The Complete Guide to a Botswana Honeymoon for Curious Couples
Arguably the destination for luxury travel in Africa, the country of Botswana is one of the lesser-frequented safari countries due to an effort that prioritizes exclusive, high-quality expeditions with a lower volume of inbound tourism. What this creates is a unique opportunity for couples to fully immerse themselves in the sweet solitude of safari with quality sightings, sans dozens of vehicles blocking, say, a pride of lions lounging at dawn.
A Botswana honeymoon (or generally, any African safari honeymoon) is uniquely made for naturally-curious couples who value experiences and challenges. As one honeymooning groom remarks, "You're on the edge of wilderness enclosed in luxury at one moment; the next, you're in the bush staring down a pack of hyenas." Here's everything you need to know about an adventurous Botswana honeymoon.
Is Botswana Good for a Honeymoon?
This editor can't think of a better bonding experience for couples than confronting the challenges and wonder found on a safari honeymoon. As you and your partner experience your first few months (or days together), a Botswana honeymoon inspires awe and curiosity. Not only are you present with Mother Nature, but you're absorbing new details about your partner and what drives their fascination.
Traversing wilderness in a safari vehicle tends to speak to the inner child for the more adventurous couples, and it's a transformative getaway for those who deeply value nature. In short, Botswana is great for a honeymoon, especially for couples who desire challenging and engaging experiences, access to comfort and luxury amenities, and seek the pleasure of being fully present before untainted beauty. Plus, you can head to a remote and pristine beach to unwind after the excitement.
The Pros of a Botswana Honeymoon
A Botswana safari is much higher-end than other safari countries due to the tourism industry's regulation of volume and standards. As a Commonwealth country, Botswana's tourism staff (guides, tour operators and such) speak English. The national language, however, is Setswana. Most flights enter via Johannesburg, South Africa, the continent's southern hub for international flights. From there, you'll fly to Maun, then hop on a bush plane before arriving at your destination. Some resort groups, like Desert & Delta offer their own private charter: Safari Air.
Another perk is that the vast majority of Botswana luxury safari resorts and lodges are all-inclusive, meaning while you're at the property, everything from meals and lodging to twice-a-day game drives is full-service. After you dirty your clothes from the dust and mud of the day (embrace it), complimentary laundry service is also provided by key properties. The destination is especially focused on a flourishing tourism industry and we can see why: the hospitality and genuine warmth of locals is a unique, cultural lens through which couples can enjoy Botswana too.
Take this as a pro or a con, but many first-timers get hooked on safari. If this is you and your partner, brace yourselves for future safari expeditions and a developing travel hobby. The French even have a term for this sentiment called "Mal D'Afrique" translated literally to "Africa disease," or a nostalgic "sickness" and longing to return to the continent.
The Cons of a Botswana Honeymoon
Those who prefer instant gratification won't fare well in Botswana. Some couples may simply want to relax at a resort, scrolling on their phones and downing a margarita (and no judgment here). If that's the case for you, consider a honeymoon focused on relaxation. The logistics across certain areas of Botswana, especially the bush, meaning limited access to internet and phone service, as well as a slower pace of life generally. Things don't always go as planned and you have to roll with it.
Let's kick this section off by discussing fear. Some couples are afraid of modern aviation and flying—and understandably so. In these cases, it's wise to consider bush planes where passengers often feel every bump and rattle. Speaking of which, the logistics of covering large distances and crossing multiple hemispheres and time zones (read: multiple planes each way) is another factor. On safari, you'll encounter a variety of wildlife, from big cats and elephants to reptiles.
From the US, you'll experience at least 24 to 48 hours of travel each way; not to mention possible jet lag. You'll also have to plan meticulously in advance by scheduling appointments with your primary care doctor for malaria pills, as well as possible shots and vaccines. However, all this makes Botswana well worth the wait and planning upon arrival. It's a truly remarkable country.
