1
1

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO BOTSWANA

Pre-departure and guest information for your safari with Great Plains Conservation

Great Plains Conservation welcomes you and looks forward to hosting you on your African journey. In order to ensure that you have the best experience possible, please read the following information carefully.

CLIMATE

The weather in southern Africa is generally pleasant throughout the year – warm to hot days, and cool to warm nights. During our winter months however (May to September), it can get really cold at night and in the early morning, particularly when on safari, so we would like to suggest that you pack accordingly – very warm clothing including an anorak/winter jacket, a beanie, scarf and gloves are recommended. Please also refer to our packing suggestions list above.

Summer is from November to the end of March and usually brings very high temperatures. It is also the rainy season and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down, although only usually for a short period of time. The winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs.  Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm; however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing point in some areas. The in-between periods – April/early May and September/October – still tend to be dry, but the days are cooler than in summer and the nights are warmer than in winter.

TEMPERATURE (ºC) – THESE ARE THE AVERAGE LOWS AND HIGHS
MAUN JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
19 / 32 19 / 31 18 / 31 14/31 9/28 6/25
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
6/25 9/28 13/33 18/35 19/34 19/32
AVERAGE RAINFALL (MM). THIS VARIES ACCORDING TO THE YEAR AND LOCATION
MAUN JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
110 80 70 25 7 3
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
0 0 0 30 50 95
TEMPERATURE (ºF) – THESE ARE THE AVERAGE LOWS AND HIGHS
MAUN JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
66/89 66/87 64/87 57/87 48/82 43/77
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
42/77 48/82 55/91 64/95 66/93 66/89
AVERAGE RAINFALL (INCHES). THIS VARIES ACCORDING TO THE YEAR AND LOCATION
MAUN JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN
4.33 3.15 2.75 0.98 0.27 0.11
JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
0 0 0 1.18 1.97 3.74

Things to Note

GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION & DETAILS ON BOTSWANA

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

Travellers going to / from Botswana are strongly encouraged to update themselves on what the requirements are in terms visa requirements for South Africa and Botswana as well as those wanting to travel to, from and via South Africa to Botswana with children.

“South Africa’s Cabinet’s have made an updated decision (as at late October 2015) regarding the recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Committee the South African President had established to look at the unintended consequences and mitigating factors relating to the implementation of the Immigration Amendment Acts (2007 and 2011) and Immigration Regulations, 2014. The law, as amended, will remain with adjustments to be made in implementation, to make it easier for people to comply.

In terms of the decision, on the requirement for travellers to apply for visas in person, in countries where there is no SA mission, the Department of Home Affairs will receive applications, including by post, and capture biometrics of travellers on arrival at ports of entry.

To address concerns around the geographical spread of countries like China, India and Russia, certain measures will be put in place to ease the process of application, in particular for tourists.

With regard to the travelling of children, the South African Cabinet approved four processes.

Child-travel requirements for outbound travelling from South Africa will stay, including proof of parental relations through unabridged birth certificates, and, as necessary, parental consent. In respect of inbound travel where visas are required, it will still be required that original birth certificates and, as necessary, parental consent or certified copies are submitted during the visa application process. Requirements regarding unaccompanied minors will remain, like providing copies of the identity document or valid passport and visa or permanent residence permit of the person who is to receive an unaccompanied minor.

For visa-exempt countries a strong advisory will be issued, with travellers advised to have proof of relationship and consent from the absent parent/s or guardian/s, in case they are asked to provide such on arrival.

Cabinet has mandated the South African Department of Home Affairs to put in place the necessary legal instruments to give effect to this decision. The status quo will remain until such time the department has provided a legal instrument for this category of travellers. In the meantime travellers are encouraged to comply.

The decision to retain the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Immigration Regulation will greatly assist in dealing with whatever difficulty might arise as a result of the implementation of its recommendations until such time that the main decisions have been implemented.

In order to implement Cabinet decisions on this matter, the Department will do the following:

In the next three months,

  • Implement the capturing of biometrics at ports of entry starting with a pilot at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town airports,
  • Look at introducing an Accredited Tourism Company Programme for countries like China, India and Russia,
  • Consider a long-term Multiple Entry Visa for a period exceeding 3 months and up to 3 years for frequent travellers (for business meetings), business people and academics,
  • Principals will issue letters confirming permission for children to travel on school tours,
  • Extend the validity of the parental consent affidavit to 6 months.

