Botswana is more than wildlife. There is nightlife, music, art, culture, food, history and prehistory. There are ancient rocks, lovely gemstones, beautiful wildflowers, and many opportunities for outdoor recreation. The way contemporary Botswana works is interesting too – this is a very unusual country by African standards.
These things are typically not set up for tourists, so you have to go out and find them for yourself. Which is where we come in. We are here to help you find them.
The pages here briefly describe some of the many interests that you could follow whilst you are in Botswana. An old truism says that to ask a good question you need to already know half of the answer. We hope that you will read the pages of interest to you, and use them as a basis for asking us some questions as you plan your holiday.
If you have a specialised interest that we have not covered, make sure you let us know.
The tourism industry in Botswana is based on wildlife viewing. Wherever you are in Botswana there will be some interesting wildlife to see, some of it is rather hard to avoid. You will inevitably be delayed by elephants crossing the highway, and encounter baboons/warthogs in supermarket parking lots and vervet monkeys in picnic spots.
Figure 1: Vervet monkey awaiting call at Drotskys, Shakawe, Botswana.
The national parks and many private reserves welcome self-drive tourists who want to see the wildlife. Nothing beats spending a day with the animals at your own pace. Finding a lion or a rhino for yourself is a very different experience from having one pointed out by a wildlife guide. Self-drive safari gives you the freedom to stop whenever and wherever you want to. If you are in control, and you see a scene you would like to sketch, you can stop for an hour if you wish.
Self-drive tourists devoting their holiday to watching wildlife typically hire a fully equipped 4×4 safari vehicle with tents and head off into the national parks. Prior experience of off-road driving is highly recommended. However, there are a handful of game parks and private reserves that are fully accessible for 2 wheel drive vehicles. By ‘fully accessible’ we mean that you can safely use an ordinary car like a Toyota Corolla on the internal tracks for a do-it-yourself wildlife excursion.
If you know where to go an ordinary car will allow you to:
- Spend a night or two camping amongst habituated elephants
- Get up close and personal with baboons and vervet monkeys
- Visit colonies of wild vultures
- Drive, walk, or cycle amongst herds of giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, springbok, and other antelopes
- Watch wild hyrax, warthogs, and ostriches
- Picnic or dine on riverbanks looking down on wild crocodiles and hippos
- Camp or dine with bushbabies
Still, in Botswana, there are many more parks and reserves where you can drive to the entrance gate, park your car at the reception and sign up for a game drive or a boat cruise. Also, in quite a few towns and larger villages, there are tourism operators who will pick you up from your accommodation in a game drive vehicle and take you out to see the local animals. Wildlife tourism is tightly regulated by the government, and the standard of all these offerings is very high.
It is quite possible to have very rewarding wildlife oriented holiday without a safari vehicle and without spending a small fortune on luxury lodges. We have our favorite places. Talk to us and we will see what we can build into your itinerary.
Figure 2:Cattle and zebra grazing at the Chobe floodplain in Chobe Enclave West, Botswana.
Figure 3: Antelope in Chobe Enclave West, Botswana.
Figure 4: Warthogs grazing in public space in Kasane, Botswana.
Figure 5: Tourists viwieng a herd of elphants at Elephant Sands, in Nata Botswana.
Botswana is approximately the size of France, and with only 2 million people and vast tracts of untamed land, it is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are currently 12 ‘Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Botswana, covering an incredible 25% of the land area of the country. IBAs are defined by the United Nations Environment Programme as ‘globally important sites for the conservation of bird species. And Botswana has 5.5 million hectares of wetland protected under the Ramsar Convention.
- Flocks of tens of thousands of flamingoes;
- Vultures gathered at a roadside carcass;
- Secretary birds stalking snakes;
- Azure kingfishers diving into the grey-green waters of the Limpopo
- Kori bustards, possibly the heaviest living bird able to fly
- Cattle egrets hitching a ride on a rhino
If you have ever wanted to see any of these sights then Botswana is the place to come. Of course, for an avid birdwatcher, the sight of a distant raptor or a thicket full of nondescript little brown warblers holds an equal fascination. There are plenty of distant raptors and LBJs as well.
There are about 500 species of birds regularly found in Botswana, and 595 species in total in the national bird checklist. Wildlife tourists mostly spend their time in the big national parks in the north of the country, and they visit during the winter dry season when the big mammals keep close to water. However, bird enthusiast needs to follow a different strategy because half of the bird species are Eurasian migrants and they spend their winter in the northern hemisphere.
A self-drive tour of Botswana is the ideal way to see the birds. You can travel in the off-season for tourism when accommodation is plentiful and often slightly cheaper. From September to April there will be plenty of migrants. In three weeks you can cover all the ecoregions of the country, and should be able to see at least 300 species. You can also visit some areas of Botswana which are seldom visited by tourists.
With the help of some local knowledge, you can find superb bird-watching sites all around the country. Most are in spots without dangerous big game where you can stalk the thickets for small birds all day. Some need permits for access, and we can often help arrange these in advance. Some suppliers will rent long photographic lenses, and it is also possible to take a specialized wildlife and bird photography course during your stay.
Don’t deliberately avoid the rainy season because it is during this time when a great variety of waterbirds migrate to the delta and associated pans. One of our favorite spots is the Nata river delta. The rains turn the pans immediately around the delta into huge shallow wetlands teeming with crustacea and algae and alive with waders. By the end of the rainy season, the flamingoes will be building their conical mud nests out in the Sua Pan.
We are keen birdwatchers and our company is based inside the Tswapong Hills IBA near Palapye, and we have over 250 species of birds in our neighborhood. Many of these are daily visitors to our waterhole. So if you want to come to Botswana to see the birds you need to talk to us – we can help to assemble the birding itinerary of a lifetime. Three weeks is just not enough to take full advantage of all that is on offer, but it will give you a good taste for a return visit.
Figure 6: Flamingoes at Nata, Botswana.
Figure 7: Great Hornbills spotted in Chobe Enclave West, Botswana.
Fish is a common food to some tribes in Botswana such as Wayei and Veekuhane (Basubiya). This is mainly because these tribes are based in the Chobe, Ngamiland, and Boteti regions in Botswana where there are rivers and lakes. When traveling in certain parts of Botswana you will find fishermen and fisherwomen with fresh fish caught in different water bodies. The fisheries sector in Botswana is exploited by different fisher groups which include artisanal/small-scale fisher, commercial and recreational fishers. Five principal fishing methods namely hook and line, gillnet, baskets, traps, and spears are employed in Botswana.
The Okavango Delta and Chobe river in northwest Botswana is home to many fish species. The fish species that are found in the two places include:
-Barbs, minnows, yellowfishes, and labeos
-Robbers and tigerfish
-Mountain catfish and sand catlets
-Squeakers and suckermouths
-Live-bearers and topminnows
-The region’s invasive aliens
-River breams, sargos, largemouth breams, haplochromines and tilapiines
If you are an experienced fisherman/fisherwoman traveling to Botswana and would like to go fishing, this can be arranged so that you join local fishermen/fisherwomen to go fishing. Fishing equipment/gear such as fishing rods, reels, and baits are easily found in many different shops across Botswana. If possible you can also bring your fishing equipment.
If you are an inexperienced fisherman/fisherwoman who would like to expand your fishing skills, arrangements can be made well in advance so that you are taken for some private lessons. Many people go fishing in dams, rivers, and lakes in Botswana as fishing is allowed in all water bodies. Therefore, as a safety precaution, you will need a life jacket if you are not a very good swimmer.
Spectator fishermen are also allowed in many places in Botswana. You can just walk to the river/lake where you can meet and chat with local fishermen while they are busy with the activity. Depending on where you are in Botswana you can come across fishermen who use traditional fishing methods, which might not be used/common in some parts of the country.
As mentioned earlier the fisheries sector in Botswana is exploited by three fisher groups which one of which is the recreational fishers. You can visit a local fishing club where you can learn a lot and share your own fishing experience with club members. Angling in Botswana is not so common, however, it’s done in the Okavango Delta. This is due to many of its benefits such as tourism promotion, job creation and it creates awareness of aquatic biodiversity and the ecology of the delta. There are not so many angling groups in Botswana, however, if you wish to visit one while in Botswana, let us know and we will make arrangements for you. We will also be happy to share with you tips/hints for angling in Botswana.
Botswana is one of the many countries which takes pride in the conservation of natural resources so that they don’t become extinct and for future generations to find them. As a result, fishing is not an all-year-round activity in Botswana. The fishing season in Botswana is open between 1st March and 31st December each year. This is to allow the fish to breed properly without any disturbance. Both citizens and non-citizens of Botswana who are 18 years and above are allowed to go fishing. However, a fishing permit must be obtained at a certain price. The price varies between citizens and non-citizens. So if you plan to go fishing while in Botswana, let us know and we will make necessary arrangements for you including applying for a fishing permit on your behalf.
Figure 8: Fishing using woven baskets in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo credit, Africa Travel, Pinterest.
Botswana is an exception amongst African countries:
- a stable multiparty democracy ever since independence;
- an economic success: it grew from one of the poorest countries in the world to middle-income status in just 40 years;
- a complete absence of inter-tribal, inter-racial, and inter-religious strife
- a very effective public health system
- a literacy rate higher than both Texas and California
The last war on Botswana soil was the Boer War, which ended in 1902. By international standards, the country has been a haven of peace and tranquillity ever since. The history of the Bechuanaland Protectorate goes a long way toward explaining why modern Botswana has come so far. The Protectorate was proclaimed in 1885 and ended in 1966, and it was a unique institution – a very different model to the colonial governments forced upon most of the neighboring countries.
