Botswana

One of the most exciting and safest Safari destinations in Africa, Botswana has so much to offer - from luxury safari holidays to adventure tours to rich cultural experiences, Botswana can cater for novice and experienced travelers alike!
Botswana has beauty year-round. When you choose to travel to Botswana may depend on a range of factors, including your weather preferences, activity choices and budget range. Cost of travel tends to be highest in the peak season (June-Sept). April and May can be a great compromise for the budget-conscious traveler who still wants to see higher concentrations of game (though wildlife can be seen year-round).

January

January marks the height of the hot, rainy season. Daytime temperatures in the Okavango Delta and Chobe will reach into the high 30s (Celsius) and nighttime temperatures remain warm (in the 20s). You'll typically see blue skies for most of the day, with frequent afternoon showers or phenomenal thunderstorms. In the Kalahari, temperatures can soar into the 40s, and rain is less frequent. January is great for bird watching in the Okavango Delta, Chobe and Makgadikgadi Pans, as many migrant species breed at this time. January is also a good time to see young antelope, if you can spot them through the dense foliage. In the northern parts of the country, the flora is lush and verdant, making stalking prey difficult for predators with their winter camouflage coats. This also makes it easier to spot the big cats, although game viewing in general is more difficult as a result of the thicker foliage, and water being accessible in more places makes game concentrations lower. Bright scenery and spectacular skies make January a photographer's dream.

February

February will see the rains begin to taper off, giving some very wet spells and some very dry spells. Temperatures remain hot during the day and warm at night. The plant-life is fast-growing,  bright and colourful, and afternoon thundershowers provide spectacular skies for the photographer to capture. The young antelope are now nearly as big as their parents. Bird watching remains good in much of the country.

March

March marks the end of the rainy season, with afternoon showers coming less frequently, and temperatures remaining very warm. Wildflowers in the Delta are bright and brilliant, and the rutting season begins as male antelope go head-to-head in their competition for a mate. Bull elephants are often spotted wandering into campsites in search of their favourite treat: the ripe fruit of the Marula tree.

April

Rutting is in full swing, with violent clashes between male antelopes as they compete for a mate. The flowering trees of the Delta give way to fruit, and reptiles are breeding and filling their bellies in anticipation of the cooler winter months. Nights begin to cool, dropping below 20 degrees Celsius, though the days continue to be hot at their peak temperature, often reaching well into the 30s. Some four-wheel-drive tracks that were previously unpassable due to the wet weather now begin to become accessible, broadening the options for game drives.

May

As the temporary drinking holes begin to dry up, animals concentrate at more permanent water sources across Botswana, making it easier to spot game in higher concentrations. The bright summer foliage begins to fade, and many migrant bird species begin to wing-it North, marking the end of the birding season. May is an exciting time in the Okavango Delta, as the flood-waters reach the panhandle at the top of the Delta, beginning their slow spread over the floodplains, bringing life and change with them. Temperatures become cooler at night, and rain is rare, but day-time temperatures can still reach into the mid-30s (Celsius). 

June

June marks the true beginning of the dry season, with trees beginning to drop their leaves, night temperatures reaching a frigid two degrees Celsius by the end of the month, and the floods reaching the inner Okavango Delta. Expect warm days of up to 25 degrees, with clear blue skies. The drying of the Kalahari brings more and more wildlife to permanent water sources, making game viewing excellent in the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. 

July

July marks the peak of the dry season, with the waters of the Okavango Delta reaching their peak, bringing herds of wildlife in huge numbers from the surrounding countryside. Game viewing is excellent wherever water is abundant (such as the Delta and Chobe). The nights are at their coldest (down to 0 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country) and sunny blue skies and warm days remain the norm. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees, making it easier to spot game, though the dusty browns of winter make excellent camouflage for predators and prey alike. Some areas of the Okavango that were previously unaccessable can now be explored via Mokoro (dugout canoe). 

August

August marks the height of the high season with game viewing at its best in Chobe and the Okavango as days and nights begin to warm, taking the frigid edge off any night drives. Herons, storks and other water birds begin to gather at the heronries, making August an interesting time for the birdwatcher. The waters of the Delta reach the end of their run at Maun; spend some time in Maun in August and you will hear many discussions about which day the floods will reach the town and how high the water will get. 

