A few places in Botswana that shouldn’t be missed
If you’re travelling to Botswana, lush plains and mountains as well as abundant wildlife awaits you. With so much to offer, don’t miss these destinations in Botswana.
1. Okavango Delta
The Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably one of the most spectacular destinations in Botswana. It lies in the north-west region of the country and is made up of permanent marshlands and plains that are flooded every year during the rainy seasons.
The area is very flat, with less than a 2 metre variation in height across its 15 000km². The wetland system is kept intact as all the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired, and does not flow into an ocean.
The Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion. It is also an important bird area, harbouring 24 species of globally-threatened birds.
In contrast to the lush greenery of the Delta are the Salt Islands. Agglomeration of salt around plant roots means that many of the thousands of islands have barren white patches in their centre. They have become too salty for plants to grow on them, apart from salt-resistant palm trees.
Xugana Lagoon is spectacular and the largest permanent water site in the entire Okavango Delta.
2. Moremi Game Reserve
In 1962 the local BaTawana people set aside a third of the Okavango Delta to protect it for the future. Today it ranks as one of the most beautiful reserves in Africa, possibly in the world. It is situated in the central and eastern areas of the Okavango, and boasts one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent. Expect spectacular ‘Big 5’ game viewing and bird watching, with over 400 species of birds found in this area (many of them highly endangered).
One of the main attractions is Chief’s Island, a vast piece of land that was formed by a fault line which uplifted an area over 70km long and 15km wide. Resident wildlife seek refuge on this island when the waters rise, making for excellent game viewing.
3. Makgadikgadi Pan National Park
This is an area the size of Portugal and is mostly uninhabited by humans. Its stark, flat and featureless terrain stretches as far as the eye can see. It spans an area of 12 000km² and is one of the largest salt pans in the world.
Most of the year, the pan is dry and arid and very few large mammals are found here at this time. However, when the rains arrive, the two largest pans flood and the area is soon teeming with wildlife and migratory birds – including a sea of flamingos that are breath-taking. Sowa Pan is to the east and Ntwetwe is to the west of this region
4. Mashatu Game Reserve
The reserve is made up of privately-owned land in the conserved wilderness area known as the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, and spans 29 000 hectares. It lies in the eastern region of Botswana where the Great Limpopo and Shashe Rivers converge. It is known for its exceptionally diverse landscape and boasts some of the most significant paleontological and archaeological remains on the subcontinent. It is also home to the largest, single population of elephant.
It goes by the nickname ‘Land of Giants’ which is not a reference to the herds of elephant found here but for the Mashatu or Nyala berry tree found in the region. These magnificent trees grow along the rivers and provide refuge, shade and food to a myriad of wildlife.
The ruins found in this area, which remain largely untouched, lend a mystical air to the area. Visitors are encouraged to take a break from game viewing to visit these natural and cultural wonders.
5. Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The expanse of this reserve is mind-boggling and whether you are there to see the animals or to take in the beauty of the untouched wilderness, it is a region that will entice you back for more. It is one of the most remote reserves in Southern Africa, and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world (52 000km²).
Once again, when good rains fall on this vast land, the flat grasslands team with wildlife that arrive by the hundreds for the best grazing. Apart from the usual range of buck, visitors enjoy the sight of herds of springbok and gemsbok gathered on the plains.
The northern part of Deception Valley is one of the highlights. Its sweet grass attracts dense concentrations of herbivores during and after the rainy season. This in turn attracts the predators. One should also visit the Sunday and Leopard Pans, Passarge Valley and Piper’s Pan.
6. Chobe National Park
Situated in Botswana’s north-eastern region, the park is flanked by the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. It is one of the most biologically-diverse parks, characterised by impenetrable thorn bush growing in thick sand, lush floodplains and dense woodland of mahogany, teak and other hardwoods. It lies upstream from the town of Kasane, the most important town of the region.
It is also widely known for its spectacular elephant population, the largest in size of all well-known elephant populations. Many species have made the area a permanent home; leopards are always plentiful and packs of spotted hyena and prides of lion are notoriously large.
7. Khutse Game Reserve
Situated relatively close to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, this is a popular game reserve for local residents and visitors who can’t get to the more remote reserves. The drive to the reserve takes travellers past interesting Kalahari villages, including Molepolole – the ‘Gateway of the Kalahari’.
The original inhabitants of the area – the San and Bakgalagadi people – live in small villages on the periphery of the reserve. Guided walks with the San people are popular, and their traditional arts and crafts can be bought here.
The landscape is diverse; from rolling grasslands to lush river beds, fossil dunes and bare pans. The pans are picturesque and attract a diverse selection of wildlife. Springbok and gemsbok are common to the entire area.
8. Khama Rhino Sanctuary
The sanctuary is a community-based wildlife project established to help save the rhinos that are being poached to extinction. It also provides job opportunities for the local community, who assist in restoring the area to its former glory.
Apart from providing prime habitat for white and black rhino, it is also a bird paradise.
9. Tsodilo Hills
Consisting of rock art, rock shelters, depressions and caves, this area was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is estimated that there are over 4 500 rock paintings at the site. It consists of a few main hills known as the Child Hill, the Female Hill, and the Male Hill. These hills are of great cultural and spiritual significance to the San People of the Kalahari.
The hills rise dramatically from the Kalahari scrub bush and turn a copper colour in the dying sun. There is a mystical air to the area and you get a sense that the ancestral spirits still dwell in the hills.
10. Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Mokolodi Nature Reserve is a private not-for-profit game reserve in southern Botswana. It is situated on 30 km² of donated land, 10km south of the capital Gaborone. The nature reserve hosts children from across Botswana, some of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds. The idea is to expose these children to the many species of wildlife in the area and educate them on the importance of conservation initiatives.
The park is developed as a game sanctuary with an extensive network of paths. Visitors can book guided tours and get up close and personal to the wildlife.
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