Botswana

Botswana, a landlocked country in southern Africa, has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods. Luxury safari camps are common, and in the Delta’s Moremi Game Reserve, dug-out canoes are used to navigate past birdlife, hippos and crocodiles. On dry land, wildlife includes lions, leopard and black and white rhinos.

HOW GET THERE

Botswana’s main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Most flights arriving in Botswana are from Johannesburg in South Africa, but routes from Cape Town, Harare and Nairobi are also available. Maun also has a limited number of international flights (Cape Town, Windhoek). The distance between Gaborone and Maun is more than 1,000km. Maun is very much a tourist attraction spot.

There is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes six hours. There is also service from Windhoek, Namibia via the Caprivi Strip which will drop you in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana. There is also bus service from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. See Intercape Mainliner [19] for information on service from Namibia and Zimbabwe. Private shuttles ran until 2004 from Windhoek directly to Maun and in late 2005, such a service was starting up again. Alternatively, there is a public bus that runs from Windhoek to Gaborone every Sunday morning via Ghanzi, where you can catch another public bus that reaches Maun by Sunday evening.

WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE THERE

Wildlife is Botswana’s main draw. Wildlife parks compose nearly one-fifth of the country. In these parks you will find lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, antelope, wild dogs, and hundreds of species of birds. Visitors can take safaris and stay in lodges running the gamut from inexpensive dorms for backpackers with tour buses to $1,000+/night private lodges with your own maid & driver.

Among southern Africa’s most impressive—and popular—wildlife destinations is the Okavango Delta where the Okavango River widens into the world’s largest inland delta. Lying in the middle of the arid Kalahari, the swamps & water channels attract animals from thousands of kilometers around and triples in size (to 100 000 sq. km.!) during floods in July and August. Nearby Chobe National Park has a large population of elephants and it’s also easy to spot many of Africa’s well-known species, especially zebras and lions. The bleak salt pans of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park attract a large number and variety of birds year-round. Other great game parks include Nxai Pan National Park, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, & Gemsbok National Park.

Unfortunately, most of the native tribes in Botswana only dress in traditional outfits and perform rituals for tourists. Nevertheless, for the culture-cravers, the villages ofD’Kar and Xai-Xai have many offerings, including arts, crafts, and the opportunity to participate in various rituals. Tsodilo Hills contain one of the largest collections of rock art on the continent.

ACCOMMODATION 

Most of the accommodation establishments in Botswana are located near the larger towns and cities, but there are also many secluded game lodges tucked away in the wilderness areas. In the towns it is rare for accommodation to be booked up. For the lodges it is safer to book your accommodation well in advance before travelling to Botswana. This can be done on-line or via travel agents that have the knowledge of the country. As with many safari destinations booking through an agent in your own country may work out cheaper than booking direct – shop around with different agents to get the best price.

As a rule of thumb P400 (US$50) should get you an acceptable en suite room in most of the towns. In the smaller towns away from the tourist routes quality and prices will be lower.

 

NOTE

People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. There isn’t much to worry about on this front. Nevertheless, crime has been on the rise over the past several years, so always be aware of your surroundings. Basic common sense will keep you safe from the predatory wildlife in rural areas. Botswana happens to be one of the safest countries in Africa, no civil war, less corruption, human rights, no natural disasters e.g earthquakes or tsunamis.

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A huge storm cell engulfs the sky above the Chobe Reserve in Botswana, as lightning strikes and thunder rolls. Heavy rainfall shrouded this scene minutes after capturing this photograph.
A huge storm cell engulfs the sky above the Chobe Reserve in Botswana, as lightning strikes and thunder rolls. Heavy rainfall shrouded this scene minutes after capturing this photograph.