Wildlife reserves make up nearly one-sixth of this landlocked country about the size of France in mid-south Africa. Famed among them is the Okavango Delta, largest inland river delta in the world and a wildlife paradise. Most of the Delta (except for the Moremi Reserve) has no formal protection; however, except for persistent proposals to divert its water for mining and agriculture uses, it has not been developed. Botswana’s economy is largely supported by mineral resources, especially diamonds— but development of a modern livestock industry has in some places threatened wildlife areas. As its wildlife resources have become increasingly better known, their economic advantages as a tourist destination have strengthened the country’s will to protect them.
Botswana’s gentle, easy-going people, who have a 70 percent literacy rate, have generally supported wildlife protection, especially where wise policies have given communities an economic stake in it. There remain great pressures on the country—among them one of the world’s highest AIDS rates, and neighbors who also covet the water that brings life to Okavango.
MOREMI on the Delta’s southeast edge was set aside by tribal landowners concerned about their dwindling wildlife resources as the result of safari hunters. CHOBE NATIONAL PARK, the country’s other world-class reserve, partly adjoins Moremi to the east and shares much of its wildlife. Herbivores include large herds of elephants (an estimated 50,000) as well as buffalo, impala, and kudu. Watery areas attract hippos and crocodiles as well as spectacular birds, including rare wattled cranes, African fish eagles, colorful bee-eaters, kingfishers, and others.
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The best times to visit are during May–October dry season, but see below for individual variations. May skies are clear and blue, with lush vegetation, and young wildlife families grazing. Later, as vegetation dries, animals are attracted to scarcer water, making for better wildlife viewing (although October can be hot, windy, and dusty). Most rain falls between December–March and in the north can make roads impassable. Winter nights in July–August can be well below freezing (remember, seasons are reversed north and south of the equator).
Small lodges and camping facilities are available in and around many reserves; most visitors use safari operators for guidance.
Driving in the national parks requires 4WD. Fuel, water, and other supply points are few and far between.
More about the Reserves in Botswana
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