Finally, a Botswana honeymoon isn't the most affordable option for couples. There's a reason why it's rare to find young couples who've visited the destination, as the country is frequented by established retirees. Between flights, bush planes, transfers and lodging, you are looking at a higher cost range. However, a Botswana luxury honeymoon is an unforgettable experience and one the grandkids will love hearing about someday–if not experiencing it with you directly in time.
The Best Weather for a Botswana Vacation
The question boils down to what you prioritize as a couple when embarking on safari. While the peak season for safari is typically dry season–a time when the barren land allows for easier sightseeing of wildlife–the green season is beautiful for its own reasons. Babies are born during this time, birds fly throughout the land, and the landscape springs to life in shades of sage and leafy greens.
The Green Season or Summer (Off-Season Months)
While more affordable, this rainy and wet season from October to March may limit the amount of game you might see. (Unless your guide is outstanding or you're lucky.) If birds and babies are your priorities, then the green season is a must-book for your Botswana honeymoon as you'll melt over baby elephant sightings. Another positive is the weather cools from the months of October to March so you'll experience comfortable conditions from your safari vehicle.
The Dry Season or Winter (High Season Months)
The peak season for travel in Botswana, the dry season from April through September, is when the most traffic flows through the country. If you prioritize seeing a large number of predators (lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and more), then your odds of spotting predators and, possibly, prey, are higher during the dry season when the bush is barren and you can spot these critters through the branches of trees.
Things to Do in Botswana
You won't be bored on a Botswana honeymoon. Between game drives, boat rides, bush plane-hopping and other adventurous activities, guests are certain to enjoy the enthralling opportunities each safari morning provides. One day you could watch lions stalking prey and another, you'll see zebras and their best buddies, wildebeests, gallop through the savanna.
Go on a Morning Game Drive Through Chobe National Park
Couples who rise with the sun will revel in the thrill of a morning game drive through the bush. Even if you aren't a classic morning person, you'll wake up each morning with a sense of anticipation for what the day ahead will bring. Start the morning with coffee, tea and light pastries, then hop into your safari vehicle. The benefit to staying at Chobe Game Lodge is having first and VIP access to the entire park, where there's often a parade of vehicles lined up for entry. Marvel quietly at local game and perhaps you'll catch the majestic pride of lions (babies during green season!) dozing off after a fresh morning kill.
Enjoy Sundowners in the Bush or Delta
What's a "sundowner," you say? A happy hour at sunset (as you may have speculated) to toast to another eventful day is celebrated on safari as a sundowner. Often, these daily amenities are offered at "stretch points" after hours of enthralling game drives. Outfitters will hold these daily treats at breathtaking locations, offering unique views of nature. Imagine indulging in local snacks and G&Ts (gin and tonics) before a hulking and ancient baobab tree or sitting barefoot on the banks of the Okavango with your feet comfortably buried in sand–drink in hand.
Sleep Under the Stars in an Open-Air Suite
The "Sleep-Out Deck" at Camp Okavango is a bucket-list adventure for couples. It's simply you and your partner, on an elevated open-air suite, surrounded by the African bush. The accommodation is outfitted with a private bathroom, a plush double bed surrounded by silky mosquito nets, and a fog horn for the added psychological buffer of safety. If anything, being fully immersed in nature surrounded by the elements and the stars above is an experience that you will remember for many years to come.
Take a Mokoro Boat Through the Reeds
It's near Biblical, but there's something incredibly splendid about an elephant peeking out through the papyrus reeds or hippos surfacing gently in quiet parts of the Delta. The mokoro boat quietly makes its way through the water while beautiful, soft reeds lining the banks of the Delta rustle and gently sway. The peaceful experience often transports couples to an otherworldly, near-ancient, and pensive place.
Observe and Learn About Wildlife
Fact: the bush comes to life, especially during the evening hours, so it's no surprise that sundown is when your chances of seeing special moments between animals are guaranteed. For example, you may see elephants who've journeyed and consumed their way through the bush suddenly rush to a watering hole. (If you're lucky, you'll spot some even playfully swimming in the water.) It's also when you might see nocturnal animals slowly slink about the region as evenings are prime time for these critters. After the excitement, count your blessings by watching a scenic and classic Botswanan sunset.