Within a year,

  • Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana,
  • Consider a South African visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries,
  • Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists,
  • Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10 year Multiple Entry Visitor’s Visa,
  • Open two Business Visa Facilitation Centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton,

In the long term, one year and beyond,

  • Install systems for pre-flight checks at international airports,
  • Upgrade Advance Passenger Processing systems and implement Passenger Name Record, to enhance risk assessment,
  • Finalise automation of the visa and permitting system

These measures will ensure the balance between national security and economic interests of the country. Child safety will not be compromised.

www.home-affairs.gov.za/index.php/statements-speeches/687-statement-on-cabinet-decision-on-the-immigration-amendment-acts-and-regulations

YELLOW FEVER CERTIFICATE

All travellers coming from, or passing through, countries that have been declared Yellow Fever infected areas must provide an international certificate of vaccination for Yellow Fever upon arrival into Botswana. This applies specifically to visitors entering Botswana at Kazangula or Kasane Airport from Livingstone, Zambia. Inability to produce a valid certificate or medical waiver could result in refused entry. If you are unable to have the Yellow Fever vaccine, then you must carry a medical waiver stating why.

LUGGAGE

We, along with our flying partners in Botswana who look after you with your inter camp air transfers, would like to remind you on the importance of traveling with the correct luggage sizes and weights on their safari through Botswana. This is irrespective of the class of travel you may have enjoyed coming to Southern Africa or on schedule airlines you travel with on your safari.

Due to the remoteness of the lodges in Botswana, light aircraft are used to transfer passengers to, from and in between the various lodges. Most lodges have their own small un-paved landing strips that are only accessible to light aircraft.

Passenger luggage is stored in pods secured to the underside (belly) of these aircraft. Each passenger is allowed up to 20 kilograms of luggage on safari, and this includes hand luggage and camera bags. Generally their main luggage (a soft sided duffel bag) would be up to 15 kilograms which would fit in the aircraft pod, and we allow another 5 kilograms of carry on luggage that would be stored at the rear of the cabin in the aircraft making up a total of 20 kilograms.

Safety is our number one priority. Oversized or overweight luggage causes a decrease in aircraft performance – lodge airstrips are generally 1000 meters or less so take off performance is critical.

Not only is weight a problem, but the physical size of the luggage can make loading and offloading difficult, and due to the shape of the aircraft pods, can result in us only being able to fit only one or two bags per pod. Soft-sided duffel bags are preferred, but hard-cases or bags with wheels pose a real problem. We would also recommend that you bring along waterproof or water-resistant duffelbags, especially in summer, as the game vehicles in which the luggage is transferred from the airstrip to the camp and vice versa don’t always have any rain protection and the loading and unloading of bags can occur on wet or damp remote airtrips and runways.

2016-gpc-pretour-gallery-1

Should you wish to travel with additional or oversized luggage we do allow this as long as an extra seat/s are booked well in advance in order for us to plan ahead on which aircraft type etc to use.

Should a you arrive at Maun – or Kasane – Airport with oversized luggage that they have not pre booked as excess luggage, or if you are traveling with oversized luggage that we were not made aware of, then we are able to offer the following solutions:

  1. You would be offered a chance to repack your luggage into smaller bags at the airport before departure or to consolidate your luggage into a smaller bag. You would be responsible for the supply of these bags.
  2. If, at the airport, you are adamant you do not want to re-pack or leave any luggage, you would be given the option of chartering your own aircraft for your sole use in order for the flying company to take all of their luggage. This could cause a delay to your flight whilst a a special, new aircraft and crew is sourced at short notice to carry out such a flight. Bear in mind that your itinerary may include numerous flying legs and a private charter would have to be booked then for all sectors of your safari.

You would then need to pay our flying partner directly for this extra service before the aircraft leaves Maun or Kasane. Charter flights would then be needed for each and every sector that they fly between the lodges with their excess luggage.

We have included images of the various aircraft belly pods we use to give you an idea of the size and shape, and to show just how difficult it is to try and squeeze several hard-cases into each pod.

We trust this will help in passing on the importance of you traveling with the correct luggage in order to avoid any embarrassing or frustrating arrivals into Maun or Kasane airports with you may or may not be aware of in terms of the relevant luggage restrictions we need to adhere to.

CURRENCY

The currency in Botswana is the Pula (P) which is made up of 100 Thebe. Botswana banks only accept US Dollars, Pound Sterling, Euro and South African Rand in cash.

Any cash payments made to camps for curios, or gratuities to guides or staff, need to be in one of these currencies. Travellers Cheques in any of the above currencies are also acceptable.

CREDIT CARDS

International Visa and MasterCard are usually accepted throughout Botswana, including Great Plains Conservation camps. American Express and Diners Club are not accepted by the banks in Botswana, and therefore not at our camps.

VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT)

All goods and services in Botswana are priced to include value added tax (VAT) of 12%. On departing from Botswana, non-residents may claim a VAT refund on goods exported as accompanied luggage. In order to claim, the original tax invoice, with passport details reflected thereon, must be presented to the designated Customs Officer together with the relevant VAT claim and export declaration form.

