Friday, 2 March 2018

BOTSWANA: Eco-friendly Tourist Destination And Safest Country In Africa

Botswana is a land-locked country located in Southern Africa and bordering on Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert.

Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but is, at most, a few hundred metres long.

Sparsely populated, Botswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. Safari based tourism tightly controlled and often upmarket is an important source of income.

Botswana is officially known as the Republic of Botswana. It is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa.

Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966.

Since then, it has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections this unlike many African countries and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa since at least 1998.

The country's name means land of the Tswana, referring to the dominant ethnic group in Botswana.

The term Batswana was originally applied to the Tswana, which is still the case.

However, it has also come to be used generally as a demonym for all citizens of Botswana.Many English dictionaries also recommend the term Botswanan to refer to people of Botswana.

Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries, is the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

Seretse Khama Ian Khama the son of Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana's first post-independence leader took over as president in April 2008.

He was the chosen successor of Festus Mogae, who stepped down at the end of his second term, after a decade at the helm.

Mr Ian Khama secured a five-year term in October 2009 after his governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) party swept to victory in a parliamentary election, and in August 2014 polls he gained a second term when his party gained the most seats.

Critics describe him as authoritarian while supporters say he is decisive and efficient.

His no-nonsense approach has made him popular abroad as he has broken ranks with regional leaders' timid approach to join international criticism of democratic abuses by former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

Born in the UK while his father was in exile, Mr Ian Khama is a graduate of Sandhurst officer training college in Britain and was the commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) before becoming vice president in 1998.

His ruling Botswana Democratic Party has governed since independence in 1966.

Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.

Botswana is famous for its wildlife, areas like the Chobe National Park, Moremi National Park in the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have a very high concentration of game.

The bulk of the Kalahari desert falls within Botswana's borders and Botswana is home to most of the world's San or bushman population.

Botswana once had the world's highest rate of HIV-Aids infection. UN figures for 2014 suggest that for adults aged 15 to 49 the prevalence rate is 25%.

The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is widely spoken across the country.

In Setswana, prefixes are more important than they are in many other languages, since Setswana is a Bantu language and has noun classes denoted by these prefixes.

They include Bo, which refers to the country, Ba, which refers to the people, Mo, which is one person, and Se which is the language.

The main ethnic group of Botswana is the Tswana people, hence the name Botswana for its country. The people as a whole are Batswana, one person is a Motswana, and the language they speak is Setswana.

Other languages spoken in Botswana include Kalanga (sekalanga), Sarwa (sesarwa), Ndebele, Xoo and, in some parts, Afrikaans.

Besides referring to the language of the dominant people groups in Botswana, Setswana is the adjective used to describe the rich cultural traditions of the Batswana whether construed as members of the Tswana ethnic groups or of all citizens of Botswana.

In Botswana most of the tribes have different ways that they use to greet one another, but for easy communication and connection batswana use a three way hand shake or one can just greet another by saying Dumelang as a way of saying hello without having to use hand shakes.

In community celebrations like Dikgafela or during marriage ceremonies batswana women show excitement and happiness by the use of ululations as part of their culture.

An estimated 77% of the country's citizens identify as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians.

There are also congregations of Lutherans, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses in the country.

In Gaborone, a Lutheran History Centre is open to the public.

According to the 2001 census, the country has around 5,000 Muslims, mainly from South Asia, 3,000 Hindus and 700 Baha'is. Approximately 20% of citizens espouse no religion.

Religious services are well attended in both rural and urban areas.

Botswana music is mostly vocal and performed, sometimes without drums depending on the occasion; it also makes heavy use of string instruments.

Botswana folk music has instruments such as Setinkane a Botswana version of miniature piano, Segankure or Segaba a Botswana version of the Chinese instrument Erhu.

While Moropa or Meropa in plural is a Botswana version of the many varieties of drums, phala is a Botswana version of a whistle used mostly during celebrations, which comes in a variety of forms.

Botswana cultural musical instruments are not confined only to the strings or drums. the hands are used as musical instruments too, by either clapping them together or against phathisi or goat skin turned inside out wrapped around the calf area, it is only used by men to create music and rhythm.

