Tuesday #TravelTip: Packing for a Safari in Botswana

Andrew Beck Andrew, Photographic Travel Leave a Comment

Botswana is without a doubt on of my favourite destinations in Africa and, based on the fact that one should book at least 1 year in advance in order to secure your preferred accommodation, it seems like many others share my point of view.

One of the most frequently asked questions I’m faced with then it comes to travel packages to Botswana revolves around the internal flight weight restrictions. Light aircraft ranging from 10 seaters down to small planes carrying just 4 guests at a time are used to transport guests between remote camps in the middle of the Okavango delta as this is often the only way to reach the small isolated and water-locked islands where some of the magnificent camps are located.

Wilderness Air Okavango Delta

These restrictions don’t apply to the traditional mobile camping safaris where luggage weight is of no concern seeing that all transport is by road.

Pelo Camp Okavango Delta

Pelo Camp is located on a small, heart shaped island in a remote north eastern section of the Okavango Delta.

For safety reasons, weight is strictly limited to 20kg’s on these internal flights. Without venturing into the exact sciences of aerodynamics, however, at the same time referencing a typical scenario, an aircraft is restricted for safety reasons (and by Civil Aviation Regulations) to a Maximum Total Weight for a take-off and again for landing.

The total weight is made up of the actual weight of the aircraft, plus the fuel required for the journey and lastly the allowable balance of weight remaining for passengers and luggage. Further influences include:

  • Distance of the journey which in turn affects both the fuel requirement and the weight available for passengers and their luggage.
  • On the seat-in-plane flying circuits it is impossible to know the exact journey details until a few days before the flight and scheduling is carried out.
  • The temperature on the day. The hotter it is the less dense the air and therefore the longer the take-off run require to get airborne (and in our case the “lack of runway length” on some bush strips).

Wilderness Air outlines the following guidelines related to luggage for all internal flights in Botswana and even on their Namibian circuits:

  • Luggage, including camera equipment and hand luggage, is restricted to 20 kg (44 lb) per person travelling on seat rates, in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Only soft bags will be accepted–no frames or rigid structures can be transported as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft. Wheels on a bag are only permissible if they are not part of a solid frame or rigid structure. A collapsible wheeled luggage frame/trolley (separate to the bag) is allowed, as long as the basic dimensions are similar to that of the bag.
  • The maximum dimensions of the soft bags which can be accommodated are as follows: 25cm (10inches) wide x 30cm (12inches) high and 62 cm (24 inches) long. Please keep in mind that the baggage compartments on the light aircraft are only 25 cm high (10 inches), so the pilots must have the ability to manipulate the bag into the compartment.
Wilderness Air - Bag Showing No Rigid Frame & With Wheels - September 2014

An example of a soft bag which meets the guidelines for luggage on internal flights in Botswana

Whilst these weight and size allowances appear pretty limiting, you should keep the following in mind:

  • Most safari camps/lodges and hotels provide basic toilet amenities.
  • Laundry is provided on a daily basis (weather permitting). Many camps offer this service free of charge, however, some camps/lodges and hotels do charge a nominal fee that would need to be settled directly prior to departure.
  • On a wildlife safari, casual clothing is the order of the day, eliminating the need for any more formal attire

What if my camera bag alone weighs more than 20kg’s?

No problem, all that we would need to do is book an additional seat rate for you. This allows for a maximum of 70 kg (154 lb) excess weight, on the proviso that the bag/s conform/s to our standard dimensions as above: soft bags (no frames or rigid structures), wheels only if they are not part of a solid frame or rigid structure and 25 cm (10 inches) wide x 30 cm (12 inches) high and 62 cm (24 inches) long for each bag/s. At the discretion of the pilot, the bag/s may be placed on the light aircraft seat – as long as they can be physically secured with one seatbelt and do not impact on the comfort of other guests on the air transfer.

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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