Botswana is internationally acclaimed for its supreme and unforced combination of tourism and wildlife. 17% of the country is proclaimed protected and a further 20% made up of wildlife management areas. With its eclectic mix of serenely beautiful landscapes and some of the largest populations of wildlife species found in Africa, Botswana is a premier holiday destination amongst adventure and eco-tourists. Although the country is rich in cultural and historical heritage Botswana’s main tourist attractions are the national parks.
Of the many parks and reserves which make up this magnificent country there are three definite must sees when travelling to Botswana.
The Okavango Delta
Undoubtedly the most striking region in the country the Okavango Delta is situated in the Kalahari Desert and is the greatest inland delta system in the world. A natural wonderland of a thousand islands in a thousand streams, born of a great river’s determination top meet the sea which it never will, as its strengths are captured by the desert sands which surround the delta.
The delta ranks amongst the finest of wetlands in the world and from above it is a vast, fan shaped, emerald wilderness of waterways, lakes, lagoons and lush forests. Over 1000 species of plant can be found in the delta and the rivers are teeming with fish, 80 species overall which in turn draws many birds to the area, the Delta is in fact one of the most celebrated bird watching and angling regions in Africa. The few people who in fact permanently live here are mainly fishermen. Undoubtedly the best way to view this natural wonder is by means of a mokoro which is a dug-out canoe that manoeuvres swiftly through the waters near impenetrable areas. The waters are crystal clear and crocodiles, hippos and hundreds of fabulous birds can be seen as well as elephants, zebras and giraffes. The only area in the Okavango that is protected is the Moremi National Park; the rest of the delta is carved up into giant private concessions, sprinkled with luxury lodges.
The Okavango Delta has three main areas, the Panhandle which a 15km wide fault in the northwest offers superb fishing but less spectacular game viewing; the central permanent swamp, with its maze of pans and water meadows and the arid seasonal swamps to the south and east. In the months of August to November the Okavango is hot and dry which makes for magnificent game viewing but low waters which often prevent mokoro trips. From December to March the region is hot and wet prompting game to disappear into the undergrowth but this is when bird and plant life is at its best.
As independent travel is very difficult in the delta region the majority of visitors get to experience these amazing swamplands with the help of tour operators who offer package deals to the region.
The Moremi Wildlife Reserve
Acclaimed for its sheer beauty and intense variety of wildlife, this park covers 1812 sq km and is located in the northeast corner of the Okavango Delta. Comprised of lush wetlands, forested islands, lagoons, woodlands and grasslands the Moremi Wildlife Reserve offers spectacular game viewing accompanied by gorgeous landscapes. There are no artificial borers and human encroachment is kept to a minimum, which facilitates game viewing of such excellent nature. Some of the animals you will be able to view are Elephant, Buffalo, Zebra, Kudu, various herds of Buck, Lion, Leopard and Wild Cats. The parks dry months which span from April to October are the best months for game viewing; it is also during this time that the impressive herds of Elephants converge on the Khwai River.
The park is home to over 400 species of bird making it one of Botswana’s prime birding areas. The Pelicans, Ibises, Herons and Storks are only some of the species which bring gorgeous splashes of colour and sweet melodies to the area. The reserve is one of the most beautiful unmarred spots in Botswana and a trip to its tranquil plains is highly recommended.
The Chobe National Park
Botswana’s common border with Namibia’s Caprivi region has been set aside for one of Africa’s premier wildlife conservation parks. The Chobe National Park occupies 10,566 sq km of land and is home to a splendid variety of wildlife. The park is comprised of rivers, swamps, scrublands, grassy savannah and natural pans.
One of the most magnificent sights to behold here are the elephants who move in their thousands along the well-worn paths of the Chobe River every afternoon to drink. Boasting the highest elephant population in the world (approximately 45,000) is but one of the Chobe National Park’s drawcards. There are also large herds of Buffalo, Blue Wildebeest, Bushbuck, Kudu, Impala and Sable while the wetlands are home to impressive numbers of Hippo and Crocodile as well as an eclectic range of birds. The Savuti area of the park marks what was once the massive super lake which covered most of Botswana, its flat dry lakebed is now a sea of grass which is renowned for spotting Leopard, Cheetahs, Hyena and Lion.
With the exception of certain sections, which are closed in the rainy season during November to April, the park is open throughout the year. The best time to visit it is between May and September when it is possible to see several thousand animals each day. Even though the Chobe National Park is one of Botswana’s most developed reserves, many of the roads in the area are only accessible by 4X4 vehicles. Many visitors to the park chose a package option which includes luxury accommodation; safari drives various other guided expeditions.
With the wide range of activities, accommodation and travel option on offer in this magnificent country, a holiday in the wilderness regions of Botswana is made easy and accessible for all tourists. Many tour operators offer exceptional package deals which allow you to experience the true essence of Africa.