Botswana

If you would like to experience the diversity and splendor of Africa’s wildlife, consider Botswana. Most of the country is engulfed by the waterless, but vegetated Kalahari Desert. The southern Kalahari is characterized by red sand dunes and yellow grasslands dotted with old, gnarled camelthorn trees. In the north where the Okavango River disappears into the Kalahari sands, a vast, water rich delta in an otherwise thirstland has been formed. A mix of meandering waterways, islands, lush wetlands and grassy plains make this a unique and diverse habitat, home to a wide spectrum of abundant animal, bird and aquatic life. This pristine, scenic beauty is an African paradise.

Fast Facts

Location: Central southern Africa
Neighbours: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia
Geography: Kalahari basin
Vegetation: Kalahari Desert, savanna, woodlands
Biodiversity: 164 species of mammals, 157 species of reptiles, 38 specie of amphibians, 80 species of fish and over 500 species of birds (UNDP)
Climate: Days – mild in winter, hot in summer, mostly sunshine
Nights – very cold in winter, mild in summer
Capital city: Gabarone
Main cities: Ghanzi, Jwaneng, Lobatse, Maun
Population: 1,765 million (2005 est.)
Population density: 3.0/km² (7.8/sq mi )
Languages: English (official), Tswana (national)
Religions: Predominantly Christian, some tribal beliefs
Currency: Botswana Pula
Economy and trade: Mining, beef, tourism
History: British protectorate (1885 – 1966)
Independence : 30 September 1966 from UK
Government: Parliamentary Republic; Democratically elected
Time Zone: Central Africa Time (UTC +2)
Calling Code: +267
Internet TLD: .bw
Drives on the: Left

Country Highlights

Boteti River
About 3% of the water from the Okavango Delta flows south down the Boteti River (and two other channels), before eventually emptying into the southern Ntwetwe Pan. The outflow preserves the delta’s freshwater ecosystem by flushing out salts and other minerals that would otherwise collect in the delta.

Chief’s Island
Largest island in the Okavango Delta of nearly 1000 km². Chief’s Island used to be the traditional hunting ground of Chief Moremi, but is now incorporated into the Moremi Game Reserve where no hunting is allowed. The arid interior of the island is covered by mopane woodlands and acacia thorn-scrub interspersed with clay pans.

Chobe National Park
The second largest national park in Botswana covering an area of 10,566 km² has one of the greatest concentrations of game in Africa. The park probably holds the largest surviving continuous elephant population in Africa, estimated between 60,000 and 80,000 with some sources reporting 120,000. This migratory population shares its range with Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Chobe River
The Chobe River rises in the northern Angolan highlands, traveling enormous distances through Kalahari sands before reaching Botswana, where it forms the northern border. Its course is affected by fault lines which are extensions of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

Cities
Maun – This frontier town, the administrative centre of Ngamiland, lies on the Thamalakane River, the southern edge of the Okavango Delta. It is the tourism capital of Botswana and the gateway to the Okavango Delta.

Kalahari Desert
The Kalahari desert is a large arid to semi-arid part sand basin that reaches from the Orange River up to Angola and Zambia, in the west to Namibia and in the east to Zimbabwe. The sand masses were created by the erosion of soft stone formations. The wind shaped the sand ridges, which are so typical of the landscape in the Kalahari. Only in recent geological history, 10 to 20,000 years ago, were the dunes stabilised through vegetation, so the area should actually be called a dry savanna. Unlike the dunes of the Namib Desert, those of the Kalahari are stable and not wandering. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the Central Northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife.

Khwai area
The area around North Gate of the Moremi Game Reserve is referred to as Khwai, which is one of the best game viewing areas in Botswana. The Khwai River, which is the easternmost branch of the Okavango Delta, brings water to an otherwise arid area and attracts a spectacular array of animals in winter.

Linyanti River
It forms one of the northern boundaries with Namibia. The nearby Linyanti Swamp has a high diversity of birds and wildlife.

Makgadikgadi Pan
The name Makgadikgadi means “vast, open, lifeless land”. The area was once a superlake almost 30m deep, over an area of 80,000 km². The climate changed 10,000 years ago and the lake slowly dried up, leaving huge salt-encrusted pans behind. This area is one of the largest breeding sites for flamingos in Africa, when the salt pans are covered with water in the rainy season.

Moremi Game Reserve
Initiated by the Batawana tribe in 1963, it covers 4,871 km² on the eastern section of the Okavango Delta. The reserve covers mopane woodlands, Acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons. The great diversity of plant and animal life makes this one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa.

Nxai Pan
The fossil pans of Nxai Pan were once part of the great lake that covered central Botswana. These are now largely covered by grassland and typical Kalahari vegetation. The famous ‘Baines’ Baobabs’ are at the southern edge of the park. Nxai Pan National Park offers spectacular game-viewing in the rainy season (November – March).

Okavango Delta
The largest inland delta in the world is formed where the Okavango River is being stopped by some fault lines, causing the waters to from a huge unique wetland. The water flows through a maze of lagoons and channels and eventually disappears in the Kalahari sands. This delta has large populations of mammals, birds, fish and other animals.

San people
Previously known as bushmen, also known as Basarwa in Botswana. Oldest inhabitants in southern Africa for the last 20,000 years, lived in a stone-age culture until a few decades ago. Botswana and Namibia are one of the last “outposts” of the original inhabitants of southern Africa, the San people.

Savute (or Savuti)
This area lies in the Chobe National park and boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife left on the African continent. Animals are present during all seasons. Savute is famous for its predators, particularly its resident lions and spotted hyaena populations.

Selinda Spillway
This watercourse links the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti Swamps in the north. This is the only source of water in a vast area during the dry winter months, attracting large herds of animals.

Tsodilo Hills
The word Tsodilo is derived from the Hambukushu word sorile, meaning ‘sheer’. This isolated cluster of four hills in north western Botswana rises out of the vast, flat Kalahari like a volcanic island. They are rocky outcrops of quartzite schist know as Inselbergs, formed approximately 450 million years ago. The hills are well known for their more than 3500 individual rock paintings in over 350 sites.

Tuli Block
This is one of the few commercial farmlands in Botswana, situated in south eastern Botswana bordering Zimbabwe and South Africa. The Tuli Game Reserve is the largest privately owned conservation area in southern Africa boasting large herds of elephant, antelope and birds.

Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/Zambia)
The world’s largest waterfalls ( Zambezi River), over a 2 km width, plunges 120 m down the Batoka Gorge. Many adventure sport opportunities such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing etc.

Xakanaxa Lagoon
This patchwork of waterways surrounded by floodplains and woodlands lies in the Moremi G.R. Xakanaxa is the only developed area within the Moremi G.R. and offers excellent game viewing.

Zambezi River
Africa’s fourth largest river (2,700 km) begins as a small spring in north western Zambia, where it borders Angola and the Democratic Republic of Kongo. The most spectacular sections of the river are the Cholwezi Rapids, Barotse floodplains and Ngonye Falls in Zambia, Victoria Falls and Batoka Gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the Mana Pools floodplains in Zimbabwe. The large Kariba Dam and the Cabora Bassa Dam slow down the water of the Zambezi to form huge lakes. Over its entire length of 2,700 km, the Zambezi runs through six countries and spills into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. Its unique value is that it is less developed than other rivers and many areas surrounding the river are protected.