One of the unique features of a safari in Botswana, as opposed to the Mara in Kenya or Serengeti in Tanzania, is the ability to take game drives during and after the sun sets. This special time of day in the bush sees the emergence of numerous nocturnal species and is also prime hunting time for a lot of big cats, who tend to spend the day resting in the shade to keep out of the sometimes fierce African sun.
Night drives are not offered as standard at all the lodges throughout Botswana, as government legislation forbids night time driving in public Parks such as Chobe or Moremi. However, many lodges are situated outside these Parks or in private concessions where night-driving is allowed.
Botswana is home to a large leopard population, and it is these elusive and solitary animals that are best seen at night. In addition, you may catch sightings of civet, genet, porcupine, scrub hare, bush-baby and [cont.]
various mongoose species, along with lions on the move and hunting for food.
Although you will often have a single driver who acts as a guide during the day, at night you will have both a driver and a spotter, who carries an extremely powerful lamp for searching distant trees or lake edges for the tell-tale reflection of predators' eyes. The spotting skills of these men and women is often remarkable - at night it is very hard to see anything not lit by the beam of the guide but even then things are not always obvious - you will often have to rely on descriptions from your guides or fellow travellers to point you in the right direction.
Another nice element of a night drive in Botswana is the 'Sundowner' - an opportunity to stop mid-drive as the sun sets and sip a beer or a gin and tonic from the cool-box - all very civilised! This is also a good time to slap on your insect repellent as the mosquitoes come out in force at this time - we would recommend long sleeves and trousers at this point. It can get cool on the night drives, especially earlier in the season (May - July), so do make sure you have a fleece at hand. Despite this, night drives are an unmissable part of a Botswana safari - you will never forget being seated in the middle of a group of female lions stalking a herd of buffalo or watching a leopard dragging its latest kill up a tree.