Your definitive guide to Botswana
Welcome to Botswana. What you will encounter is a comprehensive and insightful journey through Botswana’s most memorable attractions; a country brimming with prolific wildlife and lush landscapes. Botswana is a gem in the crown jewel of Africa’s safari circuit. Curate your experience and allow us to do the rest for you.
Our Recommended Tour
The Highlights of Botswana
This journey takes you first to Botswana’s Savute region of the Chobe National Park, renowned for its high concentration of lions and its vigorous predator interactions, particularly between lions and spotted hyenas. You can expect to see lots of elephant and buffalo and perhaps even the endangered African wild dog. Stay at the uber-luxurious &Beyond Savute Under Canvas and enjoy friendly Botswana hospitality in this private concession.
Welcome to Maun! You’ll begin your Botswana safari with a short transfer flight to the Savute airstrip where you will be collected and taken to the glamourous Savute Under Canvas, a signature elevated camp. With only five mobile camps available, you can be guaranteed an intimate and less crowded safari experience. Your first day will begin with an afternoon game drive in this close-to-nature area. Look out for bold, brave lions who have been known to hunt elephants in this region. The interaction between predator and prey is a thrilling experience. Meet your first pack of African wild dogs and observe peaceful game …and the rare red lechwe. The serene Savute channel cuts through this area, bringing wildlife from all over to the banks of this pristine body of water. For the next two days you’ll be treated to a personalised safari experience, where professional guides will accompany you on private game drives. Spend as much time as you want tracking animals and learning about the region. Savute Under Canvas is perfect for balmy nights under the stars and excellent meals under a canopy of stars while you’re served by a personal butler.
After an intense few days of exploring the wildlife of the Savute region, you’ll board another short flight to the Okavango Delta. This World Heritage Site is a hub of birds, watery channels and abundant wildlife. Your stay at &Beyond’s Nxabega Tented Camp is a polished take on tented glamping. Set on teak wooden platforms with all-round views of the surrounding landscape, you’re in for a treat at this eco-friendly camp. Among the activities you’ll enjoy for three days are two guided game drives (private or group) with passionate guides who know this region well. Look out for the African serval and leopard, among others …On the water you will be able to relax and unwind on a mokoro excursion on the placid waters of the Okavango Delta. See the world like never before on a powerboat through the wetlands too. A helicopter flight can also be arranged at an additional cost, where you’ll be able to experience a bird’s eye view of this world wonder. Take a little time out and enjoy a professional massage. There are ample packages to choose from. This is a worthwhile treat after a long day on safari. This is a birder’s paradise too, with the Pel’s fishing owl, wattled crane and African fish eagle as the stars of the show.
It’s time to explore a different part of the delta. Fly to Xaranna Delta Camp where the luxury you’ve experienced so far continues. Enjoy a romantic sala and refreshing plunge pool in addition to the amenities you’re accustomed to on this Botswana safari. Although not as populated with wildlife as your previous destinations, you will still indulge in exploratory game drives and mokoro rides to observe smaller but equally as important birds and other game. Look out for elephants aplenty and stalking lions. If you didn’t indulge in a sensory massage at the Nxabega Tented Camp …you’ll still have the opportunity to do so on your last few days. Seasonal activitites include tigerfishing (a must-do experience), powerboat rides (depending on the water levels in the delta) and the option of taking a horseback safari through the wilderness (at an additional cost).
The landlocked country of Botswana is one of Africa’s most popular destinations for foreign visitors. The political stability and continuing GDP growth in the country has meant that more and more resources are being used to boost tourism in the region. This is not only great news for Botswana’s economy, but for those looking to experience an authentic Botswana safari that is both affordable and sustainable …
When to visit Botswana?
- This is one of Botswana’s highest rainfall months with an average of 100mm falling in often unpredictable and heavy downpours, and as a result January is not the most popular time to visit. It does mean that prices are a lot lower, making this prime safari destination more accessible to travellers on a lower budget. Birding is excellent at this time of year; however the water levels in the Delta are low, and the presence of water means wildlife is scattered.
- Botswana’s climate is fairly regular and consistent, with hot, wet summers and mild, dry winters. The north gets the most rain, and precipitation decreases steadily as you head south. December and January are the wettest months, with average daily temperatures between 30°C and 35°C, and hot days approaching 40°C. The most extreme conditions are in the Central Kalahari, but even there nights seldom drop below 15°C.
