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Situated in the southern reaches of Africa, Botswana is renowned for its pristine wilderness areas characterised by deep lagoons, wetlands, lush palms, rugged hills and desert plains. The country’s primary tourist drawcard is undoubtedly the vast red expanse of the Kalahari Desert and its remarkably beautiful Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world. These natural wonders provide a tranquil haven for an abundance of African wildlife to thrive. Other highlights include the impressive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, where visitors are privy to massive zebra migrations during the flood season; the Savuti plains, which host a significant pride of lions; and the Tsodilo Hills, where 4500 rock paintings form a unique record of human settlement over many millennia.
Public transport in Botswana is geared towards the needs of the local populace and is confined to main roads between major population centres. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Botswana’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track.
Driving off the main roads in Botswana is only recommended to expects in 4×4 vehicles, that are equipped correctly. Most lodges offer transfers or they can be arranged. If, however, you will be driving in Botswana: your home driving licence will be accepted (with an official English translation if necessary; driving is on the left side of the road; and the national speed limit is on tarred roads is 120km/h and 60km/h in towns and villages.
Be sure to watch out for wild animals on the roads!
There are major airports in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone, while smaller charter flights are used to get to the other top attractions and camps.
Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine, generally of an extremely high standard, along with local beer and imported wine and spirits. Good restaurants and bars can be found in main towns, often within hotels. Beef and goat are very popular meats. Elsewhere, food is more basic: millet and sorghum porridge are the local staples.
Tap water is considered safe to drink, although outside main cities and towns, visitors are advised to check first and sterilise water if in any doubt. Bottled water is available in most tourist centres. Filtered water is available at most camps and shops offer bottled water – it is advised to be well stocked of bottled water if you are travelling off the beaten track. Milk is pasteurised, and dairy products, local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally safe.
A discretionary five-to-ten-percent tip is typical for restaurant bills. In many places, a service charge is automatically added. It is customary to tip the game guide and lodge staff while on safari.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Botswana’s climatic pattern is typical of southern Africa, although its rainfall is less than countries further east. The rains in Botswana come mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s. Some days will be bright and sunny, some will have afternoon thunderstorms, and some will just be grey.
As with Namibia, April and May in Botswana are generally lovely, with the sky clear and the landscape green. Night temperatures start to drop during these months, especially in the Kalahari. Note that places in and around the Okavango tend to have less extreme, more moderate temperatures than the drier areas of the Kalahari.
From June to August the night-time temperatures in drier areas can be close to freezing, but it warms up rapidly during the day, when the sky is usually clear and blue. It’s now very much ‘peak season’ for most safari areas: the land is dry in most areas so the animals congregate around the few available water sources.
This continues into September and October, when temperatures climb again, drying the landscapes and concentrating the game even more. This is the best time for big game safaris – although October can feel very hot, with maximum temperatures sometimes approaching 40°C.
November is difficult to predict, as it can sometimes be a continuation of October’s heat, whilst sometimes it’s cooled by the first rains; it’s always an interesting month.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
In summer, lightweight, lightcoloured cottons are preferable. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. In winter, wear trousers, longsleeved shirts / blouses and jerseys. From May – August, night temperatures can fall below zero degrees celsius, so warm jerseys and jackets are vital, especially on morning and evening game drives. Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Bring a lightweight jacket and/or jersey for unexpected temperature changes or rain. Closed, comfortable walking shoesor gym shoes are a must in all seasons. Special attention should be given to protection from the sun. Bring a sunhat, good quality sunscreen, sun lotion and polarised sunglasses. Wide brimmed sun hats are essential.
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