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Travel Guide Botswana

Fast Facts about the country

Botswana is considered as one of the wildlife havens in Africa, and at a size of around France there is plenty to get out to explore.There is a huge variety of wildlife and much of it adapted to its unique home, from desert adapted game in the pans and Kalahari, to huge herds of elephant and buffalo along with the water specialists around the river areas, and to top it all one of the best places to see wild dog. For places to visit, the verdant Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world and floating along in a mokoro for a few magical hours watching out for creatures great and small is mesmerizing and should be on everyone’s “must-visit” list.Top this with the expansive Makgadikgadi Pans of endless skies,and the opportunity to watch zebra migration, the Kalahari dunes famed for black-maned lions and Chobe/Linyanti regions, it seems there is endless pristine wilderness to enjoy. Finally, its home to traditional cultures and in particular some of the earliest San/Khoisan artefacts with ancient rock paintings. There is also the chance to enjoy activities with various cultural groups.

The Country: Botswana has a surface area of 581,730kms - roughly the size of France or Texas. It is landlocked by Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The country is 84% covered by the Kalalari (Kgalagadi) Desert. The capital is Gabarone with a country population of approx. 1.85m (2006) and main languages being English and Setswana (English is taught at schools)Most of the population is settled in the east and south east of the country and is heavily weighted towards younger age groups. About 43% of the population is younger than 15 years of age. Over 50% of the population have settled in urban areas. People - The Batswana are the most numerous people in the country, forming about 78.2% of the population and speak the Setswana language. (Batswana also refers to citizens of Botswana). The oldest ethnic group is the Basarwa (or San).The Republic of Botswana is a multi party democracy and became independent on the 30th of September 1966. President - Lt.Gen Ian Kham Seretse Khama - from March 08 and succeeded His Excellency Mr. Festus Gontebanye Mogae (retired)Economy- When Botswana became independent it was considered one of the poorest countries in the world but the discovery of diamonds in 1967 changed all that, it is now one of the wealthiest non-oil producing countries on the African continent. Its mineral wealth - diamonds, copper/nickel, soda ash and coal, along with the beef industry and the growing tourism industry are the main economic successes. Least we should forget the amazing wildlife and birdlife! - Some of the very best game viewing and wildlife is here in Botswana.

Flora & Fauna

Parks and reserves have been set up for the protection of Botswana’s wildlife and as such are havens for them – remember whilst travelling you are an intruder – not them. Game viewingis usually at its best during the dry season - in winter (May to August) and in the hot springtime months of September and October, when the animals are concentrating near rivers, pools and waterholes. The chances of spotting lions are better just after sunrise then at other times. In summer, most of the game tends to lie up during the heat of the day, so the recommended times to set out on drives are the early mornings and late afternoons. There is a wealth of animal species (170) including 22 types of antelope along with the Big 5 and endangered species such as wild dog and rhino, along with 150 reptile species. You’re pretty much guaranteed to elephants and more elephants particularly around the Chobe area as its home one of the most-dense populations anywhere in the world!

Large mammals: elephant, rhino,buffalo, giraffe, eland and predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. If you are in the main national parks you can expect to see the big 5 – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo! Watch out for famed black-maned rhino in the Kalahari where their darker manes stand out against their tawny bodies.

Endangered species: In addition to wild dog and rhino (which thankfully have been reintroduced to a number of parks including Moremi), pangolin and aardvark are also considered threatened. There is a good chance to spot wild dog and cheetah in the wildlife-rich regions – the delta and Linyanti areas in particular are good for wild dogs. Feathered friends under threat include wattled crane. Cape (griffon) vulture and African skimmers.

Endemic species: Tsodilo Gecko and the recently described Churchill snoutfish – there are also a few spiders and moths

Birding: Within part of the numbers that make up the 887 species recorded in southern Africa, there is an amazing 550-590 species of birds (depending on source) of which 8 are globally threatened and the Eastern cattle egret as the national bird.The twelve important ornithological sites selected in Botswana of which seven are in wetland areas which are recognized and supported by Birdlife International known for their bird life cover more than 25% of the land surface of the country.It’s still hard to beat the call of the fish eagle or the beautifully coloured lilac-breasted roller, they may not be “special” spots but they will be enjoyable ones

Flora: With vegetation types ranging from mopane and miombo woodland, teak forest, dambo (shallow grass depressions) swamp forest, moist evergreen and riverine forests, to different acacia woodlands it seems to be an endless list.Add this to floodplains, channels and lagoons, along with Kalahari and Terminalia sandveld and pan/salt pans there are plenty of habitats to host all the wildlife and ensure the visitor sees a range of environment

Conservation and conservancies: WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Award 2010 Winner Botswana Tourism Organisation won the Destination stewardship Award for 2010 for “The Okavango Delta Ramsar Site (ODRS): a unique 55,374 km2 water and game rich area within Botswana’s desert environment. It includes the Tsodilo Hills (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Moremi Game Reserve, Wildlife Management Areas and community lands.A significant amount of its land has been set aside for wildlife conservation with 17% of land set aside for National Parks and Reserves while another 22% of land is used for Wildlife Management Areas. Botswana has four National Parks and a number of game reserves; all are run by through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Included in this is the TransKalahari (Kglagagadi) with open areas between South Africa and Botswana and neighbouring Namibia and was the first peace park to open in Africa in 2002 and jointly managed by both countries .

