With four distinct ecosystems, Botswana is a nurturing home to some of earth’s most majestic creatures. And the country’s ecological diversity is perhaps only paralleled by its unmatched economic resilience. Since becoming a self-governing democracy in 1966, Botswana has had one of the fastest-growing economies in history, transforming from one of the poorest countries in the world, to Africa’s wealthiest in terms of GDP per capita.
Out in the wilderness of Botswana, a harem of zebra makes its way across the seemingly endless plain … giraffes graze on leaves from towering acacia trees … an elegant lioness instinctively shields its cubs from approaching predators … And when you visit Botswana, you’ll find yourself in the heart of it all, witnessing nature undisturbed.
Most Popular Films
Films featuring Botswana from international, independent filmmakers
Wildlife of Southern Africa
Let the wildlife and scenery of Southern Africa captivate you in this 2-minute film showcasing the natural rhythm of life out in the open plains.Produced by Rudi Zisterer
See how Botswana's fastest woman, champion runner Amantle Montsho, is inspiring her nation.
Produced by Dave Mayers & Mary Pilon
©2012 The New York Times
365 Docobites - Lekgotla
Learn how being respectful helps two tribes to share a village in Botswana, and to co-exist with the wildlife around them.Produced by Epiphany Morgan
Botswana Interactive Map
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Immerse yourself in Botswana with this selection of articles, recipes, and more
Kalahari lions can go months without drinking water—discover more fascinating facts about these felines here.
Learn how to snap wildlife photos like a pro with a few expert tips from Photo Editor Greg Palmer.
There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.
Botswana in January & February
Thunderstorms are common and temperatures are high, but this is also a hot time to catch the greatest variety among Botswana’s 550 species of birds. Colorful residents like the lilac-breasted roller are joined by seasonal migrants who are only here during the wet season, with many birds in full breeding plumage.
Regular rainfall keeps the grasslands green, which helps to nourish young grazing animals like zebras, antelopes, and wildebeest. These grazers need all the strength and speed they can muster to evade the predators that stalk them, including lions and leopards. Elephants sometimes defend their herds by forming phalanxes to drive away predators.
Holidays & Events
- January 1st: Food, music, and festivities fill the streets each year for New Year’s Day celebrations.
- February 2nd: World Wetlands Day is celebrated, honoring environmental conservation efforts.
Botswana in March & April
As the rains taper off, hyenas raise their pups and hippos immerse themselves in local rivers. Warthogs, the only wild pig adapted to living on the savanna, continue to take advantage of the well-watered grasslands.
Nighttime temperatures grow cooler and male antelopes begin to engage in head-butting contests as the mating season begins. Male impalas establish mating territories and defend the females within them from potential rivals.
Holidays & Events
- Maitisong Festival: In late March or Early April, a week-long annual celebration takes place in Botswana’s capital in support of performing arts.
- Maun Festival: A two-day celebration of Botswana’s rich tribal culture that takes place every April.
Botswana in May-August
As the dry season begins around May, the weather continues to get cooler and the rain clears up. Roaming prides of lions become easier to spot. African wild dogs (also called painted dogs) stalk prey including the kudu (a large antelope), and anglers may find 20-pound catfish biting in the Kafue River.
Large animals including giraffes and water buffalo gather around the remaining water sources as the dry season advances, keeping a watchful eye for lurking crocodiles. Lions mate at this time, and throughout much of the dry season. Lucky observers sometimes glimpse rhinos, but these animals are rare and not always seen.
By July, Botswana is in the heart of its dry season. Though, the Okavango Delta follows its own seasonal rhythm, with channels fed by distant sources filling with water between June and October. The movements of local wildlife are affected by the rising waters, which also facilitate exploring by mokoro dugout canoe.
In August, the weather warms up, with dry conditions continuing to offer excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. Among predators, lions and hyenas are most frequently seen, while sightings of leopards, cheetahs, or wild dogs are less common.
Holidays & Events
- President’s Day – each year on the third Monday in July, Botswana’s President’s Day is celebrated. Many citizens return to the villages where they were born to attend celebrations.
- Kuru Dance Festival – taking place in the Kalahari Desert, this three-day festival features traditional bushmen music, the perfect soundscape to accompany the largest gathering of San dancers in the world.
A mokoro is a traditional African canoe dug out from the trunks of indigenous trees like the mongongo tree. While not always possible due to safety concerns associated with the changing water levels, exploring the Okavango Delta by mokoro is an excellent way to take in the scenery and wildlife. As you let the waterways whisk you into the wilderness, and the spectacles of nature surround you, enjoy a unique vantage point you simply can’t get on land excursions.
Botswana in September & October
This time of year the days are hot and sunny, the plains are bone-dry, and the trees are leafless—which is good for game viewing. The flooded Okavango Delta offers a contrasting scene, with water-loving sitatunga, red lechwe, and puku antelopes enjoying its marshy expanses.
Mid-day temperatures can exceed 100°F, especially in October, so wildlife activity shifts to early and late in the day. The larger mammals are active during the cooler hours, along with notable birds including the ostrich and the secretary bird. This time of year also brings the largest concentration of elephants to the banks of the Chobe River.
Holidays & Events
- Botswana Day – October 1st marks a day of celebration in honor of the country’s socioeconomic achievements.