The guitar has been celebrated as a versatile music instrument for Tswana music as it offers a variety in string which the Segaba instrument does not have.

It is the outsider that found a home within the culture. The highlight of any celebration or event that shows especially happiness is the dancing.

This differs by regime, age, gender and status in the group or if it's a tribal activity, status in the community.

The national anthem is Fatshe leno la rona. Written and composed by Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete, it was adopted upon independence in 1966.

In the northern part of Botswana, women in the villages of Etsha and Gumare are noted for their skill at crafting baskets from Mokola Palm and local dyes.

The baskets are generally woven into three types: large, lidded baskets used for storage, large, open baskets for carrying objects on the head or for winnowing threshed grain, and smaller plates for winnowing pounded grain.

The artistry of these baskets is being steadily enhanced through colour use and improved designs as they are increasingly produced for international markets.

Other notable artistic communities include Thamaga Pottery and Oodi Weavers, both located in the south-eastern part of Botswana.

The oldest paintings from both Botswana and South Africa depict hunting, animal and human figures, and were made by the Khoisan or Kung San or Bushmen over twenty thousand years ago within the Kalahari desert.

Football is the most popular sport in Botswana, with qualification for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations being the national team's highest achievement to date.

Other popular sports are cricket, tennis, rugby, badminton, softball, handball, golf, and track and field.

Botswana is an associate member of the International Cricket Council. Botswana became a member of The International Badminton Federation and Africa Badminton Federation in 1991.

The Botswana Golf Union offers an amateur golf league in which golfers compete in tournaments and championships.

Botswana won the country's first Olympic medal in 2012 when runner Nijel Amos won silver in the 800 metres.

In 2011, Amantle Montsho became world champion in the 400 metres and won Botswana's first athletics medal on the world level. High jumper Kabelo Kgosiemang is a three time African champion.

The card game bridge has a strong following, it was first played in Botswana over 30 years ago, and it grew in popularity during the 1980s. Many British expatriate school teachers informally taught the game in Botswana's secondary schools.

The Botswana Bridge Federation (BBF) was founded in 1988 and continues to organise tournaments. Bridge has remained popular and the BBF has over 800 members.

In 2007, the BBF invited the English Bridge Union to host a week-long teaching program in May 2008.

The Tswana are the majority ethnic group in Botswana, making up 79% of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are the BaKalanga, and San or AbaThwa, also known as Basarwa.

Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi. In addition, there are small numbers of whites and Indians, both groups being roughly equally small in number.

Botswana's Indian population is made up of many Indian-Africans of several generations, with some having migrated from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, and so on, as well as first generation Indian immigrants.

The white population speaks English and Afrikaans and makes up roughly 3% of the population.

Since 2000, because of deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana has risen into the tens of thousands.

Fewer than 10,000 San people are still living their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life.

Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move San out of their historic lands.

James Anaya, as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people for the United Nations in 2010, described loss of land as a major contributor to many of the problems facing Botswana's indigenous people.

He cited the San's eviction from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) as an especial example.

Among Anaya's recommendations in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council was that development programs should promote, in consultation with indigenous communities.

These were such as the San and Bakgalagadi people, activities in harmony with the culture of those communities such as traditional hunting and gathering activities.

A mid-sized country of just over 2 million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Around 10 percent of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone.

Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism. Botswana boasts a GDP per capita of about $18,825 per year as of 2015, which is one of the highest in Africa.

Its high gross national income by some estimates the fourth-largest in Africa, gives the country a relatively high standard of living and the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa.

Botswana is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations.

The country has been among the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Despite the success in programmes to make treatments available to those infected, and to educate the populace in general about how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The number of people with AIDS rose from 290,000 in 2005 to 320,000 in 2013.As of 2014, Botswana had the third-highest prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS.

Archaeological digs have shown that hominids have lived in Botswana for around two million years. Stone tools and fauna remains have shows that all areas of the country were inhabited at least 400,000 years ago.

Evidence left by modern humans such as cave paintings are about 73,000 years old. The original inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushmen or San and Khoi peoples.

