This landlocked country in South Africa is a favourite with everyone from Prince Harry and Meghan to Nicky Hilton. Between its Big Cats, expansive desserts and sacred hills it isn’t difficult to see why either. But there’s more to Botswana than sophisticated safaris. Keen to find out more? Here’s a handful of interesting facts about Botswana to get you started.
Interesting Facts About Botswana
1. A huge elephant population
Botswana has the largest population of African elephants than anywhere else in the world. Plus, it’s the best place in Africa to see the hefty herds of Kalahari elephants – the largest in the world too. Botswana’s vast parks and lack of fences make it a population migration route for the gentle giants. For decades, its population was under serious threat due to extensive poaching but numbers have now tripled to 160,000 thanks to Botswana’s conservation efforts. However, at the start of 2019, Botswana made the controversial decision to lift a five-year ban on elephant hunting. Conservationists have campaigned relentlessly against it but others say that the wild elephants kill livestock and destroy crops, ruining livelihoods.
2. As well as one of Africa’s best big cat scene
Chobe National Park is one of the best places in Africa to all Big Five species – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. We’ve already discussed the elephants, but there’s a highly impressive big cat population too. The Moremi Game Reserve, in the thumping heart of Botswana, is home to lions, leopards and cheetahs all year round. For the larger pride of lion, the Duba Plains win, but if it’s elusive leopards you’re after then you’ll want to head north to the Linyanti Concession and Chobe National Park.
3. Botswana is home to one of the world’s largest salt flats
The Makgadikgadi Pans stretch over 16,000 km2, making it one of the largest salt pan areas in the world. Once upon a time, it was an ancient lake, but today the flats are covered in the sandy desert. During the wet season, the pans fill, attracting a staggering variety of birds, flocks of flamingos and wildebeests One of Africa’s largest zebra populations lives here too. It’s one of Africa’s best spots for bird watching.
4. Nearly half of Botswana is protected
Today, 45 per cent of Botswana is protected, which explains how the country has such a rich variety of wildlife. There are four blockbuster national parks (Chobe, Kgalagadi Transfrontier, Makgadikgadi Pans and Nxai Pan) as well as nearly a dozen reserves and marches. The most popular way to explore these parks is by self-drive or guided safaris, in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
5. Botswana’s population is surprisingly small
The are just 3.5 people per square kilometre in Botswana, so there’s plenty of space for everyone. But it’s also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In the past decades, Botswana transformed into a middle-income country with a well-established banking system and a thriving mineral industry.
6. Water is prized
In fact, water is so highly valued that in Botswana the currency is called ‘pula’, meaning rain or blessing in Setswana. Botswana’s climate is semi-arid, which means it’s hot and dry for most of the year – bar the rainy season. The rainy season is highly regional and unpredictable, lasting throughout the summer. The mean annual rainfall varies from a maximum of over 650mm in the Chobe District to less than 250mm in the Kgalagadi District.
In 2019, Botswana experience the worst drought in 34 years, with temperatures tipping over 41°C.
7. It’s home to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
The Okavango Delta is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stretching 15,000 square km across north-west Botswana, it’s made up of permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It’s also one of the few interior delta systems in the world that doesn’t flow into the sea or ocean. Unesco says: “One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the River Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods.”
The landscape is home to some of the world’s most celebrated wildlife, including white and black rhinos, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, lions and the African elephant.