INTRODUCTION TO BOTSWANA
Botswana Lodges - for all your Botswana Reservation needs
Geology and geography.
The country is located
in the Southern African region and the northern two thirds lie within
the tropics. The Tropic of Capricorn is situated between Gaberone and
Francistown. Botswana is roughly the size of France - 581,730km2. The
extreme distance from north to south is about 1 100 km and from east
to west just under 1 000km.
The population is
about 1.4 million, one of the lowest densities in Africa, with eighty
percent of the people residing in the eastern third of the country.
The distribution of people is due to the Kalahari to the west, an inhospitable
area with limited surface water and secondly, the historical political
organisation of the Tswana was such that central villages were surrounded
by satellite villages, not too far from the central community.
The main geographical
features of Botswana is the Kalahari, covering about senventy to eighty
percent of the country, The Okavango Delta, covering about
15 000km2, the Makgadikgadi Pans, covering about 12 000km2, the Chobe
River and Linyanti Swamp, which form the northern boundary. The Hardveld
in the east, where the landscape is decorated with sandstone, granite
and dolerite outcrops is bordered by the Sashe and Limpopo rivers. The
Tsodillo Hills and the Drotsky's Caverns in the north- west is located
in the north of the country. All these areas are fully or partially
incorporated into National Parks, Game Reserves or National Monuments.
About eighty percent
of Botswana consist of Kalahari sands. Millions of years ago, the super
continent - Gondwanaland - started breaking up, leaving Africa as a
lone standing continent. Soon after this isolation, Africa was uplifted
and three major basins was formed - the Chad basin in the north, the
Congo basin in central Africa, and The Kalahari basin in the south.
The Kalahari is the largest continouos stretch of sand in the world,
covering some 2 500km2 from the orange river in the South, to the tropical
forests in aire. The continent moved southwards causing the climate
to become dry. A further violent activity took place, resulting in the
formation of the Great Rift of Africa, which stretches from The Red
Sea for some 5 000 km south along the east of the continent, ending
in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This raised the continent further,
restricting moist air, resulting in even drier conditions. Then, a few
millions years later, the glaciation of Antartica caused further drought,
by sucking up the moist air in the southern hemisphere and turning it
into ice. Before the breakup of Gondwanaland, immense amounts of basaltic
lavas were poured into the earth's surface, causing Gondwanaland to
be covered in vast areas of molten rock - these lavas can be as deep
as 9km in places, such as in Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa. Karoo lavas
underlie most of the Kalahari sands and about half of Botswana. The
rocks protrude in places and are evident along the eastern border of
the country, especially in the Tuli area. There are also isolated outcrops
in the west.
After the break
up of the super continent, geological activity quietened down and during
this time an activity of great economical value, in today's terms ,
took place - Diamond bearing Kimberlite pipes forced their way through
the parent rock, as were discovered at Jwaneng, Orapa and Letlhakane.
After the glaciation
of Antartica, a wetter period followed, and rivers started flowing,
guided by the orientation of the sand dunes causing water to flow into
one direction - into Lake Makgadikgadi. Relics of these rivers are the
huge fossil beds such as Okwa Valley in the Central Kalahari. This wet
era also caused the great rivers of the Middle Kalahari to flow again,
namely the Okavango, the Chobe and the Zambezi. Initially they flowed
eastwards, but an
Upwarping of the earth's crust caused the formation of a fault, interrupting
the flow - resulting in the gradual filling up of the immense basin
- one of the largest lakes in Africa- The Makgadikgadi. At it's maximum
is was estimated at 60 000 - 80 000 km2 - with the Okavango Depression
on the one side. The drying up of the lake was well advanced about 10
000 years ago, and gradually become filled with sand. The Gumare fault,
directly in line with the Selinda spillway and Linyanti swamp was then
formed, constituting the southernmost point of the Great Rift of Africa.
This caused a reduction in the slope of the land, a spreading of the
water, and the formation of the fan shaped Okavango Delta. Today, the
only river feeding the Delta is the Okavango River.
Today, the only
remains of the ancient Lake, apart from the Okavango Delta, are the
Nxai Pans, Lake Ngami, Lake Xau, the Mababe depression and the two main
pans of Makgadikgadi, Sowa and Ntwetwe Pans.
The Okavango river
commences in the Benguela Plateau in Angola, where rainfall is between
1 200 and 2 000 mm per year. Once it leaves the plateau it flows through
an area of of Kalahari Sand for about 1 300km, where it enters Botswana
it is guided by two parallel faults of about 80 km long, known as the
panhandle. The river flows between the faults, but the rest of the area
is only seasonally flooded . An estimated 11 000 billion cubic metres
of water is brought down the Okavango River yearly.
