Botswana offers great variety (unless you are looking for mountains). There are river areas, dry parched areas, grasslands and forest. Not surprisingly, there is a wide assortment of wildlife and if you had only a short time to spend in Africa, Botswana would be a good choice. In addition, the game parks are not nearly as crowded as in Kenya or northern Tanzania. We visited four separate areas in Botswana, each of which is reviewed separately on the "Reviews of Game Parks" page:Chobe National Park, the Savuti (part of Chobe), the Moremi Wildlife Reserve (in the Okavango Delta and a camp (Zepa) further into the Okavango. Links to various animal pages are given below when that page includes photos from the park in question.
Chobe National Park (Photos 1-8) was my first game park in Africa and an excellent introduction. It offered the river (with hippos, crocodiles and all sorts of birds), as well as forested areas. While in Chobe, we saw huge herds of elephants, plus a dead one; lions feeding on a cape buffalo, quite a few live buffalo, herds of impala, giraffe, hyenas, baboons and a large assortment of other animals. Chobe was also my first introduction to a "mobile tented camp," a temporary camp set up inside the park. This allowed us to be much closer to the action and offered a real sense of being "out in the bush" – because we were. It was quite common to hear animals move through the camp at night. The sleeping arrangements were comfortable enough, but the bucket showers and chemical toilets tended to wear thin after a few days.
After our stay in the main part of Chobe National Park, we left the park briefly on a drive to the Savuti area of the park. This gave us a chance to see some of the local life outside the park. Along the way we passed through some small towns and villages.
The Savuti area (Photos 12-14) is an area that floods from time to time, but has been dry since 1981. Manmade waterholes dot the area to provide the animals with their only source of fresh water. The so-called "marsh" is today an open grassland. The Savuti supports large numbers of elephants, giraffe, antelopes, wildebeest and many other species.
The Moremi Wildlife Reserve (Photos 15-19) is set within the Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland delta. The delta is formed where the Okavango River, flowing from the highlands of Angola, reaches the Kalahari Desert and is absorbed into the ground. The water level varies with the time of year. The water is remarkably clear because the river's slow pace over the sandy bottom filters out most impurities. Moremi was a wonderful place that I highly recommend. It offered a great variety of landscape from the water's edge to the dry dusty interior. In Moremi, we saw hippos, warthogs, lions, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, ostrich and – most exciting of all – three different leopards.
Our last stop in Botswana was an excursion further into the Okavango Delta at Zepa camp (Photos 20-24). This camp was set on an island at the water's edge. The main mode of transportation was the "mokoro," dugout canoes (which today are made of fiberglass to preserve the large trees in the area). I tried my hand at poling the mokoro, while standing up! After a while I was able to keep my balance and move along pretty well, but I found it very difficult to maintain a straight course. We took several trips out onto the water and from time to time would explore some of the islands. Being out on the water was very peaceful and a nice break from the vehicle and the roads. From the mokoro, I saw a great variety of birds, the elusive sitatunga (an antelope that inhabits watery areas) and several spectacular sunsets.
As a country, Botswana is one of the more successful in Africa. It is a true democracy and enjoys vast wealth from its diamond mines. In recent years, the government has established a plan to diversify the economy and has been using the diamond wealth to attract other industries to the country. The country also regulates the amount of tourism to ensure that the parks are not overrun with people, as has happened in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The weather is also quite pleasant. During the time I was there (June 8-19, 1998) it was winter in the southern hemisphere. Although the early mornings could be quite cold (close to freezing), the temperature warmed up quickly once the sun was up and a light shirt was sufficient. The days were very clear – in fact, we never even saw a cloud, let alone rain – and the crystal clear nights offered spectacular views of the southern sky. I enjoyed my time in Botswana very much and I would highly recommend a visit.