The Bechuanaland Protectorate – the early years
Imperial Britain never really wanted the country: they just wanted to ensure it wasn’t annexed by anyone else. The British wanted to secure the old ‘road to the north’ between the Cape Colony and Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe). As a result, Bechuanaland was proclaimed a ‘Protectorate’ rather than a Crown Colony. A Protectorate lacked the modern connotation of trusteeship as it was simply a device that established title without sovereignty or its obligations. The colonial office had to do as little as possible concerning the administration of the Bechuanaland protectorate to avoid expense.
In consequence, during the early years of the Protectorate the British were happy to leave the Tswana chiefs to manage their people and their affairs, and simply to protect the country against encroachments by Boers, Germans, Portuguese, and ‘freebooters’. This suited the Tswana rather well: they now had a group of friendly foreigners who would deal with other and more troublesome groups of foreigners, but who otherwise wanted to leave them largely alone.
The original ‘government camps’ have survived largely intact in both Gaborone and Francistown, and they are well worth a visit. The most striking feature for visitors is just how small these camps were. Gaborone in the 1890s was responsible for the southern half of Bechuanaland, an area the size of Great Britain. It had an assistant magistrate, an assistant commissioner, and a detachment of the Bechuanaland Border Police. Outside the Government Camp, there was a tiny hotel and several shops, and that was about it. The assistant magistrate’s house, the jail, an earthen fort built by the Border Police, and the original coaching hotel are all still there and protected as national monuments. Most of the original Francistown Camp is still standing also.
Four outstanding chiefs
The British wanted to run the Protectorate on a shoestring budget. They could do so only because the Tswana kgosi-e-kgolo (paramount chiefs, or kings) of the day were a very able bunch. Missionary educated, they were literate, intelligent men who were surprisingly well informed about world affairs. Four who stood out were Linchwe I, Khama III, Bathoen I, and Sebele I. These men wanted to ensure that the Protectorate worked for them and their people, and they went to great lengths to ensure that it did. In addition to administering the affairs of the Protectorate within their tribal areas, these men also had to see off two major threats in the early years of its existence.
The first threat was the ambition of Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company (BSA Co.) to take over Bechuanaland for colonization. The company had already assumed the administration of Rhodesia under a royal charter and wished to expand. When it seemed probable that the Protectorate would indeed be handed over to BSA Co., three of the Chiefs (Khama III, Bathoen I, and Sebele I) bypassed the High Commissioner and went to Britain to present their case directly to the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain.
Once in London, the chiefs made the following requests:
- That the Protectorate should remain under the direct authority of her Majesty’s government in London, and not be handed over to BSA Co.;
- That the status of the chiefs should be preserved;
- That their lands should not be sold; and
- That they should retain the ability to prohibit the sale of liquor in their territories.
They criticized the BSA Co. for very bad government in Rhodesia, which they contrasted very unfavorably with the light touch of the Queen’s rule in the Protectorate. Chamberlain denied the requests and then went on holiday, suggesting that the Chiefs should negotiate favorable terms with the BSA Co. in his absence. Nothing daunted, the chiefs set off on a speaking tour of Britain, sponsored by the London Missionary Society. As a staunchly Christian ruler with an abhorrence of alcohol and its evils, Khama III was in great demand by the Temperance Movement as well as by the churches, and he was a very powerful orator. Everywhere they went the chiefs emphasized that they had accepted the Queen’s protection in 1885; that they wished to remain ruled by the Queen, and that they believed the BSA Co. would simply bring alcohol and other bad influences to their lands.
Chamberlain returned from his holiday to find that the chiefs and their cause had captured the affection and enthusiasm of the British public and he had to give way.
Furthermore, at the end of 1895 BSA Co. made themselves very unpopular with the Foreign Office. They launched the disastrous Jameson Raid, an attempt to overthrow the Boer Republic of the Transvaal by armed force. This action went well beyond anything contemplated by their Royal Charter. It turned their supporters in the British government against them.
There is an impressive monument to the three chiefs (also known as the three Dikgosi) who saved the Protectorate in Gaborone, staffed by enthusiastic guides from the National Museum. Each of the Chiefs also has its museum in its tribal capital, and these museums are all part of the National Museum network.
Figure 9: The three Dikgosi Monument in Gaborone, Botswana.
The Boer War, 1899-1902
In 1899 the Protectorate was under threat again, this time from a Boer invasion. The Boers had convinced themselves that this was a ‘white man’s war’, and that the Batswana would happily exchange British for Boer rule, or at least acquiesce in a takeover. A strategic miscalculation. The Chiefs had no intention of meekly handing over their Protectorate.
Khama III stopped the Boer northern thrust into Bechuanaland just inside the border by deploying his well-armed regiments to key defensive positions. Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, the Boers withdrew and never returned. The southern thrust took Lobatse and Gaborone, and then moved into the Bakgatla tribal area and raided cattle. Linchwe I evicted the Boers from his territory and took the offensive. The Boer Commandos were tied up with investing Mafeking and fighting the British army further south, so most of the Transvaal was only lightly defended.
Linchwe’s regiments sacked Derdepoort and then invaded the Transvaal. Linchwe’s horsemen roamed and raided almost at will and burned farms and hamlets to the outskirts of Pretoria. They also undid most of the gains the Boers had made in Bechuanaland by getting behind the key defensive position of Sepitse Hill. The forts on Sepitse Hill were abandoned by the British and the Boers left a note for Colonel Plumer explaining that they had been forced to leave because of ‘your friends the natives. It may have been a ‘white man’s war’, but at least in Bechuanaland it was effectively won by the Tswana, and the Protectorate was saved again. Linchwe I is remembered by a museum in Mochudi.
In modern Botswana, the Boer War is paid little attention. Strangely, because had the war been lost the Tswana tribes would have ended up speaking Afrikaans instead of English and living under a very different political system. But for anyone interested there are deserted battlefields; wartime cemeteries and destroyed bridges, and our guide notes will get you to a number of them.
The Second World War
Bechuanaland made the highest contribution of men per capita to the British war effort of any African nation. But the chiefs, from the outset, made it very clear that their men would not serve under South African command. Unhappy memories of WW1 were still fresh, and the Bechuanaland volunteers wanted to take a more active role than being treated (and badly) as second-class laborers. Indeed, if there was any suggestion of South African command there would be no volunteers. Similar sentiments were held by the Basotho and the Swazis. And so it came about that the volunteers from the High Commission territories were enrolled in their unit, the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps.
Divided into companies of 350 men based on their tribal origins, the volunteers were variously trained as engineers, bridge builders, drivers, mechanics, and gunners under British command. The ‘Fighting Becs’ served with distinction with the 8th Army in the North African and Italian campaigns alongside Commonwealth troops from Australia, New Zealand, and India.
The men returned home with a broadened international outlook, newfound confidence, and a range of useful skills. Several of the companies had become particularly adept at bridge building and for a time held the record for constructing the longest Bailey Bridge in the world. So WW2 furnished the country with a cadre of well-trained men ready and able to do something about the abysmal state of the Protectorate infrastructure.
Things to see are the memorial to the soldiers who fought in WW2 near Parliament House in Gaborone; the site where all basic training was conducted; Bailey Bridges here and there around the country; and perhaps a magnificent commemorative wall hanging presented to King George VI by the Ngwato regent Tshekhedi Khama. The wall hanging was displayed in Windsor Castle for many years but loaned back to the Botswana Government by the Queen following Independence.
The ‘Self Help’ tradition
The Fairfield doctrine of doing as little as possible in the Protectorate held sway for sixty years. In consequence, the administration did almost nothing until the 1950s concerning developing the education system, except for agricultural training. A few schools were provided from quite early times by missionaries, but could never meet the demand for education. In 1901 there were only twenty primary schools for the whole of the Protectorate, and they collectively had places for fewer than 1000 pupils. Many villages decided they couldn’t wait for the missionaries or the Protectorate to provide universal education and built their one-teacher schools.
The building was comparatively easy as the chiefs could and did use regimental labor. All the youth of each tribe were enrolled in ‘age regiments’; units of similar age that were initiated into the tribe together; trained together; and could be called upon to work or fight together when the tribe needed them. And so if a village needed a school, a dam, or a road the chief could call out a regiment to build it. (The workers were unpaid but would be fed and if necessary accommodated).
Staffing schools was always problematic. There were very few Batswana with any qualifications, but the need for education was great. The earliest village schools were known as Thuto Gaegolelwe, and the teachers were simply untrained volunteers who knew how to read and write, speak English, and do simple arithmetic. These schools were open to all regardless of age – even an octogenarian could enroll. And in time some tribes went on to build training institutes and a few high schools.
And so it was that the tribes built themselves an education system from the bottom up. You can see quite a several schools, dams, community halls, etc built by regimental labor in your travels, and we provide guidance notes to get you to some. Many are still in use. Probably the most impressive example is Moeng College, a large high school nestled in a picturesque valley in the Tswapong Hills. This was the brainchild of the Ngwato regent, Tshekedi Khama. The regiment that built Moeng College was away from home for two years!
The self-help tradition carried on after Independence. When Botswana needed a university the government had no money, but the country had plenty of cattle. The call went out for each man to donate one cattle beast to the cause, and the university was built. The “One Man, One Beast” statue still stands in the heart of the University of Botswana campus and we provide a guide note that will take you to it.