Climate and rainfall
The summer months are from October to March and temperatures can soar
up to mid forty degrees celcius at midday. Night time temperatures are
seldom below mid twenties celcius during the summer. Winter temperatures
are hight twenties celcius at midday, and below ten degrees celcius
at night and early mornings. Rainfall is during the summer months -
September to April, but usually the rain only starts in December towards
end February. Average rainfall is 450mm per year, and highest can be
650mm in the north west - Chobe area, with the Kalahari Gemsbok Park
the driest at 250mm per year. Botswana is a low lying and land locked
by higher altitudes that separate it form the coast, about 600 km away.
The People of
The San Bushmen and the Khoi Hottentot were the earliest known inhabitants
of Botswana. About 2 000 thousand years ago, the other tribes moved
spouthwards, psooibly form the Cameroon region. The Batswana are the
largest tribal group in the country, forming about fifty percent of
the population. The Bakalang live mainly in the Francistown area, forming
the second largest group in Botswana. The Ovaherero, are found in Maun
and the Okavango Delta area.
and legal system
The government is based on the Westminster system, with an executive
president as head of state and government. It has a multi party democracy
and the constitution has remained almost intact since written in 1966.
The president is elected for a term of five years by the National Assembly,
after which he appoints his cabinet ministers. The House of Chiefs,
which is represented mainly by the tribal chiefs, advises the National
Assembly on matters concerning the tribes.
The legal system
can be divided into formal and customary law, the former being handled
by the Magistrate's court, the High court and the court of appeal. The
high court is located in Lobatse. Customary court - also known as the
"kgotla" may be seen in most towns - dealing mostly with informal
and petty matters and
The punishment here is mostly a verbal rebuke or a lashing.
In 1966, at Independence, this was one of the poorest countries in Africa.
In 1967, the discovery of diamonds changed this dramatically. Botswana
is the largest producer of diamonds, making it possible to accumalate
large foreign exchange reserves. Coal deposits were discovered near
Palapye in 1973.
Other minerals consist of a copper nickel mine at Selebi Pikwe and a
soda ash plant at Sowa Pan.
The beef industry
is one of three main revenue earners in Botswana, the other being diamonds
and tourism . Botswana is one of the prime tourist destinations in Africa,
offering unspoilt wilderness. It follows a high-cost, low volume tourism
policy and has put aside seventeen percent of it's surface area for
game reserves and national parks. Wildlife management areas comprise
a further twenty two percent, totalling to a record thirty nine percent
of Botswana being used for conservation purposes.
The national language is Setswana. English is the official language.
Each tribe speaks a different language.
Throughout the year casual, comfortable clothes are worn -
blouses, shirts, shorts or light skirts are best. Some hotels in Gaborone
do not permit jeans although they are useful on safari. Jerseys and
jackets are necessary for winter mornings and evenings. Muted colours
are more suitable on safari, and white is not practical. In winter,
warmer clothing is needed and track suits are very useful for sleeping
in whilst on safari. Sturdy but comfortable shoes are essential.
Sun block lotion, sunglasses, hats and insect repellents are
essential. Binoculars are an absolute must. There is a wealth of bird
and animal life worth seeing.
There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of malaria
infection amongst both visitors to and residents of, Botswana's malaria
endemic areas. Consult a doctor at least two weeks prior to entering
Botswana on the necessary precautions against the disease.
As a precaution boil or sterilise drinking water outside of the main
Medical insurance cover is recommended
are required by all nationals of foreign countries excluding the following:
All Commonwealth countries, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein,
Luxembourg, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Samoa (Western),
San Marino, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and USA. Any
visitor wishing to stay more than 90 days will have to apply for prior
permission to the Chief Immigration Officer, PO Box 942, Gaborone, Bo
. No visitor is allowed to work or seek employment. The following countries,
although members of the Commonwealth, do require visas: Ghana, India,
Mauritius, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.
The unit of currency is the Pula. Notes are in P5, P10, P50
Coins (Thebe) are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 2 5, 50, PI and P2.
All border posts
|Pont Drift (drift)
|Parr's Halt (drift)
|Pioneer Gate (Lobatse
function as entry points:
Cars can be booked from anywhere in the world to be available
on arrival at Gaborone airport. Cars, trucks, minibuses and four-wheel
drive vehicles are also available, some with professional guides and
There are three vehicle-hire companies
in Maun. Vehicles from all three companies come with drivers for which
there is no additional charge. Prices, which vary, are available on
request, but in all cases fuel costs are an extra. Contact Far
& Wild Safaris
safaris, accommodation reservations and advice on self-drive safaris