Botswana Destination Info

Sundowners and dining at Leroo la Tau LodgeSundowners and dining at Leroo la Tau Lodge

General Info

Full country name: Republic of Botswana
Area: 581,700 sq. km (226,900-sq. mi.)
Population: 1.4 million
Capital city: Gaborone (population 150,000)
People: Tswana (60%), Kalanga, San, Mbukushu, Yei, Herero
Languages: Setswana, Sekalanga and English
Religion: Ancestor worship and Christian
Government: Constitutional democracy
President: Festus Mogae

Economic Profile

GDP:US$4.3 billion
GDP per head: US$3130
Foreign Exchange Reserves: USD6.3
Inflation: 7.2%
Major industries: Mining (diamonds, copper, nickel), manufacturing and tourism
Major trading partners: Switzerland, UK, South Africa

Season
(celsius)
Months Average Minimum Temp Average Maximum Temp
Summer Nov - March 20 35
Autumn April - May 13 30
Winter June - Aug 6 27
Spring Sept - Oct 4 18
Malaria is a health risk and we advise all persons travelling to Botswana to consult their local British Airways Travel Clinic for advice.

Culture

The earliest inhabitants of Botswana were the San, who were followed by the Tswana tribe (Batswana).  Today the Batwana people make up roughly 50% of the population and other dominant tribal groups include Bakalanga, Hambukushu and the Ovaherero.
The original Botswana artists were everyday crafts people who injected individual aesthetics into utilitarian implements such as pottery, fabrics and tools.  Botswana is known for its exquisite baskets and employ the designs with names such as Tears of the Giraffe and Urine Trail of the Bull.

The orderliness and structure of the town-based Tswana society impressed the Christian missionaries, who began to arrive in the early 1800s. None managed to convert great numbers of Tswana, though they did manage to advise the locals, sometimes wrongly, in their dealings with the Europeans that followed. Meanwhile, the Boers began their Great Trek over the Vaal, crossing into Tswana and Zulu territory and attempting to impose white rule on the inhabitants.
Many Tswana went into service on Boer farms, but the association was rarely happy and often marred by rebellion and violence. By 1877, animosity had escalated to such a level that the British finally stepped in to annex the Transvaal, thereby launching the first Boer War. The Boers dawdled after the Pretoria Convention of 1881 but moved back into Tswana lands in 1882, prompting the Tswana to again ask for British protection.Botswana was economically transformed by the discovery of diamonds near Orapa in 1967. Although most of the population remains in the low-income bracket, this mineral wealth has provided the country with enormous foreign currency reserves, pushing the Pula to its current strong position.

MAUN

Maun is the regional centre of Ngamiland (north-western Botswana) and is principally the service centre for the safari industry. It is relatively advanced, in African terms, with an international airport, two open-air shopping malls, three banks and numerous hotels and lodges.

Regular flights arrive & depart from Johannesburg, Victoria Falls, Gabarone and Windhoek to Maun. The population of Maun and its environs is estimated at 40,000. The majority of safaris depart from Maun.The Okavango is an area of unusual beauty and striking contrast. Whilst the periphery is semi-arid, the Delta itself is a patchwork of cool clear streams, peatlands, backswamps and forested islands in the permanent swamps, and floodplains and ivory palm islands in the seasonal swamp. In the dry winter season one of the most spectacular events in the natural world occurs, floodwaters that have traveled 1000 kilometers from the highlands of Angola infiltrate the delta inundating large areas causing a great concentration of wildlife.Many species of wild animals, which move into the surrounding savannas during the wet season (summer months Dec/Feb), therefore, concentrate around the delta at this time. There are an estimated 9000 species of flora and fauna in residence in the delta throughout any one given year. The delta itself forms part of the Kalahari Basin, situated at the southern periphery of the Great Rift Valley (of East African fame), and covers an area of 22,000 square kilometers.
The delta can be divided into four regions; the panhandle, in the northern most reaches, the permanent swamps in the upper region, the seasonal swamps in the lower region and a large number of large landmasses, such as Chiefs Island, which occur as large islands or which extend into the delta from the surrounding mainland areas and are referred to as sandveld tongues.

Two key areas of interest are:

Chobe River
The lush Chobe riverfront is noted for the large concentrations of megafauna (elephant and buffalo) that gather on its banks in the dry season. The Chobe in the dry season (Apr-Nov) is the only major source of water north of the Okavango. Hence game is attracted from great distances. The river itself originates, like the Okavango, in the highlands of Angola and eventually flows into the mighty Zambezi. Apart from elephant and buffalo the Chobe is noted for its namesake species of bushbuck, the puku, antelope and its birds. Its sunsets are also something to behold. Chobe Chilwero Lodge is located on the border of the Chobe National Park and offers the best views of the Chobe River.Savuti
The Savuti Channel has a fascinating history of flooding and drying up independently of good rainy seasons and flood levels elsewhere. The dead trees in the channel tell of a long non-flowing period. Savuti has been the subject of numerous wildlife documentaries such as The Stolen River, Eternal Enemies and Patterns in The Grass to name a few. It is also home to small exhibits of bushmen rock art. Savuti is generally at its peak, game wise, at the end of the rainy season (Mar-May) when large numbers of zebra and wildebeest move through the area from the Linyanti, further west, to the sweeter grasses on offer in the Mababe depression, to the south. For the remainder of the year there are generally excellent concentrations of plainsgame, particularly elephant, around the few waterholes in the area. It is not uncommon late in the dry season (Oct/Nov), to see elephant guarding the waterhole against lion and plainsgame species.

Recommended Reading

"History of Botswana" by T Tlou and Alec Campbell
"Cry of the Kalahari" by Mark & Delia Owen
"Lost World of the Kalahari" by Laurens van der Post
"Okavango - Jewel of the Kalahari" by Karen Ross
"Serowe-Village of the Rain Wind" by Bessie Head
"Africa"  by John Reader
"Botswana - a Brush with the Wild" by Paul Augustinus
Botswana Safari and Tour Packages
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