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Places of Interest in Botswana

Southern Sky Adventures: Places of Interest in Botswana

Capitol is Gaborone

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Twice the size of Massachusetts, the 32,000 square mile Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), which was set up in 1961, is the second largest game reserve in the world. Situated right in the center of Botswana, this reserve is characterized by vast open plains, saltpans and ancient riverbeds. Varying from sand dunes with many species of trees and shrubs in the north, to flat bushveld in the central area, the reserve is more heavily wooded in the south, with mopane forests to the south and east. Rainfall is sparse and sporadic.
After the summer rains arrive in the northern section of CKGR, from Deception Valley to Piper Pans, the vast plains burst with sweet grasses and it becomes one of the prime game-viewing areas in Botswana. Not many people seem to be aware of this and visitors are few. The clear blue sky fills with gigantic clouds and the stage is set for an amazing transformation. Into the scene enters thousands of gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest, with plentiful lion, cheetah and jackal in attendance. This gathering of animals is a sight to behold and can be compared with the Serengeti/Masai Mara migrations of Tanzania and Kenya.

Chobe National Park

The Chobe National Park, which is the second largest national park in Botswana and covers 6,500 square miles, has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent. The park is divided into four distinctly different eco systems: Serondela with its lush plains and dense forests in the Chobe River area in the extreme north-east; the Savuti Marsh in the west about thirty miles north of Mababe gate; the Linyanti Swamps in the north-west and the hot dry lands in between.

A major feature of Chobe National Park is its elephant population. The Chobe elephant comprise part of what is probably the largest surviving continuous elephant population. This population covers most of northern Botswana plus northwestern Zimbabwe and is currently estimated at around 120,000. This elephant population has built up steadily from a few thousand since the early 1900s and has escaped the massive illegal offtake that has decimated other populations in the 1970s and 1980s.

Notwithstanding the elephants, Chobe has some of the finest game viewing in Africa. It is notable for huge herds of buffalo and zebras, lechwe, Chobe bushbuck and being the southernmost point where puku antelope can be seen. Where there are buffalo, lions are never far away and there is a good chance of seeing large prides who laze around in the shade all day and only yawn themselves awake at dusk. Hyena, leopard and cheetah also hunt the area.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Africa’s first formally declared trans-border conservation area – the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) on the border of South Africa and Botswana – was officially launched in 2000. The combined land area of the KTP is about 22,800 square miles of which 17,000 square miles lies in Botswana and 5,800 square miles in South Africa.

Transfrontier parks, border parks or transboundary conservation areas are protected areas that straddle international boundaries. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is such a protected area in the southern Kalahari Desert.

The southern Kalahari represents an increasingly rare phenomenon: a large ecosystem relatively free from human interference. The absence of man-made barriers has provided a conservation area large enough to maintain examples of two ecological processes that were once widespread in the savannahs and grasslands of Africa; the large scale migratory movements of wild ungulates; and predation by large mammalian carnivores. These processes are impossible to maintain except in the largest of areas, and their presence in the Kalahari makes the system of special value to conservation.

Despite dryness and low rainfall, the Kalahari supports a diverse and abundant mammal fauna. The best time to visit the park is towards the end of the rainy season, roughly March to May, however, game can be seen at any time of the year. The area supports wildebeest, eland, hartebeest, gemsbok and springbok, and a healthy population of large predators – lions, leopards, cheetah and hyena.

Makgadikgadi Pans

Much of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park comprises nutritious grasslands attracting thousands of animals.
From April to November game such as springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest and zebra move slowly from the pans area in the south east of the park, to the Boteti River on the western side. During this migration animals accumulate in their thousands. The heavily wooded areas beside the river also contain shy antelopes like duiker and bushbuck.

From April to July game viewing is best within the park and after this time period the game moves to inaccessible areas. March to September are the best months to experience the pans.

Moremi Game Reserve

Moremi, hunted by the Bushman as long as 10,000 years ago, was founded by the Batawana tribe and covers some 3,000 square miles, as the eastern section of the Okavango Delta. Moremi is mostly described as one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Africa. It combines mopane woodland and acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons. It is the great diversity of plant and animal life that makes Moremi so well known.

Elephants are numerous, particularly during the dry season, as well as a range of other wildlife species from buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, hyena, jackal and the full range of antelope, large and small, including the red lechwe. Rhino, both black and white, were here in the past, but most of the few remaining have been sought out for translocation to the protection of a sanctuary, away from the attentions of illegal hunters. Wild dog, whose numbers are so rapidly dwindling elsewhere, are regularly sighted in the Moremi and have been subject to a project being run in the area since 1989 so these animals are often seen wearing collars placed on them by the researchers. It is claimed that the Moremi area contains about thirty percent of all living wild dog.

All these animals can be seen from the comforts of a of a vehicle or in the more traditional mokoro or canoe down the rivers.

Okavango Delta

Sometimes called a ‘swamp’, the Okavango Delta is anything but. Moving, mysterious, placid, gentle and beautiful, from a wide and winding channel it spreads through tiny, almost unnoticeable channels that creep away behind a wall of papyrus reed, into an ever expanding network of increasingly smaller passages. These liquid pathways link a succession of lagoons, islands and islets of various sizes, open grasslands and flooded plains in a mosaic of land and water. Palms and towering trees abound, throwing their shade over crystal pools, forest glades and grassy knolls.

The delta’s floods are fed from the Angolan rains, which start in October and finish sometime in April. During the peak of the flooding the delta’s area can expand to over 10,000 square miles, shrinking to less than 5,500 square miles in the low period. As the water travels through the delta, the wildlife starts to move back into the region. The areas surrounding the delta are beginning to dry out and the wildlife starts to congregate on the edge of the newly flooded areas, May through October.

The delta environment has large numbers of animal populations that are otherwise rare, such as crocodile, red lechwe, sitatunga, elephant, wild dogs, buffalo, wattled crane as well as the other more common mammals and bird life. On the mainland and among the islands in the delta, lions, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo and crocodiles congregate with a teeming variety of antelope and other smaller animals – warthog, mongoose, spotted genets, monkeys and bush babies.

The best time for game viewing in the delta is during the May-October period, as the animal life is concentrated along the flooded areas and the vegetation has dried out.

Safari activities by water are the primary specialty of the Okavango – the mokoro – a dug out canoe which is ‘poled’ along by your guide is the most evocative way of exploring the numerous waterways. Traditional game viewing vehicles are used on the main islands, with night drives available in the private concession areas but are not allowed within the National Park. Walking safaris are available from most camps and lodges – perhaps the most exciting way of viewing game – stalking and tracking wildlife with an expert guide.

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