Botswana is a landlocked country that is mainly flat and dry, dotted with acacia trees and an array of enormous salt pans and a wilderness of savannas, deserts and wetlands. Botswana is for the adventurous visitor who wants to see the rugged side of Africa. There is a high amount of rainfall in the north of Botswana with very important wetland habitats such as the Okavango Delta, the Linyati Swamps and the wildlife-rich Chobe River. The landscape is almost uniformly flat, with a few lonely kopjes and scrub-covered savannah here and there. Nearly 85% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert, but the shifting sand dunes that you’d traditionally expect in a desert, are only found in the far southwest, while the great salty deserts of the Makgadikgadi Pans are found in the lower elevations of the northeast.
Why go to Botswana?
* Scenic flights over the Okavango Delta
* Tranquil Mokoro trips which are traditional dug-out canoes that meander through the Delta by polers
* Spectacular sunsets on safaris or cruises
* Birdwatching on the Chobe River
* Sitting around a campfire under the African night sky
* Wild dog and lion tracking by foot in Moremi
* Unfenced National Parks with thousands of animals roaming freely
* Botswana’s cultural and heritage sites
* Walking safaris with experienced and friendly tour guides
* Unique elephant safari treks
* Hot air ballooning over the Kalahari Desert
* Helicopter flights giving you a bird’s eye view of the landscape and of course the amazing herds in search of the wilderness for food and shelter
Weather in Botswana
Due to the fact that it is landlocked it has a subtropical desert climate which results in vast differences in the weather during the day and night. The days can vary from mild to hot (up to 35°C), while the nights can be cold.
Dry season – May to October – Winter
If you visit during these months you will experience a very dry climate with low humidity. The great attribute about visiting this time of year is that the animals congregate around the waterholes giving you plenty of time to take great photographs and quietly enjoy the tranquility of the scene.
May – Cool temperatures of about 10°C in the mornings warming to 28°C in the afternoon.
June, July and August – Very cold on early morning game drives, so pack your thermals. Expect the thermometer to drop to 6°C in the morning and below freezing at night, but you can enjoy warmer temperatures of about 25°C in the afternoons when you can laze by the pool at your accommodation.
September and October – Now is when the heat sets in and wonderfully hot temperatures of about 35°C can be expected.
Wet season – November to April – Summer
November and December – You can expect cooler temperatures as clouds fill the atmosphere and bring on late afternoon showers. December mornings are mild at 20°C with hot temperatures of 34°C in the afternoons. This is a good time of the year for comfortable game safaris.
January and February – Bring out your waterproof jackets and trousers for torrential downpours that can continue for days. It is not cold, but humidity is high at 50-80%.
March and April – The rain lessens and the temperature cools again. This continues through to April with balmy, clear weather and temperatures of 30°C in the day.
Best time to visit Botswana
As with each country the time of year you go depends on what you want to get out of your visit. If you are concerned about the weather and either don’t want to be too hot, or end up in downpours, have a look at what we mentioned above about the weather in Botswana.
If , however, it is game viewing you are after, we recommend the dry season from May to October, during Winter where animals flock around the waterholes giving you prime viewing that no TV show can beat! Also the Okavango Delta is flooded from June to October making it a haven for birds and other animals.
How to get to Botswana
You will find that there are only a few direct flights to Botswana outside of Southern Africa. Getting there will usually entail a stop over at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa which could mean an overnight stay. There are, however, flights from Cape Town, Harare and Nairobi.
Botswana’s main airport is Sir Seretse Khama International Airport approximately 11km north of Gaborone (Botswana’s capital). However, this is far from the popular northern parks. The most common route to take is to fly into Maun Airport and take a light aircraft from there to your destination. On some tours you will be collected from the airport and travel by road to your destination (weather permitting).
