Botswana: Best destination of 2016
Botswana was voted as one of the best places in the world to travel in 2016, and it can easily be explained by the Okavango Delta and the National Chobe park, the highlights of Botswana. Though if you want to delve more into Botswana have a look at this list of the best places to visit in Botswana.
Botswana is an English-speaking country, a former British colony which became independent in 1966. Gaborone is the capital of Botswana and the currency in the Pula which means rain. We didn’t have the opportunity go to the capital. Botswana´s economy has grown fast since it’s independence, being a middle-income country. 70% of Botswana’s territory is formed by the Kalahari desert.
Our impression was that Botswana is calm, safe, people were nice, there are places with poverty and living the traditional way, sometimes with a touch of modernization. We saw some huts with solar panels :). The scenery is very dry with bushes and small trees, acacias and surprisingly there were a lot of donkeys along the roads. Another situation that struck as odd, was the mandatory disinfection of walking shoes and the tires of vehicles in the border and some police control stops in the road. What happens is: we have to take out our shoes (even those packed in the luggage) and dip them in a box with water and disinfectant with the aim to prevent bring foot-and-mouth disease into the country. It didn’t seem like we were disinfecting anything. The box where we dipped the shoes was so dirty and they didn’t replace the water between the people, it was one of those things we couldn’t quite understand how it works.
Botswana is also the home of the San people, also known as the Bushman, a semi-nomadic, self-sufficient people who survive in the Kalahari desert. They are one of the oldest people in the world, have an amazing ability to hunt, adopt and use everything nature has to offer. Every plant has a function, some are medicinal others are food, others have a hygienic function… The San People nowadays aren’t nomadic and switched to farming, they were relocated from the Kalahari game reserves to different areas of the country. In 2012 they won a legal battle to return to their land, but aren’t allowed to hunt, and have been accused of poaching. Most of them are not capable of adapting to modern life. There is an interesting film about the Bushman “The Gods must be crazy” which is quite funny. We recommend it.
Our first night in Botswana we stayed in a Bushmen camp, had the opportunity to see and listen to their traditions and did a bush walk, where they showed us some of their tricks and secrets of the Kalahari. Later on we watched a tribal dance by a camp fire, it was a different experience, we even danced a little… I mean… we “danced“..
The Delta is an unimaginable place. A river that flows into a desert and evaporates sounds unlikely, unusual or even unbelievable… Just for this, it’s a place worth going but there is much more: animals, fantastic lodges, boat rides, tracks to walk… Great for adventurers and nature freaks 🙂 It was named one the seven Natural wonders of Africa!
We stayed in the Okavango Delta 3 days in Lodge Jumbo Junction, a nice relaxing place with fantastic views. The Delta was in the dry season, many sites that normally are full with water were dry. The scenery changes very much according to the season, at that moment (January of 2016) the Delta was suffering of a long drought which gave us the opportunity to explore tracks that in other seasons would be under water.
Our first experience of the Delta was riding a speed boat trough the many canals of the Delta, and trying to spot crocodiles and Hippopotamus. It was a thrilling sensation, the boat was fast but when we spotted an animal the guide stopped.
We did some tracks and explore the vegetation of the region, the guide showed the most important plants and observed some animals. Normally it is more difficult to see animals by foot, weirdly they are more frightened when are walking than by car. It was very interesting learning about the different symbiosis between animals like the zebra and the wildebeest, impala and baboons. Usually you spot them together, taking advantage of ones great sight and others hearing.
The best of the Delta was riding the mokoro, a traditional canoe, nowadays made of fiber glass for environmental reasons. It was one of the most relaxing experiences of the trip, being by the water and gazing the hippos, fish eagles, water lilies.
During the mokoro trip we spotted a lot of hippos, tons of them (pun intended, they are huge!). According to our guides the hippos are the kings of the Delta due to their importance in building the canals. There were moments that we were very close to them, and heard their warning noises… which sounded like laughing…
Chobe National Park
Chobe is one of the best game reserves in Africa, home to the Chobe river, has a large concentration of lions, leopards, wild dogs, antelopes, sable antelopes, hippopotamuses and above all enormous herds of elephants (so they say).
We stayed in the National park for a day, but we would´t mind spending more time discovering its wildlife. We spent the afternoon exploring the Chobe river, in a ferry. Along the riverbanks, we saw impalas, cape buffaloes, just one elephant, more crocodiles and hippos. The scenery was beautiful, very green and blue. In the middle of the trip it started raining intensely – as it usually rains in Africa – and naturally most of the animals disappeared, but it was so cool!
In the early morning it was safari time, exploring the Chobe National Park. The Chobe has all big five except the rhinos, that they had to remove from the park due to the risk of poaching. The vegetation is beautiful, dense and very green. The park was full with animals: leopards, baboons, birds, giraffes, jackal. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t encounter any herds of elephants, nothing. Chobe is known for its large herds of elephants, supposedly it’s almost impossible to miss elephants there. Well, we didn’t miss it completely, but only saw one and it was on the boat! But to compensate we saw a beautiful Leopard just at our side. And the most fantastic part is that it had just hunted an impalas, so he was protecting he pray. The other high moment was when we saw wild dogs playing in a pad of mud, they look as dogs just being mischievous. Chobe was fantastic, there is an incredible sensation of just waking up early and wondering in the park looking for wild animals, it makes you just want to be a park ranger, or living nearby to come to the park in the morning every weekend.
Botswana is an incredible country, full of fantastic places to be in the wild and be delighted with the nature, away from civilization. It was a pleasant surprise. The next part of the trip was spent in Victoria falls full of adventure.