- The summer rains attract large grazing herds to the suddenly verdant grasslands of the Central Kalahari, Makgadikgadi Pans and the Savuti plains. Wildlife viewing in these areas can be spectacular, with plenty of predator activity against a stunning backdrop of glassy, water-filled pans and towering thunderclouds. The only negative is the state of the roads, which can get extremely muddy and in some places, impassable.
- This is especially true in Moremi Game Reserve and around the Okavango Delta. The local rains don’t have much effect on the water levels in the delta, but they do have a huge impact on the surrounding roads. Moremi’s roads are infamous, particularly from December to March when they’re extremely waterlogged and muddy.
- Perhaps Botswana’s rainiest month with long showers, and hot and humid weather, temperatures ranging from mid-20s to 30s(C).
- The heavy rain makes some parts of the parks (i.e. Moremi) either inaccessible or very tricky to navigate by road, but in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the landscape is a green, grassy paradise with lots of newborn antelope and a great variety of birds.
- By February the summer rains are beginning to lessen, but otherwise conditions stay much the same as January. Average daytime temperatures remain in the low 30°C’s, while the coldest nights in the Kalahari may occasionally drop below 15°C. Towering thunderclouds still form an impressive backdrop to afternoon photographs, and the atmosphere stays clear and fresh after each bout of rain.
- February is still prime time for the Central Kalahari, Savuti, and the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, which attract large numbers of zebra, springbok and oryx. Predators, especially lion, are never far away. Elephants can be harder to spot in summer as they tend to disperse due to the abundant vegetation and increased surface water. Birding, however, is at its best with numerous migrant species and large flocks descending on the pans.
- Road conditions are at their muddiest in February so make sure you’re carrying recovery equipment and drive in convoy if possible. Driving on or near the pans is particularly treacherous and doing so will almost certainly get you stuck. In Moremi, and around the delta, certain tracks may be closed due to flooding and others will have deep pools that you’ll need to treat with caution. Always ask other travellers about the conditions ahead, and look out for no-entry signs or the equivalent – logs or branches laid deliberately across the road.
- The steady drop in temperature and rainfall continues throughout March, but hot days across the country can still reach the mid 30°C’s. In the south and centre of Botswana, cold nights can drop to 10°C, but tend to stay between 15°C and 20°C in the north. There are still afternoon thunderstorms every few days, which keep the atmosphere clear. March remains an excellent month for spectacular landscape photography.
- March and April are considered some of the best months to visit the Kgalagadi. The Kgalagadi is worth visiting at any time of year, but as the summer rains withdraw, the landscape is at its most striking – a vast green grassland against low, red-ochre dunes. As the animals begin to congregate around any pans that are still full, predators, especially lions, gather too, with exciting interactions virtually guaranteed.
- Further north, the Central Kalahari is also green and full of life, though road conditions around the pans remain extremely muddy. To the northeast, Nxai Pan is no exception, although it’s especially wonderful at this time of year as migrating grazers make the most of the lush grassland and abundant surface water.
- In the Okavango Delta, the marula trees start dropping fruit, attracting hungry elephants, often right into camp. There are few things more marvellous than sipping on your drink, watching the sunset, as a magnificent elephant munches happily at a marula tree nearby.
- By the end of the month, the roads in Moremi have usually begun to dry, making driving a bit easier. The water in the delta is now approaching its lowest level and makoro trips may not be possible, but boats out to the deeper channels are usually available year-round.
- The April/May shoulder season is an excellent time to visit Botswana. By April, rainfall has almost completely ceased across the country, although there may still be a few scattered showers. Everywhere is still green and most pans still hold some water, but what is available is getting scarcer, forcing both predators and prey to stay near. Average daytime temperatures are now about 30°C and nights hover around 15°C – pleasant enough for long evenings around the campfire, while also allowing for a more comfortable sleep.
- By mid-April, water levels in the Okavango Delta panhandle are beginning to rise, although it takes a few months for them to filter down to Moremi. The delta itself feels fresh and alive, with fruit-laden trees and tall, green grass as far as the eye can see. April is the start of the antelope breeding season and the well-fed male impala begin fighting it out for females. If you’re keen on fishing, then the deeper waters of the panhandle offer bream (tilapia) from April to August, but tigerfish are more likely from late August/September.
