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Botswana Travel Information
Background and History of
The Republic of Botswana is an African landlocked country constituted by a vast plateau that provides a natural habitat for a huge variety of African wildlife. This scenic wonderland draws thousands of tourists from around the globe throughout the year. Most visitors arrive under the auspices of expensive safari-packaged tour operators.
At the time that this successful country gained Independence in 1966, Botswana was counted among the ten poorest nations on planet earth. A dramatic turnaround came just a few years later when a treasure-trove of diamonds were discovered. Now the country is the third largest producer of diamonds in the world and Botswana is enjoying a growth rate and economic buoyancy unparalleled in Africa.
The most recent statistics (2001) put Botswana`s population at around 1,6 million individuals. Cultures existing include Batswana (comprising of the majority of the population) while Bakalang, Basarwa and Bakgalagadi are also extensively represented in this great country. The term "Batswana" refers to the ethnic group of people who speak the Setswana language and share the Sotho-Tswana culture. Both English and Setswana languages are spoken throughout the country. While the religious beliefs of the Botswana nation include each individual indigenous beliefs which are calculated at over 50% of the population and about 30% that of Christian belief.
The history of Botswana is characterised by migrations of peoples into the country from the north and west as well as from the east and south with extensive internal movements of groups also apparent. The most obvious dominant group emerging was that of the Batswana. Their pattern of dividing and migrating saw the formation of numerous Tswana tribes, and their eventual occupation of all areas of the country.
People and Cultures
The earliest modern inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushman (San) and the Hottentot (Khoi) peoples. They have lived an almost unchanged lifestyle since the Middle Stone Age. Approximately 60,000 years ago, the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa were of one tribe, probably of Khoi/San origin. It is believed that the Bantu-speaking people were an offshoot from the these tribes, occurring in the tropical rain forests of equatorial Africa about 10,000 years ago! The Bantu-speaking people gradually developed darker skin pigmentation and different physical attributes because of the evolving environments that occurred during their time of evolution.
Geography and Climate
Botswa na is bordered by South Africa in the south and southeast; Zambia and Zimbabwe in the northeast; and Namibia in the north and west. It is the northwest corner of the country that is the most sought-after by wildlife enthusiasts, this is where the Okavango River drains inland from Angola to form the infamous Okavango Delta - the largest inland delta in the world - which provides sustenance to a rich profusion of wildlife. The delta is extremely beautiful, THE big sky country with spectacular scenery across grassy plains and limpid lagoons. The Moremi Wildlife Reserve, covering 700 square miles (1,812 sq km) in the northeast corner of the Okavango Delta, is the ultimate African safari destination.
The hottest time of year in Botswana is also the wettest. The rainy season occurs in summer between October and April. Dry and cool weather, with cold and often frosty nights, occur between May and September, when the average daytime temperature is a pleasant 25ºC (77ºF). The months between April and October are ideal for tourists in terms of weather and game viewing. This is the time when the wildlife is most prolific and easily spotted around the natural waterholes and dams where they congregate during drier months.
Economy and Foreign Currencies
Gaborone is often described as Africa`s fastest growing cities and most successful economies. This Botswanean capital is a vibrant and colourful city, which lies in the flat valley between Kgale and the Oodi hills, on the Notwane River in the south eastern corner of Botswana. 15km from the South African border post at Tlokweng.
The unit of currency is the Botswana Pula (P), which is divided into 100 Thebe. The word ’Pula’ means rain and ’Thebe’ means shield. The shield also appears on the national coat of arms. Major credit cards are accepted widely, and travellers cheques and foreign currency are accepted at most large hotels and game lodges. There are banks and exchange bureau in all the main towns, as well as ATM machines have been installed in this growing hub.
Health/ Vaccination Info
The major health risks in Botswana are malaria, typhoid and HIV/Aids. Malaria is a particular risk between November and June in the northern parts of the country. Limited compulsory vaccinations are requiered namely; a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travellers over one year of age coming from infected countries. Botswana has a good public health system, but facilities are limited outside of the urban areas. Health insurance for visitors is vital. Tap water in towns is safe to drink, and all foodstuffs are safe to consume.
Visa Information and requirements
Visas are not required by South African, Commonwealth and United States visitors, unless otherwise directed by the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs. Please check all information on booking as this information acts as a guideline at this time.
Visas are required by all foreign nationals excluding the following: All commonwealth countries except Ghana, India, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sri Lanka , Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Western Samoa, San Marino, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and USA.
Visitors planning on staying longer than 90 days will need to apply for permission prior to their arrivals. Please confirm details with authorities or on booking through your consultant to ensure that all aspects have been incorporated in your African Chapter Journey.
Transport and Airports in
Airports - Gaborone or Sir Seretse Khama Airport, is situated eight (8km) kilometres from the city centre, and is used by numerous airlines including British Airways, Air Botswana and South African Airways linking Botswana with the rest of the world. There are also several air charters operating within the country.
Other domestic Airports around Botswana include Maun, Chobe, Francistown, Kasane and Selebi Phikwe – servicing the various tourist destinations within the regions respectively. Maun Airport, which serves a huge tourist market, is one of the busiest in Southern Africa.
Roads - All population centres are connected by highways and good tar roads. Other areas are being developed and road-tarring projects are moving ahead at record pace. Off main routes, the roads range from good, high-speed gravel to deep, rutted sand. As in most other southern African countries, driving is on the left-hand side of the road with a national speed limit on tarred roads is 120km/h, while through towns and villages the speed limit is 60km/h. Seat belt use is compulsory, as is proof of no-fault insurance.
