Quietly tucked away in southern Africa, Botswana is a haven for animals and wildlife that’s emerging as a top destination for visitors to discover. In fact, Lonely Planet picked Botswana as its must-visit country for 2016, ahead of Japan and the USA. Here’s a look at what awaits in this year’s destination of choice.
Chobe National Park
In northern Botswana, near the town of Kasane, this national park is one of Botswana’s key tourist destinations. It’s a must for elephant-spotters, with a huge population of 40,000 living in the park. In fact, it’s one of the best places in Botswana to see elephants. The Chobe National Park is the third largest reserve in the country and is home to over 250 species of animals.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is nature at its finest. This breathtaking natural landscape is the world’s second largest inland delta, stretching over 18,000 square meters (193,750 sq ft). Right at the north of Botswana, the delta’s spectacular scenery is formed by the Okavango River, which, instead of flowing into the sea, finds its outlet in the Kalahari Desert, spreading its waters over 15,000 sq m (161,458 sq ft) of arid land. Over time, islands have formed and all manner of wildlife has found home in its fertile wetlands. It’s a great place for photographers and wildlife-watchers to spot wading birds, elephants, wildebeests and hippopotamuses. The easiest way to visit the area is by joining an organized safari.
The Kalahari Desert
There’s no way visitors can miss this huge desert, which stretches 900,000 sq km between Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. While temperatures can easily reach up to 42°C in July and August, that doesn’t stop vegetation from thriving. The site has several reserves, which are home to animals such as springboks, lions, hyenas, meerkats and antelopes.
The Thamalakane River and Maun
At the Southern end of the Okavango Delta, the Thamalakane River is an ideal spot for a romantic trip to watch the sunset. Visitors should also take in the nearby town of Maun, 19 km away, which is a popular destination for the country’s tourists. It makes a good base for a trip to the Moremi Game Reserve.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Straddling the border between South Africa and Botswana, Kgalagali Park sprawls over 38,000 sq km. It’s the ideal spot for watching Africa’s impressive birds of prey, but the star beast here is the gemsbok (Oryx gazella). “Kgalagadi” means “place of thirst,” which is fitting for this park and its red sand dunes, located in the southern part of the Kalahari desert. Temperatures can reach up to 42°C in the shade and up to 70°C in the sun. Visitors follow a route alongside two dried up rivers, which are said to flow only once a century.