Both speak Khoisan languages and hunted, gathered, and traded over long distances.

When cattle were first introduced about 2000 years ago into southern Africa, pastoralism became a major feature of the economy, since the region had large grasslands free of tsetse fly.

The ancestors of the modern-day Kalanga moved into what is now the north-eastern areas of the country. These proto-Kalanga were closely connected to states in Zimbabwe as well as to the Mapungubwe state.

These states, located outside of current Botswana's borders, appear to have kept massive cattle herds in what is now the Central District,apparently at numbers approaching modern cattle density.

This massive cattle-raising complex prospered until 1300 AD or so, and seems to have regressed following the collapse of Mapungubwe.

During this era, the first Tswana-speaking groups, the Bakgalagadi, moved into the southern areas of the Kalahari.

All these various peoples were connected to trade routes that ran via the Limpopo River to the Indian Ocean, and trade goods from Asia such as beads made their way to Botswana most likely in exchange for ivory, gold, and rhinoceros horn.

The arrival of the ancestors of the Tswana-speakers who came to control the region has yet to be dated precisely.

Members of the Bakwena, a chieftaincy under a legendary leader named Kgabo II, made their way into the southern Kalahari by AD 1500, at the latest, and his people drove the Bakgalagadi inhabitants west into the desert.

Over the years, several offshoots of the Bakwena moved into adjoining territories. The Bangwaketse occupied areas to the west, while the Bangwato moved northeast into formerly Bakalanga areas.

Not long afterwards, a Bangwato offshoot known as the Batawana migrated into the Okavango Delta, probably in the 1790s.

In June 1964, the United Kingdom accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana.

The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikeng in South Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which is located near Botswana's border with South Africa.

Based on the 1965 constitution, the country held its first general elections under universal suffrage and gained independence on 30 September 1966.

Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first President, and subsequently re-elected twice.

The presidency passed to the sitting Vice-President, Quett Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998.

He was succeeded by Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999 and re-elected in 2004.

The presidency passed in 2008 to Ian Khama son of the first President, who had been serving as Mogae's Vice-President since resigning his position in 1998 as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role.

A long-running dispute over the northern border with Namibia's Caprivi Strip was the subject of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in December 1999. It ruled that Kasikili Island belongs to Botswana.

At 581,730 km2 (224,607 sq mi) Botswana is the world's 48th-largest country. It is similar in size to Madagascar or France. It lies between latitudes 17° and 27°S, and longitudes 20° and 30°E.

The country is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of its land surface.

The Okavango Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan, lies in the north.

The Limpopo River Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, with the basins of its tributaries, the Notwane, Bonwapitse, Mahalapswe, Lotsane, Motloutse and the Shashe, located in the eastern part of the country.

The Notwane provides water to the capital through the Gaborone Dam. The Chobe River lies to the north, providing a boundary between Botswana and Namibia's Zambezi Region.

The Chobe River meets with the Zambezi River at a place called Kazungula, meaning a small sausage tree, a point where Sebitwane and his Makololo tribe crossed the Zambezi into Zambia.

Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands and savannas, where blue wildebeest, antelopes, and other mammals and birds are found.

Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African wild dog.

Chobe National Park, found in the Chobe District, has the world's largest concentration of African elephants. The park covers about 11,000 km2 (4,247 sq mi) and supports about 350 species of birds.

The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta are major tourist destinations. Other reserves include the Central Kalahari Game Reserve located in the Kalahari desert in Ghanzi District.

Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park are in Central District in the Makgadikgadi Pan. Mashatu Game Reserve is privately owned located where the Shashe River and Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana.

The other privately owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone. There are also specialised sanctuaries like the Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Makgadikgadi Sanctuary for flamingos. They are both located in Central District.

Botswana faces two major environmental problems, drought and desertification. The desertification problems predominantly stem from the severe times of drought in the country.

Three quarters of the country's human and animal populations depend on groundwater due to drought. Groundwater use through deep borehole drilling has somewhat eased the effects of drought.

Surface water is scarce in Botswana and less than 5% of the agriculture in the country is sustainable by rainfall. In the remaining 95% of the country, raising livestock is the primary source of rural income.