Figure 10: ‘ The one man, one beast’ statue at the University of Botswana main campus in Gaborone, Botswana.
Aviation and the aerial refugee pipeline
With the vast land area, sparse population, and very bad roads in Bechuanaland the invention of the airplane seemed to promise an end to the difficulties of traveling around the country. Chief Khama III could see the potential, even though he had never seen an airplane. He used regimental labor to build the first airfields in Botswana. These were completed in 1919 in time for use in the London to Capetown air race.
The field that saw the first landing of an aircraft in Bechuanaland also saw the development of the first airmail service (in 1922) and the first scheduled passenger services The story of the first landing could have come straight from the Boy’s Own Annual. Despite having been built for biplanes, this airfield is still in use today. The oldest surviving building at the field dates from 1929.
The second field built by Khama III was little used until after WW2 when it became the base for Bechuanaland Air Safaris. This mini-airline was used to spirit anti-apartheid activists out of Swaziland, Lesotho, and South Africa, with the full cooperation of the Protectorate officials. It was funded by the British Secret Service. Famous passengers included Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Patrick Duncan, and Michael Dingake. This airfield no longer exists, but there are other relics of the refugee pipeline to see in various parts of the country, including the home of the organizer, which has been preserved as a national monument.
The people of Botswana have always fascinated visitors, and accounts from early travellers tell us much about the customs of the country – things thought so ordinary by the Batswana themselves that they would never think to mention them in their literature.
In 1911 The Lion Hunter of South Africa: Five Years’ Adventures in the Far Interior, with Notices on the Native Tribes and Savage Animals by R. Gordon Cumming dismissed Botswana cuisine with the comment:
The Bechuanas are extremely fond of flesh, which they consider the only food befitting men; corn and milk are the food of women
Some would say that this is a fair description of the current situation! Tswana males do seem to be close to the carnivorous end of the spectrum. But there are some mouth-watering vegetable dishes in the Tswana cuisine.
Here is another generalization:
The Bangwato depend on their cattle to provide their food. The Kalanga depend on their crops. R. Hitchcock
The second quote is closer to the truth than the first. The traditional cuisine differs greatly between the tribes, and so the traditional dishes you encounter as you travel will differ as you tour the country.
There are occasional sit-down restaurants that offer the traditional food of their local area. Street vendors and roadside stalls are more common and very popular, and at lunchtime, many supermarkets and diners offer traditional dishes as takeaways. So there is no difficulty in finding traditional dishes to try. Food hygiene is taken seriously in Botswana, and in any case, the food is typically served piping hot, so you should not hesitate to try interesting dishes from roadside stalls if you come upon them.
There will be some detailed suggestions in your guide notes, along with some recipes you can make for yourself if staying in self-catering accommodation. But here are some general notes on the local food.
- The most popular meat is the goat. Beef is easier to find in supermarkets/butcheries and is typically cheaper but of excellent quality. But farming families seldom eat their beef: they will eat goat and chicken in preference. Pork is not much eaten except by those in the southeast of the country.
- Four Tswana dishes you will encounter are seswaa, oxtail stew, dikgobe, and serobe.
Seswaa is beef, or sometimes goat, that has been boiled for a long time in salty water until it has become soft. The meat is then pounded and shredded. It tastes much better than it sounds!
Oxtail stew is similar to the oxtail stew of English cuisine but better.
Dikgobe is a casserole of dried sugar beans and samp (coarsely milled maize) or sorghum. Sometimes stir-fried vegetables will be stirred in just before the dish is served. Delicious.
Serobe is a local delicacy prepared from the intestines and offal of a goat, sheep, or cow along with onions, turmeric, and pepper. The intestines are deliberately not cleaned thoroughly as the contents are believed to add flavor. If a goat or a sheep the peeled hooves will also be in the pot. The finely chopped mixture is served with a stiff sorghum porridge known as boggle. Hot serobe is often available at the lunch counter of Spar supermarkets and a brave tourist can ask for it by name.
- The Batswana overall use more than 100 wild plants in their traditional cuisine, so they eat a wide variety of different tubers, leaves, beans, fruits, and nuts, most of which are unknown outside Africa. In some villages collecting wild plant products from the veld is a very important part of the local economy. The easiest place to find these wild products is, of course, in the cities. City folk doesn’t have the opportunity to go out and forage for themselves and have to buy the ingredients they need from street vendors and markets. It is well worthwhile checking out what is for sale. You are likely to find mopane worms (actually a dried caterpillar); morula nuts, bush raisins, and many other novelties. The three named are excellent snacks to eat whilst on the road.
- The Kalanga have very different culinary traditions from their Tswana neighbors and make a wide variety of delicious vegetable dishes. A meal may contain no meat at all – perhaps a mixture of red beans and maize meal cooked over a wood fire to produce a smoky flavor; fresh maize; wild greens and a chili peanut soup.
- In the northwestern part of Botswana tswii is a very famous dish. Tswii looks like a potato and collected in deep waters. It is cooked with different meats such as beef and chicken to add flavor to it. Tswii is normally served as a single dish or with magwinya (fat cakes) or mapakiwa (African tea buns).
Western-style fast food is dominated by chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Nandos are popular franchises with various shops across Botswana. Nandos specializes in flame-grilled chicken served with a range of fiery sauces and salads. If you are hankering for a Big Mac you won’t find one. There are no McDonald’s restaurants. Wrapping a little meat in a large bun with some cheese and lettuce is not going to succeed in a country where you can find a restaurant named simply ‘Cow Parts for Men’. Look out for the sign in the main street of Palapye.
Wherever you are in Botswana there will be something unfamiliar to eat. You can buy fried chicken and burgers in other parts of the world. Don’t waste the opportunity to explore the diversity of the local cuisine. And if you want to delve more deeply into the world of traditional cuisine make sure you let us know, and we can help.
Figure 11: Dried lerotse and lephutsi (melon and pumpkin) sold at the agriculture show in Serowe, Botswana.
Figure 12: Dried greens called morogo wa dinawa, on display at the agriculture show in Serowe, Botswana.
Figure 13: Dried mopane worms (phane), which can be purchased in many places across Botswana.
One of the great pleasures of travel is meeting people from other cultures. Finding out what they do, what they think, what they eat, and what they listen to. How they approach common problems in a way different from your own. Sadly many, perhaps most, visitors to Botswana come and go without having any meaningful interaction with the local people. The emphasis on wildlife watching has inevitably led to enclave tourism. The famous tourist lodges are where the animals are, not where the people are.
The animals are fascinating, but so are the local people. They are friendly, polite, often well educated, and very proud of their country and what they have achieved. They are also very proud of their cultural heritage. The majority also speak very good English, which is the official language. If you stop beside a rural road for morning tea it is quite likely that someone will stop to chat. A packet of biscuits and a couple of spare cups always come in handy.
Driving yourself around Botswana provides many opportunities for interaction. You can stay right in villages; you can shop with the locals, and you will be warmly welcomed to any church service. And you can attend any village events that you find advertised on local notice boards. If you come across a notice like this make sure you go along. The Batswana are serious about having fun, and they will always welcome all comers.
Figure 14: A poster advert for a beauty peagent in Gweta, Botswana.
Remember that to get the most from the self-drive experience you need to get out of your car. On foot, you can talk to people about their gardens, their livestock, their pets, and their children. From the car, you can only get glimpses of life as you pass by.
A diversity of cultures
It is hard to talk about the ‘culture of the country’ because Botswana is a mélange of different cultures. About 77% of the population speak Setswana as their mother tongue. Another 7% speak the related languages Setswapong and Sebirwa; 7% Ikalanga; 3% Seherero or Mbukushu; and about 2 % speak one or another of the 17 San languages. The cultures, cuisines, and crafts are as diverse as the languages.
Laurens van der Post published his famous book ‘The Lost World of the Kalahari’ in 1958. The world has had a fascination with San (= Basarwa, or Bushman) culture ever since. We would encourage every visitor to Botswana to make the effort to learn at least a little about the San. But there are many other tribal groups and we hope that you will explore some of these other cultures on your travels as well.
Tswana is the dominant culture, and it was an alliance of Tswana chiefs that were responsible for resisting Boer expansion in the 19th Century and charting the course toward a united country. There is a YouTube video with images and a little commentary on traditional Tswana culture here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9W7iZx2lrI. The Constitution of Botswana mentions only 8 tribes by name, and all are of Tswana origin. Any cultural differences between the 8 tribes are minor.
In the North East, you are in Kalanga country. The language, the music, and the cuisine all have distant links to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. But the Bakalanga are not latecomers here. As you travel you will come across the remains of the ancient Leopards Kopje civilization. The Leopards Kopje people were farmers who moved into northeastern Botswana more than 1000 years ago. They built their villages on terraced hilltops and surrounded them with stone walls. The Bakalanga are thought to be their direct descendants.
Both the Tswana and the Kalanga are derived from the Eastern stream of the Bantu expansion. The Bantu peoples were cattle-herding pastoralists who had mastered the smelting of iron. The Bantu originated somewhere in West Africa, probably in the Cameroun highlands, and gradually spread southward down the continent in two major groups: the eastern stream and the western stream. The cultures of the two streams diverged along the way. Botswana is a place where the two streams met, and some of the tribes in the west of Botswana are derived from the western stream.
In the far west and northwest, you will find the Wayeyi, the Herero, and the San in larger numbers.