- The Kgalagadi and Central Kalahari are at their best in April – a combination of cooler weather, prolific game, and lush, leafy landscapes. Game is also still plentiful at Nxai Pan and with the rains now almost gone, the muddy tracks are drying quickly. By the end of the month road conditions are much improved across the country. It’s still best to avoid crossing the Makgadikgadi Pans, however. The transit route from Lekhubu to Gweta may not be dry for at least another month.
- May is the beginning of Botswana’s dry winter season and there’s usually no rain at all anywhere in the country. Average daytime temperatures range from 25°C to 30°C, and it’s generally slightly warmer in the north and cooler in the south. Evenings in the north are now regularly below 15°C and by the end of the month, nights in the Kalahari can fall close to freezing. May is one of the best all-round months for visiting Botswana, with good to excellent game viewing, mild, dry weather and relatively quiet campsites and parks that get much busier later in the season.
- There’s good game viewing all across Botswana, but especially in the Savuti region where herds of zebra and buffalo congregate in large numbers. As surface water evaporates, elephants return to the Linyanti Chobe River System, and to the Khwai River and northern Moremi. In the northwest panhandle, the seasonal flood waters are beginning to filter into the rest of the delta although it’ll take another few months before they percolate all the way to the southeast. The gently rising water attracts numerous resident water birds, while migrant species take to the skies in numbers and begin the long journey north.
- June is another excellent month to visit Botswana, although the parks get busier from around the 20th as schools in neighbouring South Africa break for winter holidays. These usually run from the last week of June to mid-July and campsites across Botswana book up quickly. Late June marks the start of the high season in Botswana and July to October is the busiest time. Make sure you book your campsites well in advance.
- June and July are Botswana’s coldest months and night-time temperatures in the Kalahari can drop below freezing. In the north, it rarely freezes, but lows of 5°C are common and morning game drives can be very cold. Daytime temperatures are roughly the same across the country, averaging between 20°C and 25°C. As ever, the north is warmer and hot days may still reach 30°C.
- By June the pans have usually dried, forcing the animals to find more permanent water sources. They begin to congregate in large numbers along the fridges of the Okavango Delta and on the northern waterways of the Savuti Channel and Chobe Linyanti River System. June is a great time to see African wild dogs, as they begin to search for dens for their pups.
- In the Kgalagadi and Central Kalahari, lion and other predators are never far from the permanent waterholes, and large herds of springbok and oryx – which can survive with limited water – can still be seen on the drying, golden plains.
- July is the start of Botswana’s busy season and camps and lodges can book out far in advance. Botswana’s parks and reserves don’t have that many public camping areas and most are small and spread far apart. This makes finding space tricky during peak times, but also means that even when the campsites are at their fullest, Botswana’s parks never feel overly crowded.
- July is Botswana’s coldest month and night-time temperatures can drop below freezing in the centre and south. In the north expect lows of between 0°C and 5°C, and early morning game drives can be icy with the added wind chill. Daytimes average between 20°C and 25°C across the country, with hot days in the far north occasionally touching 30°C. It’s also the driest month in Botswana with practically no rain at all anywhere in the country.
- July is an excellent time to visit the Okavango Delta, Moremi and Chobe, when the wildlife congregates in greater and greater numbers along the permanent water channels. In Moremi, the flood waters are now at their highest and there’s plenty to eat along the myriad waterways. Their bright green fringes lie in stark contrast to the parched surrounding plains, where the thinning vegetation allows for superb game viewing.
- Wildlife sightings in the Kgalagadi and Central Kalahari are still good, although not at their best. The permanent waterholes become the focal points for the larger predators, while the shorter grass makes it easier to spot smaller animals such as the honey badger and Cape fox. By late July the pans are thoroughly dry and crossing from Lekhubu to Gweta should pose no problems.
- August remains extremely dry across Botswana, although by the end of the month there may be a brief shower somewhere in the south. Temperatures, however, are already beginning to rise and while nights in the Kalahari can still fall below freezing, sub-zero mornings are the exception not the norm. Daytime temperatures also climb rapidly during August and hot days across the country will regularly top 30°C. August is very a popular safari month in Botswana and campsites and lodges should be booked far in advance.
