Gabarone & District
The capital of Botswana, Gaborone is named after Chief Gaborone, who led his tribe to this area from the Magaliesberg around 1880. Ten years later Cecil John Rhodes chose this little settlement as the site of a colonial fort where, it is said, the abortive Jameson Raid into South Africa was planned. Still little more than an administrative village when Botswana began to move towards independence in the early sixties, it was chosen as the site for the new capital due to its strategic location, the availability of a reliable water supply and it’s proximity to the cross-continental railway line. Fevered construction began in 1964, and in 1966 the Republic of Botswana achieved full independence under Sir Seretse Khama. At the time of independence, Botswana was counted among the ten poorest nations on earth. The discovery of the country’s diamond wealth came within five years, and turned Botswana into one of the richest countries in Africa and the third largest producer of diamonds in the world. It also provided a growth rate and economic buoyancy unparalleled in Africa, especially with regard to travel in Botswana.
Being young and brash, a well-laid-out city of cinderblock suburbs, Gaborone has all the facilities of any modern capital city. There is a range of hotels, and a choice of cinemas and casinos. Restaurants are numerous and varied, night clubs often host live music by local artists, giving a cultural twist to Botswana holidays. The National Museum is situated near the centre of town and houses important collections of traditional crafts and southern African fine art. It is also the home of the Botswana Society, which has a rich tradition of researching Botswana’s pre-history and from whom you can obtain information about various interesting aspects of the country during your Botswana trip, including the Aha Hills, Drotsky’s caves and so on. There is an international airport on the outskirts of the city. One of the city’s more striking buildings is Orapa House at the intersection of Mandela Drive and Khama Crescent. This building has floors specially designed to make maximum use of daylight without direct sunlight for the purpose of sorting and grading Botswana’s fabulous diamond wealth.
On the edge of the city, set among hills and dense bush, is the city’s main water source, Gaborone Dam. A popular local resort, it is available for non-motorised water sports, but a Water Utilities Corporation permit is needed if you would like to include this in your Botswana travel itinerary. Bass, bream and barbel tempt the avid fishermen in summer, and the Gaborone Yacht Club has its own swimming pool - not a bad idea since the dam not only has the occasional crocodile that escapes translocation, but bilharzia as well. A little downstream on the Notwane River and still within the confines of the city lies the Gaborone Game Reserve. This reserve has been in existence since 1988, and due to it’s proximity to the city, is Botswana’s third busiest game reserve and a prime Botswana safari destination. Well-maintained roads give easy access to viewing of wildebeest, eland, zebra, gemsbok, rhino and kudu among others. A detailed map is available at the entrance gate. There are two picnic sites and a game hide. Bird watching along the river is particularly rewarding. The Reserve is on the western outskirts of Gaborone, and is open from six-thirty in the morning to six-thirty in the evening.
Maun, a dusty little frontier town now bursting at the seams, is the springboard into the 15 000 square kilometres of delta and its airport is one of the busiest in Africa. Taking both international flights and the incessant stream of light aircraft that service the myriad Botswana safari camps within the delta, there is a take-off or landing roughly every three minutes. Road access is by four-wheel drive only, but one can hire guides and boats, either motor-driven or the locally owned and poled mokoro dug-out canoes. Walking is permitted, but it is wisest not to enter the delta unaccompanied on your Botswana holiday. Most visitors rely on one or other of the many tour operators in Maun. Botswana safari companies offer fly-in, fly-out all-inclusive trips, but are expensive - however, if cost is not a factor, these private camps are an exquisite blend of rustic forest charm and pampered luxury.
Despite the fact that two thirds of this land is dry dusty desert much of it has been allocated to National Parks and Game Reserves that represent a prime Botswana travel attraction. The country can be divided into 5 natural areas which are: The Kalahari; The Okavango and Moremi; The Tuli Block; The Chobe-Savuti-Linyanti area and The Makgadikgadi Pans.
The Kalahari is spoken of as a desert, but very little of it is. The famous red-brown sands have been blown back and forth over the African landscape since Gondwana days. Most is now anchored by vegetation. In moister areas, like Angola and Zambia, the sand-cap is covered by lush miombo woodland. With a lower rainfall, Botswana’s Kalahari provides wide sun-drenched areas of sweeping grassland and dusty scrub, which offers occasionally spectacular game viewing for those who travel Botswana. Within Botswana, the Kalahari referred to is the central and south-western half of the country; the arid flat landscape home to the gemsbok and the Bushman.
A vital feature of the Kalahari is the pans. Ephemeral shallow natural ponds of rainwater the pans of the Kalahari play a critically important role in this arid environment. Usually areas of smooth saline clay which lines a shallow depression, often firm enough to take the weight of a vehicle, and upon which, generally, nothing will grow. Pans can vary in size from a few hundred metres to several square kilometres in extent. Often a pan will act as a drainage basin for quite a considerable area. This water may remain for several months, providing an oasis for animal life, which can be viewed on your Botswana safari.
Wildlife in semi-arid regions has long since adapted to survival without a permanent water supply. Antelope such as eland, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest, steenbok and duiker can manage without large quantities of water, as can giraffe, kudu and warthog. The same is true of creatures such as hyena, jackal, bat-eared fox and a host of smaller animals. So game is seldom seen drinking from pans and besides, the water is often saline. It is not water that draws game to the pans; it is the salts in the clay and the greater variety of vegetation available. There is a greater diversity of plant species within a one kilometre radius of a pan than there is in any other similar region of the Kalahari, so they are a rich food source.
The Kalahari, especially in the western regions of Botswana, is remote and harsh, but unspoilt. It is four-wheel drive country, devoid of infrastructure such as surfaced roads, piped water, and convenience stores. Even firewood needs to be on your list of essentials to carry with you on your Botswana trip. Summers are blisteringly hot, winters warm to cool with bitterly cold nights. This is not an area for an easy-option Botswana holiday. It’s the double-rugged stuff beloved of seasoned campers, 4X4 experts and wilderness devotees.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Proclaimed in 1961 this is one of the few reserves in the world that was created for the preservation and protection of people rather than animals. Being almost 52 000 kilometres in extent, this vast area has no standing water and, until relatively recently, no tracks. Now open to the Botswana safari-goers, the area was originally set aside as a region where the San or Bushman could continue their traditional way of life.
Today the reserve maintains two airstrips and 15 un-serviced campsites. Permanent waterholes at Piper’s Pan and Sunday Pan ensure good game viewing almost throughout the year, but particularly in the dry winter months. The reserve contains large herds of blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, gemsbok and springbok. Lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog and both spotted and brown hyena are often seen by Botswana holiday makers.
Roads are little more than tracks and there are no facilities of any kind. Self-sufficiency in these regions includes carrying your own firewood on your Botswana trip. Only parties with the right equipment, vehicles, experience and attitude should contemplate a visit to the reserve. However, various mobile tour operators will include a Botswana safari into this area if you so wish.
It is believed that the San or Bushmen are probably descendants of the original inhabitants of most of east, central and southern Africa. In the last thousand years or so they have been absorbed, moved aside or annihilated by almost every other race group with whom they came into contact. Fragmentary groups of Bushmen and intermarried relatives survive only in Botswana,Namibia and Angola.
However, the dilemma of maintaining an ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle is insoluble. While the older generation may well wish to preserve traditions, this not necessarily the choice of the youngsters who wish to be a part of modern life with all of its advantages and hardships. Essentially, every person is entitled to freedom of choice.
