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Secret Safari: Kalahari Zebra Migration

With a pair of zebras adorning the national coat of arms and with a black and white stripe running through its flag, you could safely assume that the zebra occupies a special place in Botswana. Even their soccer team is named after it.

Zebra migration on the move on Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Following long-worn trails into the Kalahari, migrating zebras cast long shadows in the morning light.

The zebra, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the more sought-after Big Five, is perhaps, along with the giraffe, the quintessential African wildlife icon. After all, you can find lions and leopards and rhino and buffalo and elephant in Asian settings – but a black and white striped horse? Well, for that, you have to go to Africa. And if you want to see zebras in bigger numbers than you might think – in fact, if you want to see zebra herds rivalled only by those of East Africa’s mighty migration – then you need to go to Botswana’s Kalahari Desert.

Zebra migration feeding on the Makgadikgadi grassland

Available water & fresh grazing dictate the local movements of the zebra herds.

The Kalahari is very different to the popular image of a desert. Most of Botswana’s Kalahari is grassland studded with thorn trees and flanked by woodlands. Ephemeral lakes and rivers – filled by summer rains – punctuate the landscape, and the air is filled with the snorts of antelope and the bass roar of the lion. And in the rainy summer season, the curious whistle-wheeze call of thousands of zebras.

Zebra migration on the move

Massed herds on the move in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – epicentre of the migration.

There are two major zebra migrations in Botswana, triggered by the start of the rains at the end of the year. Moving from dry-season water (the Chobe River, the Okavango Delta), the zebra move south to the Kalahari where nutritious green grasses are now growing. Some zebra herds head for Nxai Pan but thousands more flood the rich grasslands of the Makgadikgadi Pans.

Their numbers peak between December and March as pregnant mares give birth, coinciding with the birthing season of many antelope species and the arrival of migratory birds, all of which makes it a great time of year to see predators in action: this is a land of lions and cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas and leopards.

Lion predator in Botswana Kalahari

Lions are the Kalahari’s dominant predator & are renowned for their large size.

Unlike specialised desert animals, zebras need regular water and so many return to dry-season water sources as the rain dries up and the grasses turn brown. Some however remain by the more or less perennial Boteti River, offering visitors a unique opportunity to see large numbers of zebra during the Kalahari’s more comfortable dry season – between the beginning of June and the end of September.

Elephants and zebras crossing the Boteti River

The Kalahari’s Boteti River is a liquid lifeline for water-dependent animals.

It makes for amazing wildlife photography and visitors will be seeing a lot more than zebras. The Boteti River also attracts elephants and buffalo and the area is famous for the smaller Kalahari characters such as meerkats and honey badgers.

Front row seat for Leroo la Tau guests

Lodges along the Boteti River offer the best vantage points for game viewing.

From the comfort of some of Botswana’s best lodges you will explore by 4X4 or on foot, accompanied by local San guides, and have the chance to sit back and gaze at some of the starriest night skies you will have ever seen. For the adventurer, several lodges offer the chance to ride the famous Makgadikgadi Pans on quad-bike – in fact, you can even camp on the pan for the ultimate sleep-out safari.

Zebra migration on Makgadikgadi game drive

The incongruous sight of zebra herds in a desert-like setting – only in the Kalahari.

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Reviews

Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)