Botswana at 50: The Place to See Elephants
If an African safari has ever been on your travel bucket list, this year there’s added incentive to make that dream destination come true.
Botswana, in southern Africa, is celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence in 2016. The country is a thriving democracy with ample facilities for tourism. It’s also a place of unrivaled natural wonders, from the vast Kalahari Desert, to the lush Okavango Delta, to the varied wildlife of Chobe National Park.
Known as the “Land of the Giants,” Chobe National Park is home to one of Africa’s largest and most diverse wildlife populations, including an estimated 120,000 elephants. The wildlife visitors may spot on an afternoon game drive includes giraffes, buffalo, lions, and leopards, as well as hundreds of elephants making their way to the Chobe River to drink, bathe, and play. A river cruise along Botswana’s border with Namibia offers another excellent way to spot wildlife and get up close to the park’s hippos. It’s also a great vantage point for photography. And the park is a paradise for bird-watchers, with more than 460 species recorded there.
Botswana’s Okavango Delta is an ecosystem created by the Okavango River flowing into the Kalahari Desert, resulting in a labyrinth of islands and waterways filled with lush vegetation and rich wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, leopards, and hippos. A recent survey found 122 species of mammals, 71 species of fish, 444 bird species and 1,300 species of flowering plants. In addition to some of the best safari experiences in Africa, the area also boasts some of the continent’s premier camps and lodges. A great way to explore the delta is by mokoro, a traditional canoe.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is perfect for travelers who want a more remote wilderness experience. It’s a place of sand dunes and grasslands. The northern part of the reserve teems with wildlife. Stars light up the sky at night and you’ll be amazed at their brilliance.
The capital of Botswana, Gaborone, has grown from a small town at independence in 1966 to a bustling city of about 250,000 with a lively nightlife, whether you want to listen to music, go dancing, or try your luck at a casino. You’ll also want to shop for traditional Botswana crafts, including baskets, pottery, woodcarvings, weavings, and jewelry. Kgale Hill, a major landmark, offers panoramic views of the city and is a great spot to catch a spectacular African sunset. Gaborone’s annual International Music and Culture Week, which this year will be held from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, is a showcase for art, jazz, fashion, choral music, theater, and poetry.
Formerly a British protectorate, Botswana became an independent nation on Sept. 30, 1966. Every year, the country marks Botswana Day with a two-day holiday, on September 30 and October 1. The festivities begin early in the morning with people blowing horns in celebration. The fun continues late into the night with concerts, dance contests, parades, and cultural events throughout the country.
For help planning a trip to Botswana, contact us at 719-597-0004.