The Mabuasehube Game Reserve
About 1 800 square kilometres of unfenced harsh Kalahari grass and scrub, Mabuasehube backs onto the far larger and inaccessible Gemsbok National Park. Roads are often sandy and corrugated, and can only be negotiated by four-wheel drive during your Botswana safari. It is recommended that you report your route to the police station at Tshabong in the south or Ganzi in the north, and travel in a convoy of at least two vehicles. The park has no facilities, and visitors must be entirely self-sufficient. There are six major pans and many smaller ones within this stark but serene reserve. Some of the major ones are said to be the most beautiful of all Botswana’s pans. The simple beauty of the stark landscape, the dramatic variation of colour-tones as the light changes and the often abundant game make the difficult trip worthwhile. There is a network of dust roads lacing through the reserve and centred on the pans, but bear in mind that the nearest food and fuel supplies are at Tshabong, 110 kilometres away. In an emergency, borehole water can be obtained from the game scout camp, but cannot be relied upon. This section of your Botswana holiday needs to be planned thoroughly.
West of the totally undeveloped Gemsbok National Park, the Nossob River marks the border of South Africa, and is the eastern boundary of South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Only the bed of the river marks the boundary, and animals can pass unhindered from one park to the other. Together these two parks, sometimes referred to as an International Peace Park, form an area larger than the better known Kruger National Park, but being arid, inhospitable and for the most part inaccessible, it attracts a fraction of the visitors. No formal tracks are laid out on the Botswana side, and there is no official entry point into South Africa from the Botswana safari park. The South African portion has a formal road system and three camps with accommodation. The Gemsbok National Park is a recognised birding spot for raptors, some 50 being on record. This is the most arid of the Kalahari region and conditions are closer to real desert. Here you will see the iron oxide-tinted “red” dunes.
The best time to visit is in late summer and towards the end of the rainy season, roughly March to May, however game can be seen at any time of the year. As the most arid corner of the Kalahari, summers are very hot (September to February) with temperatures going up to 45 C. Winter months from June to August are comfortable during the day, but when you travel Botswana at this time of year you can expect the temperature to drop below zero at night.
The Khutse Game Reserve
Khutse Game Reserve abuts the southern boundary of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Set in typical pan country of undulating savannah, most of the larger arid-adapted herbivores can be found, together with the common predators, lions, leopards and cheetahs. Duiker and steenbok are as common as the ostrich. Many smaller species abound, like Cape fox, bat-eared fox, ground squirrel, jackal, porcupine, yellow mongoose and suricate. There are more than 60 pans and game is usually seen in or near them, but it is seasonal and difficult to predict. Khutse has interesting birds associated with arid areas, such as kori bustard, three species of coursers, two of sandgrouse and several larks. Being closer to Gaborone than other parks or reserves, Khutse is a popular weekend destination for local visitors. There are four un-serviced camping sites for use on Botswana safaris, but camping elsewhere in the reserve is not allowed. As usual in the Kalahari the visitor must be totally self-contained, independent and responsible. There is only a single road into the reserve.
The Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Officially opened in 1994, the Mokolodi Nature Reserve is 14 kilometres south of Gaborone on the main road to Lobatse. Created by the Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organisation aiming towards conservation and education, the 6 300 acre reserve is stocked with a various species of game indigenous to south-east Botswana. These include mountain reedbuck and antelope of various kinds, zebra, gemsbok, giraffe, brown hyena and warthog. Mokolodi is home to over a third of Botswana’s white rhino population and is engaged in a breeding programme. The second prong of the Foundation’s drive is catered to in the Education Centre. Accommodating up to 80 children at a time, environmental educators use the facilities and the “outdoor classroom” to instil in children around Botswana a love of nature and an understanding of the importance of conservation. Self-drive and guided tours are available. For the more athletic and adventurous, guided walks are available with one of the rangers as part of your Botswana trip. The reserve is open daily from dawn to dusk and a small entrance fee is charged for individuals and for vehicles. Five thatched and fully equipped, self-catering chalets can be hired for longer Botswana safaris.
The Chobe, Linyanti & Savuti Area
Chobe National Park
Situated in the northernmost corner of Botswana, the Chobe region fills the squat triangle made by the meeting of the Namibian, Zambian and Zimbabwean borders with those of Botswana. The Chobe National Park is at the heart of the complex. A vast reserve of about 12 000 square kilometres, it is for the most part flat and sparsely wooded, but certainly not devoid of interest. Chobe is said to contain the highest concentration of elephants in the world, with an estimated winter population of around 25 000. That’s more than two per square kilometre. A must on any Botswana travel itinerary, this has placed massive pressure on the natural resources of the area, and elephant damage is particularly noticeable in the narrow band of riverine forest along the grass covered flood plains of the Chobe River. There are a number of natural pans in the park, but they are dry for most of the year, and the only surface water during the dry season is provided by the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers in the north and north-west, and by pumped waterholes at Savuti, Nogatsaa and Tshinga and Ngwezuma dam. There are a few other pans that hold water for part of the dry season, particularly in the north-east.
Large areas of the park are covered by mopane and mixed woodland, including kiaat and Zambezi teak. There are belts of acacia savannah, particularly in the south. The woodlands are interspersed with extensive areas of grassland. The wildlife viewing is renowned, and makes this area a prime Botswana safari destination. The annual zebra migration is a special feature of the area, but the visitor may see a wide range of antelope including sable, roan, oribi, reedbuck, and the strikingly colourful Chobe bushbuck which has much stronger white markings than those found further south. Small herds of lechwe can be found on the grassy floodplains, and this is the only area south of the Zambezi River where puku can be seen. Giraffe and warthog are common, and lion occur throughout the area but are most frequently seen around Savuti.
Bird watching in this Botswana travel destination is very rewarding, there being over 350 species recorded in the area. In the vicinity of the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers visitors can watch saddle-billed storks, long-toed plovers, pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers, Bradfield’s hornbills and the jewel-like carmine bee-eaters. Heuglin’s robin is a delight to hear in the early morning.
Much of the Chobe District is taken up with either the National Park or forest reserves, and so the population density is low. At the far north-eastern extremity of the park the town of Kasane is the hub. It lies at the junction of four major trunk roads which give tarmac access to Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as southwards to Nata and Francistown. There are excellent Botswana hotels and lodges around Kasane that cater for all budgets. An international airport allows access to the whole region. One of the advantages to Kasane’s central location is that it takes only about an hour to drive to Zimbabwe’s magnificent Victoria Falls, a great Botswana travel attraction.
The road system off the main routes is best explored in a four-wheel drive, although most of the roads along the Chobe river-front can be traversed by an ordinary car. The three principle game viewing areas are the river-front (from Kasane through Serondela, where there is a public campsite, to Ngoma Bridge); the headwaters of the Ngwezumba River with its mixture of woodlands, pans and grassland centred on Nogatsaa and Tjinga Pans; and finally, Savuti and Mababe. The most accessible part of the Chobe National Park for Botswana holiday makers is the river-front, the entrance to which is just a few kilometres from Kasane.
While winter is the best time to spot wildlife at close range during your Botswana safari, animals are tantalisingly mobile throughout the year - what may be seen on the river-front in June will not be the same as in January. The best times for game drives are in the early morning and after 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The afternoon drives are best from the western side keeping the setting sun behind you as you return towards Kasane. There is very good viewing from about 6 kilometres west of Serondela right to Kasane. In winter vast numbers of elephant come down to drink when dusk descends and it is possible to see more than a thousand in two hours, making for a fantastic Botswana travel experience.
Botswana’s successful conservation of elephants has resulted in their numbers escalating. Widespread destruction of riverine woodland is occurring along the Chobe River. Consequently the question of management of the herds has become an important issue. Fundamental questions are whether or not management of the population is yet necessary and, if it is, how it is to be effected. Protected and subjected to limited poaching pressure, the national herd is increasing at its maximum biological rate of some 7% per annum. This means an increase of around 2 800 elephants every year. Whilst elephant are not being seriously poached at present, the same cannot be said for rhino. Botswana has the dubious distinction of being the only country in southern Africa to have its rhino population brought to extinction twice.