The value of the goods must exceed BWP 5 000.00 (Pula), all in one invoice, per export and the goods must be available for inspection. Refunds are made by way of a transfer into your account. Customs also ask for bank account details, and payment may be deposited directly into the account from Botswana. Guests must have these details on hand, as refund documents have to be submitted on the same day that the items leave the country. Bank details cannot be sent at a later stage.

DUTY FREE

There is no duty free shopping allowance available at O.R.Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) on flights to Botswana. Please make sure your duty free purchases of perfume, alcohol etc is made before arriving in southern Africa.

HEALTH

There are a few basic health matters that require care and attention. The following points are recommended guidelines only. Ensure you check with your local medical practitioner about the possible need to carry yellow fever and other inoculation certificates

  1. Malaria
    Malaria prophylactic recommendations for southern African travellers:
    Expert opinion differs regarding the best approach to malaria prophylaxis. It is important to bear in mind that malaria may be contracted despite chemoprophylaxis, especially in areas where chloroquine resistance has been reported. Both chloroquine-resistant and normal strains of malaria are prevalent in Africa.
    Please remember that the best precaution is the preventative kind:
  • Avoid being bitten by using mosquito repellents liberally. Great Plains provides a locally made repellent but please bring your own as there may be skin sensitivity.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers/slacks in the evenings.
  • Please use the mosquito net over your bed where supplied/available.
  • If staying in a bungalow or tent, spray with a suitable insecticide to kill any mosquitoes that may have flown into your room.
  • Mosquito coils are also effective. Malaria is transmitted by a very small percentage of female Anopheles mosquitoes. They are mainly active in the early evening and throughout the night. Malaria transmission is at its highest during the warmer and wetter months of November through to April. From May through to October the risks of acquiring malaria are reduced. There is also less prevalence in remote areas where our camps are situated; nonetheless, you need to consider taking preventative measures.
    There is a six to seven day minimum incubation period before symptoms present themselves. If you become ill on your return, while still on prophylaxis or even once you have stopped taking them, ensure that your doctor does everything to establish that your illness is not malaria.
    Malaria can be prevented if you are sensible and take basic precautions. There have been very few cases of our guests contracting malaria in our many years of operation. It is inadvisable for pregnant woman to visit malarial areas as malaria infection during pregnancy can be detrimental to mother and child. Whilst above should be seen as guidelines only, you should consult your medical practitioner before travel to ascertain the best treatment and prevention applicable to your travels and circumstances.

 

  • Water
    It is very important that you drink plenty of water especially during the warmer months. It is generally recommended that guests drink at least 2 to 3 litres of water per day to limit the effects of dehydration. This excludes tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages, which act as diuretics and therefore can actually contribute to dehydration. Generally, water throughout Southern Africa is safe to drink directly from the tap. However, filtered water is readily available, so please do not allow yourself to become dehydrated.
  • Dietary Requirements
    For those guests with specific dietary requirements please ensure that we are notified prior to arrival. We can accommodate most reasonable requests.
  • Medical Conditions
    You need to notify us of any medical condition you may have prior to your arrival. This includes any allergies e.g. bee stings, nuts, shellfish etc.

 

LANGUAGE

Botswana’s national language is Setswana, but its official language is English.

TIME

Botswana is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) year-round.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

The dates of certain public holidays change from year to year – refer below. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday is also declared a public holiday.

01 January New Year’s Day

Varies Good Friday

Varies Easter Monday

01 May Labour Day

25 May Ascension Day

01 July Sir Seretse Khama Day

17 July President’s Day (Date is subject to change)

30 September Botswana Day

25 December Christmas Day

26 December Boxing Day

WALKING IN THE SELINDA & DUBA RESERVES

We conduct guided walking opportunities where possible but walking is at your own risk as it can take you close to dangerous wild animals.

RECOMMENDED READING

We recommend the following books specific to Botswana.

  • Okavango: Wetland Wilderness – Adrian Bailey
  • Okavango: An African Paradise – Daryl Balfour
  • The Lions and Elephants of the Chobe – Bruce Aitken
  • This is Botswana – Daryl Balfour
  • Botswana: A Brush with the Wild – Paul Augustinus
  • Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa and Common Birds of Botswana – Ken Newman
  • Guide to the Trees & Shrubs of the Okavango Delta – Veronica Roodt
  • Guide to the Wildflowers of the Okavango Delta – Veronica Roodt
  • Botswana Tourist Map & Guide – Veronica Roodt
  • Running Wild: Dispelling the Myths of the African Wild Dog – McNutt, Boggs, Hamman & Heldring
  • Wild About the Okavango – Duncan Butchart
  • Botswana – The Bradt Travel Guide – Chris McIntyre

We also carry reference materials in our camps and vehicles, and highly recommend that everyone should bring their own pair of binoculars in order to get the most out of the safari. It you are a keen birder we suggest you bring your own bird book as well.