Economy: When Botswana became independent it was considered one of the poorest countries in the world but the discovery of diamonds in 1967 changed all that, it is now one of the wealthiest non-oil producing countries on the African continent. Its mineral wealth - diamonds, copper/nickel, soda ash and coal, along with the beef industry and the growing tourism industry are the main economic successes. Least we should forget the amazing wildlife and birdlife! - Some of the very best game viewing and wildlife is here in Botswana.

When to travel to Botswana

This is often a tricky one as it depends on where you want to visit and what to experience. To travel out of season also means you’ll often encounter good low season price deals so can make this an interesting time and great value for money.Approximately 450 mm (18 “) of rain falls annually. Please also be aware that the effects of global warming means that weather patterns are sometimes affected and as such making predictions have become more difficult to the point there can often be no such thing as “usual”. To break down into seasons:

Green season: this is often between November/December to March:This is Botswana summer, so expect higher temperatures but also some rain – as in many African countries it is unusual to get rain lasting for too long, generally building up during the day with spectacular storms later. Moving from the dry months, the rain is highly anticipated by humans and animals alike and its arrival subsequently brings carpets of flowers and grass, and budding plants emerge - it can make sightings a little trickier - you may need to game drive around to spot animals rather than wait at waterholes,photography can be good with the colour variation and stormy skies.Also good for birding at this time and breeding season for migrant visitors and many antelope drop their young making the most of the fresh grass – in turn bringing predators in their wake. Expect it to be hot with temperatures reaching 40c in some places on hotter days with min 20c.In the desert areas such as the Nxai pans – take in the spectacle of the zebra migration from January to March. Temperatures during these months in the desert can be hotter than the traditional safari regions. Main rain months are January/February historically.

Mid-season (April -May/June): The temperatures start to cool, making it more pleasant to travel, and skies clear, it can still be grassy and green but rains should have ended and with change of temperatures morning mists often hang over the river areas, and the impala rut starts.Cooler day and night time temperatures in the safari regions with around 30-35c max during the day and 15c at night.. A great time to travel

High/Peak season, July-October: The winter nights can be cold (winter woollies such as hats and gloves on game drives are essential) and day time temperatures ambient during July up to 25c, increasing in temperature as months go on and becoming hot in October.Generally regarded as best game viewing months with drier conditions, short grass and a guarantee of seeing animals congregating around waterholes.In the Delta, the floods should arrive making their journey from Angola and a contrast to the dry surrounding lands and mokoro trips more exciting as channels open up again after the dry months.As the cold winter months make way for spring, temperatures start to rise and by October it is hot again with animals mainly active first and last thing. The Kalahari Desert is a unique experience as silky grasses and dry land ensure man and animal adjust to this dry land in order to survive.

Travel document & information Money & FX:

Botswana: pula Credit Cards: Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted in shops and restaurants in towns and many lodges. Use of credit cards may incur an additional fee. Occasionally lines may be down and services not available particularly in remote destinations and payment will need to be in cash

Cash: Available at ATM machines using credit card and pin number. There is FX bureau upon arrival at International Airport for those arriving by air.Recommended Currency for Exchange:USD is readily exchanged in Botswana and GBP/AUD to a lesser extent. No USD notes prior to 2004 and not all places will accept USD100 notes – take smaller denominations. Take your money in a combination of ATM cards and cash. Banks are readily available at Maun, Kasane, and major towns you are likely to visit during your stay

Travel Insurance: As part of the Terms and Conditions to Chameleon Holidays and Travel, it is essential that all clients purchase comprehensive travel insurance. Your insurance should be inclusive of full medical cover including costs of emergency repatriation to your home country, and cancellation and strongly recommend covering for loss, damage, theft of personal luggage and belongings, personal injury, accident or illness. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate insurance and have read and understood the full terms and conditions of this policy to ensure you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on your trip. Please carry your insurance details with you at all times and that you have given your details to us before arrival – you may be requested to show your insurance on the morning of safari departure or to complete indemnity so please ensure it is in hand luggage. We will also require a copy of this insurance or details for your insurance, in the very unlikely event that you are involved in an accident or require health care whilst you are on holiday we MAY need to be able to act on your behalf and instruct medical evacuation – please note that much of Africa is not like many first world countries where there is a good local emergency and health service that will automatically assist – here, they don’t! If for any reason you are unconscious we need to be able to act on your behalf and get assistance to you as quickly as possible. Chameleon recommends:www.worldnomad.com

