Organising and booking
Botswana's public holidays are as follows:
New Year's Day January 1
Public holiday January 2
Good Friday & Easter Monday
Labour Day May 1 (variable)
Ascension Day May 16 (variable)
Sir Sereste Khama Day July 1
President's Day third Monday and Tuesday in July
Independence Day September 30
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Until the late 1980s you could just arrive, pay your park fees, and visit any national park. Now things are different and the 'high-revenue, low-volume' policy has led to a constriction in the numbers of campsites available at each location: they are very limited. Sites must be pre-booked in Maun or Gabarone; once they're full, you'll be turned away.
This makes it essential
to book as early as you can for a trip through the national parks – though they don't usually take bookings for more than a year in advance. Hence booking 11–12 months before you plan to visit is usually ideal.Where to book
There are two booking offices for the national parks, which divide the country's park in half. They both have very extensive opening hours: 07.30–12.30 and 13.45–16.30 Monday to Saturday, and on most public holidays; 07.30–12.00 on Sundays. They close only on Christmas Day.The northern parks
For bookings to Chobe, Moremi, Nxai and Makgadikgadi, contact:Parks and Reserves Reservations Office
PO Box 20364, Boseja, Maun; tel: 6861265; fax: 6861264. This is found behind and to the right of Maun's police station, east of Sir Seretse Khama Road, and close to the roundabout with Sekgoma Road.The southern parks
For bookings to the Central Kalahari, Khutse, and Botswana's side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, contact:Parks and Reserves Reservations Office
PO Box 131, Gaborone; tel: 3180774; fax: 3180775; email: email@example.com. This is in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks offices, in Gaborone's 'government enclave', opposite the end of Queen's Road.
Entry fees and permits
Most organised trips will include park entry fees in their costs, but if you are travelling on your own then you must pay these directly. There are usually three sets of park fees: entry fees for the people, entry fees for your vehicle, and camping fees. These depend on your nationality/immigration status, and where your vehicle is registered.
Usually the camping fees are paid when the sites are booked in advance, through the office in Maun (or the one in Gaborone). Sites in the national parks are very, very limited and often booked out almost a year in advance – so it's only rarely possible to get any space by just turning up. Everybody books their trips in advance; it's the only way.
By far the best way here is to go into the office in Maun in person – or have someone do this for you. Then if what you ask for is full, you'll be able to look at the availability sheets and make an alternative plan. If you try to accomplish this by phone, fax or email then it can be a lot more difficult, and is often less successful. Currently the various fees are:Park entry fees
per person per day Bots citizen Bots resident Non-resident
Adult (18+) P10 P30 P120
Child (age 8-17) P5 P15 P60
Infant (7 & under) free free freeCamping fees
per person per night Bots citizen Bots resident Non-resident
Adult (18+) P5 P20 P30
Child (age 8-17) P2.50 P10 P15
Infant (7 & under) free free freeVehicle fees (per day)
Foreign-registered vehicle: P50
Botswana-registered vehicle: P10
To give you some idea of the total costs here, the following are based on a foreign-registered vehicle with two adult visitors coming to Moremi for seven days and camping. Their total costs for the parks would be:
Park entry fees P1,680 = 2 x 7 x P120
Camping fees P420 = 2 x 7 x P30
Vehicle entry fees P350 = 7 x P50
Total costs P2,450 (= US$408/£272)
That's an average cost of P175 (US$29/£19) per person per day.
Note that until recently, any camping fees paid to the Maun office, or parks fees paid at the scout camps at park gates, had to be in Pula; they would not accept foreign currency, travellers' cheques or credit cards. This strict approach is meant to have been relaxed – they should now also accept cash in pula, British pounds or US dollars. However, I strongly recommend that you take pula for this, as you'll find it a lot easier and simpler to pay.