Botswana confounds many people’s opinions of Africa. Although still a relatively young country (it gained its independence in 1966) it is a well-run, thriving democracy where the income from diamond mining and tourism is spent wisely.

Botswana is roughly the same size as Texas, but with the same population as Houston. (And rather than a lone star, the night skies of Botswana are fabled for their stellar displays of constellations). It’s a progressive nation and is particularly forward-thinking when it comes to conservation: some 40% of Botswana’s land area is protected.

This adds up to Botswana being an awesome safari destination – safe and secure, and yet very wild in the best possible way. The beauty, scale, and diversity of the landscapes will take your breath away, and while you’ll be sharing the savannah, swamps, and woodlands with countless birds and animals, you won’t ever feel crowded. Botswana’s tourism policies manage visitor numbers for minimum ecosystem impact.

Botswana’s chief attraction is undoubtedly the Okavango Delta. Known as the “Jewel of the Kalahari”, this miraculous mosaic of wetlands, islands, floodplains, and channels is revitalized each year by local rainfall, and by the annual inundation of water flowing down from the highlands of Angola.

With the water being regularly recharged, the Okavango can support very healthy populations of all the species you would want to see on safari and consists of beautiful and dynamic landscapes. Unmissable experiences include game drives, walking safaris, and boat and mekoro (dug-out canoe) excursions.

While the Delta steals much of the limelight, the rest of Botswana should not be overlooked. The immense spaces of the Central Kalahari (a desert which blooms and comes to life after the rains) and the almost-lunar Makgadikgadi Pans will give your imagination unlimited space to roam, while the Chobe National Park is the focal point for Africa’s greatest concentration of elephants.

Cultural experiences include the opportunity to walk with the Bushmen (or San) and learn some of their survival secrets, and evenings spent listening to harmonious traditional a cappella singing. Intricately woven baskets make wonderful, baggage-allowance friendly souvenirs – and you should be sure to leave some space in your heart for all the wonderful memories you’ll make during your time in Botswana.

Gateway cities: Maun, Kasane

Best time to travel: Year-round

Highlights: Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, Linyanti Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi National Park

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