Approximately 71% of the country's land is used for communal grazing, which has been a major cause of the desertification and the accelerating soil erosion of the country.

Since raising livestock has proven to be profitable for the people of Botswana, they continue to exploit the land. The animal populations have continued to dramatically increase.

From 1966 to 1991, the livestock population has increased from 1.7 million to 5.5 million. Similarly, the human population has increased from 574,000 in 1971 to 1.5 million in 1995, nearly a 200% increase.

Over 50% of all households in Botswana own cattle, which is currently the largest single source of rural income.

Rangeland degradation or desertification is regarded as the reduction in land productivity as a result of overstocking and overgrazing, or as a result of veld product gathering for commercial use.

Degradation is exacerbated by the effects of drought and climate change.

Environmentalists say that the Okavango Delta is drying up due to the increased grazing of livestock.

The Okavango Delta is one of the major semi forested wetlands in Botswana and one of the largest inland deltas in the world, it is a crucial ecosystem to the survival of many animals.

The Department of Forestry and Range Resources has already begun to implement a project to reintroduce indigenous vegetation into communities in Kgalagadi South, Kweneng North and Boteti.

Reintroduction of indigenous vegetation will help with the degradation of the land. The United States Government has also entered into an agreement with Botswana, giving them $7 million US dollars to reduce Botswana's debt by $8.3 million US dollars.

The stipulation of the US reducing Botswana's debt is that Botswana will focus on more extensive conservation of the land.

The United Nations Development Programme claims that poverty is a major problem behind the overexploitation of resources, including land, in Botswana.

To help change this the UNDP joined in with a project started in the southern community of Struizendam in Botswana. The purpose of the project is to draw from indigenous knowledge and traditional land management systems.

The leaders of this movement are supposed to be the people in the community, to draw them in, in turn increasing their possibilities to earn an income and thus decreasing poverty.

UNDP has stated that the government has to effectively implement policies to allow people to manage their own local resources and are giving the government information to help with policy development.

The constitution of Botswana is the rule of law, which protects the citizens of Botswana and represents their rights.

The politics of Botswana take place in a framework of a representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Botswana is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system.

Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Botswana. The most recent election, its eleventh, was held on 24 October 2014.

Since independence was declared, the party system has been dominated by the Botswana Democratic Party.

Many of the indigenous San people have been forcibly relocated from their land onto reservations.

To make them relocate, they were denied from accessing water from their land and faced arrest if they hunted, which was their primary source of food.

Their lands lie in the middle of the world's richest diamond field. Officially, the government denies that there is any link to mining and claims the relocation is to preserve the wildlife and ecosystem, even though the San people have lived sustainably on the land for years.

They struggle to find employment and alcoholism is rampant.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Botswana, as in many African countries.

Since independence, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country.

Although Botswana was resource abundant, a good institutional framework allowed the country to reinvest resource income in order to generate stable future income.

By one estimate, it has the fourth highest gross national income at purchasing power parity in Africa, giving it a standard of living around that of Mexico.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry of Botswana is responsible for promoting business development throughout the country. According to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth averaged over 9% per year from 1966 to 1999.

Botswana has a high level of economic freedom compared to other African countries. The government has maintained a sound fiscal policy, despite consecutive budget deficits in 2002 and 2003, and a negligible level of foreign debt.

It earned the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa and has stockpiled foreign exchange reserves of over $7 billion in 2005/2006 amounting to almost two and a half years of current imports.

An array of financial institutions populates the country's financial system, with pension funds and commercial banks being the two most important segments by asset size.

Banks remain profitable, well-capitalised, and liquid, as a result of growing national resources and high interest rates. The Bank of Botswana serves as a central bank. The country's currency is the Botswana pula.

Botswana's competitive banking system is one of Africa's most advanced. Generally adhering to global standards in the transparency of financial policies and banking supervision, the financial sector provides ample access to credit for entrepreneurs.

The Capital Bank opened in 2008. As of August 2015, there were a dozen licensed banks in the country.

The government is involved in banking through state-owned financial institutions and a special financial incentives program that is aimed at increasing Botswana's status as a financial centre.