- In the Okavango Delta, water levels are high, by now having reached as far south as Maun. Game viewing along the waterways is at its best and will remain so until the first rains fall in November. Late August marks the start of the barbell (catfish) run in the northwest panhandle. From now to November is also the best time to catch tigerfish and the panhandle’s lodges and houseboats are at their busiest.
- Away from the delta, water is extremely scarce and the animals gravitate to the few man-made waterholes. The Kgalagadi’s Kaa Gate and Nxai Pan’s South Camp both offer oases in a dry and desolate land. Kaa Gate is known for its black-maned Kalahari lions, and no stay at South Camp is complete without a thirsty elephant trundling through the campground.
- Northern Botswana stays completely dry during September, but the centre and south may receive a few scattered showers. Temperatures climb rapidly throughout the month and no longer drop below 0°C, even in the Kalahari. Average lows are between 10°C and 15°C, a bit cooler in the south and warmer in the north. By the end of September, the days are hot everywhere, averaging over 30°C and approaching 40°C in Maun and Kasane. September is another busy month in Botswana, and the popular northern camps should be booked well in advance.
- September and October are particularly impressive along the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers. Thousands of animals rely on these waters for survival, especially elephants, which can drink up to 200 litres of water a day. After a long, hot day foraging for food, hundreds of elephants gather along the river, often running the last few metres, trumpeting wildly in their excitement and thirst.
- Moremi is also excellent in September, although by now the days are getting very hot. The dry, thin vegetation makes for excellent wildlife viewing and the cooler mornings and evenings are best for predator spotting as they come to the channels to drink. By September, the Okavango’s barbell (catfish) run is in full swing and it’s also prime time for tigerfish in the northwest panhandle.
- In September, the Kalahari and pans are almost at their driest, but the full October heat has yet to arrive. Wildlife viewing across the central and southern parks can be hit and miss, but the endless golden grasslands have a beauty all their own. And lurking in the grass are the Kalahari’s black-maned lions, stalking the large herds of springbok, oryx and red hartebeest that still roam the plains. While many visitors focus on the north, the south and central parks still have a lot to offer and can be much quieter and easier to book at this time of year.
- October is Botswana’s hottest month and temperatures can exceed 40°C in the north of the country. The south is a bit cooler, but not by much. Nights in the south average between 15°C and 20°C, and in the far north are often much warmer. In the south and centre the rains usually come earlier, with the first afternoon thunderstorms bringing some relief. In the north, it rarely rains until the end of the month and the rainy season doesn’t start properly until mid-November. Despite the heat, October is a popular safari month, especially along the Chobe River which is famous for its herds of thirsty elephant.
- In Moremi, the delta waters begin to drop, opening up the flood plains and providing much needed vegetation for the grazers. The drying pools also trap fish, which draw vultures and other scavengers in for a feast. Away from the delta, the vegetation is denuded and sparse – not at its most beautiful, but great for spotting predators. To the northwest, the panhandle’s barbell (catfish) run is still going strong and September and October are the best months to catch tigerfish.
- By October, Botswana’s seen no rain for six months and the cloudless skies turn a pale, dusty blue – exactly the colour of Botswana’s flag! Be prepared for heat and dust and bumpy roads, but also for excellent wildlife sightings and long, warm evenings under the stars. It can be a particularly beautiful time to be on the pans, especially Baines’ Baobabs and Lekhubu Island. There may be no animals around at all and the midday heat can be intense, but the incredible dusty sunsets are worth it, as the light fades to pastel pinks and purples over the baobabs.
- November is the spring shoulder season in Botswana, a time of soaring thunderclouds, returning migrant birds and, once the rains arrive, fields of new-born calves. It’s still very hot, with daily highs of 35°C to 40°C across the country, and it can get even hotter in the north where nights are humid and often well over 20°C. The start of the rainy season is always hard to predict, but good years can see early November rainfall in the south and central Kalahari, while Moremi and Chobe usually have to wait until later in the month.
