The tourism in Botswana is dominated by National Parks and Game Reserves, making it an ideal destination for wildlife viewing. Ironically, almost none of these places are close to the country’s capital city Gaborone. This was the case until 1994 when the Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation opened a nature reserve to the public only 10 kilometers outside the city. What makes Mokolodi Nature Reserve different from the rest of the places in Botswana is its strong emphasis on educating people about wildlife endangerment and conservation studies. Entering this nature reserve, you will find many species under the threat of extinction, so you will come to appreciate the value of Botswana’s precious nature.
Before Mokolodi became a nature reserve, the area was utilized for cattle farming. In 1994, cattle farmers donated 3700 hectares of land to the Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation.
Today, the park not only serves as a game reserve but also features facilities such as a wildlife sanctuary for endangered or injured animals, an education center for children, and a conference center.
The reserve is 10 kilometers south of Gaborone near the Lobatse Road. The landscape mainly comprises of riverine with occasional rocky hills. The portions donated by the farmers make up the bushveld region. The main water source in the area is Gwithian Dam.
Mokolodi Nature Reserve aims to protect the indigenous wildlife in southeast Botswana. The species that needed protection the most were the white rhinoceros. Many national parks in Botswana have a lack of rhino, but the wildlife organization in Mokolodi introduced Southern White Rhinos not only to this area but also to Okavango Delta. There are currently eight white rhinos at the park.
There are no lions in Mokolodi, although there is a project under development to build a lion sanctuary here. Commonly seen predators include leopard, cheetah, and spotted hyena. In addition, the big cat sanctuary in the park aims to treat sick or injured cheetah and leopards.
The other species in the park include warthog, elephant, giraffe, zebra, springbok, waterbuck, baboons, eland, duiker, aardvark, porcupine, serval and blue wildebeest.
There is also a reptile center in the park, where you can meet reptiles, birds, tortoises, and lizards.
Mokolodi Nature Reserve has a large variety of activities that are entertaining, adventurous, and educational at the same time.
Game drives are organized twice during the day. During the two-hour game drives, experienced guides will inform you about the flora and fauna of the region. Another option is to join night drives to spot nocturnal animals such as wild cat species.
Some activities involve tracking or visiting a certain species. Because rhinos are the highlights of the park, rhino tracking must be a high priority here. You can track them on foot with the company of experienced guides. These tours take 3-5 hours including a bush picnic. The groups will be small with a maximum of six people, so each visitor will have time to ask questions to the guides.
Giraffe tracking has the same conditions, except a maximum of 10 people can join.
The facility has an education center that aims to inform children about wildlife. The program is especially helpful for the children coming from disadvantaged families.
The reserve takes advantage of the bush environment by hosting bush braais and brunches after safari drives. The braais are especially worth checking out because you get to taste traditional Botswana meals while watching traditional dancers.
Mokolodi is one of the few safari parks in Southern Africa that offer mountain biking.
In addition to these activities, you will find several annual events such as Easter and Christmas excursions, and wildlife photography competitions.
Climate & Best Time To Visit
Just like most of Botswana, Mokolodi experiences a semi-arid climate with a dry winter and a humid summer.
The area receives almost no rain during the winter between May and September. The daytime temperatures are between 20-25 degrees Celcius, but the nights can get very cold, especially in July that sees 8 degrees Celcius at night.
October – April is the summer season that is more humid than winter. Compared to the rest of Botswana, the humidity is much lower in Mokolodi, so the rainfall is also less frequent and mostly in the afternoon. The recorded temperature range is between 15 and 30 degrees during summer.
Because the climate in southernmost Botswana is not as extreme as the central and northern parts of the country, Mokolodi is ideal to visit all year round. That being said, the reserve sometimes closes its gates to visitors for maintenance, so it is best to enquire beforehand.
Being close to Gaborone is a huge advantage for the Mokolodi Game Reserve. There are several options to reach the park from the city. It is so easy that you can even do it as a day-trip.
The Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is 11 km north of Gaborone. This is one of the busiest airports in Southern Africa, receiving many flights from South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Namibia, as well as from overseas. It is possible to book a safari tour, where the tour guide will pick you up at the airport. You can also rent a 4×4 at the airport for self-driving. Unlike most of the game reserves in Botswana, it is possible to reach Mokolodi by public transport. All you have to do is to take a bus in the Lobatso direction and tell the driver where you want to get off. The drop-off point is 1.5 km from the park entrance.
Tips And Things You Might Need To Know
- Surprisingly, Mokolodi lies in a low-risk malaria zone. However, you must still consult your doctor about antimalarial medication, especially if you intend to go further north.
- During the cheetah tracking tours, you are allowed to stroke and pet the cheetah Letoatse with the help of your tour guide.
- Safari experts agree that Mokolodi doesn’t exactly provide the off-the-beaten-path experience that the bigger reserves in the country do; however, it can serve as a great introduction to Botswana’s wildlife.
- You can expect a large flow of visitors during December and January because of the school holiday season in South Africa. You must book in advance if you are planning to visit during these two months.