Credit is allocated on market terms, although the government provides subsidised loans.

Reform of non-bank financial institutions has continued in recent years, notably through the establishment of a single financial regulatory agency that provides more effective supervision.

The government has abolished exchange controls, and with the resulting creation of new portfolio investment options, the Botswana Stock Exchange is growing.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respects this in practice.

The legal system is sufficient to conduct secure commercial dealings, although a serious and growing backlog of cases prevents timely trials. The protection of intellectual property rights has improved significantly.

Botswana is ranked second only to South Africa among sub-Saharan Africa countries in the 2014 International Property Rights Index.

While generally open to foreign participation in its economy, Botswana reserves some sectors for citizens.

Increased foreign investment plays a significant role in the privatisation of state-owned enterprises. Investment regulations are transparent, and bureaucratic procedures are streamlined and open, although somewhat slow.

Investment returns such as profits and dividends, debt service, capital gains, returns on intellectual property, royalties, franchise's fees, and service fees can be repatriated without limits.

Botswana imports refined petroleum products and electricity from South Africa. There is some domestic production of electricity from coal.

In Botswana, the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security led by Hon Sadique Kebonang in Gaborone, maintains data regarding mining throughout the country.

Debswana, the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50% owned by the government. The mineral industry provides about 40% of all government revenues.

In 2007, significant quantities of uranium were discovered, and mining was projected to begin by 2010.

Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and prospected for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results.

Government announced in early 2009 that they would try to shift their economic dependence on diamonds, over serious concern that diamonds are predicted to dry out in Botswana over the next twenty years.

Botswana's Orapa mine is the largest diamond mine in the world in terms of value and quantity of carats produced annually.

Estimated to have produced over 11 million carats in 2013, with an average price of $145/carat, the Orapa mine was estimated to produce over $1.6 billion worth of diamonds in 2013.

The economy, one of the most robust on the continent, is dominated by diamond mining and tourism.

As a tourist destination, Botswana has traditionally opted for a high price and low numbers formula, in part as a conservation strategy, and also to differentiate itself from neighbouring tourist countries who follow a mass market tourism policy.

However, that isn't to say that Botswana is an expensive high end destination. In many respects costs and quality compare to neighbouring South Africa.

However the two jewels in Botswana's tourism crown, the Okavango delta and Chobe National Park are quite exclusive, although there are budget options.

For independent travellers touring the region Botswana offers an interesting contrast to the poverty of its northern neighbours, and is free from the apartheid hangover that still blights South Africa.

Botswana has a long established tourism industry and levels of service are good, hassles are low and tourist numbers minimal away from the main parks, allowing for some magical off the beaten path experiences.

Public holidays in Botswana are:

- 1 Jan New Years' Day

- Easter weekend of Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian calendar.

- 1 May Workers Day

- 1 July Sir Seretse Khama Day

- Mid July. President's Day

- September 30. Botswana Day

- December 25. Christmas Day

- December 26. Day of Goodwill

Regions in Botswana are:

- Kalahari

The sparsely populated Kalahari Desert and its fringe.

- Okavango-Chobe

The northern part of the country with the Okavango Delta and good game reserves like Chobe National Park and Moremi National Park.

- Southeast

Home to the capital, Gaborone, and most of the country's population

Cities in Botswana:

- Gaborone

- Francistown

- Ghanzi

- Kasane

- Maun

- Nata

- Gweta

- Kanye

- Tsabong

Other destinations:

- Okavango Delta, A unique geological formation where a delta is formed by a river the Okavango, flowing into the Kalahari desert instead of the ocean. Part of the Delta is designated as Moremi National Park

- Central Kalahari Game Reserve

- Chobe National Park, A great place to see wildlife, and a good point from which to move on to Victoria Falls.

- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

- Nxai Pan National Park

- Northern Tuli Game Reserve, a unique corner of Africa where nature & culture combine in spectacular wildlife, stunning scenery and fascinating history.

- Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a good stop between Gaborone & Maun where you can do a rhino tracking with rangers.

The Botswana Tourism Organisation is the country's official tourism group. Primarily, tourists visit Gaborone due to the city having numerous activities for visitors.

