Following on from my other ‘Top things to See’ features, here’s the shortlist for the top 5 things to see in Botswana. It’s a fascinating country and whilst most of the attractions listed below are focused predominantly around wildlife, there is plenty more to this stunning country if you’ve got the time to explore.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, home to the San Bushmen, is the largest game reserve in Botswana. It’s arid conditions are often considered inhospitable; however, when the summer rains arrive in Deception Valley the plains come to life and offer visitors a fantastic safari experience. Grazing species such as gemsbok, sprinkbok and other antelope, predators such as lion and cheetah and a plethora of other wildlife are all to be found here. Some consider the game viewing in the Central Kalahari during this time to offer an experience similar to that of the migrations in nearby Tanzania and Kenya. The habitat is also a favourite for reptiles, scorpions and insects as they have been able to adapt to the erratic conditions of the area.
Learning more about the traditional San people of the Kalahari is an incredibly interesting experience and allows the visitor to find out more about how these nomadic people live side by side with their environment.
Chobe National Park
The second largest national park in Botswana, Chobe has some of the greatest concentrations of wildlife found in Africa. Probably, most famous for its huge migratory elephant population (somewhere in the region of 120,000 individuals!), the park also boasts good numbers of other animals and is also popular with migrating birds.
The Chobe National Park is diverse and has much to appeal to all visitors, with four distinct ecosystems being apparent within its boundaries. You can experience, the lush and dense forests of the Serondela by the banks of the Chobe river, the marshlands around the Savute Channel, the swamps of the Linyanti and the hot dry plains in between.
The park is a great destination all year round, although game concentrations are particularly high during the drier month, generally between April and October.
Makgadikgadi Pan started life as a large lake, but many years ago the water evaporated and left behind a glistening salt-encrusted pan. Today, this striking natural feature made up of two large salt pans, Sowa and Ntwetwe and a number of smaller pans, is thought to be the largest salt pan in the world. The Makgadikgadi Pan and surrounding nutritious grasslands are home to a large number of predators and antelope species. Huge flocks of breeding flamingos flock to the pan as do many other bird species.
Whilst the wildlife here is fascinating, it is the remoteness and uniqueness of the pan itself that is the main attraction. Sunset over the Makgadkigadi Pan is not to be missed as the changing light casts wonderful shadows against the shimmering surface of the pan and makes for some startling photographs and images to treasure.
Moremi Game Reserve
Covering the eastern side of the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve offers visitors a great mix of floodplains, forested areas and open savannah plains. Such habitat provides refuge for around 500 bird species as well as other wildlife species including leopard, giraffe, lion, cheetah, hippo, hyena and red lechwe. In addition the reserve is home to a large percentage of Africa’s population of wild dogs – catching a glimpse of these endangered beautiful ‘painted’ creatures is certainly something special.
Taking a mokoro trip is a must here and it allows the visitor to observe wildlife from a slightly different perspective as you traverse the lagoons and channels. You can also explore in a vehicle or on foot. Visit during July to October for peak game viewing when the pan starts to dry up and wildlife focuses its attention around the permanent water.
One of the world’s largest inland water systems, the Okavango Delta is a highlight for many visitors to Botswana. The deltas famous floods are created by the Angolan rains and a number of other tributaries which flow down through Namibia and into Botswana to create the watermass for which this area is famous. At peak flow, the Delta covers an area of around 16,000 km shrinking to less than 9,000km in the dry season.
The Delta is home to great animal and birdlife, including large numbers of crocodile, sitatunga, elephant and wattled crane to name but a few. Ornithologists should time their visit during the rainy season (November to May) for best bird viewing, whilst animal life is at its most prolific along the flooded areas during the May to October period when the vegetation has started to dry out.
Choose to explore the Okavango Delta in a vehicle, on foot, on elephant back or in a mokoro (a traditional type of canoe)!