September

September marks the end of winter, with temperatures on the rise, the nights are pleasantly cool and the temperatures during the day will reach well above 30 degrees. Sunny, blue skies persist, and colourful migrant birds begin to return. Game viewing remains excellent in Chobe and the Okavango Delta, with an abundance of wildlife and great visibility. The Delta floods are well and truly over, and water levels will begin to drop.

October

If you like the heat, October is a great time to visit Botswana. Temperatures are warm at night (in the twenties - cooler in desert areas) and hot during the day, often reaching over 40 degrees Celsius. Visibility is still great for game viewing, and the breeding time for many species of water birds makes for some great bird watching. 

November

November generally marks the beginning of the rainy season, as the first of the rains arrive around the middle of the month. Temperatures resemble those of October, until that first exciting thunderstorm that prompts many animal species to leave the permanent water sources at the Okavango Delta and Chobe River for areas with lower concentrations of wildlife and higher concentrations of food. The antelope begin to drop their young in November, which can lead to some exciting game viewing as predators look for the easy kill. If you're skilled with your camera, you have a reasonable hope of capturing some amazing photographs in November, with the dramatic skies and explosion of colour and life that the rains bring. 

December

With the rainy season in full swing, predators in the green Delta find catching prey increasingly difficult, as their coats are designed for winter camouflage, not the brilliant foliage of summer. Herbivores feast on new shoots, and their young grow incredibly fast. The rains are more frequent, with thunderstorms occurring every couple of days. The humidity has increased, but temperatures have cooled slightly from the overbearing heat of October and November. Birdwatchers will be in true paradise with the return of the rest of the migrant bird species.


Activities

In many parts of the country, the activities you do may be dictated in part by how wet or dry the ground is. Though spectacular, driving across the Makgadikgadi Pans in the wet season can be treacherous. Many tracks in Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta become unpassable as they are bogged down with rainfall in the wetter months, which can limit access to some of the more remote areas. Mekoro trips are best in some areas when the water is high, and impossible in others when the water is too high. Most activities are available in some form year round. Make sure to let us know what you are most interested in, as this may impact where you'd be best suited to stay. Also be aware that whenever you choose to visit, our travel consultants are available to make your trip the best it can be. Just let us know what you are after, and if it is achievable, we will make it happen for you!
Botswana is one of the best safari countries in Africa. The unique habitat found in the Okavango Delta draws herds of animals from far and wide, and makes for an area with a very high concentration of game, especially in the dry, winter months. The recently reintroduced rhino makes the area a big five destination; it has resident populations of rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard.

The emerald-jewel of the Okavango Delta also attracts a myriad of migrant bird species, making it an excellent bird-viewing destination, especially in the summer months. Water birds such as herons and storks appear in high numbers, as do raptors and smaller birds like bee-eaters. The Makgadikgadi pans host flamingos in the thousands during the wet season, as it is one of the only two breeding grounds in southern Africa for the greater flamingo (the other being at Etosha in Namibia).

Visit the wetter areas of the Delta and Chobe and you are sure to see hippos and crocodiles in numbers, though during the day you might not see much more than the tips of those hippo noses. A rare amazing sight is the situtanga antelope, which is specially adapted for life in the swamps.

The people of Botswana saw the beauty of the wildlife, and the potential to use that beauty to draw tourism early, and photographic safaris largely replaced big game hunting decades ago. This has given much of the wildlife a sense of security that allows safari-goers to get up-close and personal with the animals in their natural habitats (though they would be wise to do so with caution, as its not only lions and leopards that can hurt you in the African wild!).
Botswana is not 'known' for its haute cuisine, but a delicious meal can be had almost anywhere you go in the country. A wonderful way to experience the culture of a place is to dig into the traditional cuisine, but if its Italian of Chinese food that you're craving, you'll be able to find that too!

