Outstandingly dramatic, the country of Botswana encompasses striking salt pans, diamond-rich deserts and fertile flood plains that are alive with an amazing diversity of life – with the north in particular offering superb wildlife-watching opportunities.
The tranquil Okavango Delta, a 15,000 sqkm flood plain that fans out in the northwestern corner of Botswana, is one of the world’s greatest natural miracles; a verdant paradise of palms, papyrus, crystal-clear channels and deep lagoons. Set in a massive sea of desert sand, this fragile wonderland is an oasis for wildlife drawn to its life-giving waters.
Encircling the Okavango, the Kalahari Desert is a large, semi-arid savannah extending 900,000 sqkm over much of Botswana, as well as parts of Namibia and South Africa. Derived from the Tswana word kgala, meaning “the great thirst”, or khalagari, meaning “a waterless place”, the Kalahari’s vast areas of red sand have no permanent surface water. However, it is not a true desert; some parts receive more 250 mm of erratic rainfall annually and are quite well vegetated.
The Bushmen of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve are part of Africa’s oldest race of people. Their hunting and survival skills, supremely honed in an extreme environment, are legendary. However, in today’s rapidly changing world these skills may not be enough to sustain a traditional nomadic existence.
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