Botswana


Botswana, this vast, most savagely beautiful ancient land, offers the modern traveller the ultimate safari experience. Between the Okavango Delta, Savuti, Linyanti & Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans and the Central Kalahari National Park offer a variety of wildlife, magnificent landscapes and real challenges to 4×4 drivers.

FACT FILE

Location
Landlocked between South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe;

Area
582,000 km2 (roughly the size of France or US state of Texas);

Time
GMT + 2; Country Phone Code: 267; Electricity: 230 V AC 50 hz;

Weights & Measures
Metric System;

Geography
Botswana is a huge, shallow sand-filled semi-arid basin at an average elevation of 1,000 metres. The edge of the basin is higher and broken in the east forming low hill ranges facing across the Limpopo’s drainage system. This area has the most favourable rainfall and agricultural potential, and the bulk of the population. The rest of the country is generally undulating to flat over the bulk of its area. The whole basin appears to be tilted to the northeast, with the Makgadikgadi pans forming its lower part. To the west it rises higher towards Namibia.

The Kalahari Desert area which covers two-thirds of the country consists of large deposits of wind blown sand – as much as 120 m thick in places. Its semi-arid climate supports a low savannah-type vegetation in the wide flat plains. Large parts of the sand veld are thought to be very fragile ecosystems.

Climate
Mostly subtropical but varies with altitude and experiences extremes in both temperature and weather. Poor and erratic rainfall. Seasons are reversed from northern hemisphere. Summer (October/November to March) is time of highest rain (peaks in December/January and March) and humidity. Heat is stifling: day temperatures can rise to over 400C and usually drop to 250C during the night. The annual average rainfall is around 475 mm. The northern areas receive up to 700 mm, while the Kalahari Desert area averages 225 mm.

Winter (late May to August) is usually dry and cold. Maximum daytime temperatures average 260C. Subfreezing night-time temperatures are normal in June and July. The best time to visit is from April to October when the days are sunny and cool to warm (250C). Evening temperatures however drop sharply. This is also the best time for game viewing.

 

Brief History
The region now known as Botswana has long been home to the hunter-gatherer San, who have inhabited the Kalahari for at least 30,000 years. They were joined by the Hottentots, then much later on, either in the 1st or 2nd century AD, the agricultural and pastoral Bantu arrived. These three groups seem to have coexisted peacefully, trading and intermarrying. Zulu wars forced the Tswana, a Bantu group which in the 14th century had settled the country’s southeastern strip, further into the Kalahari.

People
Population: 1.3 million (1992); 59% under 20 years; 45% urbanisation; Density: 2/km2; Growth Rate: 4.6% (Doubles every 26 years); Infant mortality: 43/1000; Life Expectancy: 60 years (M), 65 years (F); Literacy Rate: 30%; Main Ethnic Groups: Batswana (76%), Shona (12%), San (3%), Hottentot (3%), Ndebele (1%), Other (5%); Languages: English official & widely spoken. Setswana (75%), Shona (12%), Khoisan (6%), Other (5%); Religions: Traditional (50%); Christian (50%).

Government
Republic; Non-racial multi-party democracy with a functioning Westminster-style Parliament. Head of State: Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire (1980). Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party, Botswana Independence Party (BIP), Botswana Progressive Union (BPU), Botswana Labour Party (BLP).

Wildlife Resources
Mammals: 164 species including elephant, hippo, rhino, buffalo, zebra, antelope, warthog, wild pig, hare, otter, mongoose, aardvark, ratel, caracal, wilddog, brown hyena, leopard and lion.

Birds: About 550 species including eagle, owl, falcon, vulture, kite, flamingo, pelican, ostrich, stork, heron, crane, goose, duck, sandgrouse, bee-eater, swallow, crake and shrike.

Reptiles: 157 species including lizards, crocodiles, tortoise and python.

Amphibians: 38 species including frogs and toads.

Fish: Over 80 species including tigerfish, silverfish, tilapia, catfish, pike, carp and mormyrids.

Plants: Over 3,000 species including baobab, ivory and date palm, leadwood, sausage tree, fig mophane, acacias, camelthorn, teak, mahogany, and paperbark tree.

 

Wildlife Policy
The country is divided into five geographical zones for their landscape and variety of wild animals, each of which has a different set of wildlife issues. The central theme of the wildlife policy, which applies across the country, is that Botswana is committed to maintaining or, where necessary, restoring whatever has been lost of its naturally occurring flora and fauna.

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