The San (= Basarwa, or ‘Kalahari Bushmen’) can be found across most of Botswana. They were the original inhabitants of the land before the arrival of the Bantu peoples 1400 years ago. But in the far west, they have preserved more of their traditional culture. The cultures of the various Bantu tribes are diverse, but the cultures of the various San groups are very different indeed. The San belong to nine different ethnic groups and speak 17 mutually unintelligible languages
The Wayeyi are a tribe derived from the Western Bantu stream. They are river people, living in the swamps and along the waterways of northern Botswana. They practice matrilineal inheritance, and the women are very firmly in charge.
The Herero are also from the western Bantu stream, though genetic studies show that there must have been a great deal of intermarriage with local Khoisan populations. They have also adopted some of the ‘click’ sounds of the San languages into Seherero. The Herero have traditionally been cattle herders. They were strongly influenced by German missionaries in the 19th Century, and the women are instantly recognizable by their full-length dresses and amazing horned hats.
You will encounter all of these cultures and more in your travels around Botswana. Take the time to explore what each has to offer.
On arrival in Gaborone, we strongly recommend the 3-4 hour tours run by the Botswana Society. The Society itself is devoted to academic research on Botswana, and publishes books and the journal ‘Botswana Notes and Records. These tours are a public outreach activity. They start at the National Museum and cover the cornerstone of national life: the Kgotla (see below). They then progress around Gaborone to introduce you to the history of the Bechuanaland protectorate; the history of modern Botswana; the heritage of Gaborone itself; the traditional arts, crafts, and cuisine of the surrounding area, and the way the government of modern Botswana functions.
These tours are very informative and provide an ideal overview at the start of your cultural odyssey. You can organize these tours for yourself, but of course, we are happy to help.
There are 12 museums in Botswana, of which 7 have informative displays on the local culture; and of course, the main National Museum in Gaborone has a very comprehensive collection. All are worth a visit. But culture is not a museum exhibit, and it is not an organized performance. It is something that is lived every day.
If you know where to look you can find the following:
- tourist lodges that are an integral part of a local village
- cooking classes in Kalanga and Tswana culture
- accommodations, campsites, and reserves run by local communities
- traditional pottery, basketry, carving, and textile studios
- restaurants serving nothing but the traditional food of the local area
- indigenous music played live on traditional instruments
- opportunities to participate in building the traditional, highly decorated mud huts
- farm visits to cattle posts and ploughing fields
- sorghum beer and watermelon wine, freshly brewed by local women in their family compounds
- craftsmen making dugout canoes from tree trunks, and amazing creations from old shipping pallets
- rehabilitation and training centers for the disadvantaged and the disabled that are keen to host visitors
- reading nights from local poets
- polka dancing exhibitions and contests (see below)
- Village walking tours run by local villagers
- Opportunities to spend an evening as guests of a local family
- Festivals celebrating the culture of the local tribe
We can’t cover all there is to say about culture in Botswana on this webpage. We have highlighted just two aspects below. But Botswana is our home and our company is physically located on tribal land in the Ngwato tribal area. If you want to explore cultural diversity we are happy to assist, and we can help you get beneath the surface. And of course, we have guide notes covering many activities and places of cultural interest.
The traditional dances in Botswana are single-sex affairs. The men dance with the men and the ladies with the ladies. In the 19th Century missionaries from Europe introduced the idea of mixed dancing. They taught their parishioners to dance the polka. The idea that it was ok to dance holding onto an attractive member of the opposite sex was exceedingly popular. Batswana have been dancing the polka ever since.
Styles vary. The Batswana have introduced some flamboyant moves that would never have been contemplated in stately European ballrooms. Polka musicians like Ipopeng ‘Two Perekies’ Bapalang are now household names. Even the immediate past president was renowned for pulling on a stylish purple jacket and taking it to the dance floor.
There are now district, regional, and national polka competitions. These are usually run on moonlit nights in the desert, and attract large crowds. These are events not to be missed. If you get the chance to go and dance the night away……. The competitions are not run for tourists, but all are welcome.
And one important note on the protocol. If you want to show your appreciation of a group of performers then throw some money onto the ground or the stage for them to share. A gift handed directly to anyone performer (traditionally by putting it into their pocket if they are a male) is interpreted by everyone as a tribute to their performance.
The bedrock of the Tswana cultural system is the Kgotla. The idea of democracy developed long before the arrival of Europeans in Botswana, and the kgotla system is its physical embodiment. The kgotla is a customary court, an official public meeting space, a community council, and the administrative office of the local chief or headman. It is also the cultural heart of any village.
Issues that concern the community are brought before a kgotla meeting. All of the community can attend, and all are encouraged to speak, except minors. There are a few rules governing debate: drunkenness and swearing are forbidden, and any severe criticism of the chief should be expressed in either poetry or song. Otherwise, everyone is expected to express their views freely and openly. The debates may be very spirited – the Setswana proverb Ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo ( = the highest form of war is talking) applies here. It is also expected that in the end, a decision will emerge by consensus, which it invariably does; and a decision reached in this way is universally respected.
The kgotla is a wonderful institution. The formal proceedings are just for community members, not for tourists. In any case, they are invariably conducted in Setswana. But the administrative functions are for everyone. As a tourist, if you wish to visit sites of customary importance you may need to visit the local kgotla to seek permission. If you want to know something about the history of the local area the kgotla will often be the best source of information. At the very least the staff will be able to direct you to a community member who can help.
A kgotla is an important customary place. Protocol dictates that if you need to visit the men should wear long trousers and jackets and ladies should wear a dress/skirt. But if you are correctly dressed and make a respectful approach you will always be welcomed.
Figure 15: Kgotla in Shashe,Botswana.
If you are a farmer, or just someone interested in farming, Botswana is an interesting place to come. Bring some printed photos of your farm and you will have an instant point of contact. To the eye of a farmer from temperate lands with better soils and a better climate, traditional agriculture looks hopelessly inefficient. But the surprising thing is that farming in this environment is possible at all.
Various attempts have been made to increase efficiency by introducing ‘better’ genetics; proposing grandiose irrigation schemes; and introducing new crops. Most of these have failed. What the traditional agricultural system has going for it is resilience.
The pattern of traditional agriculture
Most Tswana families traditionally divided their time between three pieces of land: a home in a village; a ploughing field (tshimo) which would usually but not always be within walking distance; and a cattle post (moraka) where most of the livestock were kept. The home in the village might have some fruit trees, a vegetable garden, some chickens, and sometimes a milking goat. A few will keep other poultry: geese, ducks, turkeys, and guineafowl are other options.
The tshimo was often one field amongst a cluster of similar fields owned by other families, and because of the seasonal nature of agriculture in this climate ‘the lands’ (or ‘masimo’, as such a cluster of ploughing fields, is known) would take on the aspect of a temporary village. During sowing and harvesting times the womenfolk would be living at the lands in basic huts known as ‘field houses’. The actual ploughing would be done by the men, but most of the work at the lands would be undertaken by the women, who would often work together on a cooperative basis.
Typical crops in the rain-fed areas are sorghum, black-eyed beans, millet, maize, watermelons, lerotse melons, pumpkins, groundnuts, and peanuts, all of which are relatively drought resistant, and perhaps some fodder crops. Those with a source of irrigation water have a much wider range of options.
Cattle posts might also be clustered together to make use of a shared water point or some other feature, and where clustered they are known as meraka. (One cattle post = moraka; a cluster of cattle posts = meraka). The cattle and goats forage for themselves on the communal grazing land, and the main job of the herdsmen is to ensure that they are supplied with water and to lock the animals up at night to avoid predators.
The primary, but not the only, constraint on agricultural production is the availability of water. Rainfed cropping is something of a gamble in this climate: you can sow a crop after the first rain of the season only to see the seedlings fry in the sun when the next rainstorm is too long delayed, and if the rainy season is too short yields will be poor. Bets are hedged by sowing a variety of crops in the same field with the expectation that some will succeed.
In some years rain hardly falls at all and crops fail. Traditionally the fluctuating yields would be accommodated by a village maintaining a communal granary, in which the surplus from a wet year could be saved up for harder times. The granary also acted as a form of the social welfare system: the chief could draw upon it to feed those of his community in need.
Figure 16: Cattle post (moraka) in Serowe, Botswana.
If a little surplus water can be stored, say in an underground cistern, deficit irrigation might be practiced. The amount of water stored may be insufficient to produce maximal harvests, but can be saved to apply at the critical periods in the life cycle of the crop. Even if a sorghum plant is stunted by lack of water early in the season, applying water as it flowers ensures that what grains it can produce will swell.
In areas inundated with floods, each year molapo (flood recession) farming is practiced. Seeds can be sown as the floods recede, and the roots of the seedlings can chase the water table down as they develop. Some of the floodwaters can also be retained in a small reservoir at the top of the field, and this can be used for deficit irrigation later.
Most soils in Botswana provide a poor substrate for cropping. The majority are derived from wind-blown Kalahari sand and have very poor moisture retention characteristics. In the east of the country, hard-setting soils predominate. These set to a hard, structureless mass on drying and they are difficult or impossible to cultivate until the profile is wetted again. They are quite literally set like concrete, and the hard surface they form tends to shed water rather than allow it to penetrate. Early season rains are typically lost as run-off rather than soaking in. The hard setting soils also resist root penetration, and the range of crops that can be grown upon them is therefore limited, though if they can be kept moist with irrigation and well-fertilized they can be quite productive.
