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Botswana – Africa’s Exclusive Gem!

Botswana – Africa’s Exclusive Gem!

Botswana has a world class reputation as the place to see Africa’s natural wonderland in the raw.  That’s because very few countries offer Botswana’s diversity of safari experience.  Its wilderness areas are unsurpassed thanks to the vast Central Kalahari Desert and the aquatic wonderland of the Okavango Delta. 

The country’s policy of low impact tourism means that the majority of camps are intimate and eco friendly whilst occupying huge private concessions where off roading and night drives play a major part in the overall game viewing experience – end result: your own practically exclusive African safari adventure in the company of expert guides and trackers.

A Botswana safari offers diverse game viewing experiences including open 4×4 day and night game drives, river cruises on the Chobe and in the Okavango Delta mokoro trips and fast motor boat trips through its many channels.

Botswana is a good year round safari destination, in the main accessed by light aircraft landing at camp airstrips.  The dry season reaches its peak from July to October in the Delta, Linyanti and Chobe regions when excellent game viewing is to be had. Between December to April the rains have created a green oasis in the Central Kalahari Desert where herds of wildebeest and zebra migrate to drop their young and opportunistic predators follow in their wake.  The Tuli Block, being in a semi-arid zone, is a destination that is great to visit at all times of the year and whilst not a Big 5 area boasts impressive leopard and cheetah sightings as well as impressive elephant populations.

Other Botswana activities include horse back safaris, quad biking on the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, bushman experiences in the Kalahari and walking on the many islands of the Okavango Delta and its floodplains.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Wilderness Safaris – Dana Allen

 

 

Introduction

Botswana is a country of variation and diversity, highly prized for its safaris and game. From the arid Kalahari to lush forest glades, from spectacular herds of elephant and buffalo to prolific populations of predators, Botswana is one of Africa’s top safari destinations. The extensive diversity in ecosystems, landscape and habitats results in a rich abundance of flora and fauna; in particular a rich diversity of 550 bird species. Botswana is also home to some of Africa’s largest free roaming herds of buffalo, antelope, zebra and elephant. 120,000 elephants reside in the country; the largest concentration of elephants in the world.

40% of Botswana is designated national park or private game reserve and is home to endless pristine wilderness almost devoid of human imprint as a result of sustainable tourism over recent decades. What was once an economic wasteland before the country gained independence in 1966, Botswana has exploited its natural assets to become one of Africa’s more economically successful nations. The country is also home to evidence of ancient Bushmen activities; from 10,000 year old rock engravings in the south, to over 4,500 rock paintings in the Kalahari Desert’s region of Tsodilo.

Population:  2,155,784 (July 2014 estimate)  Source: CIA The World Factbook

Capital: Gabarone

Religion: Christian is the dominant religion, followed by indigenous religions.

Languages: Official language is English but Steswana, the national language, is widespread.

Time Zone: GMT +2

Country Dialing Code: +267

Currency: The Botswana Pula (BWP). It is advisable to carry USD in cash for tipping and small purchases. Small villages contain limited facilities so it is preferable to change money at airports or in major towns where credit card cash advances are potentially available.

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Most large cities and towns have ATM’s and cash advances are available in major cities though Barclays Bank or Standard Chartered Bank.

Electricity: 220-240 volts AC. Plugs used in the country are British-style or South African/Indian style. Many lodges are situated in rural or remote areas so operate on generators for around 6 hours daily. It is strongly advisable to bring spare batteries.

 

Topography

Botswana lies landlocked within the centre of southern Africa, spanning over 585,370km² of which two-thirds lie within the tropics. Botswana is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, Namibia to the north and west, and South Africa to the south and southeast. Early travellers referred to the country as ‘thirstland’ as 84% of Botswana is comprised of the Kalahari Desert; the largest continuous expanse of sand in the world.

Two main features stand out within the country; the enormous salt pans and a huge inland delta of the Okavango River. The agricultural south-east side of Botswana is rockier and less flat; sandstone and granite hills lead down to the Shashe, Limpopo and Marico rivers, and such areas are where most of the country’s population is distributed.

 

Climate

Botswana’s climate is semi-arid. The country is hot and dry for much of the year apart from the summer months’ rainy season. Most of central and northern Botswana has a sub-tropical ‘desert’ climate, consisting of a wide range in temperature, humidity and rainfall.

Seasons

The summer season begins in October and ends in March, bringing very high temperatures (<45°C), rainfall (<650mm) and humidity (<80%).

The winter season from May to August is dry with clear skies and virtually no rainfall (<250mm).