The Lion Park Resort is Botswana's first permanent amusement park and hosts events such as birthday parties for families.

Other destinations in Botswana include the Gaborone Yacht Club and the Kalahari Fishing Club and natural attractions such as the Gaborone Dam and Mokolodi Nature Reserve.

There are golf courses which are maintained by the Botswana Golf Union (BGU). The Phakalane Golf Estate is a multimillion-dollar clubhouse that offers both hotel accommodations and access to golf courses.

Botswana Museums:

- Botswana National Museum in Gaborone

- Kgosi Bathoen II (Segopotso) Museum in Kanye

- Kgosi Sechele I Museum in Molepolole

- Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe

- Nhabe Museum in Maun

- Phuthadikobo Museum in Mochudi

- Supa Ngwano Museum Centre in Francistown

Citizens of 67 countries and territories, including Australia, Canada, Netherlands as well as other EU countries, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, UK and US, do not require a visa.

For citizens of other nations, a visa must be obtained prior to arrival.

As of February 2009, a visa from the Botswana Embassy in the US costs USD107.

If you require a visa to enter Botswana, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Botswana diplomatic post.

For example, the British embassies/consulates in Al Khobar, Almaty, Amman, Belgrade, Damascus, Geneva, Guatemala City, Jakarta, Jeddah, Kiev, Pristina, Rabat, Riyadh, Rome, Sofia and Zurich accept Botswana visa applications.

British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Botswana visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Botswana require the visa application to be referred to them.

The authorities in Botswana can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.

Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Most flights arriving in Botswana are from Johannesburg in South Africa, but routes from Cape Town, Harare and Nairobi are also available.

Maun also has a limited number of international flights, Cape Town, Windhoek. The distance between Gaborone and Maun is more than 1,000km. Maun is very much a tourist attraction spot.

Trains to/from South Africa have been withdrawn since 1999. A rail link from from Francistown Bulawayo, Zimbabwe was started in June 2006.

There are several entry points by road to Botswana. In the south at Gaborone, providing access from Johannesburg, in the west providing access from Namibia, the north providing access from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and at Francistown in the east, providing access from Harare.

All road access is good and the primary roads within Botswana are paved and well maintained.

Coming from Namibia, you can either go north to Maun, or south along the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Lobatse.

There is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes six hours. There is also service from Windhoek, Namibia via the Caprivi Strip which will drop you in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana.

There is a bus service from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Private shuttles ran until 2004 from Windhoek directly to Maun and in late 2005, such a service was starting up again.

Alternatively, there is a public bus that runs from Windhoek to Gaborone every Sunday morning via Ghanzi, where you can catch another public bus that reaches Maun by Sunday evening.

Very few locals know street names and addresses,you are likely to have to get directions in terms of landmarks.

Botswana doesn't have a postal delivery system to addresses, just to centralised mail collection points, so even when streets are well-marked, the names may be unfamiliar to residents.

Through a combination of coaches and combies, you can get anywhere in Botswana without any trouble, though public transport is spotty away from big cities and major axes but hitchhiking is popular and very easy.

However, hitchhiking should only be done in desperate circumstances, as Botswana driving is often very erratic and it can be a harrowing experience to have a stranger drive you somewhere.

It is advisable to arrive at the bus station quite early, as the buses do fill up quickly, and it is not uncommon to spend several hours standing in the aisle waiting for a seat to free up, remember to carry water, as the buses are often not air conditioned.

Online maps for Botswana seem to have errors and omissions. Google is particularly worrisome in that it includes tracks that are actually fences, or are incomplete eg the bridges haven't been built.

For example if you plot the route from Gaborone to Maun it will suggest you drive via the Central Kalagadi Games Reserve fence.

Untarred roads present the most uncertainty for the driver, a good option is to look on Google Earth and measure the width of the track, if it is 3 metres wide then it is likely to be a sandy track where you won't get above 20kph.

If it is 15 metres wide it'll be a graded gravel road where you may get up to 100kph. Paper maps. A good wall map can be purchased from the Dept. of Surveys and Mapping in Gaborone near the train station for P80.