There are also some areas of black cotton soil derived from basalt rock. These are naturally fertile but need careful handling because they contain swelling clays. When dry they crack to several meters depth, and when wet they turn into a morass which can bog both donkeys and tractors, so the timing of operations is very important.
The best soils are the alluvial soils alongside the bigger rivers, but these are rather limited in extent.
Most villages depend not just on farming, but also on the collection of wild fruits, tubers, insects, firewood, and thatching grass from the surrounding wildlands. In years when crops are poor, these activities can be stepped up, and the relative contribution of veld products and farm produce to household income varies a lot from year to year. But what looks like wasteland near a village is an important safety net in years of drought.
Of course, having grown a crop or raised some livestock there is all manner of animals that would like to share in the farmer’s bounty, ranging from termites and locusts to elephants and lions. Wildlife conflict at all scales is an ever-present problem in Botswana. Some of the problems, like locusts and the huge flocks of quelea finches, are familiar to farmers in many parts of the world. Living with lions, elephants, and hippopotamus is another story!
What you can see while you are here
We can provide guide notes that will take you to examples of different soils; to a communal borehole; to old tribal granaries; to areas of molapo farming; and to a village where wildlife/human conflict is in particularly sharp focus. Other guide notes will introduce you to some of the unusual African crops; the ants that defend the black-eyed bean plants from other pests; and to some of the indigenous breeds of cattle and goats. They will take you to a cattle post, a cattle trading farm, a roadside farmer’s market, and more.
If you are here at the right time of year our guide notes will take you to an agricultural show; to participate in the annual harvest of thatching grass, and to watch ploughing with donkeys.
You can learn about the various programs the government has to try to increase smallholder output; the economics of a village on the edge of the desert; the great rinderpest epidemic of the 1890s; the travails of the cattle and beef trade in the 1930s; the failed Schwarz scheme that hoped to turn the Kalahari desert into the breadbasket of southern Africa; and the building of the great veterinary cordon fences.
We are farmers ourselves, and we guarantee that you will find plenty of interest!
In 1874 the editor of a British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, proposed the development of a route from Cairo to Capetown. The initial idea was that this should be a combination of railways and river transport. The Daily Telegraph is the same newspaper that financed the Stanley expedition to go and find what had become of David Livingstone.
The idea of a North-South route was picked up by Cecil Rhodes, who preferred a continuous railway line. Rhodes was instrumental in promoting and starting work on the Cape to Cairo railroad. The idea was politically feasible because British colonies, protectorates, and allies in Africa formed an almost continuous belt from North to South. The route could pass through what are now Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa without leaving the British Empire. The gap in the middle was of course modern-day Tanzania: when construction began this was a German colony. Tanzania changed hands in 1916 during the First World War.
Construction of the section between Vryburg (in the Cape Province) and Bulawayo (in Rhodesia) began in 1893. About 650 km of the line ran through the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Two years after construction was complete the Boer war intervened. There were fierce battles over the control of the railroad, and it is possible to visit the remains of a railway bridge blown up by a Boer commando just south of Gaborone. The Boers were anxious to prevent relief from reaching the besieged city of Mafeking.
The railway was initially operated by the Mashonaland Railway Company, and later by Rhodesian Railways. Botswana Railways bought out the Botswana section of the line in 1987. A branch line was added to service the Sowa Spit after construction of the Botash soda ash plant, and there is a short branch line that services the Morupule coal mine.
There are passenger services on the original line, and it is possible to travel by train from Francistown to Lobatse: normally just one train each way per day. Many Batswana travel to spend Christmas with their families at their home village or cattle post, and so additional passenger services run in the summer.
There is a modest amount of railway history to be seen in the country, and the Supa-Ngwao museum in Francistown is devoted in part to this topic. But as you travel you can see and explore old railway housing, visit abandoned stations, take a boat cruise on a large dam built originally built to supply water to steam trains, and find old railcars and steam locomotives.
The modern Botswana Railways have old steam engines on display in both Francistown and Mahalapye. Bizarrely, if you wish to view or photograph the one in Francistown the stationmaster will insist that you have written permission from the Chief Executive of Botswana Railways. One of us was warned that we would be arrested even if we photographed the old locomotive from the street. The security of the railways is taken very seriously.
If you are interested in railway history we can help with directions to many sites, and we will even write to the Chief Executive of Botswana Railways on your behalf if you wish to look at the old steam locomotives. And if you would like to take a ride on one of the existing services we can help with arrangements.
Figure 17: Railway line in Botswana.
Figure 18: Railway station in Francistown, Botswana.
Botswana in the Stone Age: Introduction
As we now know, we all have African roots. It seems clear that our species originated in Africa. But despite this, the archaeological record of Botswana is rather sparse. Up until the 1970s, it was believed that the Kalahari sandveld was not worth prospecting for hominid fossils. Fossils were expected to be few and far between because (i) the environment had always been hostile to human habitation, and (ii) the shifting sands would make the discovery of any remains rather difficult. Of course, if you don’t look you won’t find anything. Up until 1970, only two archaeological excavations had been undertaken in the whole country.
The National Museum was established following independence. The enthusiasm of the founding director, Alec Campbell, for archaeological research saw the original view change very swiftly. There are now over 1000 archaeological sites recorded in the country, of which several hundred have been studied in depth. The University of Botswana also has an active archaeology program. Many of the archaeological sites discovered belong to the Middle Stone Age, a particularly interesting period in human history. It was the period when we were becoming human.
Early Stone Age
The Early Stone Age (ESA) in southern Africa is traditionally divided into two phases: the Oldowan tradition (roughly 2 to 1.5 million years ago) and the Acheulean tradition between 1.7 million and 250,000 years ago. These traditions are defined by the kind of stone tools they made: the Oldowan tools are typically fairly crude choppers and simple flakes struck from cores, whereas the Acheulean toolkit included beautifully made handaxes and picks with two prepared faces.
Figure 20: A typical Acheulean Handaxe, note that both edges have been worked.
Simply put, the Oldowan toolmakers broke pieces of stone to get an edge. Modern students can replicate their tools with ease, and something like Oldowan tools have occasionally been made by chimpanzees. The Acheulean toolmakers skill to fashion stone into the form they wanted. It takes a 21st Century human months of practice to be able to produce a replica. There is a link to an archaeologist making a handaxe here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyiH1xtmN_w.
There are few Early Stone Age sites known from Botswana, but relics of the ESA are common across the border in South Africa. Some Oldowan tools have been found in North-West Botswana both in caves and as surface scatters, and there is an example on display in the Danish National Museum. Acheulean handaxes have been discovered in several locations.
Stone tools survive better than human remains – the old saying of ‘ashes to ashes and dust to dust’ is all too true of the human body. The archaeologist’s dream is to find the remains of an ESA toolmaker along with his toolkit, and at least in Botswana, this dream remains elusive. Nonetheless, the finds of tools show that Botswana has been inhabited since the dawn of humanity.
Middle Stone Age
The distinctive Acheulean handaxes gradually disappeared from the human toolkit and were replaced by other types of tools. Some scholars have suggested that handaxes became obsolete as soon as hafted tools were invented. Once the technique of attaching a stone tool to a wooden handle has been mastered this opens many new and better possibilities.
But in the Middle Stone Age (MSA) other interesting things were happening two. The MSA toolmakers were coming to think like modern humans. They couldn’t read and write, so we have to infer what they were thinking from the archaeological record. Many MSA sites in southern Africa contain exotic stones, often brought from 100 to 300 km away. In the ESA tools were typically made from local materials, but the MSA toolmakers were getting very particular about the stone that they would use. Obtaining stone from these distances required either knowledge of the geology and geography of a wide area, or the ability to organize a trading network.
MSA toolmakers also developed microlithic technology, in which small and possibly disposable flakes of stone could be used to make a composite tool. By 70,000 years ago the MSA toolmakers had started to make glue, and they had also begun to use fire to heat treat and strengthen their worked stones.
And by 60,000 years ago it seems that the MSA toolmakers were producing arrowheads from the sharpened bone. Stabbing spears are much older, but stabbing large animals up close involves a lot of personal risks. Projectile weapons must be preferable. Modern archaeologists have tried making replica arrowheads from fresh eland bone, and bows strung with kudu tendon. When fired at a dead goat the replica arrows proved surprisingly effective. There are many MSA sites in Botswana, and MSA artifacts can easily be found lying on the surface if you know where to look.
Later Stone Age
The transition from Middle Stone Age to Later Stone Age (LSA) was once thought to be quite abrupt, based mostly on a revolutionary change in tool technology in stone age sites in Europe. But the abrupt change in Europe was probably due to a fresh wave of migrants arriving from Africa, bringing new technologies along with them. There is no abrupt change in technology to be seen in African sites: the MSA simply evolved gradually into the LSA over tens of thousands of years. For convenience, an arbitrary date of 40,000 years before the present is now used as the boundary.
The LSA sites in southern Africa are very numerous and are often characterized by the presence of ostrich eggshell beads; bone needles and awls; and the further development of microlithic composite tools. The end of the LSA in southern Africa is abrupt – it ends with the introduction of iron working in the first millennium AD. Late Stone Age sites in Botswana are commonplace and very widespread, and some are associated with fine examples of rock art. The Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Area in NW Botswana is one such site and spans the LSA to iron age transition.
