Those who get a thrill out of 4x4 driving and extreme encounters with nature should make the trip to Kubu Island on the Makgadikgadi Pan. To reach the granite rock ‘island’ one must traverse a typical eastern Kalahari landscape along undulating dunes.
The 12,000 sq km pan is the largest salt complex in the world, covering an area the size of Israel. Baobab trees are a distinctive feature of this vast area, but do not expect much more than the natural earth beneath your feet, because this is a sacred site to the indigenous people. It’s just you and the wilderness.
When it comes to biodiversity, each of Botswana’s four main regions – central, northern, eastern and southern – has something unique for visitors to see and enjoy. There are numerous daily flights between the country’s four domestic airports and air fares are affordable thanks to low air ticket taxes and airport charges. Many resorts have private airstrips, too.
There is a focus on conservation and ecotourism with the aim of encouraging a responsible approach to tourism and sustainability. Botswana aims for quality and high standards rather than quantity in its tourism. This forward-thinking nation has embraced environmentally friendly initiatives to conserve and recycle rain water and to make use of solar power.
The cultural villages, especially in north-eastern Botswana near Kasane, give tourists an opportunity to experience the history, lifestyle, culture and heritage of the indigenous people through storytelling, music and dance. This is Africa’s ‘four corners’ region, where only a 100 metre border separates Botswana, Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Kasane in the north has become synonymous with Chobe National Park. Luxurious houseboats make their way up and down the Chobe River and river safaris delight visitors, who can watch elephants drink, bathe and play along the banks. The park is home to the continent’s largest population of elephant.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is in south-western Botswana, along the Namibian border and straddling the Botswana-South Africa border. Gemsbok National Park is on the Botswana side, while Kalahari Gemsbok National Park is on the South Africa side following an agreement in 1948. The park prides itself on its sightings of predatory cats such as lion, leopard and cheetah.
Botswana caters for all budget types and travellers, from a family camping expedition to a sleep-out atop a fully equipped bundu-bashing safari bus; but it is also highly regarded as an upmarket safari destinations, especially with its five-star lodges.
The Okavango Delta, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, is a magnet for wildlife photographers. Air safaris in the region, and indeed across the country, are increasingly popular, providing visitors with a bird’s-eye view of the wildlife trekking across the landscape below.
Botswana has more to offer than merely its pristine natural wonders; it is also rich in history and culture. To the east of the delta, sharply rising out of the Kalahari, are the Tsodilo Hills, one of the oldest historical sites in the world and the only Unesco world heritage site in Botswana. The mystical rock face and nearby sites are covered with some 4,000 rock paintings and have also yielded numerous artefacts. As the sun hurries towards the horizon, the hills are illuminated in shades of ochre.
In the eastern region, south of the country’s second-largest city, Francistown, is old Palapye. This national monument is another archaeological and historical site. Dating back to the Middle Stone Age, it was also home to European missionaries in the 19th century. The relics of both settlements stand today. Moremi Gorge, only a short drive away, is a ‘must’ for adventure seekers, who will not be disappointed by the canyon’s waterfalls and river bends. The region and its sites have received funding for further infrastructure and tourism development to cope with the growing number of visitors.
Botswana surely lives up to its national slogan: ‘Our country, our pride’.