Month

Conditions

January-February The wettest months, especially in the north and east of  the country. A belt of rain known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone works its way south. Regular and often torrential downpours common in the afternoon. Maximum temperature 40°C, average 20-30°C. Humidity 50-80%
March Rainfall decreases. Few nights will be below 10°C, average 18°C.
April-May Cloudless with few showers. Maximum daytime temperatures are around 33°C with a minimum night time temperature of 10-15°C. The occasional chilly nights in the Kalahari are not uncommon when record temperatures can drop just below freezing.
June-August The coolest months with a temperature range of 25-30°C during the day, and lows of 5°C at night. August is slightly warmer where daytime temperatures may exceed 30°C.
September-October The peak of the dry season. Early afternoon temperatures average around 30°C, and nights seldom fall below 10°C (average at 20°C). Humidity is low during these months, averaging between 20-40%.
November Often similar to October’s conditions, however humidity can build up and clouds start to form in early afternoon. Extensive cloud cover results in cool temperatures and showers in the late afternoon. Mornings are generally fine and hot with blue skies.
December Temperatures are usually between 20-30°C throughout the day and night, with a maximum daytime temperature of 40°C. Coolest nights can be 10°C. Rainfall occurrences increase during the afternoon.   Humidity can reach 50-60%.

Temperature & Rainfall

Temp & Rainfall Chart North West Botswana

 

Climate data Central Kalahari

Passport & Visa

It is essential that your passport is valid at least 6 months beyond intended stay. At least two blank passport pages are required, otherwise passport entry will be denied.

Visitors from the EU, most Commonwealth countries and the USA do not require visas. Visitors requiring visas should apply in advance which are normally issued for 30 days.

 

Health

It is vital to be up-to-date with the necessary immunisations, which often take 6 weeks to organise. No immunisations are required by law for entry to Botswana however there are several precautions that should be undertaken before departure. It is wise to be up-to-date with tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B and typhoid. Vaccinations against rabies and meningococcus may also be recommended. Malaria occurs throughout Botswana so it is essential to take all precautions against the disease. Please consult your doctor.

Drinking Water

Within main cities and towns, water is usually purified so is safe to drink. In rural areas, most camps and lodges use water from boreholes which vary regionally in quality. Within the Okavango Delta, water is generally safe to drink as the low population densities ensure low contamination levels.

Food and Drink

Camps, lodges and hotels that cater for overseas visitors serve a range of international dishes and the quality of food in the most remote camps in usually very high. Local beer is available and there are no real restrictions on alcohol.

Insurance

Visitors to Botswana are advised to take out a comprehensive medical insurance policy to cover them for emergencies.

Shopping, Tips & Extras

Woodcarvings, basketry, handmade jewellery and woven goods can be purchased, along with traditional souvenirs. In urban areas, supermarkets and larger retail outlets are available.

Tipping

Tipping is widely expected in tourist hotels and restaurants. Often a service charge is automatically added, but where not, a 10-15% tip is appreciated. Tour guides and game rangers often rely on tips for their income. It is recommended that guides are tipped US$5-US$8 per guest per day, and general staff tipped US$3 per day.

Luggage & Clothing

Smaller, privately chartered planes may have a maximum weight limit of 10-12kg for hold luggage which must be packed in a small, soft bag. Travelling with a hard suitcase may result in extra charges or separate transportation.

Clothing

Botswana’s dress code is usually conservative in urban areas, so long skirts for women and long shorts for men are advisable. However, these rules are redundant at safari camps, where dress is casual. Appropriate footwear such as walking boots are useful for safari outings.

Botswana Highlights

Fly In Safaris

Fly In Safaris

Fly In Safaris

A light aircraft flight is the normal and usually only way to access the Okavango Delta and is a ...

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Fly In Safaris

Fly In Safaris

A light aircraft flight is the normal and usually only way to access the Okavango Delta and is a wonderful way to experience the magical delta. Another experience is a sunrise hot air balloon safari.

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Chobe Elephants

Chobe Elephants

Chobe Elephants

Chobe is probably best known for its impressive elephant herds. The Chobe River supports the ...

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Chobe Elephants

Chobe Elephants

Chobe is probably best known for its impressive elephant herds. The Chobe River supports the largest concentration of elephant found anywhere in Africa and especially in the dry season makes for spectacular game viewing.

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Horse Back Safaris

Horse Back Safaris

Horse Back Safaris

Experience the thrill of exhilarating rides on bomb proof horses that will get you close to the ...

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Horse Back Safaris

Horse Back Safaris

Experience the thrill of exhilarating rides on bomb proof horses that will get you close to the wildlife – we like options in the Okavango Delta and Tuli Block regions of Botswana.

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Photographic Safaris

Photographic Safaris

Photographic Safaris

Botswana is globally renowned as an African photographic safari destination par excellence, ...

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Photographic Safaris

Photographic Safaris

Botswana is globally renowned as an African photographic safari destination par excellence, offering true wilderness and arguably some of the finest landscapes and wildlife.