Check Off Your Game Book or Travel Journal
Most safari trips include about two to three uniquely-different destinations, giving guests the opportunity to diversify their wildlife sightings. Couples will have fun keeping track of local wildlife (your lodge should offer a game book, of sorts) and logging their reflections from each passing day. This editor highly recommends The Knot Honeymoon Journal for designing the trip and a travel journal to document your experiences on the ground. (We like this aesthetic option from Papier that can be easily personalized.)
Book a Romantic Helicopter Ride Over the Delta
Bush planes are an enthralling safari experience, but a different type of adrenaline rush accompanies elephant and hippo sightings from above. Hiring a bush pilot for a romantic helicopter ride is another unique memory for couples to share forever. The private ride over the bush allows you to take in the sheer scale of the Delta (and its wildlife population) from above.
Savor a Delicious Nap to the Sounds of the Bush
Afternoons are quiet in the bush as the African sun beats down on the land and the thrill of the morning drive is done. This is where a luxury camp is especially necessary as it's time for couples to order lunch, recharge, dip in their adjacent plunge pool, and bask in that long-awaited nap you've needed since the onset of wedding planning.
Visit a Local School or Charity
Perhaps your heart desires to explore what to do in Botswana (besides safari). Educate and inspire by learning all about reverse osmosis for local access to clean drinking water or animal conservation efforts. Whatever the case, your lodge concierge, honeymoon advisor, on-the-ground guide or tour operator can help shed light on the charitable priorities of any given destination. For example, the Chobe Game Lodge has a program where employees donate a portion of their paychecks to local schools and other funding opportunities for community development.
The Best Hotels & Resorts for a Botswana Honeymoon
Unless you're a seasoned safari-goer like Prince Harry–who memorably took Meghan Markle on a 10-day trip to the bush in Botswana (one of many facts confirmed in their Netflix series, Harry & Meghan)—it's well recommended you stay at luxury properties throughout the country. With African safari destinations, luxury lodges and tented camps are the best way to experience nature, coupled with the amenities you're accustomed to in the states. Plus, most are all-inclusive, meaning you need to simply relax, indulge, and go along for the ride (literally).
Savute Safari Lodge
With just 12 rooms (up to 24 guests) and located right by the Savute Marsh, this lodge is primed for wildlife sightings, including elephants that frequent its watering holes and one of the most famous band of lion brothers in all of Africa. At night, you can hear the distant roar of the pride and–if you're lucky enough–spot all sorts of creatures from the comfort of your thatched-roof chalet. (This editor proudly spotted a magnificent porcupine shuffling through the tall grass, while baby elephants tumbled down hills to the watering hole). The Savute Marsh is also home to a pack of endangered wild dogs, one of the rarest sightings you can experience on safari as less than 7,000 remain on the planet. Leopards, ostrich and zebra also roam the Savute region, and the property is home to, arguably, the best guides across Africa. Speaking of service: after an exciting drive, the staff greets guests with hot or cool, tea tree-oil-infused towels before you head back to the pool to cool off and gaze at elephants.
Chobe Game Lodge
The legendary Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton enjoyed their second wedding in Botswana and stayed, surprise, at none other than the five-star Chobe Game Lodge in a room now known as the "Elizabeth Taylor Suite," named after its famous guest. Beyond the Hollywood connection, there are multiple reasons why you'll want to stay at this Ecotourism Certified Lodge, which boasts 42 standard rooms and four suites. Chobe Game Lodge is the sole property directly located along the world-famous Chobe River in Chobe National Park. This means guests are first to access this marvelous portion of the park while others have to be admitted into the park. Guests simply rise, enjoy their coffee with delicious morning treats, and head out to the wilderness in eco-friendly vehicles or a solar-powered safari boat. The quiet hum of the electric carriers isn't only environmentally friendly in the sense of emissions, but it also respectfully nods to the daily rhythm of surrounding wildlife.