Facts on Botswana
Full name: Republic of Botswana
Population: Approximately 1.36 million people
Capital city: Gabarone
Area: 602,957 sq km; 232,802 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +2 ()
Languages: Setswana (official); English (official)
Religion: Christian (71.6%), Badimo (6%), other (1.4%), unspecified (0.4%), none (20.6%)
Electricity: 240V; 50HzHz
Electric Plug Details: British-style plug: 2 flat blades & 1 flat grounding blade South African/Indian-style plug: 2 circular metal pins above large circular grounding pin
Country Dialling Code: 267
Money matters: Per Capita Income: US$2040
Currency: Pula (P)
Medical matters: Malaria, HIV/AIDS
Where to go in Botswana
Chobe National Park
Covering 11,000 sq km (4300 sq mi), Chobe National Park has the biggest variety of wildlife compared to anywhere else in Botswana. A good place to start exploring it is at its northern tip, in a town, called Kasane. Its location makes a good base for visits to the park. With up to 500 herds of elephants, they are Chobe’s main attraction, closely followed by lions, cheetahs, hippos, hyena, crocodile, buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs, otter, zebra, antelope, jackals and many bird species.
No landscape on earth is like this. Once an enormous lake, the Makgadikgadi Pans are now three immense salt pans (the largest on earth). During the sizzling heat of late winter days, these stark pans take on a disorienting and ethereal austerity. All sense of space and direction is completely destroyed by heat mirages as imaginary lakes shimmer and then disappear, and ostriches take flight, while stones seem to turn into mountains floating in mid-air.
During annual rains, the hollows in the pans form temporary lakes. The water turns fringing grasses green, and herd animals and birds in huge numbers arrive for the party.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s last untamed wildernesses. Starting at the Angolan highlands, this watery mass of 16,000km² elaborate channels and islands is the world’s largest inland delta. It lies in Botswana’s northwest, and flows in the opposite direction each year. The middle of the delta, which consists of 20% of the greater delta area, is protected by the Moremi Wildlife Reserve.
Local farmers used to call the Okavango Delta a ‘useless swamp’, and wanted it to be drained so they could use it as farmland. Fortunately, the delta has been recognised for its significance in conservation, and today this mysterious, placid and beautiful area is a sanctuary for a huge elephant population, as well as lion, antelope, cheetah, giraffe, wild dog, leopard, crocodile, hippo, buffalo, a big number of bird species, and over 80 species of fish. Needless to say, the African Fish Eagle finds this place to be paradise.
Bear in mind that the Okavango Delta is incredibly big, which makes spotting wildlife a little more challenging than your average game park. This is not for the impatient traveller, but rather for the traveller who wants to experience Africa for what it is, and not only for the Big Five.
If you fancy yourself a patient and laid-back traveller, then jump on a plane or 4×4, and let it drop you off at the Okavango Delta for a few days. Here you’ll drift around on a mokoro (dug-out canoe) and go on walking safaris – the best ways to explore the delta. Don’t despair, you will have a poler with you, who will steer your mokoro for you and will find safe spots for you to swim. You’ll also get a chance to go on a walking safari with an experienced delta guide, and track some spoor. Your guide will fill you in on everything you need to know about the wildlife, birdlife, plant life and all the intricate ways of the delta.
Once a dusty little frontier town where local people brought their cattle to trade, Maun is today Botswana’s tourism capital and the springboard for safaris into the Okavango Delta and Moremi Wildlife Reserve. The town is now home to over 30 000 people who live in an assorted mix of traditional huts and modern buildings. It has shopping malls, restaurants, banks, a few hotels and some happening bars.
Flights into the Okavango Delta can be organised from Maun Airport, and there’re several companies offering a one-hour sightseeing flip by six-seater plane. The town itself doesn’t offer much to see, except for the local tribesmen bringing their cattle into town for sale, or the occasional indigenous red lechwe grazing alongside the goats and donkeys along the riverbanks.
Moremi National Park
Mostly described as one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa. Moremi National Park is a mixture of lagoons, floodplains and mopane woodland and acacia forests. Its incredible diversity of plant and animal life has made Moremi famous.
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