Botswana is a country positioned to continue thriving in a way few other African nations can. Ecologically unparalleled and economically on the rise, this country is poised to shine. Formerly one of the poorest nations on the continent a handful of decades ago, its economy has grown significantly while its population has not. It remains one of the most sparsely populated nations, home to under 2.5 million people and therefore enormous wilderness areas – over a third of this country is dedicated to conservation, the north in particular. Botswana contains both one of the world’s largest subtropical deserts and an adjoining inland river delta as large as any other on Earth. The remoteness of its camps and lodges mean more time in bush planes, boats, on foot … you name it … and a safari experience with a flavor of adventure that travelers will find nowhere else!
Bordering Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, Botswana is the heart of southern Africa. The distinctiveness of Botswana tours lie in the country’s relatively recent emergence as a travel destination. While South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania have all played important roles as safari locations for decades, Botswana has found its footing a bit later in the game. The harsh but beautiful ecosystems of the sprawling Kalahari Desert reach into Namibia, and the Okavango Delta that slowly drains into its basin as it heads south, attracting and sustaining mind boggling number of animals from the surrounding drylands.
As the Kalahari stretches to the west, its splendor is manifest in its sands, hardy vegetation, wildlife and people. The San people have inhabited these tracts of land for tens of thousands of years, and their ways of life continue largely unchanged. Having the opportunity to interact with them is an incredible opportunity for travelers, as increasingly few peoples with such intact heritage exist in the world. The second largest conservation in Africa, the nearly 52,000 square kilometer Kalahari Game Reserve’s grasslands host all the classical African wildlife in a massive, wide-open setting that covers over two thirds of the country.
The Okavango Delta is fed by the river of the same name that drains from Angola and Namibia. The delta itself is massive but relatively shallow, and is formed by the Boro, Thaoge and Nghuga Channels that fan out into an ever changing (and sometimes nearly 15,000 square kilometer) surface area. This oasis in an arid desert creates a zone of biodiversity that will astound even experienced safari travelers! Elephants, hippos, black and white rhinos, crocodiles, cranes, fishing eagles and even owls - hundreds of thousands of large herbivorous and predatory mammals, reptiles and over 400 species of bird call this dry country’s expansive wetland their seasonal or perennial home. Irrefutably, this is a wildlife photographer’s dream come true! The Okavango has the honor of having been the 1000th located on be qualified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June of 2014. During the southern hemisphere’s dry winter months of July and August when weather is at its best, the delta grows to several times its more typical size and attracts some of the densest concentrations of wildlife seen anywhere in the world.
A converging area of many points of interest from wildlife to local traditional people, the Khwai Development Trust Community Concession includes an array of activities and prime scenery. The Khwai River serves as the northern border of the Moremi Game Reserve, located on the edge of the Okavango Delta. The area is locally managed and is an example of community-led conservation, empowering locals to be stewards of their own natural and cultural resources. Opportunities for river cruise wildlife viewing, some by mokoro canoe, here are not to be missed, and neither are those to visit with the original inhabitants of the area, the River Bushmen. With a large population in Khwai Village, they are also members of the San people group whose bush people of the Kalahari have gained worldwide fame for their enduring traditional lifestyles.
With so few travelers spread over so large a country, and luxury camps requiring special access by plane, the Botswana safari experience is unlike those you’ll find elsewhere in Africa. Lodges and tented camps, each with their unique style and appointments, await in far-flung corners of this country. Oddball’s Enclave brings fun and a casual atmosphere, while Selinda Explorer Camp’s tiny occupancy numbers and thoughtful expedition-style decor offer an artful and vintage experience near the wildlife-rich Selinda Spillway.
The oldest national Park in Botswana, Chobe is set apart from the rest in its markedly higher biodiversity. Containing the Savuti drylands and marsh area, Chobe exemplifies one of Botswana’s famous traits: being home to populous herds of bush elephants, some of the largest in Africa!. Savuti Marsh Area features wildlife watching amidst its gnarled dead trees that are truly picturesque, having recently been fed once again by the Savuti Channel after a long dry spell. Wading birds especially are conspicuous here, as well as the bee-eaters that are a mainstay of birding in Africa. River safaris and dazzling sunsets here are as magical as such experiences come! Add to these the best of the big cats (lions, leopards and cheetahs) as well as packs of hyenas and wild dogs, and you have a conservation area that is a must-see.
With its location being so central, the options for including other bucket list items as either part of your Botswana safari (visiting the surging Zambezi River and Victoria Falls is a favorite!) or visiting Namibia or South Africa is imminently possible – the only limit is your imagination and sense of adventure! Botswana is calling … and the time has come to answer!