ecoDestinations - Botswana

ecoDestinations - Botswana


O Amogetswe

Formerly the British protectorate of Bechunaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. Over 40 years of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment from the diamond industry, has made Botswana one of Africa’s most stable economies. The country is also well known for its extensive conservation practices, nature reserves, and incredible safari opportunities.



Roughly 70% of Botswana is comprised of the Kalahari, making much of the territory sparsely populated and too arid to sustain any agricultural industry other than cattle. However, other regions, such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, consist of lush waterways.


45% of its land area is protected in the form of National Parks and game reserves. BirdLife International has named 12 different areas in Botswana as Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Despite the lack of endemism, Botswana is among the most popular countries for safaris because of its spectacular abundance of wildlife.


Threats to biodiversity include mining, rangeland degradation, bushfires, fencing, uncontrolled tourism, and poaching. Climate change is emerging as one of the biggest threats to the Okavango Delta as it disrupts the seasonal flooding of the plains.


Indigenous Peoples:

The largest ethnic group in Botswana is the Setwsana, comprising of 79% of the population, followed by the Kalanga, Basarwa, a small number of people of European-descent, and Zimbabwean immigrants. The San, or Bushmen, who maintain a traditional hunting/gathering culture are one of the country’s most persecuted groups.


The San are known for their extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and spiritual healing. Elaborate dancing rituals in which healers contact ancestor spirits to drive out bad blood in the community, are an important part of their society.


According to Survival International, in 1997, 2002, and 2005 the Botswana government forced the Bushmen from their ancestral home in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Homes were dismantled, schools and health services were shut down, their water supply was destroyed and their lives were threatened. International rights groups argue that the government forced the San off their lands in order to make way for the diamond industry.


In 2006, the San won a landmark case that their eviction from the reserve was unlawful, that they continue to face ill-treatment and that they have the right to return home. Unfortunately they still face incredible amounts of discrimination having been banned from hunting and forced to apply for permits to enter the reserve.


UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Tsodilo: Here is one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world, comprising of 4,500 different paintings of geographic shapes, human-like figures, and animals with exaggerated body proportions. Two of the most famous images are the rhino polychromes and the Eland panel. Excavations have also revealed seashell beads from the Atlantic, copper jewelry from the Congo, and glass beads from Asia. Archaeological research estimates that Tsodilo has been inhabited for the past 100,000 years. Today, the original inhabitants, the San and the Hambukushu, regard Tsodilo as a sacred place of ancient spirits.


Okavango Delta: The largest inland delta in the world, Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammals, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog, and lion. Despite the relative aridness of Botswana, Okavango has permanent crystal clear waters from which large herds of zebras, elephants, and buffalo drink from and play in. It was recently named UNESCO World Heritage’s 1000th site.  


National Parks:  

Chobe National Park: The savannas and floodplains of Chobe National Park are best known for its spectacular wildlife populations. Its elephant population numbers over 50,000, the highest concentration in Africa. On a sunset cruise along the Chobe River you’ll see yawning hippos and herds of buffalo. Other types of wildlife include wildebeests, impalas, zebras, giraffes, cormorants, and kingfishers. Sights of lions, hyenas, and cheetahs are common as well.


Makgadikgadi Pans National Park: For most of the year, this region is extremely arid and desolate, but when the rains come, the two large salt pans – Sowa and Ntwetwe – flood and attract an astonishing amount of wildlife. Then the salt pans are transformed into a powder-blue lake that bring in up to hundreds of thousands of flamingos. Some baobab trees grow in a few areas and one is of particular historical note. Believed to be between 3,000 -4,000 years old, it is the only landmark for hundreds of miles around and was used by Africa’s most famous explorer, Dr. David Livingstone, as a way to navigate.


Other Highlights:

Gcwihaba Caves: Located in a remote area, the caves are a fascinating underground labyrinth of caverns, pits, and linked passages. While some are was large as 10 m (32 ft) with impressive displays of stalagmites and stalactites, others are so small that you would have to squeeze or even crawl through them. The remoteness of the caves have allowed some interesting species to evolve, such as the Namaqua fig, a tree whose roots create beautiful curtains inside the caves. Then, on the tree itself, resides the endemic Ruepels Parrot. Late Stone Age tools and burnt ostrich eggshells suggest the caves were inhabited by nomadic peoples thousands of years ago.


Moremi Game Reserve: Concerned by the uncontrolled hunting and cattle farming encroachment on their ancestral lands, Moremi Game Reserve is the first reserve in Africa that was established by local residents, the Batawana people. The region has spectacular game viewing and bird watching, including over 400 species of birds.


Tswapong Hills: The old capital of the Bamangwato people, Tswapong Hills is an important historical site, containing artifacts from the Middle Stone Age and up to the 19th century. It once housed 300,000 people including European missionaries and hunters. The most outstanding structures are the remains of the London Missionary Society Church.


Tourism Organizations

Botswana Tourism Organisation

The Botswana Tourism Organisation is a premier tourism promotions organization, full of great resources on destinations, hotels and tour operators, and ecotourism certifications.






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