Mainly a roadless wilderness of savannas, deserts, wetlands and saltpans, Botswana is not a place for the faint of heart. If you fancy yourself an experienced traveller, then this destination, which is in the centre of southern Africa, is for you.
Botswana is a landlocked country which extends over 1100km from north to south and 960km from east to west. It’s about the same size as France or a little smaller than Texas.
The landscape is almost uniformly flat, with a few lonely kopjes and scrub-covered savannah here and there. Nearly 85% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert, but the shifting sand dunes that you’d traditionally expect in a desert, are only found in the far southwest, while the great salty deserts of the Makgadikgadi Pans are found in the lower elevations of the northeast. But it’s in the midst of all of this dry land, where you’ll stumble upon an oasis, one of the world’s most precious environmental treasures, the Okavango Delta.
Botswana has a population of 1.36 million people with the official languages being Setswana and English. The capital of Botswana is Gabarone. The average temperature ranges from 25-32 degrees Celsius all year round. The main attractions are Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta.
Quick facts about Botswana
Full name: Republic of Botswana
Capital city: Gabarone
Area: 602,957 sq km; 232,802 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +2 ()
Languages: Setswana (official); English (official)
Religion: Christian (71.6%), Badimo (6%), other (1.4%), unspecified (0.4%), none (20.6%)
Electricity: 240V; 50HzHz
Electric Plug Details: British-style plug: 2 flat blades & 1 flat grounding blade South African/Indian-style plug: 2 circular metal pins above large circular grounding pin
Country Dialling Code: 267
Money matters: Per Capita Income: US$2040
Currency: Pula (P)
Medical matters: Malaria, HIV/AIDS
Chobe National Park
Covering 11,000 sq km (4300 sq mi), Chobe National Park
has the biggest variety of wildlife
compared to anywhere else in Botswana. A good place to start exploring it is at its northern tip, in a town, called Kasane. Its location makes a good base for visits to the park. With up to 500 herds of elephants
, they are Chobe’s main attraction, closely followed by lions, cheetahs, hippos, hyena, crocodile, buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs, otter, zebra, antelope, jackals and many bird species.
No landscape on earth is like this. Once an enormous lake, the Makgadikgadi Pans
are now three immense salt pans (the largest on earth). During the sizzling heat of late winter days, these stark pans take on a disorienting and ethereal austerity. All sense of space and direction is completely destroyed by heat mirages as imaginary lakes shimmer and then disappear, and ostriches take flight, while stones seem to turn into mountains floating in mid-air.
During annual rains, the hollows in the pans form temporary lakes. The water turns fringing grasses green, and herd animals and birds in huge numbers arrive for the party.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta
is one of the world’s last untamed wildernesses. Starting at the Angolan highlands, this watery mass of 16,000km² elaborate channels and islands is the world’s largest inland delta. It lies in Botswana’s northwest, and flows in the opposite direction each year. The middle of the delta, which consists of 20% of the greater delta area, is protected by the Moremi Wildlife Reserve.
Local farmers used to call the Okavango Delta a ‘useless swamp’, and wanted it to be drained so they could use it as farmland. Fortunately, the delta has been recognised for its significance in conservation, and today this mysterious, placid and beautiful area is a sanctuary for a huge elephant population, as well as lion, antelope, cheetah, giraffe, wild dog, leopard, crocodile, hippo, buffalo, a big number of bird species, and over 80 species of fish. Needless to say, the African Fish Eagle
finds this place to be paradise.
Bear in mind that the Okavango Delta is incredibly big, which makes spotting wildlife a little more challenging than your average game park. This is not for the impatient traveller, but rather for the traveller who wants to experience Africa for what it is, and not only for the Big Five.
If you fancy yourself a patient and laid-back traveller, then jump on a plane or 4x4, and let it drop you off at the Okavango Delta for a few days. Here you’ll drift around on a mokoro (dug-out canoe) and go on walking safaris – the best ways to explore the delta. Don’t despair, you will have a poler with you, who will steer your mokoro for you and will find safe spots for you to swim. You’ll also get a chance to go on a walking safari with an experienced delta guide, and track some spoor. Your guide will fill you in on everything you need to know about the wildlife, birdlife, plant life and all the intricate ways of the delta.
Once a dusty little frontier town where local people brought their cattle to trade, Maun
is today Botswana’s tourism capital and the springboard for safaris into the Okavango Delta and Moremi Wildlife Reserve. The town is now home to over 30 000 people who live in an assorted mix of traditional huts and modern buildings. It has shopping malls, restaurants, banks, a few hotels and some happening bars.
Flights into the Okavango Delta can be organised from Maun Airport, and there’re several companies offering a one-hour sightseeing flip by six-seater plane. The town itself doesn’t offer much to see, except for the local tribesmen bringing their cattle into town for sale, or the occasional indigenous red lechwe grazing alongside the goats and donkeys along the riverbanks.
Moremi National Park
Mostly described as one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa. Moremi National Park
is a mixture of lagoons, floodplains and mopane woodland and acacia forests. Its incredible diversity of plant and animal life
has made Moremi famous.