Botswana speaks: The do’s and don’ts of taking drones on safari

An admission: 99% of this article is don’ts.

Drones are a contentious subject to many, especially safari-goers. Camera-carrying unmanned helicopters can get tourists the perfect shot – but they can also disturb the experience of nature and wildlife that they are trying to capture.

A spike in drones finding their way onto safari and conservation areas led to a spate of legal and tour operator clampdowns in 2014. But the drone technology industry grows more competitive and cheaper by the day, as it crosses the rubicon from obscure geeky tech to middle class holiday must-have.

Botswana tour operator Lelobu Safaris say that in the current season they have seen a significant rise in the number of guests wishing to operate “pilotless drone type equipment.”

And no wonder, when we can use drones to capture awesome footage like this:

But anyone wishing to take their shiny new drone on safari should take heed of the following first.

Drones can disturb wildlife and impact on the experience of other safari-goers, says Grant Woodrow, managing director of Wilderness Safaris Botswana.

Woodrow also has concerns regarding how drone technology could exasperate existing problems like rhino poaching or even set a dangerous precedent that leads to hordes of drone-wielding amateur wildlife photographers descending upon and blighting conservation areas.

Consequently, Woodrow’s company have banned the use of drones on their concessions in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The policy applies Wilderness Safari staff, guests and even professional photographers.

The only exceptions are made for locations where wildlife and guests will not be disturbed and where “landscape photography is the aim (for example in remote areas of the Kulala Wilderness Reserve), and of course where such activity is permitted by law.”

Many other operators are now setting in place policies to counteract the use of drones. Further policies in Botswana can be found below.

Letaka Safaris Botswana says: 

Guests are not allowed to bring or use drones on our safaris, the impact of allowing guests to do this would be potentially catastrophic.

We do allow film crews with press accreditations from reputable networks and with the necessary filming permits to use them but even this is restricted to sightings or areas where there are no other guests or vehicles.

Walter Smith, Marketing Director, Desert & Delta Safaris (A Subsidiary Of Chobe Holdings Limited) says: 

When South Africa clamped down on the use of pilotless aircraft, so did Botswana. We are informed that it is now highly illegal to fly Drones in Botswana – more particularly within the protected wildlife areas and BDF have been instructed to shoot them down if seen.

Our policy on drone flying within the areas that we operate in will mirror those of the Botswana Government. Desert & Delta Safaris will not assist or encourage guests to bring their own drones when travelling to our destinations.

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  • Yep you will have problems, it takes a while to get a license, even for hobby use. I got the commercial license and it took a long time.