The popularity of Botswana safaris has its roots in trophy hunting in the mid twentieth century that brought in increasing numbers of foreign visitors who began to create an awareness of the country’s rich wildlife. Trophy hunting anywhere today is an expensive business and despite being something of a sport-hunters mecca, Botswana is no exception. Hunters should bear in mind that although the Chobe area boasts the famous “Big Five”, rhino are protected and a ban presently exists on the hunting of elephant. The Kasane area also offers good sport- fishing, and fishing Botswana safaris or the hire of boats and tackle can be arranged by any of the lodges and nearby Botswana hotels.
Regarded by many as a prime Botswana holiday destination, Savuti is in the western section of the park, and is renowned for great concentrations of both elephant and lion. Wild dog, cheetah and leopard are also often sighted. Situated at the head of the Mababe Depression, once a great lake, and held in the arm of the Magwikhwe Sand Ridge, the Savuti Marsh is anything but wet. This is the culmination of the Savuti Channel, a spillway for overflow from the Linyanti and Chobe floodwaters and, very occasionally, the Okavango spills a little floodwater into the Channel. Flowing in Livingstone’s time, the channel was dry in 1880, and remained dry for about seventy years. It flooded again in 1957, and the giant skeletons of drowned trees still mark the extent of the deluge. The channel flowed perennially - except for 1966 - until 1981 when it stopped, probably due to tectonic action. Savuti Marsh has been dry for 18 years. Treeless, the grassy plain of the marsh stretches to the horizon - a magnet for game and Botswana safari participants alike. The annual zebra migration from Mababe to the south is one of the more dramatic spectacles of this area. A variety of safari operators provide tours of Savuti, and these are often added to a tour of the Okavango. There is a public campsite and two tented camps, which are perched on the banks of the Savuti Channel, the latter offer luxury tented accommodation for those who travel Botswana.
When the Okavango experiences exceptional flooding, the Selinda Spillway feeds water into the Linyanti River, linking the Chobe and the Okavango systems. In this time the flood plains around the Linyanti resemble those of the Okavango, with meandering waterways through papyrus beds and a maze of little islands. Wild date palms and tall riverine trees line the flow, which ultimately links up with the Chobe and then the Zambezi. Wildlife includes crocodile, hippo, and a host of fish species, wild dog, lion, elephant, lechwe, sable, impala and so on. There are over 300 species of birds in the area, including the white pelican, scarlet-chested sunbird and tinkling cisticola. Near the airstrip at Linyanti is the only known colony of carmine bee-eaters nesting on flat land.
Between the north-western point of the Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta are three private tourism concession areas run by Botswana safari operators. The Selinda Reserve one such, and has two luxury tented camps and a small private lodge in the Chobe National Park. Canoeing and walking trails can be tailored to the visitor and makes a fantastic accompaniment to any Botswana trip.
The Okavango Delta and Moremi Wildlife Reserve
There are several names associated with incredible wildlife areas, such as the Serengeti, the Galapogos, and the Great Barrier Reef. The Okavango Delta is one such. One of the largest inland deltas in the world, the Okavango is a birdwatcher’s delight, a fisherman’s challenge, a romantic’s Eden and a favourite Botswana safari destination. Spilling down from the highlands of Angola, the third largest river in southern Africa winds its way south west into Botswana’s dry Ngamiland, where it hits a fault line and sprawls like an outstretched hand into the ancient, bleached sands of the Kalahari. Gradually the waters deposit their silt and thread their way through thick mats of papyrus and sedge, getting ever clearer, ever quieter, feeding huge riverine trees and lush water meadows which support a plethora of creatures.
It is thought that the Okavango River once flowed to the sea through the Limpopo valley via Lake Makgadikgadi. In recent geological times the upliftment of the northern Botswana plateau has turned the area into a vast flat basin, which now easily gets rid of the Okavango’s annual flow by evaporation. Most of this water loss now takes place from the Okavango delta itself, although in good years Okavango water can still reach Lake Magadigadi via the Boteti River. Mankind is not a newcomer to the delta. There is evidence that Stone Age man was associated with the area 800 000 years ago or more. Stone tools from the early, middle and late stone ages have been found around the delta. It is probable that the San people (or “Bushman” groups) specialising in a riverine environment, unlike their desert adapted kin, provide some kind of continuity between stone age populations and iron age Bantu speaking people, who arrived in the area around the first century. Today existing “River Bushmen” are not readily distinguishable among the many other groups of people who inhabit the delta.
Elusive sitatungas, hooves deeply splayed to cope with marshy ground, splash through a reed-bed and in the following stillness the contented grunting of hippo echoes across the rippling water. A crocodile lies immobile in the shifting sun-dapples of the shallows, as green and yellow as a tangle of reeds. A jacana lifts delicate spider-like feet through the scented water lilies and the icy tinkle of painted reed frog’s hush is heard as your dug-out mokoro is poled silently trough tousle-headed papyrus stems. It is a wonderland of water and wildlife, among the most beautiful anywhere in Africa and a location that should be a part of any Botswana travel itinerary.
Days are spent mainly with a water focus, and the richness and diversity of the area is best appreciated from a boat along the channels. Motorised viewing craft chug gently through the waterways, and guides are always equipped with fragments of fish to toss to the imperious fish-eagles, which stoop to lift the offering with deadly precision and a silken rustle of powerful wings. Often referred to as a swamp, the delta is a patchwork of fringing forest and savannah woodland, and endless grassy meadows periodically inundated with crystal clear, tea coloured perennial floodwater. Though summer temperatures are high in the day, the heat is offset by greenery and water, and in winter the cooler days turn into cold, clear nights. December to February is the height of the wet season. For the adventurous, a combination of back-packing by foot and mokoro is a wonderful way to experience a week or so in the delta. Camping under the stars in a velvet African night with the scops owl calling is a never forgotten Botswana travel experience. Various Botswana tour operators specialise in this kind of action trip, and supply varying degrees of ruggedness.
Bream and tigerfish abound in the clear waters, and most camps have fishing equipment for hire. Dedicated fishermen will find the north-western area, the ‘panhandle’ of river that spreads into the delta, the best spot for serious fishing, and Shakawe, a “conglomeration of huts, reeds, dug-out canoes and ant-hills” is Botswana’s best tigerfishing spot and is geared for the angler. The best fishing is said to be in August and September. It is wise to check before including this on your Botswana travel itinerary, as fishing varies with the locality within the delta, the time of year and with the time and size of the annual flood. Tigerfish are unequalled for sport fishing in southern Africa, but bream are numerous, challenging and delicious. Barbel are common and, if gutted quickly enough after being caught, do not have the so called “muddy” taste of which they are unjustly accused. In October or November, in the upper reaches of the Okavango, some weeks before the rains arrive, barbel sometimes collect in vast shoals. Why they do this is not really understood but, suddenly, hundreds of thousands of them will congregate in the shallow areas and begin to move like a living silvery brown mat towards the main channel. This migration-like move attracts considerable attention and becomes a feast for every fish-eating bird in the delta. Often a barbel ‘run’ can be located from the swirling mass of birds that circle above it.
The birds are perhaps the greatest drawcard of the Okavango Delta, with such attractions as the rare Pel’s fishing owl, the endangered wattled crane, and the only known breeding grounds of the Slaty Egret, to mention just a few. Even Botswana safari participants who are not specialist birdwatchers will see amazing birdlife, the avian fauna being almost unavoidable with more than 400 species recorded here. Kingfishers and bee-eaters are favourite subjects for photographers, and can provide wonderfully satisfying opportunities to exercise those skills. The number of bird species is greatest between October and February.