Often rated the top luxury property along the Okavango Delta by travel advisors, "Camp O" is located right off the banks of the water channels that provide life to wildlife across Botswana. The elevated planks and walkways of the property (which underwent a rebuild in 2016) come into use with fruitful rainy seasons as the water levels across the Okavango Delta rise with the tides–subsequently welcoming local guests like tree frogs and other wildlife that take comfort in the reeds of the riverbanks. Each spacious tent is outfitted with Charlotte Byrd products (an amenity offered across all Desert & Delta properties), double showers, patios for daytime wildlife sightings, and weighted mosquito nets for those who value a good night of sleep. The room lacks cell service and often, the wireless cuts out, but this means you have to be present in the jungle. Trust us when we say the gift of presence is the ultimate honeymoon present.
Thamalakane River Lodge
If you're interested in exploring the city of Maun before hopping on a bush flight to your next safari lodge or heading to Moremi, this cozy and affordable riverfront option will help you relax for a brief stay during a Botswana honeymoon.
Most flights into Botswana will likely pass through Johannesburg, South Africa, which is why you'll need a well-recommended layover hotel–and one that offers massages on-site. Given the amount of time spent traveling, comfort-seekers will savor the experience at Davinci Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg's upscale shopping and business district. Adjacent to Nelson Mandela Square and great restaurants (think: sushi at The Big Mouth or Mediterranean fare at Cilantros), couples will easily enjoy their time in the neighborhood. Plus, Davinci's concierge can arrange transportation to and from the airport, located about 45 minutes away.
InterContinental Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport
You'll likely pass through the O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, at some point during a Botswana honeymoon. Enjoy a luxury stay for a quick and restful layover before heading home (or to your next destination).
Leroo La Tau
As Botswana's geography is incredibly diverse, couples who desire arid climates and a desert ecosystem will feel right at home at this resort in Magkadigkadi Pans National Park, which is part of the acclaimed Kalahari Desert. Couples who bond over stargazing must book the resort's "Salt Pans Sleepout," an experience in a place so remote that it feels otherworldly and dream-like to fall asleep without light pollution. Honeymooners can only book this experience between July through October as the open-air activity is weather-dependent.
Another option along the Xaxanaka Lagoon is Camp Moremi, a four-star, all-inclusive tree lodge with tented suites. With easy access to channels and waterways, guests are easily delighted by diverse wildlife spottings from hippos to leopards (the latter, for the lucky) within the Moremi Game Reserve. Inquire about the camp's romantic sunset excursion, which involves dinner for two on a raft decked out in string lights. Surrounded by the quiet natural environment at this enchanting camp, there may even be a sighting of a Pel's fishing owl, a pride of lions, and the beautiful Malachite kingfisher.
What to Pack for a Botswana Honeymoon
While luxurious, a Botswana honeymoon is far more casual than other high-end honeymoon destinations (think: the French Riviera, St. Barth's or Dubai, to name several well-heeled destinations). You'll want to pack light and plan in terms of combination outfits. Bush planes have weight limits and only allow for duffel bags or soft luggage. It's a worthy challenge for new couples who want to practice the art of minimalism.
For game drives, the essentials are as follows: linen layers in neutral, earth tones, a sun-blocking hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a handy safari jacket or vest (if waterproof, even better). Oh–and don't forget malaria pills and advance health check-ups with your physician, your converter for the camps, boots or sneakers you won't mind getting dirty, high socks to shield against sharp blades of grass for walking safaris, and more. Trip or honeymoon insurance is highly encouraged with any safari getaway.
Evenings often dip in temperatures pending seasonality, so you'll want to pack a light scarf or sweater to drape over your shoulders. Depending on the lodge's ambiance and suggested dress codes, prepare light sweaters, a skirt, slacks or a few dresses for communal meals.