African Nations At The World Cup In Russia Botswana Emerges as an Up Market Safari Destination

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Botswana Emerges as an Up Market Safari Destination

Botswana is a land of seemingly endless open spaces. Although it occupies an area the size of France, the human population is only 1.6 million. This is one country where wildlife does not face stiff competition for land resources from humans. As a result, animals multiplied and flourished. Botswana can rightfully claim to host some of the best game sanctuaries in Africa. The world’s largest exporter of diamonds by country value is under no pressure to attract more tourists. And the government adopted a deliberate policy of keeping visitor numbers low. The hidden hand of the market responded by adjusting the price to reflect this reality. Botswana has therefore become an exclusive safari destination on the market.

Bill Clinton and his wife went on a safari in Botswana in 1998. The power couple was very fascinated by the wildlife and the serious life and death games they play. Confirming his position at the top of the food chain, the president ate some of the animal species he had previously watched for dinner. His evening buffet included zebra, crocodile, impala in monkey sauce and giraffe. “I’ve tried it all,” he stated with satisfaction. But the former US president is just one of a long line of heavy hitters enjoying Botswana’s wildlife. For example, Hollywood legends Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor decided to remarry here.

Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari desert. It occupies 84% ​​of the country’s land area, mostly in the west, center and north of the country. But the Kalahari is not a desert in the sense of the Sahara. You will occasionally find sand dunes here, but also abundant vegetation in the form of short thorns and bushes, trees and pastures. Very little water, hence the desert mark. In the northwest you will find the Okavango, the world’s largest inland delta. The northeast is a land of gently rolling plateaus punctuated by granite hills and rock formations. The east and southeast have a more colorful relief, where 80% of the population lives. And rain clouds linger longer and drift more freely compared to the rest of the earth.

Today, Botswana is a peaceful, well-governed and relatively prosperous country. The country’s per capita wealth index ranks it among middle-income countries next to Mexico and Russia and ahead of Brazil. But it wasn’t always like that, and the country went its own way. The San people (otherwise known as bushmen) are considered to be the original inhabitants of Botswana. Their descendants survive to this day, some living as their ancestors did for most of the 30,000 years that historians estimate they were here. Later—much later, the Bantu groups, prominent among whom were the Tswana, became masters of these empires.

The modern nation of Botswana was shaped by alliances formed in response to the historical currents swirling in southern Africa in the eighteenth century. The rulers of the day aligned their interests with those of the British against the Boers who were approaching from the south and the Germans from the west. For the British, the value of the alliance was strategic and not much was expected in terms of economic benefit. And so this relationship resulted in the Bechuanaland Protectorate – the forerunner of modern Botswana. The British remained in charge until independence in 1966.

The visitor to Botswana is attracted by the credible intelligence that abounds in the quality of pristine nature reserves. Chobe National Park, one of the best game reserves in Africa, is located in the northeast of the country. The park has the greatest diversity of wildlife anywhere in the country. That’s why the busy Bill Clinton found himself in Chobe on his short safari. Wildlife thrives among the swamps and grasslands that stretch along the floodplains of the Chobe River. Covering 10,560 square kilometers, it is particularly famous for its large concentration and abundance of elephants, estimated at 80,000.

Chobe elephants are migratory and move along the Chobe River, which is their reliable stronghold during the dry season. African elephants are the largest of the elephant species – and those in Chobe are the largest of them all. The population has gradually increased since the 1930s, when the area’s wildlife began to enjoy some sort of protection. The infamous ivory trade, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, fueled the decimation of elephant populations in other parts of Africa. But the elephants of Chobe – thank God – were spared contact with the dirty hands of poachers. Other animals you can see here include some of the usual suspects on an African safari – lion, cheetah, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, antelope, jackal, warthog, hyena, crocodile, zebra. Bird life is also diverse. You will get the best view of the animals by boating or driving down the Chobe River.

The Savuti Marshes of Chobe are considered to be the area with the highest population density of predators in southern Africa. Swamps have textbook features that attract predators. In a flat and hostile environment, they provide a place where wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and many species of antelope gather for a drink. Predators naturally follow – cheetahs, leopards, lions, wild dogs, hyenas, wild dogs and jackals. Some predators like the lion tend to be rather lazy and the environment here is a gift. The usual entry point for Chobe is Kasane, which is about 800 km north of Gaborone. You can get here by flight from Gaborone, Maun or Victoria Falls in neighboring Zimbabwe. Campgrounds and cabins can be found throughout the park.

The Okavango Delta in northwest Botswana is the largest inland delta in the world. It covers 15,000 square kilometers and is formed when the flow of the Okavango River slows down and soaks into the sand. That is why it is called “the river that never finds the sea”. The emerging network of canals, oxbow lakes, lagoons, marshes and islands is very pleasing to look at. But that’s not all of Okavango’s bounty. The delta is full of wildlife – wildebeest, giraffe, hippopotamus, elephant, zebra and buffalo have found a home here. There are also many birds, more than 550 species, some of which live in trees and others in water.

