Into the Wilderness of Botswana
If there is one thing that Botswana is famed for it is its incredible wildlife and phenomenal range of natural habitats that comprises of the Okavango Delta, the Chobe National Park and the Kalahari Desert to name but a few. Seasoned safari-goers and rookies alike are guaranteed to be blown away by the amazing possibility of spotting one or all of the “Big Five” as well as many other creatures in all of their splendour, and with an abundance of outstanding National Parks and Game Reserves across the country, a safari here is unrivalled. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and hailed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, The Okavango Delta is a vast inland delta that is a result of seasonal flooding with the water and surrounding vegetation attracting an astounding array of wildlife. The Moremi Game Reserve is the Delta’s only protected area and coming here should be top of any nature enthusiasts bucket list.
Nature’s very own theatre, the Okavango throws up a sensational spectacle of the world’s most loved animals and the unpredictability of the animal kingdom means you’ll always be gifted with the exciting prospect of never knowing what may happen. The arid planes and glistening waters underneath the scorching African sun beautifully set the backdrop for what may transpire; the entrancing prowl of a lioness stalking down her prey or the extraordinary sight of the Nile crocodile lying lazily in anticipation ready to strike its unsuspecting victim in ferocious fashion are moments many people can only dream about, yet when in Botswana these distant dreams effortlessly transform into a reality. To embark on a safari is to take yourself on a multisensory experience that throws surprises from all angles, simply cast your gaze away from the action on land into the air to catch a glimpse of any of the 530 species of birds that roam the skies above the Okavango. Both avid bird watchers and complete novices will no doubt be enthralled by impressive aerial displays and the heart stopping manner some species swoop down to the water’s edge to snatch tropical fish while others pluckily protect their young from lurking predators.
The appeal of the Okavango is that sometimes the greatest pleasures can be found where you least expect them; dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies are perhaps an overlooked species however the exquisite beauty of their delicate wings is a delightful discovery for those seeking to unearth something not akin to the ordinary. If the enticing prospect of getting up close and personal with Africa’s most magnificent animals sends a shiver down your spine then the opportunity to witness threatened species such as the endangered Cape wild dog in large groups will only intensify the chills. The endless delights of the Okavango can be explored through a host of different ways, whether it be by undertaking a classic 4x4 safari experience or taking to the skies and observing all its glory from a bird’s eye perspective, any visitor will be spellbound by just how beautiful Mother Nature really is.
Botswana is also home to the largest elephant population in Africa and the best place to watch these astonishing mammals revel in their natural habitat is undoubtedly at the Chobe National Park, where an estimated 120,000 elephants are believed to reside. Chobe National Park was Botswana’s first National Park and is comprised of four ecosystems, making it the most biologically diverse park and one that attracts some of the highest concentrations of game in the whole of Africa. Discussing the geography of Botswana naturally evokes a mention of the vast Kalahari Desert, which covers almost all of Botswana’s landmass, contributing significantly to the country’s breathtaking scenery. While the name ‘Kalahari’ literally translates as ‘large thirst’, Africa’s second largest desert is not a parched wilderness devoid of life, on the contrary, it is home to an assortment of amazing animals ranging from adorable meerkats to mighty prides of lions. Within the desert is The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, an extensive and remote preservation area that is famed for being the world’s largest sand basin and home of the San Bushmen. Travelling here is a challenging yet rewarding treat as the harsh terrains and sometimes brutal climate become overshadowed by jaw-dropping panoramas.
The beauty of Botswana is that there is no optimum time for an ideal visit as each season tantalises with nothing short of exceptional. During the summer months of November-April is wet season where the wilderness erupts into a kaleidoscope of colours and sounds as flowers bloom and many species give birth to their young. The heavy rainfall also transforms the usually dry landscapes into luscious greenery. However, travelling during the dry seasons between the winter months of May-October is the most popular time to go as the decreased vegetation sees a miscellaneous range of mammals, reptiles and birds gather around the watering hole. There will be an increased chance of spotting predators during these months as they lie in wait ready to hunt down unsuspecting prey in a dramatic demonstration of their incredible athleticism and power.
As phenomenal as these experiences can be, there are inevitably wider environmental and social consequences to take into consideration. As a country, Botswana strives to protect its wildlife population, striking landscapes and cultural heritage. Hunting was banned in 2014 and there continues to be a crack down against illegal poaching, particularly in the areas close to the northern border with Namibia. With a focus on high-quality and low volume tourism, Botswana’s commitment to preserving its pristine natural environment and fabulous flora and fauna ensure that its rural charm is in kept in tact and not destroyed by over commercialism.
Priding itself on its enchanting wilderness, strong cultural traditions and unparalleled opportunities to observe the planet’s greatest creatures, Botswana is an awe-inspiring country just begging to be discovered.
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