
Ihaha Chobe Kwalate Safari 00267 6861448 kwalatesafari@gmail.com
Savuti, Linyanti Chobe SKL 00267 6865365 reservations@sklcamps.co.bw www.sklcamps.com
South Gate/Maqwee, Xakanaxa Moremi Kwalate Safari 00267 6861448 kwalatesafari@gmail.com
Khawi/North Gate Moremi SKL 00267 6865365 reservations@sklcamps.co.bw www.sklcamps.com
Third Bridge, Wilderness Camps Moremi Xomae Group 00267 6862221 xomaesites@botsnet.bw www.xomaesites.com
South Camp, Baines Baobabs Nxai Pan Xomae Group 00267 6862221 xomaesites@botsnet.bw www.xomaesites.com
Khutse Game Reserve camps,
Passarge, Piper Pan, Sunday Pan, Letiahau Pan, Motopi
Central Kalahari Bigfoot Safaris 00267 3953360 bigfoot@gbs.co.bw
For all National Parks All DWNP 00267 6860368/ 6861265 (Maun) / 00267 397 1405 (Gaborone) dwnp@gov.bw www.mewt.gov.bw/DWNP
Khwai Community Camp N/A Khwai Development Trust 00267 6862361 Khwai@botsnet.bw
Lekhubu Island N/A Gaing-O Community Trust 00267 2979612 www.kubuisland.com
Khama N/A Khama Rhino Sanctuary 00267 4630713/ 4600204 krst@khamarhinosanctuary.org.bw www.khamarhinosanctuary.org.bw

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7 Responses to “How to book campsites at Botswana’s national parks”

  1. Mrs Robin Scotcher

    We are battling to get through to the Reservations office in Gaberone by email – phoned today and they said to fax. But the fax number they gave me is not working either!! Any ideas on how to contact them other than by phone?

    Reply
    • Chris Davies

      Hi Robin. Do you mean the DWNP reservations office? If so, I had the same trouble myself. My emails were not answered either and I couldn’t even get through on the phone. In the end I gave up and did the DWNP bookings at their offices in country. The key is to get your campsite/accommodation booked through the appropriate private operator. I found them much more responsive and once you have that sorted the park entrance is only a formality which you can do on your way through Maun/Gabs, or even at the gate in most cases (Nxai Pan certainly, and I believe the same is possible for Chobe and Moremi).

      Reply
  2. PAUL JOHNSON

    Hi Chris
    Thanks for such informative blog
    re the season: we are expecting to arrive Okavango approx. mid-October. Would the 2nd half of October likely be quieter than 1st half?
    We are 4×4 self-drive campers, starting Cape Town Aug 18 (en route Southern Highlands, Tanzania) and could possibly but not preferably delay arriving Okavanga until end-October if getting on sites likely to be easier

    Reply
    • Chris Davies

      Hi Paul. October is generally quite quiet throughout. The end of the month is probably going to be quieter, but depending on where you go or just luck of the draw you might find it busier early or late. The key factor to consider is the weather. The later you get in October, the more rain you are likely to have and that will make some of the roads more difficult and obviously you’re more likely to get damp yourselves. I suggest you don’t delay unless it suits you. Even in early October you should be able to get on sites without too much trouble.

      Reply
    • Chris Davies

      Ah thanks for spotting that Mike. I’ve fixed the link and the document should now be available to download (just hard refresh the page). It’s a little dated now but hopefully the information is still useful.

      Reply
  3. Jeremy Stewart

    We are planning a 8 – 10 week trip through from CT to Nam, Bots, Zam, Zim, Malawi, Tanz, Moz and back to CT. When is the best time to go – Bots camp sites taken into account? Thanks.

    Reply

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