The best place to see wildlife in the Okavango is at the spectacular Moremi Wildlife Reserve. The reserve lies in the middle of the delta and covers 3,000 square kilometers. In Moremi, you view the game aboard a vehicle or by gliding on a makoro (hollow canoe) or other type of canoe. Accommodation is possible in camps and cottages in the delta area. You can stay in tented campsites in Moremi itself, but no permanent campsites or lodges are allowed.

If you’re interested in culture, take a break at Chief’s Island, the largest in the delta, to view ancient rock paintings. The painting was probably done by the artistically minded ancestors of the San. The Okavango Delta should be avoided in summer, especially December to March when most campsites are closed. It is very hot and humid at that time – temperatures rise above 38°C and thunderstorms break out every day. You can reach the Okavango through Maun – the capital of the delta, by flight or bus from Gaborone, 600 km away.

Visitors to Chobe or the Okavango may want to add Victoria Falls to their visit. Victoria Falls is actually in Zimbabwe but is easily accessible from the northern part of Botswana. Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world and one of Africa’s top attractions. The falls are located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, where the ever-flowing Zambezi River, without warning, randomly approaches and then suddenly plunges into a series of basalt gorges in a breathtaking display of multiple waterfalls. The mist and thunder emanating from the falls are witnessed from a great distance.

The shower from the falls maintains the rainforest on the opposite basalt wall, creating an almost constant rainbow visible even in the moonlight. The falls are best seen from the air, so activities like helicopter rides, hot air balloon rides and micro-lighting over the falls are a must. Other exciting activities available include bungee jumping from the bridge – which also provides spectacular views down into the gorge, canoeing, white water rafting, river safari, elephant back safari and many more.

Adventure seekers who travel beyond convenience may want to check out the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. The shallow salt pans cover about 6,500 square kilometers and are among the largest in the world. The atmosphere here is undeniably surreal, with glittering mirages in the vast open terrain broken only by a few baobab trees. The unusual environment will especially attract bird watchers, who will observe numerous flamingos and pelicans. The basins occupy the area between Francistown (410 km northeast of Gaborone) and the Okavango Delta. Makgadikgadi National Park has plenty of wildlife, but not as much as Chobe – so that won’t be the only reason to visit.

Botswana is home to a unique wildlife conservation initiative in southern Africa – the Transboundary Parks concept. The initiative is based on the common sense observation that wildlife does not recognize international borders. Successful conservation efforts in an area adjacent to another country can be reduced to zero if the neighboring countries do not cooperate. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a combination of two parks – the former Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa.

At over 36,000 km2, Kgalagadi is one of the largest conservation areas anywhere in the world. Botswana contributes about 75% of the park in the southern Kalahari desert. The park is a unique protected area because it allows for the large-scale migratory movements of wildlife that were once common in the savannah grasslands of Africa, but unfortunately are no longer possible. Leaving aside the appeal of the rugged beauty of the Kalahari, scientists are extremely curious to find out the secret story of the flora and fauna that have adapted to the seemingly very difficult environment.

For common people, the park is host to the famous black-maned Kalahari lions. You will also see gemsbok, springbok, antelopes, blue wildebeest, cheetahs, wild dogs, jackals, long-eared foxes and leopards. Birdlife is also excellent and of the 297 species recorded, 96 are resident. Getting to Kgalagadi is difficult. You drive 860 km from Gaborone, of which 550 km are tarred and the rest gravel. As this is a cross-border park, you can also access it via South Africa. The park has no permanent tented camps and you must bring everything you need on safari.

The dry season, especially between April and October, is the best time to visit Botswana for a safari. It is then easy to spot wildlife congregated near water sources. The rains come in the southern summer months from November to March. The roads are then difficult to use, and if there is enough water and pasture, the animals tend to scatter. Early morning and night temperatures in winter (May to August) can drop below freezing, especially in the southwest. But the days are cold to warm. In summer, high daily temperatures of up to 38°C prevail. However, cloud cover and rain tend to cool things down a bit. Beware, August is very dry and dust and sandstorms tend to rise from the west.

Don’t forget to pack your binoculars – they will bring the animals closer without the usual risks. A decent pair of sunglasses is a good idea, especially if you’re traveling to the Kalahari, where glare can be a bit of a concern. Also pack photography and video equipment to record the safari for those of your unfortunate friends who may not have been to Botswana. It is recommended not to wear white or light-colored clothing on safari to avoid arousing the animals. Light cotton and linen are adequate for summer. To survive the winter mornings and evenings, you need warmer wraps and sweaters. Women should avoid wearing skimpy beachwear in rural areas outside of hotels and campsites so as not to offend the locals.

Copyright © Africa Point

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