The Hospitality & Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) plays a crucial role in the mobile safari sector.
Mobile safaris are provided by more than 60 members of the Association. The vast majority of these are based in and around Maun and Kasane and within easy distance of the 36 official campsites, from the game-rich Moremi to the wild and remote open spaces of the Kalahari to the south.
The HATAB-run sites are located in parks and reserves:
Chobe National Park – 23 sites, comprising –
• Riverfront (Ihala): nine sites
• Nogatshaa: five sites
• Savuti: four sites
• Zwei-Zwei: five sites.
Moremi Game Reserve – 14 sites, comprising –
• Moremi East (Khwai): five sites
• Moremi West (including Xakanaxa, Third Bridge, Mboma Island, Bodumatau and Xini Lagoon): nine sites.
Nxai Pan National Park: four sites, comprising –
• Nxai Pan: three sites
• Baines Baobabs: one site.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve – four sites, comprising –
• Deception Valley: three sites
• Letiahau: one site.
Mobile safaris offer visitors a highly enjoyable and flexible way to see the truly extraordinary wildlife of Botswana and its often unique landscape.
These safaris have to be regulated to ensure strict conservation of Botswana’s protected areas. Campsites are officially designated and mobile safaris operators cannot just pitch a tent wherever or whenever they please. In fact, official HATAB-run sites are pre-booked months, even years, in advance. To ensure privacy and to preserve the fragile environment, campsites are reserved for just one operator at a time.
The operator may bring some equipment to the site such as showers and toilets; but this must be removed on completion of the visit and the area returned to the same condition in which it was found.
Because campsites are regulated in this way, mobile operators tend to select a few locations as part of an itinerary, staying perhaps three or four nights at each site before moving on to the next. Each site is used as a base for game drives and in much the same way as if guests were staying at a permanent camp or lodge.
Not all mobile safaris are alike, however, and depending on budget and preference, guests have a range of options, from super-luxurious to back-to-basics, with some alternatives in between. They differ from one another in terms of cost and fall into four broad categories:
Luxury – This generally involves a support truck or ‘go ahead’ vehicle that sets up the tents and the site before the guests arrive in their game-viewing vehicle. Guests can expect to see a fire lit, welcoming drinks, uniformed staff and, probably, the aroma of freshly cooked food emanating from the bush kitchen with an evening of fine dining ahead.
Comfortable – This is much more basic, with maybe a chair on which to sit and a glass of something as a welcome to the campsite. There may be a hurriedly prepared fire, but there would be no advance support vehicle and the camp would be erected on arrival after a day of game viewing.
Budget – There are even fewer refinements at budget level, but staff would still be on hand to cook food and erect the tents.
Participation – This is for those fit, active and willing enough to cook their own food and erect their own tents on arrival and then take down the tents before moving on to the next location. These participation safaris are especially popular with young people. Many feel it gives them a greater insight in terms of being at one with Africa and its wildlife.