Exploring the Stone Age in Botswana
Little use has been made of the extensive Stone Age heritage of the country for tourism purposes to date. The archaeological sites that have been developed for tourism, like the Domboshaba Ruins, virtually all belong to the iron age. Displays of collected archaeological material do exist but are not well advertised. There are many examples of stone age rock art, but most of the rock art sites are not advertised at all. There are also sites where stone age artefacts can be seen simply lying scattered on the surface. Permission for such visits must frequently be obtained in advance from the local Kgotla.
However, if you have a genuine interest in the Stone Age heritage of the country let us know. We will have some suggestions to include in your itinerary, and we may be able to advise on gaining permission to access some sites.
Please note: the Botswana Monuments and Relics Act requires that anyone wishing to conduct archaeological excavation or research must first obtain a permit from the Ministry. The Act also extends full legal protection to every artefact and fossil and artwork made before 1902. You can look but not touch or remove.
Gemstones and minerals of Botswana
Botswana is a dry, thirsty country. About two-thirds of the underlying geology is covered by the thick sands of the Kalahari desert. But the geology of the remaining one-third is well worth exploring. The economy is underpinned by mineral resources. Diamonds, semi-precious stones, base metals, coal, and gold have all been exploited, and the large uranium resources of the country are at an early stage of development.
There is much here for anyone with an interest in gems or economic geology. Some working mines can be visited with advance permission. There are abandoned mines to be visited, and museums with mineral collections and mining artefacts on display banded ironstones are dating from the dawn of aerobic life on earth, and archaean rocks dating back 2.7 billion years. And there are opportunities to fossick for semiprecious stones and mineral specimens.
The potential for geological tourism is, sadly, undeveloped. There are only a handful of sites with any interpretive signage, and there are no published guidebooks to geology. Local knowledge is essential. Fortunately, we can help with this.
Figure 21: Jewellery made using Botswana diamonds.
Botswana is rightly famous for its diamonds. At the time of independence in 1966 Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world. The discovery of a diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe at Orapa in April 1967 set off a period of intensive exploration and mine development that transformed the economy of the country. Careful macroeconomic management and prudent investment of mining revenues over the years have allowed Botswana to develop health and education systems and physical infrastructure that are the envy of her neighbors. So the diamond story is about more than just the gems themselves.
Diamonds are found embedded in a special type of rock called kimberlite. There are now 12 known kimberlite fields in Botswana. Those which support active mines are mostly inaccessible. But not all the kimberlite fields are being mined – in fact not all kimberlite pipes yield diamonds – so self-drive tourists can explore a kimberlite field for themselves. You can also visit the riverbed from which the first diamonds ever found in Botswana were recovered.
A few of the active mines do allow visitors. We don’t know of any to which you can just drop in without prior permission. If you want to make a mine visit to see where diamonds come from we can help to pave the way.
Of course, before it is cut and polished a diamond is an unremarkable piece of stone. Botswana is the world’s leading diamond producer in terms of value, and Gaborone is a major center for the cutting, polishing, and trade of diamonds. Most of this action takes place at the Diamond Trading Centre and the associated Diamond Technology Park on the outskirts of the city.
The value of diamonds means that the industry maintains very tight security and tourism opportunities are somewhat limited. However, if you have an interest in diamonds we will be able to make some suggestions of what might be possible and include these in your itinerary. And of course, the end products, and finished diamond jewelry, are readily available in Gaborone. Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to a large diamond, make sure you go home with a piece of kimberlite to show your friends.
Figure 22: Cabochons of Botswana agate.
In addition to diamonds, Botswana produces about 70 tonnes of cut and polished semi-precious stones each year. Botswana agate and moss agate is well known, but the Export Control (Semiprecious Stones) Regulations 1973 prohibit the commercial export of unprocessed gems, so only the finished products are typically seen outside the country. These regulations list the following as controlled stones:
Agate Amethyst Aquamarine
Azurite Carnelian Chalcedony
Crystal quartz Garnet Jade
Jasper Malachite Moss Agate
Opal Rose Quartz Sodalite
Tanzanite Tiger’s Eye Tourmaline
The list is a convenient summary of the semi-precious stones which can be found in the country!
Several spots may reward fossicking. There are also locations worth fossicking for geodes. Anyone wishing to export more than 20 kg of these stones in a year requires a permit under the Mines and Minerals Act, but it is possible to take small samples home with you.
The export controls on unprocessed stones have seen the development of a cutting and polishing industry. The agates from Botswana possess particularly attractive banding and occasionally display rare pink coloration. They are sometimes carved into beautiful ornaments, and you can find these and other polished stone artworks in the southeast of the country.
The atmosphere of the early earth contained no oxygen. The evolution of photosynthetic bacteria changed the composition of the atmosphere quite dramatically and resulted in what scientists know as “the Great Oxidation Event” (GOE) about 2.4 billion years ago. During the GOE the availability of oxygen in the waters of the ocean led to dissolved iron reacting with this oxygen and precipitating as magnetite.
The word ‘event” in the GOE suggests that this was an instantaneous happening, but it wasn’t. For a period of perhaps a hundred million years, the chemistry of the oceans flip-flopped. The evidence can be seen in the sea-floor sediments of the time: the sedimentary rocks of this age are often ‘banded ironstone formations’ in which dark layers very rich in iron oxide minerals alternate with iron-poor layers. The iron-poor layers are usually much lighter in color, so the resulting stone has a zebra-striped appearance.
Banded ironstones are found around the world wherever marine sedimentary rocks of this age are exposed. Often, as in Swaziland, the ironstones are mined as a source of iron ore, and they can also make very attractive decorative stones. Botswana does have exposures of banded ironstone. If you would like to visit an outcrop ask us to include this, and our detailed notes on the topic, in your itinerary.
Figure 23: Monarch mine in Francistown, Botswana. Photo credit???
The first Europeans to arrive in Bechuanaland were traders and missionaries, but miners were not far behind. Gold was discovered near modern-day Francistown in 1867, and this sparked the first gold rush in southern Africa, 15 years before the gold rushes in South Africa. Francistown itself is named after Daniel Francis, a gold prospector from Liverpool.
The area around Francistown has many historical sites related to the mining activity in the 19th century, and much of the space in the Supa-Ngwao Museum is devoted to the mining history of the area. In other parts of Botswana, it is possible to visit abandoned mines for manganese, copper, and other minerals. Probably of greatest interest are the abandoned archaeological sites where the iron-age Bantu inhabitants mined and smelted iron ore. If you have an interest in mining history let us know: we may be able to help.
Traditionally the most valuable thing to be found underground is artesian water. The vast aquifers that underlie parts of Botswana are often what make human habitation and agriculture possible. Rivers in Botswana are often ephemeral, and can’t be relied upon as a water source in the dry season.
The big wellfields operated by the Water Utilities Corporation (a parastatal entity belonging to the government) are household names, and reports on dam levels and aquifer performance can be found in the popular newspapers every dry season. Batswana takes a great deal of interest in the state of their water supplies.
The ideal aquifer is comprised of porous rock, thoroughly broken and cracked by tectonic action, and overlain by impervious strata. We provide detailed guide notes for one of the big wellfields, and it is possible to see the rocks of the various strata making up the aquifer and relate these to a cross-sectional diagram.
Figure 24: Botash, soda ash amd salt mine in Sowa Town, Botswana.
Opportunities to volunteer
The Botswana laws describe an orphan as a person below the age of 18 who has lost one or both parents (biological and adoptive). According to UNICEF, there are about 130 000 orphans in Botswana, and about 93 000 of them orphaned due to AIDS. Botswana is one of the countries with very high HIV prevalence rates in the world.
The traditional setup in Botswana is such that when a child loses one or both of their parents that child can go on and live with their grandparents or other extended family members who become their legal guardians. However, this is not always the case as some children end up in orphanages.
There are different orphanages in Botswana, many of which are non-governmental and non-profit making. These orphanages depend on private donors and in some cases the government to keep operating. While in Botswana and looking for some charity work to do, you can visit these orphanages. Most children in these orphanages go to schools as such you can donate books, stationaries, toiletries, school uniforms, etc.
While visiting orphanages you can also help children with their homework, play with them, help clean their rooms/environment, and help with general activities or running errands. The services given to orphanages by volunteers are always welcome as they help put a smile and restore hope to the children.
Figure 25: Kids with their caretaker at SOS Children’s village in Serowe, Botswana. Picture credit, sos-childrensvillages.org.
Botswana is one of the countries which takes pride in the many natural resources that it has. As a result, many laws are in place to care for and protect these natural resources. However, the responsibility of caring for and protecting these natural resources does not only lie with the Government of Botswana as everyone has to do their part. Different communities in Botswana have different community trusts that are responsible for the conservation of the different natural resources found in their areas.
The different communities and their trusts are always happy to receive visitors/volunteers in their areas. During your visit, you can exchange knowledge on conservation issues with different people. Also, you can use the time to visit certain areas in the community where there are some endangered/protected species of both flora and fauna. If you are keen on conservation then you will be happy to know that while in Botswana you can volunteer for a week or so indifferent conservation trusts.
Figure 26: Feeding an elephant at Elephant Havens (elephant orphanage) in the outskirts of Maun,Botswana.
Pottery comes from ancient history during the Mesopotamia days and is still practiced even in the modern world. There are different types of pottery such as earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. Although pottery comes from ancient history and has the same basis the skills have evolved over the years. As a result, different communities have different ways of making pottery.