Train - Botswana Railways operate one of Africa`s few air-conditioned passenger rail services, with a variety of passenger accommodation available and ranging from luxury private sleeper compartments on the overnight train to the modern well-serviced economy class on the day train mainly used by the locals to commute between major centres.
Taxis - All vehicles licensed to carry passengers can be easily identified by their number plates, which have blue backgrounds. Taxis carry up to 5 passengers at a time. If however you would prefer not to share a taxi with other passengers, this exclusivity can be arranged at an additional fee. Contact African Chapter Tours to assist with one of the privately owned tax companies, however pre-arranged transfers are always a more reliable form of transport when on holiday.
Car hire – is an option, especially 4 Wheel Drive vehicles allowing you freedom to explore some of Botswana’s wilderness areas without the stresses of possibly getting stuck in remote regions. You require a valid International Drivers license and there are a few well known reliable car rental companies with branches in Botswana to choose from, again African Chapter can incorporate this facility into your itinerary.
The current Grading Standard is formulated by the Botswana Bureau of Standards for hotel and related establishments. There are specific standards outlining the criteria by which the establishments are assigned different grades and classes or categories.
The standards are reviewed after every five years through the Botswana Bureau of Standards established Technical Committee, which consists mainly of industry members again ensuring that levels are reached as expected. A variety of Game Lodges and Lodge Hotels are available throughout the major tourist areas, as well as the options of more rustic camps. The major cities offer budget and upmarket 5 star graded hotels and resorts to chose from - here African Chapter have the knowledge of ensuring your needs and desires are met through one line.
Attractions and Wildlife Destinations
Botswana is generally known for its outstanding game viewing opportunities and desert experiences, thus offering true African Style Safaris and Adventures to suit all styles, budgets and needs.
- Southern Region - Gaborone offers numerous busy shopping malls servicing a full range of imported and locally produced goods, excellent restaurants, top international quality hotels, sports clubs and various night clubs. New buildings and suburbs sprout like mushrooms wherever there`s a block of land to fit them into, resulting in a mix of low-cost housing, blocks of flats or apartments, shopping centres and industrial complexes.
- Kgalagadi Region – comprising of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Deception Valley, Kuru Museum and cultural centre in an array of gorgeous scenic landscapes and adventures waiting to be explored.
- Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans Region - Makgadikgadi Pans were once the centre of a great lake that has now been dry for more than two thousand years and though to be one of the largest saltpans in the world. After the seasonal summer rains the pan fills up again. Drawn by the rich food supply the pans become a breeding ground for a variety of bird species while the grasslands become home to a large number of antelope thus attracting an impressive range of predators.
- Chobe Region, Chobe River, Chobe National Park and Kasane Hot Springs – Chobe National Park and Chobe River provides a wildlife kingdom extrodanaire with an abundance of game viewing opportunities and a high concentration of matriarchial elephant herds.
- Moremi and Okavango Regions and Kubu Islands – the Moremi located North East of Maun and covering a range of 20% of the Okavango Delta. This area enjoys a wide diversity of habitats and controlled by wildlife management, thus allowing free seasonal movements of game. The Okavango River feeds the delta flowing all the way from the Central African Highlands over a remarkable distance of 1300 km. The size of the Okavango Delta fluctuates depending on local rainfall and floodwaters from Central Africa so creating a life source to an 80% portion of this arid country.
African Chapter Safari Lodges, Bush and Wildlife packages are available through our suggested itineraries, however for further tailormade options and requests please do not hesitate to contact our offices for your sensational chapter.
Short List of preparations and Important information:
To help you pack and prepare for your Botswana Bound Journey with African Chapter have provided you with a short List to assist you and bring to your attention the important facts to remember:
• Passports and visa applicable to your travel trip
• Recommended malaria prophylaxis as advised by your General Practitioner
• TIME – Botswana operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.
• Money unit is the Pula. Foreign Currency can be exchanges at local banks and Bureau De Changes. Most Major international credit cards are widely accepted unless you are traveling to more remote areas.
• International access code for Botswana is +267. Mobile phones operate on a GSM network and are limited to urban areas; most North American cell phones will not work in Botswana. Internet cafes are available in Gaborone and Maun cities.
• Tipping is expected in tourist hotels and restaurants. Many establishments automatically add a service charge, but where not, a 10-15% tip is appreciated. Taxi drivers generally aren’t tipped. Tour guides, trackers and game rangers rely largely on tips for their income and customarily receive about P25-45 per person per day.
• Safety - The majority of visits to Botswana are trouble-free, but visitors should be vigilant against petty crime. Wildlife and livestock make driving hazardous, so driving at night should be avoided.
• Tap water is safe to drink in main centres, hotels and game lodge, exercise caution in rural areas by boiling water before consumption. Water is a scarce resource in the arid country of Botswana so please help conserve water during your trip, and become a true part of this ideal conservation orientate landscape.
• What to wear – if on safari wear light weight neutral and dull colours and have warm layers of clothing for early morning and evening game drives.
• It is advisable to avoid swimming in lakes and rivers, because of wildlife attacks and the risk of water-borne diseases such as bilharzia.
• Travellers should be aware of the very high prevalence of HIV/Aids in Botswana.
For additional tips and tricks to travel in Botswana please discuss these with your consultant, we do have as much as possible for you as described above however at your specific time of travel we might be aware of certain situations which might ensure your journey is one of your best chapters!
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Please don't hesitate to contact us directly, we have visited here previously and are able to provide you with up to date information at any time.