- November is all about when the rains will begin and when they do arrive it’s with a literal bang. Before the first thunderstorms, conditions are much the same as October, with increasingly desperate animals drawn to whatever permanent water sources they can find. Waters in the delta continue to recede, opening up the flood plains and providing essential, fresh grazing. The Chobe and Linyanti river banks are by now crowded with game and large numbers of elephant congregate on the waterways.
- Once the rains do come the relief is palpable. The dust clears from the skies, the pans begin to fill, and the antelope birthing season begins. If there have been early rains, this is an excellent time to visit the Central Kalahari, where enormous herds of oryx and springbok attempt to protect their new-borns from prowling cheetah and lion. Road conditions are still reasonable at this early stage of the wet season and you can still drive confidently without worrying too much about getting stuck.
- December and January are Botswana’s wettest months, with afternoon thunderstorms a regular feature across the country. The rains are cooling, but daytime temperatures remain high, averaging in the low 30°C’s, but with hot days of up to 40°C or more. Nights tend to be humid and warm, often not dropping below 20°C. The clear atmosphere and thunderclouds make for excellent photographs, and you can expect a spectacular thunderstorm every few days.
- December is the start of the summer ‘green season’ when the vegetation recovers and grazing land is plentiful. New-born calves frolic on the Kalahari plains and are often targeted by the ever-present predators. As the pans slowly fill, more and more animals are drawn to the central parks and both the Central Kalahari and Nxai Pans National Parks have abundant wildlife at this time of year. The Savuti region is also packed with game, although by now the elephants along the Chobe River are beginning to disperse as more water and vegetation becomes available inland.
- As the rains intensify the roads around the pans deteriorate. Thick mud can make some tracks impassable and it’s a good idea to travel in convoy. The roads through and around Moremi also get worse as the rains continue. Large holes in the roads fill with water and the going can be very slow as you navigate around the deep pools and fallen tree trunks.
Botswana’s primary attraction is its vast wilderness. From the endless palm-covered islands of the Okavango Delta, to the moonscape saltpans of the Makgadikgadi region, it’s the perfect destination for anyone seeking pristine, unfenced surroundings.
Botswana’s commitment to safeguarding its wildlife heritage is unparalleled in Africa. The country covers a total area of 581,730 sq km, and approximately 40% of this land falls within a wildlife-protected area. These areas are a sanctuary for the world’s largest concentration of elephant, and a stronghold for other endangered large mammals such as the black rhinoceros, African wild dog, cheetah and lion. For avian enthusiasts, there exists no better place in the world to view the Slaty Egret and Wattled Crane, and seeing the illusive Pels Fishing Owl for the first time has been known to bring bird-watchers to tears!
In 2014, Botswana consolidated its position as a conservation leader by banning commercial hunting, paving the way for former hunting areas to be transformed into photographic safari destinations. The government’s decision to opt for a high-quality, low-impact tourism model means that safari-goers can generally avoid congested game drives, especially when staying in one of the many privately operated concessions, which commonly have their visitor density limited to around one guest per 50 sq km. These concessions, licensed out to top safari companies, boast some of the most luxurious yet eco-conscious lodges and camps in Africa. In order to lease the land, lodge owners must show commitment to uplifting local communities by providing jobs for people in close proximity to concession boundaries. Today wildlife and tourism employs around 45% of adults in Botswana, making it the country’s’ second largest income earner after diamonds.
Travellers can feel secure in the knowledge that Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable and peaceful nations, with the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy and a steady economy.Reserves vs National Parks in Botswana
Botswana is a safari destination that boasts outstanding wildlife density and variety, and it is wild and organic without fences and developed tourist facilities. In this sense, it attracts adventurous travellers who are passionate about nature and wildlife experiences and who are not nervous in the presence of wild animals. Keen photographers would benefit greatly from a Botswana holiday at different times of the year, as varying locations offer unique and interesting natural scenery, not to mention superb wildlife activity to capture.See the world differently on this photographic safari
The terrain in Botswana is rough with plenty of dust, thick sand, and seasonal flooding, so exploring the country by road – which includes long morning game drives in areas like Savuti – means packing an adventurous spirit and tolerance for the natural elements. On the other hand, Botswana has some impeccable luxury options, with exclusive airstrips, seamless service, world-class food, and supreme comfort, which bring extreme comfort to visitors willing to pay. Botswana is easily sewn into an itinerary including Victoria Falls and the Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe’s Hwange and Mana Pools, Zambia’s South Luangwa, and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip; so travellers planning a southern Africa trip should consider including Botswana.