Seswaa is Botswana's national dish. Seswaa generally consists of corn-meal served with stew (often with meat), and a side of morogo, a leafy green spinach-like vegetable. Seswaa is fairly bland and suits even most unadventurous eaters. People usually eat Seswaa for their main meal of the day, often at lunch time.
In a recent survey, we asked people what scares them the most about traveling to Africa. Answers came back including political unrest, lack of access to healthcare, violence and theft and disease and illness. Maybe this stems from many of the negative images about Africa we see in the media: starving children, political unrest, civil war, HIV/AIDS, etc. While those things are horrible, and a reality in many parts of Africa, they do not provide a whole story or a complete picture, and do not represent what it is to be African.

Botswana is one of the safest countries in Africa (and possibly the world!) to visit. Unlike its neighbours to all sides, Botswana was never colonized and never faced civil war. In the past few decades, Botswana has gone from a place of poverty to become a stable country with a thriving economy.

Healthcare is both available and high quality, though if you get hurt in some of the more remote areas, you may need an airlift to hospital, so travel insurance that includes health cover is a must.

Crime rates in Botswana are very low, and most incidents of theft are non-violent. That said, no matter where you travel, it's best to leave valuables at home, keep your money and passports in a secure spot on your person, and keep certified photocopies of important documents in a separate location.

The political situation in Botswana in very stable, with a democratically elected government. Botswana transitioned to independence quite smoothly in the 1960s, and has remained stable ever since.

Illness and disease are faced by people the world over. To stay well in Botswana, it is advised that you take anti-malarial medication, sleep with a mosquito net, and treat your drinking water (or drink bottled water). Be aware that HIV/AIDS rates in Botswana are high.

Possibly the biggest risk to your safety while traveling in Botswana is actually your transport. This is easy to overlook as a hazard; we all drive on a regular basis, and being in a vehicle feels normal to us! BUT, some roads are not in great repair, it's easy to get bogged in a four-wheel-drive, and wildlife presents a very dangerous hazard on the roads, particularly at night. It is recommended that you plan all trips so that you can depart and arrive during daylight hours. Hiring a professional driver is an option that you might like to consider; it is easy for us to arrange this for you as a transport option, and it means that rather than focusing on the roads, you can look at the scenery. A professional driver will be well aware of the hazards, and can take a lot of the stress out of navigating.

When you travel with us, you will have your own travel consultant in Botswana, who is aware of any safety concerns. Your travel consultant will organise your trip in the safest way possible, and will be available to answer any questions or concerns you may have, including about your safety. You can get your answers as soon as you like by filling in the contact form found at the bottom of this page.
The weather in Botswana is seldom cold during the day.  In the hottest months of the year, temperatures can soar to above 40 degrees Celsius, with the most extreme heat found in the Kalahari desert. In the cooler months of the year, overnight temperatures can reach freezing (a stark contrast to the 20+ degree days!). The hot, rainy season begins in November and ends in March. The cooler, dry season runs from June to September. October is HOT and dry. April and May are pleasantly warm, with little rain and still-green foliage. (For a more detailed look at the weather, month-by-month, see When and Where to Visit)
When looking at tribal groupings in Botswana, it is good to know that there are not firm lines of distinction between peoples. Cultural differences exist between the different groups of people described here, however it is important to note that there is a lot of fluidity and a lot of blurred lines between the different groups described; the different cultural groups of Botswana do not lie in isolation of each other, but rather they communicate and exchange, marry each other and live side-by-side. The 'culture' of no place or people is static; it is ever-changing and evolving, and the distinctions provided in this section are oversimplified, yet will, I hope, provide you with an understanding of some of the cultures you may encounter on your journey through Botswana.

Khoisan - the Khoisan is a language grouping of the San people and the Khoi people. Culturally, the San and the Khoi are similar in many ways, with major differences stemming from the San people being hunter-gatherers, and the Khoi people raising livestock and supplementing their diets with hunting and gathering. The ownership of livestock differentiates the Khoi from the San in a very meaningful way, as the San don't have the same concepts of 'ownership'; where in San culture things are given freely, in Khoi culture, they are bought and paid for.

Tribes of Bantu origin - The term 'Ba' found at the beginning of these tribal names means 'people of'.

Batswana is a name that applies to all the people of Botswana, but also represents its largest ethnic group. The Batswana speak Setswana, the second language of Bostwana (with English being the official language).

