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GENERAL INFORMATION

INTRODUCTION TO BOTSWANA
Botswana is one of the finest tourist destinations on the African continent. The Okavango, which originates in the uplands of Angola to the north-west, flows into and then spreads over the sandy spaces of the Kalahari to form an immense and wondrous inland delta of lagoon and labyrinthine channel, palm-fringed island and fertile floodplain. A number of safari lodges and camps have been established in and around this watery wilderness. This wilderness and the nearby game-rich Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park reserves, offer the visitors the best of several worlds, appealing variously to the game-viewer and bird-watcher, the hunter and the sporting fisherman, the explorer of hidden places and the lover of Africa in its loveliest and least spoilt state.

From the ancient baobabs of the Makgadikgadi Pans to the savannah grasslands of Chobe National Park and the mopane woodland of the Tuli Block, there is a wide variety of wildlife in Botswana. However it is in the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve that visitors will find unforgettable beauty. In the lush indigenous forests of the delta and its islands, and along the floodplains spawned by this great marriage of water and sand, more than 400 species of birds flourish. On the mainland and among the islands in the delta, lions, elephants, hyenas, wild dog, buffalo, hippo and crocodiles congregate with a teeming variety of antelope and other smaller animals.

Botswana offers a truly unique African experience untouched by the more destructive pressures of encroaching civilisation, presenting a wonderful wilderness for the enjoyment of all who seek to reach just that little bit further into Africa for a holiday of a lifetime.

CULTURE AND HISTORY
The earliest modern inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushman (San) and the Hottentot (Khoi) peoples. They have lived an almost unchanged lifestyle in the country since the Middle Stone Age. The physical characteristics of the Khoi and the San are similar. Both tend to have light, almost coppery skin colour, slanted, almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, thin lips and tufted, tightly curled hair. Both speak click languages, though there are major differences between them. Both hunted and collected wild foods and neither grew crops.

Approximately 60,000 years ago, the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa were of one tribe, probably of Khoi/San type. It is believed that the Bantu-speaking people were an offshoot from the Khoi/San tribe. This occurred 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 different environments they eventually occupied.

The Tswana people arrived in Botswana, about 1,000 years ago, large chiefdoms began to emerge in the area between Sowa Pan and the Tswapong Hills. These people are known as the "Toutswe", after the first of their capitals, which was excavated on Toutswemogala Hill. Soon these communities were eclipsed by the Great Zimbabwe Empire, which spread its domain over much of eastern Botswana.

Around 1300 AD, peoples in present-day Transvaal began to coalesce into the linguistic and political groups they form today. This resulted in the emergence of three main groups: the Bakgalagadi, the Batswana and the Basotho, each of which had smaller divisions. Each group lived in small, loosely knit communities, spread widely over large areas of land. They spoke dialects of the same language and shared many cultural affinities.
Groups of people broke off from their parent tribe and moved to new land, creating a new tribe and absorbing or subjugating the people they found there. This is how a single group of Batswana living in the Magaliesberg Mountains in northern Transvaal evolved into the numerous Tswana tribes, which exist today.
In the 18th century further movements and split-ups of the Batswana resulted in the major Tswana tribes which exist today.
The earlier farming inhabitants of Botswana - the Bakgalagadi - also split into several groups. This then was how the Tswana tribes came to be living in Botswana as they were until about 200 years ago.

The term "Batswana" refers to the ethnic group of people who speak the Setswana language and share the Sotho-Tswana culture, while in its common contemporary usage, it refers to all citizens of the Republic of Botswana, regardless of their ethnic background. The singular is "Motswana": a citizen of the country. "Tswana" is used as an adjective - for example "Tswana state" or "Tswana culture".

In the 19th century numerous missionary societies were formed in Europe and America. The London Missionary Society was one of the first to preach amongst the Batswana. Christianity very gradually spread to the interior. Missionaries settled amongst the people, often at the invitation of the chiefs who wanted guns and knew that the presence of missionaries encouraged the traders. By 1880 every major village of every tribe in Botswana had a resident missionary and their influence had become a permanent feature of life. The missionaries worked through the chief, recognizing that the chief's conversion was the key to the rest of the tribe. Chiefs' responses varied – from Khama's wholehearted embrace of the faith, to Sekgoma Letsholathebe's outright rejection, which he said was in defense of his culture.

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
In the late 19th century, following hostilities with their southern neighbours, the Batswana appealed to the British for help. In 1885, the British government put Bechuanaland (as Botswana was formerly known) under its protection. In 1964, the British accepted proposals for democratic self-rule and the seat of government was moved to the new city of Gaborone in 1965. The first general elections were held in March 1965 and independence declared in September 1966. Botswana boasts one of the few successful multiparty democracies in Africa. The Constitution provides for a president elected every five years in a national election, who is limited to two terms. The cabinet is drawn from the National Assembly and includes a vice president and a flexible number of ministers.