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Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Each year the onset of the rains in November triggers a mass migration of zebra and wildebeest who ...

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Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Zebra & Wildebeest Migration

Each year the onset of the rains in November triggers a mass migration of zebra and wildebeest who head south from Chobe to feast on the fresh sweet grasses at Nxai Pan & Makgadikgadi Pan. It’s the world’s second largest zebra migration.

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4x4 Safaris

4x4 Safaris

4x4 Safaris

Each year the rains falling in the Angolan highlands flood down the pan handle of the Okavango ...

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4x4 Safaris

4x4 Safaris

Each year the rains falling in the Angolan highlands flood down the pan handle of the Okavango delta fanning out to form a myriad of water channels. 4×4 game vehicles negotiate these waters with guests in search of the unique wildlife of these wetlands.

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Mokoro in the Okavango

Mokoro in the Okavango

Mokoro in the Okavango

A dug out canoe or “mokoro” is a unique and not-to-be-missed experience. Soundlessly gliding ...

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Mokoro in the Okavango

Mokoro in the Okavango

A dug out canoe or “mokoro” is a unique and not-to-be-missed experience. Soundlessly gliding among the reed beds and water lilies of a pristine wilderness teeming with frogs, dragonflies, bee-eaters and kingfishers.

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Botswana Bird Watching

Botswana Bird Watching

Botswana Bird Watching

With more than 500 bird species including the lilac Breasted Roller, Botswana's national bird. ...

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Botswana Bird Watching

Botswana Bird Watching

With more than 500 bird species including the lilac Breasted Roller, Botswana’s national bird. There are some real “specials’ too including including Pel’s Fishing Owl.

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Quad biking in the Makgadikgadi

Quad biking in the Makgadikgadi

Quad biking in the Makgadikgadi

Explore the salt pans of Makgadikgadi by Quad bike with 2 or 3 nights in camp followed by an epic ...

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Quad biking in the Makgadikgadi

Quad biking in the Makgadikgadi

Explore the salt pans of Makgadikgadi by Quad bike with 2 or 3 nights in camp followed by an epic bike journey across the pans and sleep out under the stars amongst boulders and baobabs on Kubu Island.

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Lions hunting Buffalo

Lions hunting Buffalo

Lions hunting Buffalo

Duba Plains camp, built on an island in the Okavango Delta is where huge herds of buffalo are ...

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Lions hunting Buffalo

Lions hunting Buffalo

Duba Plains camp, built on an island in the Okavango Delta is where huge herds of buffalo are hunted ceaselessly by prides of lion in broad daylight and is an essential destination for the safari enthusiast.

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Luxury Mobile Safaris

Luxury Mobile Safaris

Luxury Mobile Safaris

Usually with 6 or 8 in camp this is a great way to explore two or three different regions of ...

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Luxury Mobile Safaris

Luxury Mobile Safaris

Usually with 6 or 8 in camp this is a great way to explore two or three different regions of Botswana with your own guide and a team of chef and camp staff to pamper.

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Zambezi Queen

Zambezi Queen

Zambezi Queen

The Zambezi Queen - A boutique floating hotel is a unique river safari experience traversing 25 km ...

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Zambezi Queen

Zambezi Queen

The Zambezi Queen – A boutique floating hotel is a unique river safari experience traversing 25 km of the Chobe River in luxury whilst soaking up the beautiful scenery that unfolds.

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Regions in Botswana

Central Kalahari

Travellers are struck by this region’s immensity. Endless horizons, blue skies and its awe inspiring silence.  It is truly pristine Africa at its ...Read More

Chobe

Chobe National Park is one of Africa’s finest game sanctuaries – famed for its herds of elephant and buffalo. The sheer volume and diversity of game ...Read More

Linyanti Selinda and Kwando

The great appeal of this part of Africa is that it feels and is extremely wild.  The experience is secluded and uncrowded.  A lucky few are ...Read More

Makgadikgadi

Atmospheric, hypnotic, vast and photogenic sum up the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. The shimmering salt pans, including Nxai Pan to the north, are interspersed with ...Read More

Moremi

Moremi Game Reserve – Documentaries have been made here and exceptional award winning camps make their own news too! It’s simply one of ...Read More

Okavango

The Okavango Delta is a heavenly water world teeming with animal and birdlife! It lies in the heart of Botswana’s Kalahari desert and exists due to the ...Read More

Savute

Savute – the place where lion prides predate elephants in times of drought with many acclaimed film documentaries having been made in this south west corner of ...Read More

Tuli Block

The vast Northern Tuli Game Reserve is Botswana’s surprising hidden gem of a wildlife paradise, bordering South Africa to the south and Zimbabwe to the ...Read More