Botswana Travel Guide
While Botswana has a pricey reputation in budget travel circles, the expense of visiting of its vaunted natural attractions is justified by their brilliance. The Okavango Delta draws together the greatest gathering of African fauna on the continent after all, so you’ll get what you pay for.
Apart from the price of activities, general costs on the ground are still quite reasonable, so don’t let the rumours dissuade you from paying this country a visit.
Currency: Botswanan Pulas
Languages: English, Setswana
What To Do
While the vast majority of attractions in Botswana are natural in origin, checking out the Tsodilo Hills will satisfy those looking for cultural and historical highlights in this country.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the breathtaking quality of cave art contained within caverns in the area, visitors will be able to take a glance into the past, to the very beginnings of human creativity.
Found in the Kalahari, this site has great religious significance to the local San people, easily making it the can’t miss attraction for the cultural traveler.
However, there is no denying that it is the Okavango Delta that draws the lion’s share of visitors to this land-locked country in Southern Africa. Normally a dried-up husk where it appears a river once ran, monsoon rains to the west result in a flood streaming across the arid plains here for months at a time.
The water causes the surrounding area to spring to life, and every African animal imaginable beats a path across the punishing Kalahari to drink from the suddenly revived river.
As you can imagine, wet season is a boon for Safari operators, as it allows their customers to see all the animals they grew up seeing in zoos in their natural element, playing and drinking together (and in the case of carnivorous animals, hunting).
If you are an avid birder, you’ll want to head just north of the Okavango Delta to Lake Ngami. Filled by the waters of the Delta that manage to make it through without drying up in the searing Kalahari sun, it is a haven for bird species of all kinds.
From flamingos to kingfishers, storks to terns, there are countless varieties, so be sure to have your book and a pen at the ready, you’ll be crossing off a lot of specimens! The level of the lake can vary from year to year, partially independent of rainfall patterns, as the lake fills and empties periodically for reasons geologists don’t yet fully understand.
As such, check with local authorities to ascertain the current status of the lake to avoid disappointment before travelling there.
Been to South America, but missed out on visiting Salar de Uyuni? Then pay a visit to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, which is the largest salt flat in the world. While is a very inhospitable place during the hot dry season, the wetter portions of the year cover it with a film of water that make it attractive to a number of bird species.
It is one of only two places in Southern Africa where Flamingos breed (the other is across the border in Namibia), and there are also sizable contingents of ducks, pelicans and geese that can found here as well.
When the Okavango Delta is not in season, those looking to spot one of their favourite African mammals will want to spend sometime on safari in Chobe National Park. Unlike the forbidding landscape of the Kalahari, Chobe is defined by mixed woodlands and savannah, making it one of the most biologically diverse places in Botswana.
While zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, lions and hyenas are common sights (cheetahs are here too, but rare), Chobe is best known for its elephant population. There are 50,000 of them within the borders of this park, making for the highest concentration of this gentle giant in any place within Southern Africa.
What to Eat
Looking for a sweet treat to start your morning, or for a savoury holdover between meals? Vetkoek is a pastry that will fix you up quickly. Made of fried dough stuffed with ground beef, or with honey/jam/syrup for the morning crowd, this handy takeaway can be had at local bakeries and restaurants, but don’t eat too many – Vetkoek literally translates from Afrikaans to English as “fat cake”.
At one of your dinners in Botswana, you should find an opportunity to try some Seswaa, which is generally considered to be its national dish. Made from goat, lamb, chicken or beef, it is prepared by boiling the meat in salty water until it is tender, after which is shredded and served with local porridges.
If you really want to get local, have some Mopane Worm if you get the chance to do so. High in nutritional value and considered to be actually quite delicious by many of those that were brave enough to try it. It is often fried up with vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and garlic to make it more palatable to visitors, so don’t be shy: give it a go.