It is the least corrupt country in Africa according to the anti-corruption watchdog.

ECONOMY
Botswana has possibly the highest average economic growth rate in the world, averaging about 9% per year from 1966 to 1999. Growth in private sector employment has averaged about 10% per annum over the first 30 years of independence. The country has substantial foreign exchange reserves totaling about $ 6.2 billion.

Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy.

Agriculture provides a livelihood for more than 80% of the population but supplies only about 50% of food needs and accounts for only 3% of GDP. Subsistence farming and cattle are predominant. The sector is plagued by erratic rainfall and poor soils. Tourism is also important to the economy. Substantial diamond deposits were found in the 1970s and the mining sector grew from 25% of GDP in 1980 to 38% in 1998. Unemployment officially is 21% but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%.

GEOGRAPHY
Botswana is a land-locked country dominated in geographical terms by the Kalahari Desert which is a sand-filled basin that averages 1,100 metres above sea level. Botswana is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast and Namibia to the north west. At Kazungula, these four countries meet at a single point mid-stream in the Zambezi River. South Africa lies to the south.

The distance between the extreme north and the extreme south of Botswana is about 1,100 km. It is 960 km across at its widest and is about the size of France or Kenya. The Kalahari Desert covers 84% of the country.

In the north-west, the Okavango River flows in from the highlands of Angola and soaks into the sands, forming the 15,000 sq. km network of water channels, lagoons, swamps and islands. The Okavango is the largest inland delta system in the world a bit smaller than Israel or half of Switzerland. Botswana has no mountain ranges to speak of and the almost uniformly flat landscape is punctuated occasionally by low hills.

NATIONAL PARKS AND PRIVATE CONCESSIONS
Over 17% of Botswana's land area has been set-aside as national parks and game reserves. From the lush green of the Okavango Delta in the north to the red desert dunes in the south, great areas of wilderness have been carefully preserved to offer visitors an opportunity to experience nature at its very best; to feel a sense of solitude; to see an incredible variety of wildlife species and to enjoy the prolific birdlife.

Within the national parks, areas have been set aside in which visitors may camp. Many of these areas have only the most basic of facilities or are completely undeveloped, whilst other areas have formal ablution blocks. Although the national road networks between main centres are tarred and in first class condition, many of the access tracks that lead to the parks and reserves, and many of the tracks within the protected areas, are rough and sandy, requiring the use of a 4x4 vehicle.

Access to the parks and reserves has been limited in order to ensure that visitors have an enjoyable experience and can feel the wilderness atmosphere. Because of this, advance bookings for campsites are essential.

Situated in the middle of the delta lies the Moremi Game Reserve surrounded by private concessions that are leased out to the various safari companies. These private reserves offer the very best safari experiences with massive tracts of pristine wilderness and privacy encountered in very few places in Africa these days. It is a true privilege to go on a game drive and not see another soul besides the animals

To make the experience even more enjoyable many varied activities are available. Safaris by boat and dugout canoe (mokoro) are the best way to see the water areas, while game drives and night drives by vehicle are best for tracking animals. Walks (at the discretion of the camp manager) give the best feel for being in touch with nature. Wildlife “hides” offer a great way to enjoy game viewing and birding, especially during those midday siesta hours

FLORA
The natural distribution of Botswana's vegetation is closely related to rainfall patterns. Most of the country is covered by three types of savannah:
Shrub, tree or grass savanna
Shrub savanna is in the southwest
Tree savanna in the rest of the country.

Over 3,000 species of plants have been recorded in Botswana, 650 of which are woody plants. Of particular interest are the numerous wild edible plants, which rural residents, particularly Bushmen, make considerable use of. Over 200 edible plant species have been recorded.

FAUNA
Botswana is well known for its diverse range of wildlife. Most of the major African game species can be found, along with a number of species that are endemic to the region. Compared to the rest of Africa the game has been well protected from the scourge of poaching. The statistical picture reveals that the country is home to 164 species of mammals, 157 of reptile, 80 of fish, 550 of bird and uncountable different kinds of insects.

The mammals that may be seen include the following: vervet monkey, chacma baboon, wild dog, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, large-spotted genet, small-spotted genet, mongoose, spotted hyaena, brown hyaena, lion, leopard, cheetah, aardvark, Burchell's zebra, square-lipped (white) rhino, warthog, giraffe, common duiker, klipspringer, springbok, steenbok, impala, blue wildebeest, tsessebe, gemsbok, sable antelope, roan antelope, reedbuck, waterbuck, lechwe, bushbuck, kudu, eland, buffalo, hippopotamus, elephant.