Finally map reading skills are not high for the Batswana, navigation via landmarks is the norm.

A new system called PlotFind was developed for Botswana. It currently contains the addresses or plot numbers of locations in Gaborone. This system is the best solution for online maps in Gaborone

The roads are paved and well maintained, so travel by car is also not a problem, provided that one keeps a close eye out for the cows, donkeys and goats that spend much time in the middle of the road.

The Trans-Kalahari Highway is an old cattle route, now newly paved and easiy drivable with a 2-wheel drive. It runs from Lobatse to Ghanzi in Botswana, making the connection from Windhoek, Namibia to Gaborone, Botswana.

It is a long and uneventful drive, but you get a good feel for the Kalahari Desert. Fuel is available in Kang at the Kang Ultra Shop, which also offers a respectable selection of food, overnight chalets, and inexpensive camping.

Be aware that the road from Maun to Kasane through Chobe national park is an unpaved sandy track, even though some maps show it as a proper road. You need a 4x4 for this route. Going via Nata to / from Kasane/ Maun is much quicker and easier.

Buying a car. Botswana isn't a bad place to buy a vehicle for a multi-month long trip around southern Africa, which you can then sell at the end.

Botswana is considerably cheaper than South Africa and Gaborone is swamped with second-hand Japanese and UK imports. The paperwork is not too daunting and the dealer can do most of it for you.

Beware of the many corrupt police officers which are posted at check points, as they often try and claim fines of up to Pula 1000,00 for allegedly ignoring a stop sign or other offenses.

Be polite, stay calm and respect their authority when being pulled over.

Also, the country is divided by many veterinarian fences, which are set up to break the spread of cattle diseases ,like foot and mouth.

There, you are required to surrender all fresh meat products, drive through a disinfectant pit to cleans your tyres and rub your shoes on a disinfectant solution too.

Depending on the month and situation, sometimes these posts are not manned, but at times the checks here can be thorough.

There are many bus companies in Botswana. One of the biggest is Seabalo. From Gaborone you can travel by bus to any bigger city in Botswana.

Botswana Railways operates Botwana's railways. The main line goes from Lobatse, near the South African border, via Gaborone to Francistown at the Zimbabwean border. Trains are running and have been refurbished on the Lobatse - Francistown route.

The official languages of Botswana are English and Tswana. Kalanga is spoken near the Zimbabwe border areas, and is similar to Shona.

The language of business in Botswana is English and most people in urban areas speak it, although in the more rural areas many people do not speak English, particularly the older generations.

The primary indigenous tongue is Tswana, and is the first language of the overwhelming majority of the population. It is not difficult to learn basic greetings and such, and using these in conversation will make people very happy.

Wildlife is Botswana's main draw. Wildlife parks compose nearly one-fifth of the country. In these parks you will find lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, antelope, wild dogs, and hundreds of species of birds.

Visitors can take safaris and stay in lodges running the gamut from inexpensive dorms for backpackers with tour buses to $1,000+/night private lodges with your own maid & driver.

Among southern Africa's most impressive and popular wildlife destinations is the Okavango Delta where the Okavango River widens into the world's largest inland delta.

Lying in the middle of the arid Kalahari, the swamps & water channels attract animals from thousands of kilometers around and triples in size to 100 000 sq. km. during floods in July and August.

Nearby Chobe National Park has a large population of elephants and it's also easy to spot many of Africa's well-known species, especially zebras and lions.

The bleak salt pans of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park attract a large number and variety of birds year-round. Other great game parks include Nxai Pan National Park, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, & Gemsbok National Park.

Most of the native tribes in Botswana only dress in traditional outfits and perform rituals for tourists.

Nevertheless, for the culture-cravers, the villages of D'Kar and Xai-Xai have many offerings, including arts, crafts, and the opportunity to participate in various rituals.

Tsodilo Hills contain one of the largest collections of rock art on the continent.

Botswana's currency is the pula, often locally symbolised as "P"; its ISO 4217 code is BWP placed directly before the amount with no intervening space.

