Africa’s shining light, Botswana, is one of the last remaining true wilderness destinations; boasting a dramatically diverse ecological system which varies from the unique flood-waters of the Okavango Delta to the almost surreal, sun-baked salt-pans of the central Kalahari and the game-rich Chobe, Linyanti and Okavango Rivers.
Historically, Botswana is one of Africa’s outstanding success stories. In an effort to preserve the country’s pristine environment and deliver the finest authentic wildlife experience, the Botswana government abandoned mass tourism and implemented a state policy of low-volume, high-quality tourism.
Today, tourism and wildlife employ 45% of all people living in northern Botswana and nearly 40% of the country has been set aside for wildlife. The land has been divided into private reserves or concessions and is leased out to safari companies who are required to manage these within strict guidelines in order to prevent overcrowding.
Botswana has two distinct seasons – summer, which lasts from October to April, and winter, which runs from May to September. Most of the rain falls between December and February, usually in the form of short, sharp thunderstorms. The dry season from April to November promises the best ‘big game’ spectacles whilst around May, the flood-waters inundate the Okavango.
Rightly considered one of the most incredible wildlife and wilderness sanctuaries in Africa, the Okavango is the largest inland delta in the world – each year flood-waters flow from their source in the highlands of Angola and spread in the shape of a pan handle into a magical water-world of papyrus swamps, reed beds and flood plains.
The most unique and remarkable attribute of the Okavango is the fact that it is a wetland paradise located in the arid Kalahari Desert – and unlike any other major river in the world, the Okavango never reaches the sea but instead, simply seeps into the parched soil. This water ‘wonderland’ lingers over a near flat surface where you can glide along in a traditional mokoro (dug-out canoe) and experience Africa at water level!
In the Moremi Game Reserve, in the heart of the Delta, the existing strict guidelines ensure that game is plentiful and safari vehicles are kept to a minimum.
To the northeast of the Okavango Delta, the Chobe and Linyanti Game Reserves are renowned for their predators as well as being home to Africa’s highest concentration of elephants. The famous Savuti Channel connects the Linyanti River with the interior of the Chobe National Park which teems with game and bird life. In addition to the abundant wildlife, the private river front reserve of Linyanti offers a remote and undisturbed safari experience where big game such as elephant, buffalo and wildebeest roam freely.
The grasslands of the Kalahari and the ‘lunar-like’ expanse of the Makgadikgadi salt pans are in total contrast to the verdant, game-rich Okavango and Linyanti regions. These areas boast rare species such as the great black-maned Kalahari Lion, Meerkats, Brown Hyena and Gemsbok (Oryx) as well as ancient archaeological and anthropological sites. The vast white pans and the gnarled silhouettes of the baobab trees are transformed into an important wetland site for a few months each year when the rain fills the pans with water and they become a breeding ground for flocks of flamingo and other migratory birds. At the same time, the last surviving migration of zebra and wildebeest move across the landscape in a spectacular ensemble.