It’s Actually Affordable to Travel Locally

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A breakdown of budget for a weekend getaway in Kasane

GOSEGO MOTSUMI

For most, the festive season is the time to travel, either travelling back home or simply taking a vacation.  There are, of course, a lot of good reasons to take an international holiday: long beach walks in the Maldives, drinking champagne in Paris, or visiting the great Wall of China all make for an exciting itinerary but flights are growing increasingly expensive and the only solution left is to start exploring one’s own backyard.
It’s not strange that many travelers know a place like Dubai better than they know their own tourism destinations such as the Chobe, Ngamiland and the simple reason for not visiting is that these places are perceived to be insanely expensive and can only be afforded by mega Hollywood stars who pay in US dollars. However, these misconceptions were cleared recently when I travelled to Kasane and I found out that its actually affordable to travel locally.
With the help of a young Motswana entrepreneur Ben Mogotsi who tapped into the tourism industry two years ago as the owner of Cars and Guides in Kasane, I was able to come up with a rough estimate of how much it would cost to be a tourist for a weekend in Kasane. There are as many different ways to travel as there are places to visit; Mogotsi and I concluded that to get the best deals is to make early bookings, break away from travel packages and opting for a road trip instead of flying- as it is economical, plus road trips are more fun. The road stretching from the villages of Nata to Pandamatenga is infested with free roaming elephants which at times greet travellers by way of blocking the road, offering a chance of free game viewing.  A return bus fare from Gaborone to Kasane is P400 while self-driving is costlier as you would need four full tanks of petrol for a return trip.
Mogotsi’s business specializes in boat cruises in the Chobe river, game drives in the Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls day trips at a wholesale price for P650 per person, a rate inclusive of all the activities excluding park fees which range between P10 and P70. Moreover, at last year’s Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo one local tour operator revealed that prices were subsidized for Batswana, a campaign that was meant to encourage Batswana to travel and explore their own country.
The best part about game drives is that you get to explore Kasane’s game in an open safari vehicle with raised seating which provides an elevated view but the ‘exciting’ part is that there is not much you can do when an elephant bull strolls up to the vehicle on one of its ‘roadblock’ inspections, you just have to stay calm until it moves right along! Botswana has more elephants than any other country in Africa; 130 451 to be precise, an estimate given by the Great Elephant Census. The elephants can be seen crossing the mighty Chobe river while one enjoys the breeze and majestic sunset on boat cruises.
As much as everybody loves the luxuriousness of a hotel: the clean room, comfy bed, strong shower, and scented soap for the taking (well borrowing), luxury comes at a price. Hotels in Kasane certainly aren’t cheap as they range from P1000 and above per night except if one opts for cheaper options like camping. However, there are times when a hotel can’t be avoided because hostels aren’t everywhere and sharing can be the best option to save up a few bucks. One of Mogotsi’s dream is to, one-day, own land where he would construct an affordable hotel or lodge for visitors frequenting the Chobe area and create more job opportunities in the tourism industry which he says has a lot of opportunities for the youth.
Furthermore, it can be concluded that one may need a budget of about P3000 to cover all costs at the small tourism town of Kasane which falls on the edge of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Dubbed land of the giants by locals there is no question, Kasane is a must-do destination in Botswana and the next time you think you do not have enough money to travel, remember that you do not have to be rich to travel.

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