The huge-and-hairy wildlife is more dependent on the water, and has a different pattern of frequency. The rains begin in late October, and the dry Kalahari springs to new life. Migratory wildlife such as elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and eland moves northwards from the delta towards the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers. But the rains that fall in Angola take time to make their way down the Okavango River to the delta, and the height of the flood arrives only around mid-winter (June/July). Water elsewhere in the Kalahari hinterland is limited, so the wildlife moves back to the “swamp”. As the floods recede there is a constant supply of new grazing exposed by the falling water level, and the wildlife is increasingly visible. When the rains begin the cycle of movement starts again. Although game populations move out of the delta towards the north-east, their movement south is limited by the veterinary cordon fence. Apart from keeping the wildlife in and disrupting migration lines, particularly of wildebeest, it also serves to keep the cattle out - which is no bad thing. When you plan your Botswana trip, bear in mind that with the onset of the rainy season access around the delta becomes increasingly difficult for visitors. Roads are often impassable.
The north-eastern sector of the delta is protected by the Moremi Game Reserve. Central and surrounding areas are divided into numerous Game Management Areas leased out by the Tawana tribal authorities for various types of tourism concessions, mainly photographic and hunting Botswana safaris. The Moremi Game Reserve was originally set aside as a sanctuary by the local Tawana tribe. Its management has since been taken over by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in collaboration with tribal representatives.
The reserve is unfenced and covers about 1800 square kilometres. The area is completely flat, with a network of waterways between reed beds and islands of mixed woodland, mostly mopane in the eastern region. A good third of this area is comprised of Chief’s Island, flanked by the two largest rivers in the delta, the Boro and the Santantadibe. No camps or human habitation is permitted on the island.
Though generally not seen on the delta it is estimated that as many as 50 000 elephant roam the Okavango and Chobe to the east, and are a fairly common sight in Moremi, especially in the dry season. Hippos are also common, but thick reed beds make viewing difficult. Large herds of buffalo occur, also warthog, tsessebe, kudu, impala, roan, reed- and waterbuck. The floodplains are the habitat to look for lechwe. Predators such as lion, leopard and wild dog are present as well as the smaller serval, African wildcat and water mongoose. Hyenas are particularly common in the area. For birding enthusiasts, not only does the woodland offer a wide range of species but the chance to drive to the edges of large lagoons, which offer fantastic birding. There are many species of ducks and geese, as well as an amazing variety of heron and other water birds.
A number of Botswana safari companies operate lodges on the edges of the reserve, and take their guests on game viewing trips by mokoro. Such trips can be of any length and vary by arrangement from a morning’s outing to two, three or four day safaris. The local guides, who pole the mekoro, are usually hand-picked and have a good knowledge of the environment. Their judgement can be relied upon and they make excellent Botswana travel guides.
Several luxury lodges are dotted through the reserve, with the almost legendary Mombo Camp (run by Wilderness Safaris), as the probable apex. Pampered Botswana safari participants have been known to see four or five major predators before breakfast in this beautiful and remote camp, and it’s said to be good all year round. There are many lodges along the Boro River in the south and the Kwai in the north. Names such as Xaxaba and Xugana may be hard to pronounce but, once visited as part of your Botswana trip, never forgotten. Kwai River Lodge in the north-east benefits from the proximity of the more arid Chobe National Park for a constant stream of thirsty animals drawn to the Kwai River in the winter months. There are three Government-owned public camping sites, two at North and South Gate with basic, but overworked ablution facilities and piped water, and one at Third Bridge with a few pit toilets and the river as sole water supply. If your Botswana holiday takes you beyond that you will be expected to be self-sufficient. Like the rest of Botswana the delta is a summer rainfall area, and the months from October to April can get hot and humid. Winter months are warm, but cold at night.
The more jaundiced tourist might say that only Botswana could make a tourist attraction of Tsodilo Hills and Drotsky’s Caves. And there is no doubt that if the landscape was less featureless these rather subtle beauties might go unnoticed. However, there are some of us who have actually been to Tsodilo Hills who are continually warmed by memories of this Botswana travel experience, and have no hesitation in suggesting the place is worth a visit.
Be warned. There is no infrastructure at all. It is four-wheel drive country. You must be entirely self-sufficient. It is recommended that you travel at least in pairs, so that there is a back-up vehicle in case of break downs. Fuel and supplies are scarce, and it’s not unusual to find a tiny rural petrol station without fuel. It’s an arid region, water is scarce. Do not undertake this Botswana trip lightly. There is a rough air-strip (maintained by the museum, but not manned) which can be used by fly-in/fly-out day trippers, but getting around the hills without transport requires a fair level of fitness, so don’t regard this as a soft Botswana safari option.
Brought to world attention as the “Slippery Hills” in Sir Laurens van der Post’s Lost World of the Kalahari, four small hills of micaceous quartsite schists make up the group. These seem to float above the eternal rolling fossil dunes, and create an impression of profound intensity - a sense that here something of grave importance has, could, did or may happen. This atmosphere has generated a series of indigenous myths and legends that surround these hills, ranging from the site of man’s creation to the dwelling place of a fierce snake-headed monster. Certainly the hills have been - if not venerated themselves - the site of veneration for centuries, and almost every other rock-face is graced with delicate San art, some huge and visible from quite a distance, others that seem to whisper privately to a single observer.
Named “The Male”, “The Female” and “The Child”, the fourth hill is barely more than a rise above the undulating grassy ridges and remains unnamed. The largest, The Male, is bare rock rising 300 metres above the plain. This stark blue-grey presence is the first seen on driving in and gives Tsodilo much of its sense of enigma and mystery. Most of the paintings - some 2 700 have been counted - are on the smaller and more gracefully wooded Female Hill, where little secret springs of water can still be found, and must have been one of the reasons for the importance of the Hills to ancient man. (Don’t rely on finding these tiny little seeps; you must carry your own water supply if you venture here on your Botswana trip.)
Between the two hills there seems a preternatural silence, as if the hills are listening, perhaps for a far-off snatch of song. Where many wilderness areas seem to demand the very absence of humans, the Hills feel welcoming. This sense of man being so much an integral part of the hills has probably ensured that it is so, for there is a permanent settlement of Hambukush, a Bantu people, near the Male Hill, and they have been there for at least a thousand years. The San probably lived in the area for even longer.
The wealth of rock art has ensured that Tsodilo Hills gain some protection as a National Monument for Botswana, and a museum employee is stationed at the site to guide Botswana safari, participants. However, its remoteness and difficulty of access are not sufficient to prevent busloads of school pupils from descending on the area periodically, and some modern scrawls deface the old and beautiful paintings. Hopefully this will be seen as a serious threat to the country’s heritage and controlled very rapidly.
The area may well fall within one of Botswana’s hunting-concession areas, and it is certainly not a recommended Botswana safari destination where game viewing is concerned. You may be lucky enough to spot a zebra or two, perhaps a very shy kudu, but game is generally not much in evidence. If you are content with the small fry, the little yellow mopane squirrels are entertaining to watch. The Hills are known to provide a home to a very healthy society of wild honeybees, and great care must be taken while climbing.
Although not far from the Okavango Delta on a map, the dirt roads to Tsodilo Hills are not easy going, though the main route along the western edge of the delta is now tarred. Plan your Botswana trip carefully, take absolutely everything with you - it takes a minimum of three days to explore the Hills - and take absolutely everything that you brought in back with you when you leave.
Near the Namibian border in western Botswana is an extraordinary series of caves named after Martinus Drotsky, who was shown them by local San hunters in the early 1930’s. This is a Botswana travel attraction that appeals to the speleologist and rugged off-road specialist only. This is not a game-viewing destination, and there are no facilities. There is even less here than at Tsodilo Hills - no water at all, and no people living in the immediate vicinity. The nearest fuel is at Maun or in Namibia. The caves themselves can be dangerous: there is no lighting, natural or artificial, and it is recommended that no one enter the caves without a secondary, emergency light supply about their person. There is little airflow through the caves, and disturbed dust will hang in the air for long periods. Special care should be taken to protect photographic or other delicate equipment.
However, the lack of facilities has ensured that the caves are undeveloped and quite unspoilt. On the banks of the dry bed that was once the Kwihabe River, a low outcrop of dolomite protrudes above the endless corrugations of ancient dune fields. This long dead river once flowed strongly, and the region was wet enough to dissolve great winding passages and domed caverns through this rock. In drier times rainwater percolating through the rock left wonderful fluted shapes of lustrous white flowstone. Though not as extensive as South Africa’s Cango Caves, Drotsky’s Caves have a reputation for breathtaking stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones and caverns. A map of the caves is available from the Botswana Society at the National Museum in Gaborone if you want to include it in your Botswana safari.
Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve
It is said that both “kalahari” and “makgadikgadi” stem from the same ancient San word for thirst-land. Both share waterless flat rolling grasslands and scrub, but the Makgadikgadi, which incidentally has more water in the wet season, has a particularly desert-like ambience.
The area referred to as the Makgadikgadi Pans is composed of two huge salt pans, Ntwetwe and Sowa, and their associated grasslands. Only a tiny section of this vast area - said to be the biggest salt pans in the world - is actually designated National Park. You probably wouldn’t even know when you’re in the National Park and when not, since the area is not fenced. The actual surface of the pans is a flat layer of bleached sterile silt that develops a glue-like texture when water is added.
So why on earth would anyone want to include this area in their Botswana safari? Well, generally they don’t. This is not a prime tourist destination as the Okavango, or Chobe or the Linyanti are. Makgadikgadi is regarded as an interesting addition to a Botswana trip, a nice contrast to other lusher wilderness areas. Very few tourists actually make the Pans their principal destination. And those tourists who do are usually specialists: birders, four-wheel drive enthusiasts or wilderness devotees.
However, there is a growing trend towards Botswana trips that include a wilderness experience, and more and more people are being drawn to the sometimes deeply spiritual feeling that deserts invoke. There is a special fascination in deserts that appeals to a certain type of Botswana safari participant. It has something to do with a sense of space and self. It has to do with vast horizons, the huge inverted bowl of the sky, the uninterrupted sweep of simple landscape beneath it - as featureless as a saucer. With you at the centre, it is both humbling and centring. You realise how insignificant you are, and at the same time that you are all there is. As American poet E.E. Cummings says ” when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,/the single secret will still be man”.
Man has been around these pans from time immemorial. There are bushman hunting shelters probably built and used in the 20th century, made of calcrete boulders that contain fossilised antelope bones and embedded Stone Age tools. The shorelines of Makgadikgadi, for it was more than once a vast inland sea, are littered with the archaeological relics of continuous but scattered human presence. Even when the waters finally receded and left these shallow depressions of saline clay and silt to catch the sparse summer rain, the rich herds of wildlife - zebra, wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest - would ebb and flow across the plains in their ceaseless pursuit of water and grazing, drawing their inevitable following of carnivores - lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog, hyena - and of course the early hunters.
During the dry season today’s diminished herds of game tend to concentrate in the west, in the vicinity of the Boteti River. With the onset of the rains they usually disperse to the east and the north, to Nxai Pan and beyond. It is not an uncommon sight to see game, far out on the pans eating the mineral-rich silt, as if up to their knees in water as the heat shimmers a mirage across the surface of the pans.
The birdlife is a specialist’s dream - whitebacked and lappetfaced vultures, bateleur, ostrich, kori bustard, black korhaan and bronze winged courser, four species of sandgrouse and a startling variety of larks. In the wet season flamingos, pelicans, avocet and a huge range of ducks move into the area. Sowa Pan near the town of Nata, is a birdwatcher’s paradise when in water.
Although there are many “islands” in Makgadikgadi, very few of them are rocky. Most of these occur in Sowa Pan and all have unique qualities that make them places of special interest. The most magical and best known is Kubu (or Khubung) Island which is located in the south-west corner of Sowa Pan.
To the south of Kubu on the southern shore of Sowa Pan is a low escarpment some 50m in height. Perched on the very edge of this and commanding a magnificent view across the pan is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in Botswana.
There is very little game to be seen around Sowa Pan, however the birdlife is considerable, and the Nata Sanctuary at Sowa Pan is a particularly important birding spot that you may wish to include in your Botswana travels. It offers an unusual mix of species invariably augmented by passing migrants, which add a special interest. Close by is the Nata Lodge, which is a busy, well-run and convenient stopover point en-route to northern Botswana. Situated at the junction of the road to Maun and the road to Kasane, it has a nicely appointed camping ground, some A-frame chalets, a swimming pool and a restaurant. They will organise 4x4 Botswana safaris to anywhere in the Makgadikgadi.
The unfenced National Park includes only a small section of the north-western part of Ntwetwe, but there are numerous small pans scattered through the park. On the western side of the Ntwetwe Pan itself, hundreds of small islands seem to thicken until they form the erratic edge of the pan. Each of these is a stabilised sand dune, clear evidence of climate change in relatively recent times, showing that desert conditions returned allowing sand dunes to be formed on the surface of the pan. Rain may have stabilised them, and given grass a toe-hold, helping to anchor the dune in place. With greater flows in the Boteti River and perhaps higher rainfall, the pan filled once more. The dunes became small islands, their sloping sides clearly showing fluctuations in lake levels in the form of wave-cut platforms with a distinctive flat surface of spiky salt-tolerant grasses.
As distance from the pan increases, more grasses appear. In some areas, usually gentle hollows in the old lake bed, nutrients concentrate and isolated patches of acacia and other trees grow. Salt-tolerant palms tower above the landscape like a string of party balloons, demarcating more changes in soil chemistry. The now consolidated National Park comprised of the old Makgadikgadi Game Reserve and the now extended Nxai Pan National Park, is located centrally in northern Botswana about 150 kilometres east of Maun, and accessed by the tarred road between Maun and Nata. This slices the park in two, but since it is not fenced does not represent a barrier in any way. The park is strategically located between four other protected areas to allow the free movement of wildlife, though much of this important survival mechanism is counteracted by the extensive network of veterinary cordon fences. Free movement does still happen in the north of Nxai Pan through a substantial gap, some kilometres wide, in the east-west cordon fence.
Since the main economic activity around the Pans is cattle production, the cordon fences separate the so-called disease-free central and southern regions from the northern regions, which are known to have foot-and-mouth disease. The park is under-used, due to a lack of facilities. Therefore those who wish to include it in their Botswana travel itinerary must be entirely self-sufficient. There are two small public camping sites at Nxai Pan, which have basic ablution facilities and water. Although walking is permitted, care must be exercised due to the presence of large predators and the fact that it is very easy to become lost in such a featureless landscape. The areas of vast open grassland are one of the main attractions to the Pans National Park, but to the north vegetable-ivory palms (Hyphenae pietersiana) dominate the scene. To the west are occasional acacia woodlands, especially towards the Boteti River - once a strongly flowing perennial river, now diminished to an irregular string of pools in the dry months.
The Nxai Pan section of the park is on the northern side of the Maun-Nata road and the old cattle route to Pandamatenga on the border with Zimbabwe used to pass right through this area - parts of the old rough track can still be seen. The vegetation is mostly open savannah woodland, acacia tickets and mopane woodland, with large sweeps of open grassland. Scattered stands of acacia on the pan provides browse for giraffe. Fluctuating populations of red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, eland and springbok may be seen. Impala are sometimes seen and very occasionally buffalo and elephant. Keep an eye out for the delightful insectivorous little bat-eared fox, a common but shy resident.
The big predators will follow in the wake of the herds, lion, leopard, cheetah, both spotted and brown hyaena and the endangered wild dog. The melancholic cry of the jackal is often heard at night. Approximately 250 species of bird are present, including a variety of birds of prey. Ostriches are common. Usually the best chance of seeing large herds of game is during the summer at the outset of the rains, roughly in December through to March. Near Nxai Pan and overlooking Kudiakam Pan is the well-known, much photographed clump of trees called Bains’ Baobabs. These elephants of the plant kingdom, which contribute so much to the surrealistic feel of the area, were first recorded in a painting by the explorer/naturalist/artist/engineer Thomas Bains in May 1862. A photograph taken about a century later shows no discernible change in the trees.
An exhilarating way to include the pans in your Botswana safari is by chugging around on a four-wheeled motorbike. These are always guided safaris and may be organised to go anywhere, but a favourite is to travel to Kubu Island from the Northern Shore of Sowa Pan. The lightness of these vehicles allows you to venture far into the middle of the Pans, an almost surreal experience in itself, and you will be able to explore remote archaeological sites and perhaps discover new ones. Kubu, a rocky granite island studded with baobabs, is one of the most beautiful spots in Makgadikgadi. It is also close to what is probably the biggest flamingo breeding site in Southern Africa.
This Botswana trip will give you a chance to truly understand the Pans, their ecology, formation and history. Your experience will be one of real adventure and active involvement, as well as the sense of vast almost incomprehensible space as you drive across seemingly endless white pans. Jack’s Camp, named for one of the almost legendary pioneers in tourism to this area, offers an intriguing balance between stark wilderness and bedrolls under the stars, and the luxury of hot showers and superb meals on damask cloths set with bone-handled silver.
The Tuli Block
Extending along the northern banks of the Limpopo River for about 350 kilometres, the Tuli Block is about 10 to 20 kilometres deep, and all of it is privately owned commercial farming or ranch land. The area is hot and dry with very variable rainfall. As a result many landowners have decided to capitalise on the magnificent scenery and remnant game populations, and band together in a wildlife conservancy. From Martin’s Drift in the south to the Zimbabwean border at the confluence of the Limpopo with the Shashe River, the Tuli Block forms a vast privately owned wildlife area with a variety of accommodation, ranging from small guest cottages and tented camps to luxury lodges.
The landscape is rugged and striking. The riverine fringe along the Limpopo seems almost hemmed in by rocky outcrops, and if you are very lucky, it is possible to see crocodile and klipspringer with a turn of the head. There is a variety of habitats, from riverine woodland to dry ridges of Commiphora and baobab, from dense mopane scrub to savannah grasslands. It is an area of lion-coloured grass and elephant grey rocks, of dramatic floods of swirling green water, or a wide bleached river of sand. A place of bushman paintings and dinosaur fossils. A wilderness littered with the discarded stone tools of early man. (All artefacts, incidentally, are the property of the people of Botswana and custody lies with the National Museum). At night you may hear the leopard cough, or still your breathing to listen to the birdlike triple call of a zebra in the distance, or wonder if the grass being cropped in the darkness is a midnight meal for impala or hippo. Listening in the velvet dark you will hear the fluting notes of water dikkop, perhaps even the deep haunted sound of Pel’s Fishing Owl.
Around the mid 1880’s Chief Khama of the Bamangwato tribe in Botswana - then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland - became concerned about the threat of invasion by the land-hungry boers from the Transvaal. The chief ceded the area north of the Limpopo to private ownership to form a buffer zone, and the Tuli Block came into being. The land was portioned into individual farms, and remains one of the few areas of freehold land in Botswana. Across the border in Zimbabwe is the Tuli Circle, the name being derived from the Tuli River, which is a tributary of the Shashe. Fort Tuli was built by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company as a firm base for the colonisation of Zimbabwe by the BSA Company in the 1890’s.
When tourism and conservation proved to be a better use of land than farming or cattle ranching, it become possible to apply uniform management policies to the area. It was at this stage that the Mashatu Reserve was established, a commercial tourism and conservation enterprise, incorporating more than 50 000 hectares. Tuli Safari Lodge is another such enterprise. Both provide luxury accommodation for Botswana trips. From comfortable game viewing vehicles, one may see elephant, kudu, impala, wildebeest, giraffe, lion, zebra and leopard. This is a great option for those who want a luxurious Botswana safari.
The official figure as per the preliminaries of the National Census held in 2000 is 1 678 891. Average population density is measured at 2,5 people per square kilometre. Botswana’s reputation as a wildlife destination is well justified, and in addition it contains three spectacular scenic attractions, the Okavango Delta, the Makgadigkadi salt pans and Tsodilo Hills - all three of which are popular Botswana travel destinations.
The Okavango is regarded as one of the world’s most spectacular inland deltas, a lush cross between a great sprawling oasis and a swamp, teeming with birds and wildlife. In contrast the Makgadikgadi is one of the biggest salt pans anywhere - horizon to horizon a vast unbroken disc of pewter coloured sand, seemingly barren and featureless, shimmering with atmospheric tension. Even more remote, Tsodilo Hills guards one of the greatest concentrations of rock art in the world, some huge and obvious, others tiny, delicate and almost secretive - a must-see when you travel in Botswana.
Much of the country is covered with ancient windblown Kalahari sands and the fossilised remains of a former desert. Landlocked, and roughly central to the southern African sub-continent, Botswana extends through nine degrees of latitude. These factors tend toward considerable variation in climate, but a low average rainfall. A very flat country with hilly areas along the Limpopo valley in the east, Botswana is semi-arid with rainfall figures of between 600 mm in the north to 200 mm in the south-west. Temperatures can be quite extreme - you can expect small quantities of water to freeze overnight when you travel Botswana in winter (June, July) while in October and November day temperatures can reach 40 C or more.
Since evaporation exceeds rainfall every month of the year, and there are no perennial rivers in Botswana, apart from the Kavango River, which vanishes into the sands of the Okavango Delta. Water is a scarcity and a preoccupation. The local currency is named after rain (Pula), and a considerable quantity of fossil water is siphoned from boreholes to supply both the diamond industry and cattle herds. Constant thought is given to the possible use of the water of the Delta to relieve the chronic problem, and various (failed) schemes have been attempted. Hopefully international tourism of the Botswana safari circuit will continue to provide sufficient financial rewards to undermine any further attempts to canalise or obstruct the life-blood of this unique system.
Given its area (just under 600 000 square kilometres) and a relatively small population of about 1.5 million, Botswana has an average of three people per square kilometre, but the cattle density of the country is considerably higher. One of the richest per capita countries in Africa, much of its wealth comes from diamond mines with beef production as the second most important income generator. However, wildlife and Botswana safaris and tours are high earners for the country, and roughly 20% of the land is designated as protected wildlife areas.
As a change from all the usual African curios, often manufactured in Taiwan, one of this country’s specialities is its basketry. An integral part of the Botswana tradition, baskets have been made for hundreds of years. Superbly woven from the fibres of young malala or ilala palms (Hypenae species) and dyed with a variety of root and leaf extracts, the baskets have traditional styles and designs. Some are so closely woven as to be watertight and were originally made to store beer; others were intended for grain storage or for portage or winnowing. These make for beautiful keepsakes of your Botswana holiday.
Now recognised internationally as works of art, the baskets have patterns woven into them with intriguing names, such as “running ostrich”, “face of the zebra” and “bull’s urine trail”. It is not uncommon for special technical and design skills to be associated with a given family or community. Make sure to seek out these beautiful crafts when you travel in Botswana.
Whilst African Travel Gateway does not arrange visas, the following information has been provided to assist you in finding out the visa requirements for the passport that you are holding. While every effort is made to keep this information updated, it is subject to change.
All nationals of foreign countries, except those from countries which have reached a visa abolition agreements with Botswana, require a visa for entering Botswana.
Nationals not requiring visas:
Members of all Commonwealth countries (except the nationals of Ghana, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, German Federal Republic, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Samoa (Western), San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, USA and Yugoslavia.
Any visitor - whether visa exempted or not that wishes to stay more than 90 days should apply for prior permission for the extended period to the Chief Immigration Office in Gabarone. No visitor is allowed to work or seek employment in Botswana.
Below are the issueing authorities in the Southern Africa region. One should first however, check if there is a Botswana Consulate in your country of residence. This will make the process of applying for a visa a lot simpler:
a) The Botswana Consulate,
P.O Box 32501, Braamfontein 2017
Forum 2 on the 4th Floor
33 Hoofd Street, Braam Park, Braamfontein
Tel: (+27 11) 403 - 3748 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (+27 11) 403 - 3748 end_of_the_skype_highlighting / 49
Fax: (+27 11) 403 - 1384
Office Hours: 08h00 - 13h00 for visas
b) Botswana Consulate-General
P.O Box 3288, Cape Town
Tel: (+27 21) 421 - 1045
Fax: (+27 21) 421 - 1046
c) Chief Immigration Officer, Visa Section
P.O Box 942, Gabarone
Tel: (+267) 361 - 1300
Fax: (+267) 314 - 286
Office Hours: 07h30 - 12h30 and 13h45 - 16h30
A yellow fever certificate will be needed if coming from an endemic area.
Malaria precautions are advised at all times.
Bilharzia is present as well as sleeping sickness.
Tetanus recommended if coming from an infected area
Hepatitis A & B recommended
Boiled or bottled water advised
Unpasteurised milk bust be boiled
Although we have yet to have one client that has returned home from a safari and reported to have contracted an illness or received a snake bite, scorpion sting or any of the sort, the following information is purely here to give you the traveler to Africa some basic background on how to prevent and treat any such ailments. However, you will invariably be hosted by a safari camp, lodge or hotel at which the staff are prepared on how to stabilize, treat as well as prevent typical injuries, bites, stings and other conditions that may befall a person when out in the bush.
The number of travellers is constantly on the rise. This means a greater risk of propagation and contamination by contagious disease. These risks vary however, with the region visited, the duration of stay and living conditions. The situation is sometimes worsened by the illusion of effective health protection at the borders, and by governments who delay or refute notification of the onset of an epidemic. Thus, an increasing number of those who are led to travel to tropical countries for business or pleasure, tend to consult their physician either before their departure, for qualified advice, or when a bout of fever, diarrhoea or some other symptoms occur upon returning home. While specific situations should be taken into account, physicians should be guided by the basic rules:
Additionally, consideration should be made of:
Any chronic disorder you may have i.e. asthma, diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disorder, epilepsy, porphyria etc.
Any medication you may be taking
Pregnant women, or anyone planning a pregnancy
Children under five, or breast-fed children
Pilots, mountaineers, divers
Allergies i.e. to insects (bees), foods (nuts), medication
1. GENERAL HYGIENE
Basic hygiene measures include cleanliness of hands, food and body.
Hints for travellers to avoid food-borne infections
(a) Water - avoid drinking or brushing teeth with tap water.
Ice - common source of contamination (including iced lollipops or frozen flavoured ices)
Water purification by heat (boiling) is the preferred method of purifying water. If impractical, chemical disinfection using iodine-based products (2% tincture of iodine). Apply certain caution for prolonged periods i.e. women who are pregnant, in children, and travellers with thyroid disease. Alternatively use chlorine tablets. Portable filters are currently not recommended (these may only remove suspended materials, and to clarify water).
(b) Food - Avoid eating unpasturized dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, ice cream, creamy desserts, yoghurt). Milk should be boiled before consumed.
- Avoid eating uncooked foods, leftovers, or cooked foods that have been kept for some time at room temperature (especially important with minced meat dishes, e.g. hamburgers)
- Avoid eating salads, raw fruits and vegetables not peeled.
- Avoid purchasing food from street vendors.
(c) Hands - Should be washed thoroughly and often, using soap. Do this diligently, when dealing with infected adults, children, toilet visits, or animal contact.
- Remember the old adage “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.”
Remember to take enough of your own usual medication i.e. for asthma, diabetes, hypertentios, depression, epilepsy, known allergies etc.
A. In addition you may require medication to relieve common symptoms of probable illness e.g.:
Anti-emetics - For nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and
Analgesics - To manage pain, fever, inflammation (e.g. sprains etc)
Antihistamines for known serious allergies
Antipruitics for skin itches
Sunblock/lipice for excessive sun exposure
B. If required, a prophylactic course of antibiotics for:
hypnotics: to provide a more comfortable sleep during journey (i.e. aeroplane) or at your destination.
C. Malaria Chemoprophylaxis
(a) assess the risk of developing malaria i.e.:
length of stay in the malaria area
time of year (i.e. wet or dry season)
type of accommodation (tent or caravan is a greater risk than a hotel room)
the prevalence of malaria in the area, and if the area has chloroquine sensitive or resistant strain of malaria parasite
high risk group i.e. the elderly, children under 5 years, pregnant women, or patients with low immunity
b) Precautions to be taken in all malarial areas:
apply insect repellents to exposed skin
wear light cotton clothing, long sleeves, long trousers and closed shoes after sunset
avoid perfumes and after-shaves
avoid going out between dusk and dawn
use mosquito nets, treated with insecticide, or use mosquito coils or mats
visit malarial area during dry season, or when the rainfall is low
c) Chemoprophylaxis, using appropriate anti-malarials:
In Chloroquine sensitive areas - use Chloroquine. In Chloroquine resistant areas - the choice is a combination of Chloroquine and Mefloquine or Proguanil. Regardless of the anti-malarial drug, it should be taken on the day of arrival in the endemic area, and must be continued throughout the stay, and for six weeks thereafter. Medication will only be effective if it is taken absolutely regularly. A single omission is enough to interrupt the protective effect.
These vaccines are recommended for travel to developing countries:
HEPATITIS A - recommended for all travellers
HEPATITIS B - suggested for persons working in hospitals, or living in endemic areas for a long period of time
TYPHOID - (refer to information on food-borne illness, especially shellfish and raw vegetables)
vaccination should be completed at least one week prior to travel for optimal protection
vaccines provide only temporary protection and periodic boosters are required.
CHOLERA - Cholera vaccine is not recommended because it is NOT effective and the protective effect is temporary and gives a false sense of security
POLIO - adults should have a single booster before travel.
children should have their routine immunization schedule completed
YELLOW FEVER - strongly recommended where the virus is active, regardless of duration of stay in endemic country
RABIES - vaccination for travellers who will stay in rural areas
TETANUS/DIPTHERIA - boosters should be had by all people every 10 years
MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS - required only for pilgrims to Mecca and countries where it is prevalent
JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS - recommended for travellers to certain parts of Asia
These bites may be painful, itchy and lead to necrotic lesions. Frequently, tick bites are not detected immediately. Seek medical attention, especially if the symptoms of “tic-bite” fever occur. To remove ticks, apply a drop of petrol, oil, or nail varnish to smother the tick, so the head can be successfully removed.
Antivenom is generally not indicated as it can be more fatal than the bite if inappropriately administered. Before visiting an area known for snake prevalence, record the telephone numbers of the nearest hospital, doctor, poison centre, transport e.g. Medical Rescue International
Call for medical assistance and transport immediately
Lie victim on their back, of left side position, keep them warm and immobile
Reassure the victim all the time, observe vital signs i.e. pulse, breathing, skin colour, swelling and bruising
Observe and record details constantly
Time of snake bite
Place of body where bitten
Snake identification e.g. markings, colour, size, place of snake bite
Do CPR if necessary and continue until medical help is available, to take over from you
Remove rings, jewellery, tight clothing from limbs, neck and chest
Inspect the wound, wipe away venom, rinse well with water and clean wound with antiseptic lotion, cover with gauze. If the would is very painful with associated swelling which rapidly worsens, treat as cytotoxic envenomation (puff-adder, spitting cobra) and do not apply crepe bandage. In all other cases apply firm crepe bandage to the limb, from below to above the wound, and immobilize with a splint and/or sling. If venom has entered the eyes, rinse copiously with milk, water, or any bland beverage, and cover the eye with gauze.
Keep victim nil per mouth
Keep recording vital signs until medical help is reached
If you are trained and equipped, prepare to give Polyvalent Antivenom, if indicated by patient’s condition (i.e. progressive nerve involvement such as difficulty in swallowing and breathing, or severe swelling spreading up a limb). Antivenom should not be given indiscriminately as adverse reactions are quite common.
BEES, WASPS, HORNETS, ANTS The venom from such stings may be life threatening if the victim is allergic to the stings and/or if multiple stings have occurred. Management:
Move away from the place of the insect sting, quietly, as panic aggravates and attracts other bees.
Examine the wound for the sting and scrape it with something flat e.g. knife edge, nail etc. Avoid using tweezers or two fingers. Clean wound right thereafter.
Assess the airway, breathing and cardiovascular status quickly. Call for medical help immediately and arrange for hospitalization. Do CPR if necessary, reassure patient, observe vital signs, as for a snake bite.
If mild, apply ice to the wound, and then creams or solutions containing ammonia or aluminium sulphate which will help the burn/itch etc. Cortisone cream can be applied topically, or cortisone taken systematically if indicated. Analgesics can be given and a tetanus toxoid booster may be necessary.
Neurotoxic spiders are the “button” and “widow” varieties within South Africa.
Black Button Spider: Sharp burning pain, which rapidly spreads to other lymph glands in 5 - 15 minutes. Severe muscle cramps follow, especially in abdomen, chest, back and thighs. Weakness, tremors, difficulty in walking, spastic movements and profuse sweating can follow. These symptoms can be followed by severe, life-threatening problems. CALL FOR MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY and arrange for hospitalization.
Cytotoxic spiders are the “sac” and “violin” spiders. The bites swell quickly, are angry and red, painful and develop into pustules which can soon necrose.
Management: Clean the wound and get medical attention as ulceration and necrosis can be severe leading to cellulitus, which requires antibiotics and possible skin grafting. A tetanus toxoid booster is indicated.
Bites are similar to the neurotoxic spider bites. The pain is extreme, swelling immediate, followed by numbness, peripheral paralysis, muscular pain and cramps. General weakness, dizziness, breathing difficulty and restlessness may follow. Again, these lead to severe, life-threatening symptoms. Management:
CALL FOR MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY and arrange for hospitalization. Assess the airway, do CPR if necessary, reassure the victim and observe vital signs at all times.
There are no national health services in Botswana so make sure you have some kind on medical insurance before you leave on your African safari. Bring with you any medicines you may need during your stay as you will probably have little access to pharmacies. Often emergency evacuation insurance is included in the nightly rate charged by the various Botswana safari camps and lodges, however we advise all travellers to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover any mishaps as they travel Botswana.
The best time to travel to Botswana is April to October when the days are sunny and not too hot. Evening temperatures drop sharply. During the summer months of November to April, temperatures can rise to over 40 C and there are often thunderstorms in the early afternoons and evenings. At night the temperatures usually drop to around 20 to 25 C. May to October are the winter months and temperatures can reach about 20 C during the day but can drop to as low as 5 C at night. Days normally remain dry, sunny, cool and warm. The winter period ensures a thinning of the vegetation, and this coupled with the need for animals to concentrate on perennial water points makes game viewing easier. The flooding of the Okavango Delta is usually at its height in August. Below is a simple table depicting the average temperatures and rainfall you may expect during your Northern Botswana safari
RAINFALL (mm). This varies according to the year and where you are.
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUNE JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Range 101 101 51 26 0 0 0 0 0 0 25 76
TEMPERATURE ( Ã‚ÂºC) - These are the average lows and highs
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUNE JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
MIN 19 19 18 15 10 06 06 09 14 19 20 20
MAX 33 32 32 30 28 25 26 27 34 38 40 35
Maun and Kasane
Mon - Fri 08h30 - 14h30
Sat 08h15 - 10h45
FIRST NATIONAL BANK
Mon - Fri 09h00 - 12h45 & 14h15 - 15h30
Sat 08h30 - 11h00
STANDARD CHARTERED BANK
Mon - Fri 08h15 - 14h00
Wed 08h15 - 13h00
Sat 08h15 - 10h45
Major hotels normally have foreign exchange facilities and most shops, lodges and travel agencies accept travellers cheques.
Botswana’s decimal currency is the pula, in which notes are issued. The coins are thebe. Major Botswana hotels have foreign currency facilities and most shops, lodges and travel agencies will accept traveller’s cheques. Customs authorities will only accept cash or travellers cheques in Rand, Sterling, Euros or US dollars. Any amount of currency may be imported into Botswana as long as it is declared. On leaving Botswana P 200 per person in cash, and the equivalent of P 300 in cash of a foreign currency, may be exported. Banks are open until two-thirty in the afternoon, but close at midday on Wednesdays and at a quarter to eleven on Saturday mornings, something to factor in when you plan your Botswana holiday.
English is the official language and Setswana is the national language. There are other tribal languages spoken, however, generally the population has a good command of the English language and communication should not be a problem on your Botswana safari.
Botswana has diverse cultures due to the diverse ethnic composition. The majority of the population is of Christian religion. There are other religions, such as Islam and Hindu, as the people enjoy freedom of religion.
The majority of Botswana inhabitants are farmers, therefore traditional food that you will encounter as you travel Botswana is derived mainly from farm products. These include sorghum, millet, maize-meal and bean leaf relish. Beef, mopane worms and game meat are used as relish. “There is no feast without beef.”
Shops in cities and towns are normally open between 8:30 and 17:00 Monday to Friday, and 8:30 to 13:00 on a Saturday. Most Botswana safari camps and lodges have curio shops. A really good buy is the baskets that are made in Botswana, as a lot of time and effort are spent on each one and these will make good keepsakes of your Botswana holiday.
Most camps are too remote to tap into the country’s electricity supply, so they generate their own electricity by means of a generator that runs whilst the guests are out of camp on activities. These generators charge a bank of batteries, which provide good lights all night. There are generally no 220v or 110v power points in the camps. In the Botswana hotels in the towns electricity is made up of 230 V AC 50hz.
Water supplies are safe in urban areas, but not reliable in rural regions. With a large number of wildlife and cattle, the limited water sources in rural areas are heavily utilised. All water from unknown sources should be boiled, filtered and purified. It is also advisable to carry water when you travel in Botswana’s remote areas.
Civil unrest and disorder are rare. Petty crime and crimes of opportunity, such as stealing of personal possessions, remain the most common form of crime in Botswana.
Please do not hesitate to contact us directly should you require any further Botswana travel advice. We will be more than happy to assist you with any queries that should arise during the planning phase of your Botswana trip before you travel to Botswana.