Visiting and staying in national parks when travelling through Africa will be fairly high on your to do list. Booking them, without outside assistance, however might not be as easy as you imagine. I came to this realisation during my most recent visit to Botswana. Therefore, this post to assist you on how to book national parks in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Booking in South Africa with SANParks
Let us start with the easiest one South Africa. The SA system to book national parks are great. Simply head to the SANPARKS website. On here you can see the accommodation, activities, rates and fees, and even how to get there. And for most of the parks you can even download a pdf copy of the map.
Once you are ready click book and proceed to the booking page. From here you can book and pay accommodation, park fees and activities. Park fees and accommodation will be your major concerns when visiting a national park.
The only thing you will need to do is create a profile and you are ready to go. I have a profile and I have used it to book on multiple occasions. You will receive a confirmation email and take that along with you as surety, but they will be able to access your booking on their system up[on arrival.
You can book and pay for your accommodation at the parks using cash or credit cards. However, you run the risk of your preferred camp or accommodation type being fully booked.
If you are going to spend an extended period of time in South Africa and will be visiting multiple national parks consider getting a wild card. You pay a once off fee and have unlimited access to 80+ parks in South Africa. You can purchase the card online or at any of the park gates.
The Namibia Wildlife Resorts in Namibia
In Namibia booking a national park works slightly different. We have the Namibia Wildlife Resorts company act. This established NWR as the entity responsible for managing resorts in national parks. Not exclusively, they are allowed to enter into partnerships. However, this is the case for the majority and more popular parks. For a list visit their website.
As I mentioned, two major costs. The first is your accommodation which you can book directly on the NWR website. Head to website, click on book now and take it from there. You will have to create a profile and you can pay online as well. As easy as that. All you would need to know is where you want to go and for how long.
You can also book in person at the office in Windhoek or at the office in Swakopmund. This of course requires you to be in Namibia. In addition, you can email or phone, but I would not advise to do this. All you are going to do is add a lot of unnecessary frustration to your life. But if all else fails this is the route to go. In my opinion the best is to book online. It is completely safe and your booking will be waiting for you when you arrive at your camp.
The second cost is park fees which are payable separately to your accommodation. You cannot do this at the NWR or on their website, but directly to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Meaning you will have to make two separate payments. Fortunately, you don’t have to run around as all park fees are payable at the park you are visiting.
Not always at the gate, not always at NWR reception, but there will be a facility for you to pay. You can pay in either cash or credit card. To be safe always have enough cash on hand as there might be issues with connectivity. For the latest park fees see my post on New park fees in Namibia.
You can book and pay for your accommodation at the parks using cash or credit cards. However, you run the risk of your preferred camp or accommodation type is fully booked.
Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks
Finally, Botswana where it can get quite tricky to book national parks. They have the Ministry of Environment, Natural resources conservation and Tourism and within this the Ministry the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP). Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org OR +267 397 1405 Preferably, you want to call and not email. I’ve been told that it takes a while for emails to be answered.
The DWNP like the MET in Namibia, will receive payments for park fees. Remember I said 2 major costs. Parks fees can be paid in cash or by card at their offices in Gaborone or Maun. They have other offices in the country, but I did not go to these personally.
This is an unnecessary hassle, because you can pay park fees in cash at the gate of all National parks. Remember this is cash only. For current park fees click here. One thing I need to mention about park fees. Unlike in SA & Namibia they are not calculated as a 24 hour period, but per day. If you arrive at 5pm in the afternoon and leave at 9am in the morning you will be charged for two full days instead of one 24 hour period.
Secondly, is booking your accommodation and this is where it gets tricky. The DWNP owns and operates some, but not all of the sights. Private operators manage the remained of the camps and sites. So for you it is to figure out which sites or camps belong to which operators. I’ll make it easy for you and provide a list.
So yes the system is not as easy as the one in SA where you simply go onto a website. You’ll have to contact multiple operators and the mix and match until you’ve got everything booked. You can then contact DWNP and arrange to park fees according to your dates if you don’t want to pay at the gate.
You can also book and pay accommodation at the gates, but due to the popularity and limited space available in Botswana parks and reserves I would not recommend this.
Alternatively, you can use a booking agency like Botswana footprints, which will for a fee do everything for you. I used them for the first half of my trip and their service was impeccable. I contacted them 2 weeks before arriving and was sorted with all my vouchers on the day I arrived. This allowed me to familiarize myself with the country and then explore on my own for the second half of my holiday.
You still need to do a bit of research to tell them where you want to go and which camps you want to stay at. And for that you can watch my 6 weeks in Botswana video and go to the Tawana self drive site, they have an amazing break down of park fees, campsite booking information and pictures of the camps and individual sites in the parks.
And that is How to book National Parks in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana