Expanding over a vast region of almost 600 000 square kilometres, Botswana is approximately the same size as France or Texas. Botswana is landlocked by Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. In average, Botswana is situated 950 metres above sea level and is located more than 600 kilometres from the nearest coast. The Tropic of Capricorn bisects Botswana.
The most dominant characteristics of Botswana are its flatness and aridity. Besides the eastern part of Botswana, three-quarters of Botswana is a desert. Only the eastern part of Botswana has summer rainfalls, which is slightly higher, then the rest of the country. This is what makes the Okavango Delta even more extraordinary. It is a beautiful wetland within a desert, getting its waters from rain falling in central Africa, some thousand kilometres away.
Annually the floodwater flows into the Okavango area in Botswana from its source in the moist central African highlands. These floodwaters flow from their catchments southwards and into the Kalahari Desert to create a unique wetland, which supports and sustains a wide diversity of wildlife. Besides the magnificent game viewing in Botswana, the beauty of this water wonderland is breathtaking. To the north-east of the Okavango Delta, one can find the Chobe National Park and the Linyanti Game Reserve.
The many different habitats within the Chobe and Linyanti parks ranging from marshes, waterways, and riverine forests to dry woodlands and the world-famous Savute Channel, have created a region which is renowned for predators and vast concentrations of game, in particular, elephants. The grasslands of the Kalahari, as well as the expense of the Makgadikgadi saltpans, complement and, are in complete contrast to the lush, fertile, game-rich Okavango and Linyanti areas.
As many as 580 different bird species have been recorded in Botswana with 76 larger mammal species known to occur and more than 85 fish varieties identified in the Okavango.
THE DIFFERENT REGIONS IN BOTSWANA
The Okavango Delta
The Delta in Botswana is without doubt Africa's unique wetland and is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Although the Okavango Delta's wildlife diversity and concentrations are modest in comparison to some other safari destinations within Botswana, the Okavango offers a truly unforgettable and magnificent experience.
Coming from the Angolan highlands and filled with the summer's rains, the two rivers turn not to the west and the Atlantic ocean, but east and inland, converging to form the Okavango river in Botswana. Many million cubic metres of water annually floods the 15,000 sq kilometres of the Kalahari, creating the world-renowned Okavango Delta, which is the largest inland delta in the world.
The contrast of desert and wetland is what makes the Okavango Delta in Botswana unique. Dryland and wetland animals cohabit this region as they do nowhere else in the world, creating exceptional associations of plants, amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles. Beautifully located on palm-studded islands and dry-land areas, several safari camps and game lodges await the adventurous travellers from all over the world.
The towns of Maun & Kasane in are the gateways to the Okavango Delta, and each is served by international scheduled flights. Light aircrafts transfer guests to and between the game lodges and camps during their safari holiday in Botswana.
Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana
The Moremi Game Reserve is in the northeastern Delta including Chief's Island and the private concessions on its fringe in Botswana. Beautiful game, birdlife and spectacular scenery await the traveller. It is this region of Botswana which is home to the country's most beautiful small and seasonal game lodges.
Chobe National Park, Botswana
The Chobe National Park is Botswana's best destination for game viewing particularly on the Chobe riverfront and in the Savuti region. Therefore, the Chobe National Park in Botswana is a prime destination for first-time visitors to Africa and provides excellent opportunities for specialists in regards to observing Africa's wildlife in its natural surroundings.
The Central Kalahari of Botswana
The Kalahari in Botswana, which encompasses the Makgadikgadi and Nxai pans, is not a popular safari destination. This region is, however, a fascinating ecological habitat heavily influenced by larger geological factors and seasonal water. A game safari in the Kalahari of Botswana is an enriching, adventurous and unforgettable experience.
The Kalahari, which is the vast area of land lying 300 metres thick over most of Botswana and south-central Africa, is a desert only in the sense that it has no surface water. Far from being lifeless, the Kalahari Desert in Botswana is home to many plants, animal and bird-life. It is also home to the dying race, that of the San or 'Bushmen'.
While game concentrations are low, the Kalahari Desert in Botswana is home to many species that are not found in any other areas such as the Okavango Delta or the Chobe National Park. These animals include the Eland, the gemsbok (oryx), the red hartebeest, the brown hyaena, the springbok, the steenbok, duikers, as well as the bat-eared fox. Of those species, which the Kalahari Desert does have in common with other regions in Botswana, the desert specimens are different. This wildlife includes the lion, leopard and the cheetah of the Kalahari. These animals are substantially larger than their wetland cousins. Also, many smaller animals may be seen while exploring the Kalahari in Botswana such as the porcupine, the honey-badgers, caracals, a variety of little cats, mongooses and suricates.
Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans
The bed of a prehistoric lake which still puzzles archaeologists are the strange Makgadikgadi Pans. This region is a unique experience for those travellers whose purpose is to see many of Africa's wildlife. The lasting impression of the Makgadikgadi pans is of unlimited space, endless sky, limitless silence. A solitary walk onto a salt pan is an extraordinary experience never to be forgotten.
Besides the Makgadikgadi being salt pans, vast regions are rolling grassland with islands of acacia, and the desert which is found here is by no means lifeless. Large mammals are not often seen here. However, rare species are to be found in this region such as the brown hyaena and the elusive aardwolf.
Several times throughout the year, the Makgadikgadi pans burst into the life of immense proportion, depending on prevailing conditions. Red quelea may be seen in their tens of millions, tiny birds consuming three times their weight daily, darkening the sky in their multitude.
As the seasons and weather patterns change over the desert, continually evolving the Makgadikgadi pans, vast migrations of zebra may be encountered, when the air is thickened with dust. When the Makgadikgadi pans fill with summer rain, flamingos are attracted providing for a spectacular viewing.
Tsodilo Hills in Botswana
Reaching out of the flat Kalahari desert landscape, the four quartzite massifs called Tsodilo have always been a place of mystical significance to humans. The San Bushmen respect the hills as the home place of the gods that rule the world, and their artists have left one of the most significant collections of prehistoric rock art in the world, spanning many thousands of years.
The Tsodilo Hills are today a World Heritage Site and protected under international treaty. A small community of San still lives here at the foot of one of the Tsodilo Hills. A day discovering ancient rock art with a local guide is highly recommended to anyone with interest in classical civilisations to explore the hills.
The Selinda in Botswana
The Selinda Spillway is a relict watercourse that connects the Okavango Delta to the Linyanti Swamps in Botswana. It is linked via the Chobe River floodplains to the Chobe River and the Zambezi.
Although dry for many years, the Selinda has recently begun to flood again from its Okavango side. The Selinda region provides excellent game-viewing, especially for predators, with lion, leopard, cheetah and Cape Hunting Dogs being especially prevalent here. Several small and intimate camps afford access to the area, and activities are varied, from day and night game drives to overnight walking trails.
Although dry for most months throughout the year, the reward of exceptional game-viewing is a powerful incentive to include the Selinda in any safari where game and predator viewing is a priority.
THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA
Capital City: Gaborone
Population: 1.8 million
Coordinates: 22 00 S, 24 00 E
Area: 600,370 sq km
The national language spoken in Botswana is Setswana, The official language, however, is English.
The currency in Botswana is the Pula (P) which is made up of 100 Thebe.
2 hours ahead of GMT London all year round.
Summer is November to March and usually brings very high temperatures. It is also the stormy season, and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down, although only often for a small period.
Winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. Winter days are invariably sunny to warm; however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing point in some areas.
The time periods in between - April early May and September & October are dry months, but the days are colder than in summer and nights are warmer than in winter.