There are several pottery groups across Botswana where you can buy local pottery. Some of the pottery groups can also offer pottery lessons to visitors if arrangements were made before the visit. Many cultural villages in Botswana have pottery made by locals on display. Different potteries are also sold here at very reasonable prices therefore be prepared to spare a few bucks to spend on these eye-catching products. Pottery products made in Botswana can be used for different purposes such as plates for food, storage containers for water and drinks (it keeps them cool for a very long time), and a vase for flowers. If you prefer custom-made pottery, arrangements can be made well in advance for it to be made.
So if you are a keen potter we will help you to have an enjoyable pottery experience.
The main economic activity in Botswana is mining followed by tourism and agriculture. As a result, the main industries in Botswana are diamonds, salt, soda ash, coal, beef processing, textiles, and leather turning. Small industries such as basket making/weaving are also found in Botswana. In most basket-making/weaving groups you can just walk in as these are mostly made of a group of females located in a certain place such as an open market. However, if you want to take basket-making/weaving lessons arrangements have to be done, which is something we will gladly do on your behalf. The basket weaving in Botswana is very unique to the rest of the world therefore it is worth checking out.
Figure 27: Woven baskets for sale at Lwaavo art and culture centre in Chobe Enclave West.
Many Batswana are into cattle farming, which resulted in Botswana being one of the largest beef exporters in the world. Before the beef is exported to different parts of the world it undergoes various processes which you can learn about when visiting the beef processing companies in Botswana to get first-hand experience. However, arrangements to visit the beef processing company have to be made in advance. So if you are interested, let us know and we will take care of your needs.
Music and Nightlife
People across the globe have different ways of entertaining themselves. If you are a fan of indoor nightlife, there are various nightclubs/party clubs in Botswana where one can go and have quite a good time with locals. Local and international artists in the music industry perform at these nightclubs at least once a week. Most of the time you do not need to buy tickets in advance, you just get there and pay at the entrance.
For outdoor nightlife lovers there are different music and cultural activities that are hosted outdoors throughout the night. As you walk along the streets you will find some posters advertising the show/event. For such shows, you can either buy a ticket in advance or at the entrance of the entertainment event. These are all-year-round activities across the country.
As you walk around the malls in certain parts of Botswana you can find different men and women who play traditional musical instruments such as setinkane. Setinkane is handheld instrument that is played more like a modern keyboard. Often at times, you will find some people with guitars playing at different locations. Guitarists in Botswana are unique to the rest of the world. The guitars are mostly four strings, with three out of four strings being strummed by the right hand in open tuning and plunking a bass on the fourth string (down-tuned string). The left-hand moves across the fretboard striking the strings with fingers, knuckles, and palm. These guitarists normally play for free and by-passers can just stop and watch them play, you can give them a few bucks while enjoying their craft, so be sure to check them out.
Something indigenous to Botswana is the dikhwaere. Dikhwaere practise is mainly vocal singing and dancing in some pattern without the use of any musical instruments. Dikhwaere is common in the southern part of Botswana and they are performed during special events such as weddings, traditional ceremonies such as Dikgafela (harvest celebration). Dikhwaere competitions, in which different groups from the same/different places compete for a certain prize are also held at different times of the year such as the president holidays in July, independence celebrations in September or around the festive season.
Going up north the Okavango Music festival is an annual music festival that takes place in Shakawe village. The festival is centred around artists from the Okavango area such as Chris Manto 7 of Zwaka Presa fame. The festival also included a few artists from the southern part of Botswana as well as Namibia. The main objective of the festival is to give back to the Okavango community and to create a platform for marginalised artists who are in the Okavango panhandle to showcase their talents.
The Maun International Arts Festival is an annual music and poetry event that is held in Maun around October/November. Various local and international artists perform music and spoken poetry. The event features performance poets from all around Botswana and international acts from Zimbabwe, Canada, Lesotho, Malaysia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Belgium.
Son of the soil is a cultural event that has been held for over ten years in Botswana. The main aim of this cultural event is to preserve the Setswana culture. The cultural festival include among others, storytelling, traditional dance and music, folktales, and light-hearted Setswana humour. The event also gives patrons an opportunity to interrogate their cultural standing as well as promoting social cohesion amongst the citizens of Botswana. The main event is normally divided into two yards synonymous with the Setswana culture and traditions.
Gaborone International Music and Cultural (GIMC) festival is a multidisciplinary annual event that takes place in Gaborone. The event celebrates Gaborone through music, poetry, fashion show, theatre, comedy, and other cultural festivals. Top artists in the region perform alongside international artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, United States of America, and others. Some of the proceeds from the event are donated to different non-governmental organisations whose main mandate is to uplift the different communities across Botswana.
The diversity of the culture in Botswana resulted in the different types of dance for different tribes. Some other traditional dances such as hosana in the NE district and seperu dance in the Chobe region are some of the different traditional dances that you will come across in Botswana. The seperu folk dance and associated practises were 2019 inscribed by UNESCO on the list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding. Seperu folk dance is highly significant in the lives of the Veekuhane (Basubiya) in the Chobe region (Botswana) and the Zambezi/Caprivi region in Namibia. In the seperu dance, the women form a horseshoe and the men face them. The lead singer has a flywhisk which he uses to direct and select the female dancer who will showcase her dancing skills by reflecting the image of a peacock tail with her multi-layered skirt.
As mentioned earlier Botswana has diverse cultures which led to unique traditional dance and music across the different regions in the country. Therefore, if you are interested in visiting communities where various groups will be performing traditional music and dances let us know. If you wish to make your holiday period more memorable by taking a few Botswana traditional music and dance lessons, let us know in advance so that we make arrangements for you. After your holiday in Botswana, you might want to take some local music and local music videos back home with you. However, most big chain stores don’t sell local music often. We know a few places where you can get local music and local music videos, talk to us and we will direct you to the right place.
Figure 28: People at a night club in Botswana. Photo credit Mmegi online
Activities for Children
Activities for Children
There is a lot of strange advice on the internet about travelling with children in Botswana. For example, the Lonely Planet Guide says:
Botswana can be a challenging destination for families travelling with children. That’s primarily because the distances here can be epic and long days in the vehicle on bumpy trails will test the patience of most kids. It’s also worth remembering that many upmarket lodges and safari companies won’t accept children under a certain age (sometimes seven, more often 12).
The Responsible Travel website says:
Check with your operator before travelling in Botswana with kids – and be sure to let them know how old your children are. Eight-year-olds can sometimes go on standard game drives, but bush walks and many water-based activities are only suitable for those aged 10 or even 12.
Of course, Batswana have plenty of children of their own. This is a country where children are cherished, and there are plenty of activities for the young. When you are on a self-drive tour the daily distances travelled are only as epic as you make them, and you can build a lot of child-friendly activities into your itinerary. Since children are not welcomed by many of the up-market hotels and lodges you will be staying in the accommodations used by local families when you travel, and your children will quickly make friends.
Figure 29: Children’s play ground in Maun, Botswana.
Figure 30: Children looking at hatchling at Douma crocodile farm in Francistown, Botswana.
At Douma Farm children of all ages can interact with the tame breeding tortoises
Figure 31: Kid lifting a tortoise at Douma crocodile farm in Francistown, Botswana.
Figure 32: Children’s playground at Lion’s park in Gaborone, Botswana.
Within Botswana you will find:
- An amusement park
- Supervised pony rides
- Occasional cafes with proper coffee that also have some playground equipment
- Child-friendly accommodations
- Hidden gorges
- Safe walking tracks
- Safe wildlife experiences and animal tracking opportunities
- Many family-friendly public events;
- Even a petting zoo.
And some accommodations are built around family activities. For example, Notwane Equestrian Centre have accommodation cottages right beside the picturesque Notwane Dam and only metres from the ponies. Riding lessons and activities are available for children of all ages. There are plenty of children in our extended families so we know a lot about travelling with them. If you plan to bring your children with you to Botswana we can help you craft an itinerary that will work both for you and them.
What you generally will not find is accommodations and resorts with childminding services. These barely exist in Botswana: childminding is the task of grandparents and extended family. Even in the most child-friendly locations, there will often be hazards like unfenced swimming pools. Your children will be your responsibility.
Figure 33: A kid at the Agriculture show in Serowe, Botswana.
Agricultural shows are always a treat for children
We do have some general advice on travelling with children in Botswana.
1. Botswana takes its responsibilities concerning the trafficking of children very seriously. If both parents are travelling with the child, and are both named on the birth certificate, you will have no difficulties at the border. If only one parent is travelling then the other will need to write a supporting affidavit: if they are deceased the surviving parent will have to bring along a copy of the death certificate.
2. Car seats are mandatory for children under 5. You need to either bring your own or hire one along with the car.
3. Compulsory vaccination of the local dogs means that rabies is not a serious issue. If your child finds a friendly dog or cat there is nothing serious to fear from contact.
4. Nappies, wipes, infant formula and baby food are readily available in the supermarkets of the larger centres.
5. Common childhood medications are readily available in local pharmacies
6. Bring a Frisbee and a ball. Your child can use these to create an instant bond with local age mates.
7. Any surplus toys will be welcomed by local children when you no longer need them
Travel in a wheelchair
Travel in a wheelchair
Both Avis and Budget rent cars for disabled drivers and passengers. These are special hires that have to be booked through their offices in South Africa. So if you need a car something suitable may be available.
But touring Botswana is not straightforward for those in a wheelchair. Disabled facilities of any kind are few and far between. Even government buildings in the major towns are often difficult to access. Few hotels and guesthouses provide wheel-in showers and travelling to remote locations by small plane, boat or 4×4 vehicle can be very challenging.