- Travelling to Botswana
The easiest and fastest way to travel to Botswana is a connecting flight from Johannesburg International Airport (O.R Tambo) in South Africa, although there are also connecting flights from Cape Town and Windhoek (Namibia) available. Currently there are no international carriers that fly directly to Maun Airport. Transport in Botswana is relatively efficient. Getting to your lodge or destination is as easy as jumping on an air shuttle service or a safari vehicle, this is where the choice is really up to you based on your requirements, time and budget. Fly or be driven, with each one of these options comes a cost, private air charters being the most expensive while the most viable option would be a guided road transfer. It is also worth noting that some of the more remote camps and lodges are only accessible via aircraft or boat. The best way to get to Botswana is to fly to Maun or Kasane. These two towns have international airports and are located in northern Botswana, close to popular national parks and main roads, and these airports facilitate the arrivals and departures of domestic flights to airstrips in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, and Central Kalahari. Self-driving travellers can easily access Botswana through the border posts from neighbouring countries, so it can be incorporated into a road trip holiday, but time allowances must be made for the length of time spent on the road.Where to eat in Maun
Maun International Airport is the main hub for all flights entering Botswana as a safari destination; the airport is located within the town itself.
Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is located just 10 kilometres north of Gaborone, offering daily one hour flights from Johannesburg and three weekly two hour flights from Harare.12 Botswana questions answered
Kasane International Airport is located around four kilometres south of the town of Kasane and lies just a few kilometres away from the Chobe National Park.
- Getting around in Botswana
Paved highways connect Botswana’s major towns and while most are in good condition, some sections are badly potholed. You’ll need to keep an eye out for these, as well as for both wild and domesticated animals. Stray cattle and donkeys are common near villages and the donkeys can be particularly dangerous. They have a tendency to stand in the middle of the road, refusing to move and forcing cars to stop and drive around them.
Botswana’s traffic police are active on the highways and often set up radar speed traps after villages and vet fences. Don’t be tempted to accelerate back to highway speeds until you see the appropriate signage.
Away from the highways, the road conditions deteriorate rapidly. There’s not much in the way of secondary roads and you can go from tarmac to thick sand in a few hundred metres. Particularly sandy sections include the access roads around Mabuasehube Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi, the Xade Gate road into the Central Kalahari, the main entrance road into Nxai Pan National Park, the road north of Maun to Moremi, and pretty much everything from the Savuti region to the Chobe River. An unusual route, and perhaps the sandiest of all, is the north-south track between Khutse Game Reserve and the Central Kalahari. It’s about 230km of deep sand from Khutse to Xade Gate and shouldn’t be attempted lightly.
There are long distances between parks, lodges, campsites, and towns, so travelling by road can be time consuming. Fortunately, much of northern Botswana is land dedicated to conservation and even when driving outside of the national parks, wildlife roams free, so the opportunities to see animals en route between locations are abundant.
Fly-in safari goers will save plenty of time as they make use of Botswana’s many scheduled flights and air-transfers, but this method of travel is obviously more expensive. There are road transfers available from the major towns, which offer a more affordable way to get from A to B, and although more time consuming, allow more time for game spotting.
- Wildlife in Botswana
The wilds of Northern Botswana safeguard the largest elephant population in the world. Huge breeding herds and large solitary bulls traverse the landscapes of Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve. Chobe’s broad-leaved woodlands and riparian forests are home to the endemic Chobe bushbuck and other lesser-known antelope species like puku, sable and roan. Chobe also boasts the highest bird species diversity in Botswana (468 species), including birds found nowhere else in the country like the Schalow’s and purple-crested turacos, trumpeter and crowned hornbills and the crested guineafowl.
Savute, in the western Chobe region is notorious for its large lion prides, historically numbering up to 30-odd individuals. The unpredictability of Savuti’s water supply has been known to set the scene for dramatic feats of survival, including hibernating crocodiles and bold lions preying on adult elephants. Savuti’s vast savanna plains are perfect for enjoying sightings of Burchell’s zebra, tsessebe, giraffe, and impala.