BIRD WATCHING
Some 550 bird species in total have been accepted for the Botswana national bird list. These are species known to live in the country at some time of the year, including the various rare vagrants, which are from time to time recorded. Total numbers of birds within the country fluctuate within a year and also from year to year. On A more local scale, many bird species may undergo irregular movements within Botswana. Such movements may be triggered by rainfall, temperatures, food, breeding requirements or a combination of these.
Not only is the diversity of bird species high in the national parks and reserves, but also throughout the north and east of the country. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has recently instituted a bird research programme. Current research projects include a study of the breeding sites of several aquatic birds such as storks, herons, pelicans, flamingoes and cranes. The majority of these species can be seen in the Okavango Delta or on the Chobe River in northern Botswana.


MONEY
Botswana's unit of currency is the Pula (P), which is divided into 100 Thebe (t). The word 'Pula' means rain and 'thebe' means shield. The shield appears on the national coat of arms. Bank notes come in denominations of P10, 20, 50 and 100, and coins in denominations of 5t, 10t, 25t, 50t, P1, P2 and P5. www.xe.com
Visa and MasterCard are accepted widely. Most hotels and lodges accept foreign currency or travellers' cheques.
There are also Exchange bureaus at major border posts. Credit card cash advances are available in major cities through Barclays Bank, First National Bank or Standard Chartered Bank. Cash transfers are easiest through Western Union money transfer. There are no exchange controls.
While cash of any amount is allowed, any person entering or leaving Botswana is required to declare Pula and/or foreign currency bank notes in their possession if the amount is equal to or exceeds an equivalent of P10,000.00 (ten thousand Pula).

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 15.30 and Saturday mornings from 9.00 to 11.00.

CLIMATE
Botswana's climate is semi-arid. Although it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and highly regional. Often a heavy downpour may occur in one area while 10 or 15 km away there is no rain at all. Showers are often followed by strong sunshine so that a good deal of the rainfall does not penetrate the ground but is lost to evaporation and transpiration.

Summer (October to March)
Summer days are hot, especially in the weeks that precede the coming of the cooling rains, and shade temperatures rise to the 38°C mark and higher, reaching a blistering 44°C on rare occasions. However, summer is also the rainy season, and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down considerably, although only usually for a short period of time. The mean annual rainfall varies from a maximum of over 650mm in the extreme northeast area of the Chobe District to a minimum of less than 250mm in the extreme southwest part of Kgalagadi District

Winter (May to August)
This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm; however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing point in some areas, especially in the southwest.

The in-between periods - April/early May and September - still tend to be dry, but the days are cooler than in summer and the nights are warmer than in winter.

INFRASTRUCTURE
Botswana has very little infrastructure outside of the main cities although there are tarred roads linking these major cities. There are numerous lodges ranging from rustic budget camps to 6 star luxury lodges.

TELEPHONE AND INTERNET
Botswana cellular networks are based on the GSM 900 & 1800 Band. Cellular phones will only work in close proximity to the major centers. The lodges are in radio contact with their base office, usually in Maun, in the event of an emergency.

ELECTRICITY
220 Volts – the plug points are the same as those in South Africa comprising 3 round prongs. If you cannot find an international adaptor in your country of origin they can be purchased in South Africa.

GRATUITIES
Tips are not included in Southern Africa. If you were satisfied with your service and wish to show your appreciation, a basic guideline follows:
Waiters : 10% to 15% of the bill
Airport and hotel porters : P5 per suitcase.
Guides : Per person: P50 per day, P20 per half day or P8 per transfer
Lodge and Hotel Staff : Ask the manager for recommendations as it varies depending on the region and establishment.

HEALTH
It is advisable to take out travel insurance as this will cover you in the event of an accident, illness or should you need to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances. It is also advisable to ensure that it includes medical evacuation. Botswana does not have a very high standard of medical care and most foreign travelers would be flown to Johannesburg in the event of an emergency.

Consult your guide or hotel manager for confirmation on drinking of water. Should you prefer, bottled water is readily available. It is safe to eat fruit and vegetables from supermarkets and restaurants.

If you are visiting any malaria areas in Southern Africa it is recommended that you consult your physician for the appropriate preventative measures. Should you experience flu-like symptoms within 14 days of leaving a malaria area, consult a physician immediately and let them know where you were. The sooner treatment is received, the quicker your recovery. In malaria areas, simple precautions such as the use of insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and trousers in the evenings to avoid being bitten are the best prevention. Since the malaria parasite requires a human host to propagate, the likelihood of contracting malaria in remote areas is slim.

If you take prescription medication, we recommend you keep it with you in your hand luggage.

SHOPPING
Most of the lodges have well stocked gift shops.

WHAT TO BRING
We will supply a comprehensive list according to your itinerary and baggage allowance.

 

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