GEOGRAPHY: Botswana is bordered to the south and east by South Africa, to the northeast by Zimbabwe, to the north and west by Namibia and touches Zambia just west of the Victoria Falls. With an area of 581,730 square kilometers, Botswana is virtually the same size as France, Kenya or Texas.
The tableland of the Kalahari Desert covers most of Botswana. National parks cover 17 per cent of the country, with 38 per cent of the country dedicated to wildlife areas.
To the northwest is the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world. The Moremi Game Reserve occupies two-thirds of the delta’s area.
The Chobe National Park in the north includes the Savute and Linyanti regions.
To the far southwest is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, which ranges across the borders of Botwana, South Africa and Namibia, but is managed as a single entity.
The majority of the population lives in the southeast around Gaborone, Serowe and Kanye along the South African border.
The vast arid sandveld of the Kalahari occupies much of north, central and western Botswana. The seasonal rains bring a considerable difference to the vegetation, especially in the Makgadikgadi Pans and the Okavango Delta in the north. The latter, after the winter floods, provides one of the wildest and most beautiful nature reserves in Africa.
Temperate. Summer, between October and April, is very hot and combined with the rainy season. Dry and cooler weather exists between May and September with an average temperature of 25ºC. Early mornings and evenings may be cold and frosty in winter. Annual rainfall decreases westwards and southwards.
Area: 581,730 sq km (224,607 sq miles).
Population: 1,680,863 (2001).
Population Density: 2.9 per sq km.
Capital: Gaborone. Population: 186,007
Government: Republic since 1966. Head of State and Government:
Language: English is the official language. Setswana is the national language.
Religion: The majority of the population holds animistic beliefs, 30 per cent are Christian. There are small Muslim communities and the Bahá’í Faith is also represented.
Time: GMT + 2.
Electricity: 220-240 volts AC, 50Hz. 15- and 13-amp plug sockets are in use.
Communications: Telephone: IDD is available to over 80 countries. Country code: 267. Outgoing international code: 00. There are very few public phone boxes.
Mobile telephone: GSM 900 network. Local providers include Mascom Wireless
Internet: Local ISPs include IBIS and Mega
1: Risk of typhoid fever exists throughout the region especially if travelling outside cities. Botswana is practically free of poliomyelitis.
2: Malaria risk exists from November to May/June in the northern part of the country (Boteti, Chobe, Ngamiland, Okavango and Tutume districts/subdistricts), predominantly in the malignant falciparum form. Some of the falciparum-related cases have been reported as chloroquine-resistant; in which case, the recommended prophylaxis in risk areas is mefloquine.
3: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers over 1 year of age travelling from infected areas.
Food & drink: Tap water is considered safe to drink, although drinking water outside main cities and towns may be contaminated and sterilisation is advisable. Mineral water is available in most tourist centres. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.
Other risks: Hepatitis A, C and TB occur. Hepatitis B is hyperendemic. Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is endemic. Avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water; swimming pools which are well chlorinated and maintained are safe. Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is transmitted by tsetse flies in the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, Ngamiland and western parts of the Chobe National Park. Protective clothing and insect repellent are recommended. Tick-bite fever can be a problem when walking in the bush. It is advisable to wear loose-fitting clothes and to search the body for ticks. The disease may be treated with tetracycline, though pregnant women and children under 8 years of age should not take this medicine. Natural foci of plague have been reported.
In recent years, there has been a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases detected; indeed, Botswana has a prevalence rate of 39 per cent (statistics: end of 2002), the highest in the world. Visitors should therefore take necessary precautions.
Rabies is present in animals. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. For more information consult the Health appendix.
Health care: The dust and heat may cause problems for asthmatics and people with allergies to dust. Those with sensitive skin should take precautions. Botswana’s altitude, 1000m (3300ft) above sea level, reduces the filtering effect of the atmosphere. Hats and sunscreen are advised.
The public health system is made up of 23 district health teams, 3 referral hospitals (Francistown, Gaborone and Lobatse), 12 district hopsitals, 17 primary hospitals, 222 clinics, 330 health posts and 740 mobile stops. All main towns have chemists, and pharmaceutical supplies are readily available. Health insurance is essential. There is a government medical scheme and medicines supplied by government hospitals are free.
Most of Botswana’s highlights for visitors are in the northern and western areas of Botswana. In the centre of the country is probably the country’s most unusual, offbeat destination —the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Huge flat salt pans surrounded by picturesque palm trees on islands of vegetation.
Further north, Chobe National Park has long been popular. Its northern riverfront continues to draw game in huge numbers during the dry season. As well as the usual safari camps, we are pleased to recommend several excellent camps on the opposite, Namibian, banks of the Chobe River here. These are excellent value, pleasantly secluded options.
For those who might find the public areas of Chobe National Park too busy, the private reserves of Linyanti and Selinda as first-class alternatives.
Meanwhile, the jewel in Botswana’s crown has always been the magnificent Okavango Delta.
The country’s best camps, are usually reached by light aircraft and 4WDs. These will arrange a variety of game activities for you, depending on what you like best. 4WD game drives, always in open vehicles, plus canoe (or mekoro) trails, boat trips and walking safaris are available, depending on the camps.
Botswana is not one of the cheaper countries in Africa, but it is good value — as all your meals, activities and park fees, and even some drinks are included. You’re paying for time in pristine environments with superb wildlife, comfortable accommodation, good food and excellent guides.
For those who enjoy the wilds, Botswana is just the place:
Vast tracts of Africa in pristine condition. Here huge herds of game roam between the Kalahari’s plains and the majestic waterways of the Chobe, Linyanti and Okavango rivers. Botswana’s beautiful scenery and prolific big game makes it one of Africa’s top safari destinations.
Unlike many countries, Botswana’s wildlife is not restricted to its national parks. Around these is a patchwork of huge private reserves, sometimes known as concession areas. Together these cover about 40% of Botswana – including most of northern Botswana – forming a huge, fenceless wilderness around which the game roams freely.
In most of the national parks and wilderness areas, there are excellent camps. Usually these are comfortable and intimate: the biggest holding 20 guests, the smallest just six. When you think of Botswana, the Okavango Delta may leap to your mind first. It certainly hosts the greatest concentration of different environments. However, the patchwork of ecosystems that make the Delta so fascinating are found all over northern Botswana – so don’t restrict your trip to just the Okavango. Instead try to visit a number of different habitats within this captivating country.