Red lechwe splashing through the swamplands, hippopotamuses trodding confidently out of water at midday and lions swimming across water channels are just a few of the spectacular wildlife sightings awaiting visitors to the Okavango Delta. The Okavango comes into its own during winter months when rainwater from the highlands of Angola fans out over temporary floodplains that teem with wildlife. You could get lucky and spot a semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope from a mokoro, lurking in the papyrus – or a Pels Fishing Owls. These beautiful owls replace their daylight rivals, fish eagles, on perches overlooking deep lagoons where they fish for large bream. The Delta is also the best place to see the near-endemic Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, and special waterbirds such as the Lesser Jacana, White-backed night heron and African skimmer.
The cracked and dry Makgadikgadi Salt Pans may not look like the kind of environment that would attract a large population of wildlife, but appearances can be deceiving. Come summertime, these desolate dry expanses sprout juicy patches of grass attracting springbok, wildebeest and zebra followed closely by lion and cheetah. Shallow waters flood over seemingly endless pans, attracting thousands of flamingos. Along the Boteti River you can watch Southern Africa’s largest zebra migration, and come nighttime shine a spotlight into the secret lives of playful bat-eared foxes and shy brown hyenas.
- Cultures of Botswana
Travellers greeting local Batswana will notice that the spoken “dumela rra/mma” (man/woman) is accompanied by a handshake with the right hand while the left hand moves to gently grasp one’s own right forearm. This greeting is commonly shared between local people, and tourists are welcome to take part in the tradition.
A large number of people from Botswana and indeed southern Africa belong to a religion called Zionism, which is based on a fusion of African traditions and the Christian faith.
Members of the ZCC (Zion Christian Church), by religious guidance, do not eat pork, drink alcohol, or consume drugs, while some solely consume the white meat of chicken and fish, eradicating red meat from their diets altogether.
Men also wear hats to indicate their religious affiliation.
Furthermore, it is not alignment with the Batswana custom to wash other peoples’ undergarments, and guests at lodges will notice that a laundry service is provided for all items of clothing with the exclusion of personal underwear.
- Languages in Botswana
The national language of Botswana is SeTswana, spoken by the Tswana people in the region, while English is recognised as a second official language and is spoken widely throughout the country. People in remote and rural areas that are not frequently visited by tourists are not likely to speak English well, so some basic SeTswana will go a long way in terms of communicating here. There are also about 20 unofficial dialects spoken by people belonging to less dominant tribal groups, such as Hambukushu, Seyei, Herero, and Kalanga, while only about five of the original 13 Bushman dialects remain, known collectively as SeSarwa.
“Pula” is a word that is revered in Botswana, not only does it appear on the national coat of arms, but it embraces other meanings too.
In its literal sense it means ‘let there be rain’ - in a country that is mostly semi-arid, rainfall is precious and appreciated as a blessed event.
The local currency is pula and it is also the country’s motto and rallying cry (in this context it means ‘shield’), and is shouted out by crowds at football matches whenever the national team, ‘The Zebras’, scores a goal.
- Is Botswana safe?
Botswana is considered one of the safest countries in Africa to travel in; in fact, tourism is welcomed and valued by the local people in general, as it brings opportunities and income. There is no reason for tourists to feel unsafe anywhere in Botswana in terms of crime, as there have been very few reported incidents of petty theft, or other opportunistic crimes, especially against tourists. Having said that, it is always a good idea for travellers to be aware of where their valuable items are stored while travelling and not to neglect common sense when it comes to safeguarding one’s possessions. The most likely place an incident would take place would be near a town and not out in the national parks, so the places to remain vigilant would be at petrol stations, or parking lots where opportunists might linger.
- Shopping in Botswana
Every major town in Botswana has at least one shopping centre or mall, which includes major supermarkets, liquor stores, clothing, furniture, homeware, and electronic shops, in addition to local banks and ATMs. In terms of gift stores and curio shops, some safari lodges stock their own locally made woven baskets, jewellery, wooden carvings and bowls, and these items are usually sourced from communities in the area. A number of safari operators and lodges offer village visits as an opportunity to meet local people, learn about their culture, and understand their way of life, and there are often opportunities for travellers to purchase some locally crafted items. Be warned, these local markets are expensive and it is likely that similar items can be sourced in gift shops in Maun or Kasane at a cheaper price.