By Elaine Clara Mah
If living among wildlife, and I mean truly living among wildlife, is something for you, then visiting Botswana should be at the top of your travel list. Botswana is a landlocked country, bordering South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
But what makes Botswana truly special is that more than one-third of this country is made up of national parks and reserves! For the adventurous traveler, the country in Southern Africa is any safari-goer’s dream, offering abundant sightings of the many wildlife species that make up the African ecosystem. Here are our top reasons to visit Botswana:
For The Elephants at Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is the third largest conservation area in Botswana. Covering over 11,700 square kilometers of floodplains, swamps and woodland, Chobe is also Botswana’s first established national park. The scenery is astounding and a bit of exploration around the park will ultimately take you to Africa’s most scenic river – The Chobe River. But that’s really not why travelers flock in the millions to Chobe.
Travelers who embark on safaris in Chobe National Park are after one sighting – the park’s herds of majestic elephant, all 120,000 of them. The best time to spot these gentle giants is during the dry winter months, from May through September, when they gather on the banks of the river for water and play.
For its Luxury Safaris
Surprisingly, safaris in Botswana tip a little more on the pricey side. It is thought to be the most expensive safari destination in Africa with prices being at an estimate of USD 2049 (£1600) per night. But with luxury comes exclusivity and exceptionally high standards. Staffs are impeccably dressed and the food is catered to the highest standards possible. Many of Botswana’s lodges are only accessible by small planes, hiking the cost up even higher. Though expensive, Botswana’s safari experience promises you an intimate encounter with nature but with none of the downsides. So if you would go for nothing else, go to Botswana for its luxury safaris and be prepared to be mind blown!
For its Commitment to Conservation
In a continent rife with illegal wildlife trade, Botswana is making a stand and a genuine commitment to conservation. Botswana banned commercial trophy hunting on state land in 2014, to help reverse the decline in many wildlife species. 38% of the country’s land is protected for wildlife and nature conservation and the government has taken measures to ensure that wildlife and people are able to coexist harmoniously. This includes the use of fencing to keep elephants away from villages and chili peppers to protect crops from being grazed.
The elephant population grows at about 5% each year, with many herds fleeing from neighboring Zambia, Namibia and Angola seeking shelter and protection from rampant poaching.
For The Unbelievable Sights At Okavango Delta
Image credit: Lonely Planet
Witnessing animals in combat, be it for survival or over territory, is a common sight at the Okavango Delta. Located northern Botswana, the Okavango Delta is is formed by the waters of the Okavango River that flows from the Angolan highlands and into the Kalahari Desert, creating a lush delta. This phenomenon happens each year when the flooding of the Okavango Delta turns the dry savannah into a wetland – an oasis of sorts and the world’s largest inland delta.
This amazing sight happens sometime between May and June, which is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta. It is at this time, which is also coincidentally Botswana’s dry season, that animals of different species converge and the Delta awakens with lively wildlife activity. At the Delta, you will be able to catch glimpses of large animals like elephants, buffalo and wildebeest, as well as predators like lions, leopards and cheetahs. Birds and insects also flock to the Delta, adding to the bustling activity that happens each year.
For The Experience of Wilderness in Kalahari
The Kalahari Desert spans 360,000 square miles across Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The desert is not technically a desert, as it receives notable amounts of rainfall and is able to support more wildlife than a true desert can. The Kalahari Desert is home to several reserves, with the Central Kalahari Game Reserve being among the most extensive ones.
Not being a desert in the truest sense has allowed the Kalahari to accommodate an abundant of wildlife including giraffes, bush elephants, cheetahs, antelopes and leopards. It is also covered with vast vegetation that has helped species thrive.
What makes the Kalahari even more special is that it is also home to the San people, who have been inhabiting these lands for thousands of years. Economic advancement and the discovery of diamonds in the Kalahari Desert have threatened the San people’s livelihood and ability to live on their ancestral lands. In 1997, three-quarters of the San population living in the Central Kalahari Reserve were relocated. Though a Botswana court deemed this decision illegal in 2006, much still needs to be done in order to restore the San people to their rightful homes.