With an area of almost 600 000 square kilometres, Botswana is virtually the same size as France or Texas. Situated in the centre of southern Africa, it is a landlocked country, with Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe as its immediate neighbours. Botswana lies an average of 950 metres above sea level and is more than 600 kilometres from the nearest coast. The Tropic of Capricorn bisects Botswana.
The most striking features of the country are its flatness and aridity. With the exception of the eastern part of Botswana where the great majority of Batswana live and where the summer rainfall is slightly higher, three-quarters of Botswana is technically a desert. This is what makes the Okavango Delta even more remarkable. It is a wonderful wetland within a desert, getting its waters from rain falling in central Africa, 1000km away.
Botswana is one of Africa's success stories. Prior to independence in 1966, it was one of the world's poorest countries. When tourism started to arrive in Botswana in the 1970s, very few people who lived outside Botswana had even heard of the Okavango. It was undiscovered, only visited by a few hardy adventurers. But South Africa's first democratic elections began a change in the area. Within Botswana, there were big changes, too. Diamonds were discovered in the Kalahari shortly after independence and this kick-started the economy. Sir Seretse Khama was the country's first post-independence president. He was a wonderful leader and one of the most pragmatic and far-thinking presidents any country could ever hope for. Seretse laid the foundations that Botswana needed to propel itself forward, without compromising democracy; the result is a booming economy in a stable country.
On the wildlife front, Seretse's son, Ian, is one of the country's unsung conservation heroes (and currently its president). When he became head of the military, he positioned his troops to secure Botswana's borders from poachers. The game concentrations within the country multiplied overnight. Many people owe their jobs and careers to his actions.
The country abandoned mass tourism and focused on high quality / low volume tourism as the best way to create a sustainable industry that would employ a large percentage of its people, while still preserving the environment. Today wildlife and tourism employs about 45% of all the people who live in northern Botswana.
Botswana Ecology & Wildlife
Situated in the centre of southern Africa and more than 600 kilometres from the nearest ocean, Botswana is surrounded with Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe as its immediate neighbours. With the exception of the eastern part of Botswana, where the great majority of the Batswana people live and where the summer rainfall is slightly higher, the majority of Botswana is desert.
Each year floodwater flows into the Okavango from its source in the moist central African highlands over a thousand kilometres away. These floodwaters flow from their catchments southwards and into the Kalahari Desert to create a unique wetland that supports and sustains a huge diversity of wildlife. Apart from year round excellent game viewing, the beauty of this water wonderland is awe inspiring. To the north-east of the Okavango Delta are the Chobe and Linyanti Game Reserves. The many varied habitats within the Chobe and Linyanti parks - such as marshes, waterways, riverine forests, dry woodlands and the world-famous Savute Channel - have created an area renowned for its predators and large concentrations of game, particularly elephant. The grasslands of the Kalahari together with the lunar expanse of the Makgadikgadi saltpans complement and are in total contrast to the verdant, game-rich Okavango and Linyanti regions.
While the emphasis of a Botswana safari is often on large mammals - and there are plenty of these - there are many other specialised creatures to be seen and enjoyed. As many as 580 bird species have been recorded in Botswana with 75 larger mammal species known to occur and more than 80 fish species identified in the Okavango. But overall it is often the sense of wilderness and pristine functioning ecosystems that has the most significant impact on visitors. Nearly 40% of the country has been set aside as private reserves and national parks!
The importance of visitors and tourism to the sustainability of these areas cannot be overstated. Approximately 60% of all the people who live in northern Botswanaare employed in some aspect of the wildlife and tourism industry, an industry which is now the second largest contributor to the GDP of the country. The presence of camps such as our own and the protection afforded by the concessions in which we operate, has had a spectacular impact on the sustainable conservation of all the animals and plants that live here. A case in point: white and black rhino, poached to extinction in Botswana some time ago have, thanks to a joint project between the Botswana government and Wilderness Safaris, been returned to their integral place in the hierarchy of wild Botswana.
Quick Botswana Facts
Population: 1.8 million
Coordinates: 22 00 S, 24 00 E
Area: 600,370 sq km
Language:The national language is Setswana however the official language is English.
Currency:The currency in Botswana is the Pula (P) which is made up of 100 Thebe.
Time: Botswana is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) all year round.
Climate:Summer is from November to the end of March and usually brings very high temperatures. It is also the rainy season and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down, although only usually for a short period of time.
The winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm; however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing point in some areas.
The in-between periods - April/early May and September/October - still tend to be dry, but the days are cooler than in summer and the nights are warmer than in winter.
Time to Travel
When you visit will largely depend on when you are available to travel, but if you have flexibility to choose then it becomes a matter of what you are looking for from your trip and the seasons affect both wildlife movements and your comfort level - both influencing factors in deciding when to travel. The Botswana Safari season in Botswana runs from March 1 through November 30.
Some camps close over December - February which is the wet season in Botswana, whilst others remain open, as a general guide Edo's Camp is open in February as this is one of the best times to visit the Kalahari area after the summer rains.
Contact our reservations office for current details. As a general guide you may expect the following weather patterns in Botswana, the seasons are as per the Southern Hemisphere and of course is a guide only.Winter:
June, July and August are the winter months, marked by cloudless days and mild temperatures, average temperatures ranging from 7-27 degrees C. The landscapes outside the Okavango Delta begin their drying process, gradually fading from lush green to dry khaki colours. In the delta, the floodwaters from Angola start to fill the countless lagoons and streams.
September and October can be compared to spring in the Northern Hemisphere a delightful time of year to visit Botswana, however October can be very hot particularly towards the end of the month. Temperatures average 15- 31 degrees C and you may experience the occasional rain shower towards the end of October. Any discomfort from the heat is offset by the excellent game viewing at this time of year due to the lack of thick vegetation and the water holes are drying up
November, early December and March are considered summer months, with average temperatures ranging from 16-32 degrees C. These months border the rainy season (Jan & Feb), when you may encounter brief but occasionally heavy rain These months still afford visitors excellent game viewing and you may be lucky to witness the miracle that the rains bring, transforming the dry land to a vibrant abundance of lush greenery.
April and May are both delightful months to visit Botswana marked by moderate temperatures, with average temperatures ranging 15-31 degrees C. For the best advice in planning the time to visit, contact our reservations department with your date options, advising of any special interests or requests to assist our consultants in making suitable recommendations for you.
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