Botswana is a land-locked country of 581,730 square km (or 224,600 square miles) in area straddling the Tropic of Capricorn in central Southern Africa, and bordered by South Africa in the south, Namibia in the west, Zimbabwe in the east and Zambia to the north. The size of the country in comparison is similar to Madagascar, slightly smaller than Texas and just slightly larger than France. A principal factor however, is that the total population of Botswana is only 2,4 million people which equates to just 4 people per square km! And of these, roughly 1,5 million live in the main towns, leaving the balance spread out over the full extent of the land!
The capital of Botswana is Gaborone in the south and the other smaller centres are Francistown, Lobatse, Selebi-Pikwe, Nata, Maun, Kasane, Orapa, Shakawe and Ghanzi.
The climate is sub-tropical with summer from November to March (which is also the rainy season) with mean temperatures ranging from 19-35 degrees Celsius, and a relatively short winter from June to August with temperatures between 5–23 degrees.
The religion of Botswana is that of Christianity as well as traditional tribal beliefs.
The official language of the country is English, the national language is Setswana, and a few other languages are spoken such as Shona and other Bantu dialects.
The currency of Botswana is the Pula (BWP abbreviated to P) which means rain. As at 28 April 2019 the
Pula trades at P11.96 to the Euro, P10,76 to the US$ and P13,90 to the British
Pound, making Botswana a fabulously cheap holiday destination for Europeans and
Americans and many other “hard-currency” countries.
Politically, Botswana is a stable, independent and democratic regime with a parliament consisting of two houses: the National Assembly and the House of Chiefs. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into a mix of rural and urban districts. Despite it being "third-world", it is a very rich country thanks to the wealth of diamonds found there, as well as a large and thriving coal-mining industry coupled with a healthy beef production. Botswana has continually maintained one of the world's highest economic growth rates since the 1960's. It is a very peaceful country and the people enjoy a generally high standard of living.
Topography and Geography
Most of the country is gently undulating sandsheet with an altitude of between 500m and 1500m above mean sea level. This is punctuated by occasional rocky outcrops rarely more than 100m tall. Two major features stand out, being the enormous salt pans and the huge inland delta system, coupled with large areas of Kalahari Desert. A narrow corridor of land in the south-east is more suited to agriculture, and this is where most of the population is concentrated.
The Okavango Delta in the north-west of the country (called Ngamiland) is a vast inland river system which instead of opening into an ocean, drains out onto a massive area of open land, flooding the savanna in the rainy season and creating a unique and ever-changing ecosystem. Dependent upon the volume of rainfall feeding the river system, it fluctuates between 6,000 square km to approx. 15,000 square km and consists of over 150,000 “islands” when flooded. It is home to a huge array of game and bird species and is one of Africa’s most intriguing wildlife destinations! Here over 45% of the working population are employed in the tourism industry where over 100,000 people stay at the 65+ lodges and camps.
The Makgadikgadi salt pans consisting of the Sua, Nwetwe and Nxai pans lie southeast of the Okavango Delta and are surrounded by the Kalahari Desert. The pans cover an enormous 16,000 square km in area and the largest individual pan is about 5,000 square km in size. The pans are a dry, salty clay most of the year round and are seasonally covered with water and grass and become a refuge for a large variety of birds and animals.
The Chobe National Park lies in the north of the country, is the most biologically diverse and holds one of the greatest concentrations of game in all of Africa. The park is divided up into 3 main areas, each corresponding with one distinct ecosystem.
The Serondela area (or Chobe riverfront) is situated in the northeast and consists of lush floodplains and dense woodland of mahogany, teak and other hardwoods. (Interestingly these are being largely decimated by the over-burdened elephant population). The Chobe River along the northern border is a major tourist attraction known for large herds of elephant, giraffe and buffalo plus many species of birdlife, especially the carmine bee-eater. Access is via the town of Kasane, and this part of the park is in close proximity to Victoria Falls.
The Savuti Marsh constitutes the western stretch of the park and is the relic of a large inland lake whose water supply was cut due to ancient tectonic shift activity. The marsh is fed by the erratic Savuti Channel, and the region is covered with extensive savannahs and rolling grasslands, which makes the wildlife particularly dynamic.
The Linyanti Marsh in the northwest corner is adjacent to the Linyanti and Kwando rivers and consists of riverine woodlands, open woodlands and lagoons plus floodplains. Here one finds large concentrations of lion, leopard, wild dog, hippo and elephant
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve covering 10% of Botswana’s total land area at 52,800 square km is the second largest game reserve in the world. The land is generally flat and gently undulating, covered in bush and grasses with many larger trees. The park contains large numbers of the Big 5 (elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, buffalo and lion) plus huge herds of antelope as well as smaller game such as porcupine, hyena, fox, jackal, wild dog, caracal and warthog. It has an extensive network of roads and bush camps and remains a huge tourist destination.
Botswana is one of the prime wildlife safari destinations in
Africa, if not in the World and is a major source of revenue for the country. In
the 60’s the Botswana government embarked upon an initiative to attract up-market
foreign tourists to the country from such places as North America, Europe, the
Far East, Australia and New Zealand. The result is that the ownership of the majority
of the tourist lodges and camps is now held by foreign persons and entities. Botswana
enjoys a very low tax regime to encourage inward investment and expansion by
local business. Corporate tax is capped at 25%.
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