Banknotes circulate in denominations of BWP10, BWP20, BWP50, BWP100 and BWP200. You can find 5, 10, 25, and 50 coins, together with BWP1, BWP2 and BWP5 pieces and 100 thebe equals one pula.

In Setswana, pula means rain and thebe means shield.

For the independent traveller prices in Botswana compare to neighbouring South Africa. Notable exceptions are petrol and diesel which are about a third cheaper in Botswana, and alcohol, which is about a third more expensive.

Indigenous Botswana cuisine is similar to the rest of southern Africa and offers little to inspire. Beef is taken seriously and can be of exceptional quality. The braai is a popular cuisine.

The cuisine of Botswana is unique but also shares some characteristics with other cuisine of Southern Africa.

Popular and common Botswana foods are pap or stiff maize porridge, boerewors, samp, vetkoek or fried dough bread and mopani worms. Foods unique to Botswana include seswaa, heavily salted mashed-up meat.

The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18.

Throughout Botswana the tap water is safe to drink, the general advise is taken with care, as it varies considerably depending on the area, so make sure you ask locals and travelers alike before drinking it.

Good fruit juice is hard to find but South African 100% juice blends are the norm although Spar do a range of good juices.

The national beer, St Louis, is often derided by foreigners as being worse than domestic US lagers. Most opt for Namibian or South African imports.

Bottle stores are widely found in most places, and even regular, slightly bigger supermarkets are allowed to sell booze.

Most of the accommodation establishments in Botswana are located near the larger towns and cities, but there are also many secluded game lodges tucked away in the wilderness areas.

In the towns it is rare for accommodation to be booked up. For the lodges it is safer to book your accommodation well in advance before travelling to Botswana.

This can be done on line or via travel agents that have the knowledge of the country.

As with many safari destinations booking through an agent in your own country may work out cheaper than booking direct, shop around with different agents to get the best price.

As a rule of thumb P400 (US$50) should get you an acceptable en suite room in most of the towns. In the smaller towns away from the tourist routes quality and prices will be lower.

Botswana has several English language daily and weekly newspapers. Mmegi, Botswana Gazette, Botswana Guardian and Sunday Standard being the most respected.

The Government produces the Daily News, which is distributed free and invariably has a picture of the President on the front cover.

For quality international news the South African Mail & Guardian is available in Gaborone, Pick'n'Pay sells this for a discounted P17, rather than the P24 cover price.

Botswana uses GSM900 and has three mobile operators, Orange, Mascom an MTN offshoot, and BEMobile run by Botswana telecom. Mascom has the worse reputation for customer service.

When topping up try and wait for the end of the month when all three operators offer top-up specials. Coverage is restricted to the towns and highways, out in the bush there is generally nothing.

For internet, internet cafes are present in most towns, and have useable speeds. Wifi is available in the pricier and expat orientated cafes and restaurants, but game lodges tend to be internetless.

In general speeds are noticeably slower in Botswana than South Africa, do any serious downloading before you arrive.

People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. Nevertheless, crime has been on the rise over the past several years, so always be aware of your surroundings.

Basic common sense will keep you safe from the predatory wildlife in rural areas. Botswana happens to be one of the safest countries in Africa, no civil war, less corruption, human rights, no natural disasters e.g earthquakes or tsunamis.

Botswana is an eco-friendly tourist destination. The country and it's travel board focus on sustainable things for tourists to do. The fees for Botswana's Safari parks go right back into the parks.

Botswana's HIV infection rate, estimated at 24.1%, is the 2nd highest reported in the world. Exercise regular universal precautions when dealing with any bodily fluid and remain aware of this high rate of infection.

Take precautions accordingly. Wear rubber gloves when dressing someone else's cut, even if they are a child.

The northern part of Botswana, including Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta is in a malaria zone, so it is advisable to take the relevant precautions. Seek medical advice before travelling to these areas.

Water in urban areas is chlorinated, and is drunk from the tap by the local population. Still, short term visitors with sensitive stomachs may feel more secure drinking bottled water.

Outside of urban areas, the water is untreated and straight from the borehole and poses a slightly higher risk to the traveller.

Enjoy your stay in Botswana

Tourism Observer

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