Botswana – Diamond of Africa
Where the white-hot Kalahari Desert meets the wild Okavango River delta lies Botswana. Hidden beneath the scorching sand is one of the world’s richest sources of diamonds and the banks of the river delta shelter some of the continent’s most prolific wildlife.
This small, landlocked country of just over 2 million people has transformed itself into one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has an impressive track record of good governance and economic growth. An eco-tourism policy of high yield, but low impact, has resulted in visitors to Botswana being able to experience Africa at its most natural, unspoilt and stunningly beautiful.
This landlocked country is adjacent to the Tropic of Capricorn in the centre of Southern Africa and bordered by South Africa in the south and southeast, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the northeast and east, and Namibia in the north. Botswana boasts many spectacular national parks and is dominated by the Kalahari Desert which extends far beyond Botswana’s borders, covering substantial parts of South Africa, Namibia and Angola. With the exception of the Okavango and Chobe areas in the north, the country has little permanent surface water.
The name Botswana is derived from the Batswana people, one of the major ethnic groups in the country. Gaborone is the capital city. With the discovery of diamonds at Orapa in 1967, Botswana is one of the world’s leading producers of diamonds today.
Points of interest
The Okavango Delta – one of Africa’s unspoiled wilderness regions and the largest inland delta in the world. Home to a huge wildlife population that depends on the permanent waters of this unique feature, it is best viewed from a mokoro (dugout canoe).
Chobe National Park has the world’s largest concentration of African elephants. The northern Reserves offer the unique opportunity to explore not only in 4×4 vehicles and on foot but also on the waterways by mokoro*.
The Makgadikgadi Pans are a relic of an enormous inland lake that covered Botswana more than half a million years ago. Following the rains, the pans teem with migrating animals including wildebeest and one of Africa’s biggest zebra populations as well as the large predators that follow them. The wet season also brings migratory birds such as ducks, geese, flamingos and Great White Pelicans.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the south of Botswana is the first park in Africa to span the borders of two countries. The southern Kalahari represents an increasingly rare phenomenon: a large ecosystem relatively free from human interference.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest game reserve in the world. Situated in the centre of Botswana, this reserve is characterised by vast open plains, saltpans and ancient riverbeds.
The Mashatu Game Reserve is the largest private reserve in Southern Africa. Known as the Land of Giants, it is home to great baobab trees and elephant herds, as well as an abundance of game and bird species.
* Mokoro: this traditional dug-out canoe hewn from either ebony or sausage-tree is poled by your personal guide. Today most of these craft are made from fibreglass, thus helping to preserve the magnificent trees of the delta.
Game viewing is at its peak from July to October, when the seasonal pans dry up and the wildlife concentrates on the permanent water. From October until the start of the rains in late November/December, the weather can be extremely hot.