- Domboshaba Festival of Culture & History – usually in late September or early October, this is an annual celebration held near the Domboshaba ruins, unique remnants of the Banyayi-Bakalanga empire
Botswana in November & December
As the transition from dry to rainy season nears its end, the grazing animals of the plains give birth to their young. By the end of November, food and water become more plentiful.
More than 450 species of migratory birds begin to arrive as the rain-watered landscape is blooming and green. Although large animals are more widely dispersed at this time of year, Botswana experts note that to fully experience the country’s natural riches, one should see it both during the dry season when big game is most concentrated and in the rainy season when the landscape is lush, green, and alive with birds.
Holidays & Events
- Christmas – on what may be the country’s most celebrated holiday, as most Batswana are Christian, local choirs host caroling concerts, restaurants and pubs offer Christmas-themed meals, and families come together to celebrate.
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Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.
Activity Level 1:
Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
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Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
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Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.
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Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.
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Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.
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Lions of Northern Botswana
by Leigh Kemp
Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, living in prides that vary in size from a few individuals to more than 30 and in Botswana this extreme is noticeable as the habitats are so different, from the dry reaches of the Kalahari to the floodplains of the Okavango Delta.
Lions of Northern Botswana: A study in inter-species differences
In northern Botswana the Lions display a wide range of habitat preference and prey choice. Habitats in northern Botswana range from the wetlands of the Okavango Delta to the arid semi desert areas of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Savuti - and Lions successfully inhabit all these regions.
Do lions like water?
Central to Northern Botswana is the Okavango Delta, a unique wilderness area made up of permanent channels, seasonal floodplains and islands. The seasons of the delta are intriguing in that the water is at its highest in the dry season and at its lowest at the start of the rainy season.
This is due to the fact that the delta receives most its water from the highlands of Angola, 1700 km away. The water can take up to six months to reach the seasonal floodplains - long after the last rains have fallen in the delta.
The Lions of the Okavango Delta destroy the theory that Lions do not like water. When the delta flood is at its peak the dry land area of the home ranges of the Lions is limited to islands and in order to hunt they have to cross water between the islands. They do this readily. The Lions of the Okavango Delta are generally stronger in the forequarters than other Lions as they spend a great deal of time on the floodplains.
Extremes in Lion Behavior
There are prides within 100 km of each other that display extremes in behavior, and in particular when it comes to feeding and drinking. The Lions of the drier central Kalahari regions can go without drinking water for months at a time - they get their moisture from the food they eat - and their home ranges are far greater than other parts as the prey is widely spread. The prides are generally smaller in the drier areas and the prey species are smaller.
In the northern-most parts of Botswana there are Lion prides within a fifty kilometer radius of each other that have specialized in killing very different prey species to each other. There is a pride in Linyanti that has taken to killing Hippo - not a popular prey species in other parts of Africa - and just west of this are three prides that prey almost solely on Buffalo. South-east of these two areas is the Savuti Marsh where the pride has specialized in killing adult Elephant. Why these specializations came to be is uncertain.
It was in the Savute that the Elephant killing was first recorded. The pride began by taking down young Elephants that they managed to separate from the herd before progressing on to sub-adults. In time they began to hunt and kill adult Elephants. At the height of their prowess the lions were killing more than thirty Elephants a year but there has been a downturn in the numbers of Elephants killed in recent years due to the pride splitting up.
The Savute area has a fascinating geological history, in that the channel dries up and flows for indeterminate periods of time - and this has an effect on the Elephant- hunting of the Lion pride in the region. It was during a dry spell that the pride was at its 32 member peak, and killing Elephants regularly, but with the area now wet with the flowing channel the pride has split up and the Elephant killing has all but stopped.
While most Lion prides in Botswana will hunt Buffalo, there are two prides in the Duba Plains area of the Okavango that prey solely on the big Buffalo herds of the region. These delta prides have adapted to using the water in their hunting techniques.
Behind the Lens: On Safari
3 tips to enhance your wildlife photography
by Amanda Morrison and Greg Palmer
In September of 2014, Photo Editor Greg Palmer set off for Ultimate Africa for a 3-week photo shoot. Below, he shares 3 tips you can’t leave home without if you’re the kind of traveler who always packs your camera.
1. “Don’t even think about going on safari without a 400mm lens”
One of the challenges of wildlife photography is that approaching your subject can be dangerous. But you can maintain a safe distance by simply zooming in with this lens. And don’t worry so much about the body of the camera—it’s all about the glass.
2. “Compose in camera”
The best travel photos capture the essence of a destination, and to achieve that in the wild, it can help to think of this formula: animal + habitat. It’s about giving your subject context. In the photo above, that leopard had been resting in the shade, and here he is emerging, intense and unblinking as sunlight bathes his face. His expression is totally fierce on its own, but you can really feel his ferocity against that backdrop of brambles and shadows.
3. “Apply the rule of thirds”
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick summary: If you were to divide a photograph into boxes, 3x3, like tic-tac-toe, your main focus should fall on one of those points where the lines intersect. It’s more aesthetically pleasing when your subject isn’t centered.
“Learn your camera before you leave—not while you’re on your trip”
Sometimes the simplest advice is the easiest to ignore. But when you’re ten feet away from that leopard, knowing how to adjust your lens can be the difference between a decent photo and a great one.