Easily one of the best safari destinations in Africa, Botswana is a wild and dramatic land characterised not only by its bountiful wildlife but also by its extraordinary scenery: from shimmering salt pans and diamond-rich deserts to raging rivers and fertile floodplains, the landscapes here come in many guises.
Nearly half of the country is given over to national parks, reserves and private concessions, which makes for an excellent safari experience. Botswana’s policy of favouring low-impact luxury tourism ensures that even the most famous game-viewing areas rarely feel crowded, while its population of just two million adds to the sense of wilderness.
The north of Botswana in particular offers superb wildlife-watching opportunities. It is home to the wondrous Okavango Delta – the largest inland delta in the world – where shimmering lagoons and fertile waterways are crammed with more than 400 species of bird. Away from the water zebras and giraffes amble across grass flats and floodplains, keeping an eye out for the numerous big predators that also reside here.
Northeast of Okavango is another jewel in Botswana’s crown: Chobe National Park, which has one of the largest concentrations of game anywhere in Africa. The reserve is particularly well known for its vast elephant herds, some 400-strong, which share this wild land with the likes of lions, cheetahs, hippos and many more.
It’s not only in conservation that Botswana is an African success story. Since gaining independence in 1966, it has achieved steady economic growth through good use of its agricultural potential and enviable diamond reserves.
It has not entirely escaped controversy – the HIV/AIDS pandemic and alleged maltreatment of the Kalahari Bushmen have caused international concern – but it remains a peaceful and stable nation of remarkable natural beauty and its developed infrastructure makes it much more accessible than some of its neighbours.