If an image of Africa springs to mind it is often set in a landscape of tawny bushveld stretching deep into the hazy distance. Under a burning blue sky herds of antelope move languidly through the sunlit spaces while elephant wallow in the mud around a reed-fringed waterhole. The cry of the fish eagle echoes across the water as a herd of waterbuck crash through the shallows at the sight of a wondering lioness.
In a lot of places in Africa this is indeed part of the backdrop, but in most it is canned, fighting for space and fenced in to protect diminishing stocks of wildlife against increasing human pressure. This is manifestly not the case in Botswana. Here you will find one of last great wilderness retreats of Africa, and here too both a cerebral approach to conservation and a highly principled attitude to tourism. Botswana is a model for the rest of Africa to follow, and you will find wild Africa in similar abundance nowhere else.
Situated on the fringe of the Kalahari Desert, Botswana is a country more or less the size of France with a population of under 1.6 million. It is one of the wealthiest per capita and best administered countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with almost non-existent corruption and a progressive and pragmatic style of government. Vast spaces of quintessential African bushveld are open to the outfield traveler, with neither war, political unrest nor social agitation of any kind to blight the landscape. It is the last great bastion of the African elephant, with open migration routes stretching huge distances. It enjoys a core of wildlife refuges, national parks and conservancies that are model for any region grappling with the conservation of vital habitat and species.
Travel To & Within Botswana
Why Travel To Botswana
If there is any drawback to planning a safari trip to Botswana it is probably simply that nothing but safari potential exists in the country. It has a very limited national culture, the human origins in the main being of a desert nomadic nature, and absolutely no urban vitality at all. In fact it’s towns and cities are grubby little jerry built settlements serving nothing but the most fundamental economic needs of the population. This is done well, it must be added, but with neither panache nor style discernable anywhere.
However if your object is to indulge in a total bush experience then Botswana is the African destination for the connoisseur. There are several remarkable natural features in Botswana, but none as iconic perhaps as the Okavango Delta. This is one of few inland deltas in the world, and one of two in Africa. What makes this particular feature unique is that the waters of the Okavango River spread out into the otherwise arid Kalahari fringe, creating an isolated Garden of Eden around which, and within, a truly astonishing diversity of wild and bird-life proliferate.
If this was not sufficient the great Makadikadi Pan complex in the center of the county flood to a shallow depth annually and attract enormous flocks of pelicans and flamingo, as well, once again, as a huge diversity of associated wildlife.
Of the main national parks the Kgalagadi TransFrontier Conservation Area is the jewel in the crown. It is situated in the south of the country where it abuts a similar conservancy in South Africa to form one of the greatest wildlife parks in the world. Further north are Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, both vast and beautifully preserved wilderness areas, both replete with wild and bird-life, and both managed and protected to a very high standard.
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When To Visit Botswana
The summer months coincide with the wet season in Botswana, and although rain is usually scarce, the humidity register soars and temperatures can exceed 40ºC. At this time of the year the bush is relatively lush, there is standing water across the region, and animals generally tend to disperse, and are more difficult to isolate and view.
Clearly then the optimum time to visit is during the relatively cool and dry winter months between April and October. It is then also that the bush is dry and animals tend to congregate around the delta or the main rivers and waterholes. This makes for the most rewarding game viewing.
The December school holidays in South Africa can prompt a flood of tourists into Botswana, so this is also a time worth avoiding.
The road system in Botswana is excellent, but the poor local driving habits are legendary. Traffic accidents in Botswana are frequent and nasty, and care definitely needs to be taken on the roads. Another source of accidents is wondering livestock, with donkeys, cattle and goats tending to prefer to spend the bulk of their time standing on the tarmac. Again care needs to be taken, particularly at night.
Violent crime is rare, but it happens, and in particular in the main towns. The usual rules of common sense apply.
Homosexuality is illegal in Botswana.
Botswana has been devastated by the HIV/AIDS crises, the facts of which are everywhere to be seen, so above average caution in this regarding is essential.