Botswana: The essence of Africa

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A safari in Africa doesn't come much better than a wildlife experience in Botswana. Amanda Marks explains why.

Spread-eagled on the dry African earth of Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans, I was face-to-face with a meerkat. There was neither fear nor curiosity on his part, but I was on cloud nine. After years of wildlife viewing throughout Africa, this was an unexpectedly thrilling highlight. A safari in Botswana had done it again!

Choosing one destination for a safari in Africa is not as easy as you'd think, but Botswana must come high in the list for most safari-goers, and here are the reasons why ...

THE LANDSCAPE

1. THE OKAVANGO DELTA - the world's largest inland delta. The annual floodwaters provide the uniquely incredible highlight of Botswana. A profusion and huge diversity of wildlife, birds and plants.

2. THE KALAHARI DESERT - a vast and arid, seemingly empty landscape with endlessly surprising signs of life amongst the sand and scrub. Learn about it from the traditional inhabitants, the San Bushmen.

3. MAKGADIKGADI & NXAI PANS - a fascinating area of salt pans left from ancient dried-up lakes. Lifeless? Most certainly not – just ask the meerkats!

4. CHOBE & LINYANTI - reserves focussed on the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers which attract wildlife from miles around. Elephant heaven for sure, and much more.

THE WILDLIFE

WILDLIFE DIVERSITY in Botswana is high, with over 500 bird species, 120+ mammal species, and 70+ reptiles. You are of course going to see a wide range of the more commonly seen birds and animals such as giraffe, zebras, antelopes, warthogs, buffalo, wildebeest, lions, hyenas. However you also stand a good chance of seeing some more unusual or less-commonly seen animals such as meerkats, brown hyenas, wild dogs, and Pel’s fishing owl.

More than this though, seeing WILDLIFE IN UNUSUAL HABITATS is also thrilling. A pride of lions in Moremi Game Reserve is a superb sight, but seeing a single black-maned lion in the Kalahari Desert is almost more exciting. Even a handsome antelope such as a steenbok is a precious sighting in such inhospitable surroundings.

Lastly, perhaps a lesser-known fact is that Botswana has WILDLIFE MIGRATIONS. In the green season (around late November to March) there is a large zebra migration which heads through the Makgadikgadi and Nxi Pans. Zebras and wildebeest are here in great numbers, along with accompanying predators such as lions and hyenas. Even cheetahs are seen relatively regularly here at this time.

THE PEOPLE

For the majority of visitors Botswana is not really a cultural destination, it is mostly about the wildlife. However the chance to get an insight into one of the world’s ancient cultures, that of the San Bushmen, is an opportunity not to be missed while you’re here.

ORGANISING YOUR SAFARI

Since the options of where, when and what to visit are so great in this special country, I'd always advise using the services of an expert tour operator that really knows their stuff. Botswana is an expensive safari destination, so don't take the risk and get it wrong.

AUTHOR
Amanda Marks is the managing director of award-winning specialist tour operator, Tribes Travel. Tribes specialises is organising tailor made holidays in Africa, South America, India & Nepal, with a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism.
You can contact Amanda by email at : amanda@tribes.co.uk

http://www.tribes.co.uk/botswana-safari-holidays

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