Passport & Visa Information: Itis the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they have allowed adequate time to obtain necessary visas in advance if they require them. Visas: are not required by most Commonwealth countries, most EU countries (please check if you are not sure) and USA (passports are stamped with a visa upon entry). Holders of passports other than those nationalities mentioned should check with their travel agent/government travel advisory regarding visa requirements as each client is held responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate documentation for entering the country. You may be refused entry to Botswana if you need a visa issued prior to arrival. This information is given in good faith but recommend you check in advance. A tourism fee may be charged upon visa issue. Please ensure you provide Chameleon with the correct passport information prior to arrival – passport number, full name as per passport, date of birth and passport expiry date

Travelling with children: Travelling with children in Namibia/Botswana requires an unabridged birth certificate – please ensure you bring the necessary documentation. If you are in transit only to Namibia or any other country; SA immigration has advised on the following: South African regulations regards a child as any person under the age of 18 years. It is applicable to all nationalities departing from and arriving in South Africa. The unabridged certificate should be submitted during the transit visa application process and both the certificate and visa should be carried on person whilst travelling. Further documentation is required if there is just 1 parent or if they are travelling with guardians. South Africa also imposed this regulation though they seem to have relented on it, our recommendation is to be prepared.

Additional documents– if renting a vehicle you will need your driving licence – either written in English (so the police here can check it), or an international licence. When driving a rental car carry the original documents the company have given you – if you are crossing the border to one of our neighbouring countries you will also need a cross-border letter to give you authorisation to take the car out of the country.

Transport & travelling around:Public transport is restricted in Botswana containing itself to towns/cities for local people rather than tourists. We recommend you hop on a scheduled tour, hire a vehicle and self-drive, or enjoy a private-guided safari, if your budget allows then a fly-in safari is one of the best ways of getting around Botswana with many short hop flights linking the Pans, Delta, and Chobe but be aware there are no real “cheap-flight” options so be prepared to dig a bit deeper in your pocket if you like travelling by plane Its best to try to fly in/out of either Maun or Kasane/Victoria Falls rather than the main cities like Gabarone where you are quite a distance from the main tourist destinations – there are several options for flights from the main spots to these towns. Also refer to the above additional documents if hiring a vehicle to self-drive

Important Information

We strongly recommend you check your government’s travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination. Whilst Southern Africa and much of East Africa are stable countries, it will give you current information regarding safety and security, health, safety and security, as well as often local laws and customs.

Health Precautions: We recommend that you consult your physician or a travel centre prior to your safari departure, as there are a few health matters that require attention and recommend visiting around 8 weeks prior to travel. Here are some guidelines but please remember we are not medical practitioners and recommend you contact your Governments Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and discuss with your doctor about the current situation – as a guideline only and general recommendation. Please do not underestimate heat exhaustion. Many inoculations are not regarded as necessary for Botswana but we recommend being up-to-date with standard vaccines Namibia, Botswana and South Africa include Hepatitis A & B – Vaccines give good protection; initially two weeks from first dose and then second dose within 6-12months gives long-term protection Polio – Within 10years Typhoid – Recommended TB – recommended and covers long term Tetanus – Within 10years Malaria - Protection against malaria is highly recommended It is considered essential if you are continuing your journey into Zambia/Vic Falls area of Zimbabwe. Please check with your doctor the most appropriate malaria prophylaxis. Yellow Fever – not required in Namibia, RSA, Botswana, Zimbabwe or Zambia however, if you are travelling from countries with yellow fever you may be asked to produce the certificate of vaccination – regulations for this are changing on a regular basis and we advise you check in plenty of time before your trip. Note that Zambia has only recently relaxed their controls for yellow fever as therefore recommend checking for further updates with the appropriate bodies before departure

Tips on what to pack & travelling around

Packing Checklist: Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/long trousers, shirts/t-shirts) for everyday wear, bright colours or white are not suitable for game viewing in game walks or open vehicles; stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking) or robust trainers with good traction soles, light jacket or jumper (summer time), warm jumper and jacket (winter time), light spray jacket when travelling between Nov-April. In winter thermal underwear is useful at night as it does not take up much space and can keep you very warm on those cold winter nights around the campfire. If you are staying in luxury lodges please note that evening wear is generally still casual when out of the cities. In some of the “camps” particularly the more luxurious ones, most will have a range of safari clothing to buy if necessary. As a general rule when travelling in an open safari vehicle (this is likely in some camps/lodges if you are joining their optional activities or on a “fully inclusive” style safari) where you are not travelling in the same vehicle throughout your trip – particularly in winter it will be colder than you anticipate so warm clothes are essential.

Booking your trip: When you’ve found inspiration with our website, send us your enquiry or contact us directly to help plan your trip. Once we have created a perfect itinerary and you are happy to proceed, we will need to make bookings on your behalf and will require a non-refundable deposit, as well as completion of our terms and conditions. Just remember that Namibia, despite it’s size does have a limited amount of lodges and bed-space so early planning is recommend to ensure you get the choices you prefer. Once everything is booked, and deposit paid, a confirmation is sent to you, along with pre-departure information to help you with further planning (or shopping) in preparation for your adventure. Balance is generally due 6 weeks prior to travel. We have different ways for you to pay for your convenience from on line exchange for free, EFT or via Nedbank transaction – your consultant will help you with the easiest way.

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