Botswana is a country best known for its vast safaris and game-viewing opportunities. It is beautiful country that is covered with large pockets of national parks that swell with exotic animals and unique birds. Botswana was once an economic wasteland, but today is one of the wealthier African nations, enjoying a soaring economic growth rate aided by the discovery of diamonds and the continual dollars that stream in from tourists.
Botswana is a landlocked African nation, bordered by South Africa in the south, Namibia in the west, Zimbabwe in the east, and Zambia in the north. The north features forests and hardwoods where large herds of safari animals roam. The eastern region of Botswana is savanna country, full of trees, bushes, and grasses. Its western region consists of steppes that gradually turn into desert. Few rivers run through Botswana besides the Okavango and the Chobe. With less than 25 inches of annual rainfall in the east and less than 10 inches of annual rainfall in the west, Botswana is an extremely dry country. Fortunately, it benefits from abundant mineral reserves, which include gold, coal, manganese, asbestos, salt from the Makarikari Salt Pans, copper-nickel from Selebi-Phikwe, and some of the world’s largest diamond mines in Jwaneng and Orapa.
Botswana is a famous destination for safari adventures and bird-watching. It is blessed with several national parks and game reserves. The Moremi Game Reserve is one of them. It features charging buffalos, lions, leopards, and hippos and crocodiles basking along the Chobe River.
At Chobe National Park, you’ll find marshlands, lakes, and rivers that serve as habitats for zebras, warthogs, buffalos, leopards, lions, cheetahs, antelopes, hippopotamuses, cheetahs, hyenas, kudus, and impalas. But the park is best known for its 120,000 Kalahari elephants, which is the largest concentration of elephants in the world. Kalahari elephants are also the largest of the elephant species.
Other parks and reserves include the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park, Khutse Game Reserve, which is home to the rare brown hyena and scores of giraffes, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, which has all of the country’s rhino population, and the Gaborone Game Reserve, which is known for its grass-lurking antelopes. Zebras can also be found along the sands of the Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi Pans; the latter is more famous, however, for its thousands of bright pink flamingos.
Another game reserve is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This area is virtually unexplored. This reserve is larger than Denmark and is the second largest in the world. Its landscape includes open plains, sand dunes, trees and shrubs, salt pans, ancient riverbeds, flat bushveld, mophane forests, and heavily wooded areas. Wildlife include lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, warthogs, wild dogs, red hartebeests, gemsboks, kudus, elands, springboks, snakes and scorpions. There are camping facilities provided at the reserve. One of the highlights of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the nomadic bushmen who live and hunt there. They are one of the last few ancient peoples remaining, and their traditional way of life is currently being threatened by the Botswana government who want to relocate them.
The Nxai Pan National Park is another national park, but it isn’t known as much for its wildlife as it is for its ancient rocks, which are millions of years old and form the Tuli Block. The park also features a rugged countryside of shallow salt lakes and private game ranches.
The best fishing in Botswana is found along the Chobe River and the Okavango Delta. There are also fishing areas created by the dams around Gaborene, Shashe, and Bokaa.
Only about 1.65 million people live in Botswana. The population consists mainly of the Bantu. The San, also called Bushmen, and white Europeans form a minority. The San live as hunters and gatherers in the Kalahari Desert, subsisting on animals and plants. Their neighbors are the Bantu group called the Tswana Kgalagadi, who live on the margins of the desert. They hunt and gather much the way the San people do, but they also cultivate crops.
The Bantu and San also live in the Okavango Basin in central Africa where fishing is the way of life. The swamplands are also farmed. The Tawana, a subset of the Tswana, also live in this region. They herd cattle and farm a little in the swamps.
Food in Botswana is a blend of European and Tswana. Cereal, tea, coffee, and ice cream are part of the diet of Batswana (the name for people in Botswana), as are traditional foods like steamed mush made out of millet, corn, sorghum and other grains. Livestock meats are also stewed with vegetables. Popular drinks include milk and lightly fermented grain.
Historians believe the Tswana cattlemen moved into present-day Botswana around 1,000 AD, locating themselves between the San people in the west and the Nguni in the east. The Tswana gradually took over Botswana’s highlands. During the 18th century, the Bantu tribes and Tswana were fighting each other. In the 19th century, there were also wars between the Tswana and the Nguni. The Boers from South Africa helped the Tswana cause and the Nguni were thus driven out. Eventually, the Boers became a threat to the Tswana. They sought the British for help, but soon found their territory declared a protectorate in 1885 by the British.
Botswana did not gain independence until 1966. The country’s constitution has set up a national assembly that calls for an election every five years. The assembly in turn elects the president. Rights of citizenship are granted to all residents, regardless of race.
Today, the major issue facing Botswana is its HIV/AIDS pandemic. It has one of the highest aids rates in the world; 20% of the population is infected. Another problem is the issue with the Bushmen. The government has attempted to relocate these ancient peoples who have long made the Central Kalahari Game Reserve their home, a move that has been deemed unconstitutional by the courts of Botswana. It is believed the government hopes to mine the diamonds in the reserves, as well as use the reserve to create more tourism dollars.