The Bakalanga. The Bakalanga represent Botswana's second largest cultural grouping, although three quarters of the Bakalanga people live in Zimbabwe. Most Bakalanga people have settled in the area around Francistown, though you will likely find some Bakalanga people scattered much further afield. The Bakalanga are primarily agriculturalists, who also keep cattle and goats.

The Basubiya, the Hambukushu and the Bayei are culturally very similar, river dwelling tribes.
The Basubiya were mainly agriculturalists who also kept some goats and cattle. Today they live mainly in the Northwest and Chobe districts of Bostwana.

The Hambukushu settled in the upper reaches of the Okavango Delta, where they lived as agriculturalists, hunters and fishermen. They also used mekoro to get around, but in the deeper water in in the northern reaches of the Delta, they used paddles rather than poles to propel themselves through the water. The Hambukushu are famous for their beautiful hand-woven baskets.

The Bayei moved into the Okavango Delta after being invaded by the Basubiya, and established themselves around Lake Ngami between 1750 and 1800. This area suited their lifestyle as fishermen. They lived peacefully alongside a Khoi group called the Banoka who had adapted their hunter-gatherer lifestyle to the Delta, and these two tribal groups taught each other many things. Many of the people who work in the tourism industry as Mokoro (dugout canoe) polers are Bayei.

The Ovaherero
came to Botswana in the early 20th century, after being forced from the traditional lands in Namibia by the Germans. They are traditionally pastoralists, but upon moving to Botswana, they lost their herds and worked as servants of the Batawana people. Over time, they learned agricultural skills from the Batawana and rebuilt their herds. Most Ovaherero now live in Namibia, though a few remain in Botswana. The women can be distinguished by their dress; they still wear the long, bulky dresses and elaborate headdresses that they were taught to wear by Victorian Christian missionaries.

The Kagalagadi
currently live in the Kalahari Desert. There are five major groups, each with their own tribal names and customs. They speak a variety of Sotho dialects, not dialects of Setswana.

White Botswanans Currently, the white population of Botswana is lower than the white populations in surrounding countries. This is due to the different history of Botswana, being a 'Protectorate' rather than a colony. White Botswanans are generally affluent, and many of them run their own businesses. Many of them trace their history back to colonial immigrants who came to Botswana during British rule.

Expatriates can be completely distinguished from the permanent population of Botswana as they come from other countries and are typically in Botswana on a temporary basis, often working with multinational companies or aid agencies, or in the safari industry.

A Brief History of Botswana:

In 200-500 AD, the Great Bantu Migration began, bring agriculture and pastoralism to the region. This movement of people displaced many of the Khoisan peoples to regions that were more arid and harder to farm, largely the Kalahari desert.

In the late 19th Century, the Ndebele people began migrating from the Kalahari into more fertile lands, causing hostilities with the Shona people. At the same time, tensions were escalating with the Boer settlers from the Transvaal. This prompted three Batswana leaders - Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele I - to appeal to the British government for protection. On March 31th, 1885, the British government put 'Bechuanaland' under its protection. The Northern territory of Bechuanaland remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and is today's Botswana. The Southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of South Africa. Most Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.

In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for democratic self-government in Botswana. Free and fair elections were held, and Botswana gained independence on September 30th, 1966. Seretse Khama was elected as Botswana's first president. When he died in office in 1980 (after having been re-elected twice!), the presidency passed to his Vice President, Ketomile Masire, who was elected in his own right in elections in 1984, 1989 and 1994. Masire retired in 1998, passing the presidency to his VP, Festus Mogae, who was re-elected in 1999 and 2004. When Mogae retired in 2008, the presidency passed to Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the son of Botswana's first president.

Politics of Botswana:

Botswana functions as a parliamentary representative democratic republic. The president of Botswana is both head of state and head of government.

Since independence in 1966, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has never lost power. Each election has been freely and fairly contested and held on schedule. Minority groups participate freely in the political process. Some people argue that the stability of Botswana's politics has contributed to her economic stability and growth.

Many Africans truly admire the politics and leadership of Botswana as it is one of the few African countries with such a high quality of leadership. Botswana is blessed with diamonds like many African countries and the vast majority of the revenue from those diamonds goes to fund social policy.