Having said this, travel in a wheelchair is not impossible. For sure, there are rough kerbs and pavements, sandy patches, and ubiquitous steps at shop doorways. But there are plenty of disabled local people. They can keep mobile because of the unfailing courtesy of their fellow countrymen. If someone can’t get up a step into a shop someone else will immediately come forward to help. The same courtesy will be extended to any disabled traveller. If you are willing to accept the help of bystanders it will be freely given. Nothing will be expected in return beyond a smile. Having said this, few would want to be entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers, and it might be better to travel with an able-bodied companion.
There are a handful of tour operators and accommodations that do cater specifically for disabled people. Endeavour Safaris, for example, provide specially modified 4×4 vehicles in which your wheelchair can be strapped to the floor – and so you can get both yourself and your wheelchair out into the big national parks.
Figure 34: Special needs safaris in Botswana. Picture credit Botswana footprints.com
Those tourist operators that don’t specifically cater for disabled guests will make great efforts to accommodate your needs regardless. And so will we. If you want to tour Botswana by car with a wheelchair it won’t be easy but it can be done, and we will help.
The word hiking means different things to different people.
If you want to do a selection of day walks as you travel around Botswana there is plenty of opportunities. You will need a day pack, a sun hat, plenty of drinking water, some snacks and a GPS unit, even if this is just an app on your phone. You will need to allow plenty of time: any locals you meet will probably want to stop and talk. and you never know what you might see along the way.
There are interesting day walks all over the country, ranging from an hour or two to whole day excursions. Some go to sensitive or protected locations and for these, you must take a guide. But for most, you can simply park your car and head off on foot. The tracks go to hilltop vantage points; dry gorges; rivers, or simply from one village to another. Most tracks weren’t made for tourists: they are trails that local people have used for a very long time.
The trails are usually neither advertised nor well marked, so local knowledge is essential. We can help with this and have guide notes available for quite a number.
In areas frequented by lions and buffalo, parking your car and heading off on foot is not advisable. But where there are lions there will be tourist lodges, and many of these lodges offer ‘walking safaris’. These are group walks accompanied by professional wildlife guides. The guides will be armed. We haven’t yet heard of a guide needing to use his rifle. The training of guides is rigorous and the walking safari guides are at the very top of their profession. Their knowledge of animal behaviour is what will keep you safe.
Walking safaris are expensive, but they are well worth the money. There is nothing like being out in the wild in somewhere like the Moremi Game Reserve. It will sharpen all your senses.
A typical walking safari will last only a couple of hours, and you will be back to the lodge in time for a lavish morning tea having walked only a couple of kilometres.
However, it is also possible to go on organized hikes through the Okavango Delta, often combined with boating across flooded sections in a dugout canoe known as a mekoro. These hikes might last several days.
If you want to include a walking safari, whether short or long, in your itinerary please let us know and we can make some recommendations.
Figure 35: Guided walking safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Picture credit andBeyond.
In areas, without dangerous wildlife, there are several options for multi-day hikes. These are not ‘glamping’ options. You will be following rough tracks through an uninhabited country, and you will need to carry everything you need including a tent and a lot of water.
Long-distance solo or small group hiking has never been a popular activity amongst Batswana, but hiking in a group is a different story. There are a few long-distance hikes (e.g. across the Makgadikgadi Pans) organized for charity each year and these are very well patronized. Tourists are very welcome, and joining in would be a great way to meet and befriend locals.
There is plenty of attractive rock in Botswana, but in general, this is virgin territory for rock climbers. The exception is Kgale Mountain near Gaborone. This is the home ground for the local climbing club, which generally practice on one of the granite crags here each Sunday afternoon. Visiting climbers are welcome to join them.
Strangely enough, when you are climbing it is common to find highly polished holds. You would think the routes have been used for centuries. And they have. The same cracks, flakes and chimneys that we use to climb granite are also used by baboons. One of the attractions of climbing in Botswana is that you never know who else might be using the face.
Figure 36: Rock climbing in Kanye, Botswana.
If you have ever wanted to cycle with wildebeest and zebra, or along the edge of vast salt pans, then Botswana is the place to bring your mountain bike. We cannot supply bicycles, but may be able to rent you a cycle rack: ask if you need one.
Mountain biking has an enthusiastic following amongst young urban Batswana. As a consequence bikes and cycling equipment are easily purchased in Gaborone. It is advisable to get tubeless tyres for your bikes due to the nature of the thorny undergrowth in parts of the roads. There are some interesting cycling opportunities available near the city. But except for the major wildlife areas in the north of the country there are mountain biking opportunities almost everywhere. As with walking tracks, these are usually not advertised or marketed. We can provide guide notes to some interesting rides throughout the country.
In the major wildlife areas, there are opportunities for guided cycling safaris. In general, the safari operators will supply bicycles. Typically you will cycle from camp to camp, but sometimes a support vehicle will be used and tents will be set up before your arrival each day.
There are also wildlife reserves without lions, buffalo and elephants. In some of these, you can cycle the tracks at your own pace and without a guide. So if you want to include some cycling in your itinerary make sure you let us know.
Figure 37: Cycle Mashatu Mountain Bike Safaris. Picture Credit mtbsafaris.com
Horseback safaris have been popular in Botswana for many decades. Being on horseback allows you to see over the long grass and scrub, and most game animals don’t perceive a mounted rider as a threat. A well-schooled horse can get you right up to a herd of antelope or elephants. Northern Botswana is ideal terrain for horses and offers some of the best horse riding adventures on the African continent.
These horseback safaris are often multi-day excursions. You will ride from camp to camp, spending 4 to 6 hours per day in the saddle, and you will be accompanied by knowledgeable guides. At the end of the day’s ride, there will be someone else to look after your horse whilst you head off to a bar well-stocked with cold drinks, and later a sumptuous dinner. These excursions are expensive but well worthwhile for a riding enthusiast.
For self-drive tourists with a more tender seat, there are other opportunities to become involved with both horses and donkeys. There will be opportunities to spend half a day on horseback now and then as you travel: ask us if you wish to include horse riding in your itinerary.
Donkey carts are ubiquitous. Many farmers use a donkey cart as their main mode of travel and use their carts daily to transport water to their cattle. They would welcome some company. If you would like to have a ride on a donkey cart and the opportunity to see what goes on at a traditional cattle post we can easily organize this for you.
Figure 38: Safari horse riding at Maun, Botswana.
Ziplining as an action filled-recreational activity is not a very common activity in Botswana as a result few places offer it. However, should you visit and want to go zip lining as an individual or a group we can organise that.
Zip lining can be done in all seasons of the year in Botswana. Both adults and children above the age of 12 can partake in this activity. If you have plans to go zip lining while in Botswana, there is no need for you to bring your equipment such as helmet, gloves, seat, and chest harness. All the required safety equipment will be provided for by the company where you will go for zip lining. So if zip lining is part of your Botswana bucket list, let us know so that we include it in your itinerary.
Figure 39:Zip lining at Big Valley Game Lodge, in the outskirts of Lobatse, Botswana. Photo credit bigvalleylodge.com.
Hot Air Balloon
Botswana has so many beautiful landmarks that you will come across when you are driving. Some of the views cannot be seen when driving therefore hot air balloons come in handy if you want to get a great view of the area you are in. Hot air balloons are not very common in Botswana, however, some places in the northwestern part of the country offer them.
Hot air ballooning is an all-year activity in Botswana and you will have a chance to get a great panoramic view of the wildlife depending on where you are in Botswana. You will also have a great scenic view of the area where you are. Hot air balloon rides are available for individuals and couples. Children above the age of 12 can also go on these scenic flights.
Figure 40: Hot air balloon in the Okavango Delta, Botswana by Airventures Okavango Balloon Safaris. Picture credit okavangoballooning.com
The major centres and even some villages have golf courses. Some of the courses are verdant, manicured havens with clubs for hire, resident professionals, and air-conditioned clubrooms. Others are more rustic and have zebra and elephant dung on the greens. Our favourite is in the village of Sowa. It is a full 18 hole course which you will usually have to yourself along with a few animals. The green fees can’t be beaten, but you will need to bring your clubs. The clubhouse has a plentiful supply of cold beer.
If you want to play a round of golf on your travels please let us know.
Figure 41: Golf course in Gaborone, Botswana. Picture credit, Botswana Tourism Organisation.
The Botswana Golf Union has 10 affiliated clubs, of which the Lobatse Golf Club is the smallest with just 4 members at last count. The heyday of the Lobatse Golf Club was in the 1950’s and 1960s. Lobatse was an important administrative and commercial centre prior to the construction of Gaborone, and there was a sizable expatriate community. There was never enough water to produce proper greens, so the greens were ‘browns’, sprayed with used oil. The small, thatched clubhouse was very popular and there were plenty of eager caddies.
The club still doesn’t have sufficient water to produce proper greens, but nowadays the most critical shortage is of players. The golf course is immediately behind the stadium. However, the actual access road to the golf course main entrance is not always suitable for 2wheel drive vehicles, so, depending on the conditions you may have to leave your car near the Stadium entrance and walk across the course. The security guards at the stadium entrance gate may be able to provide directions and information on the current state of the access road if you wish to drive the whole way.
There is no point in going to the course on the off chance of finding players in the clubhouse or of being able to hire clubs. But if there is an on-going tournament all are welcome to play, and you are guaranteed to have an interesting and memorable experience. If you have your own clubs and just want to play a round you are very welcome.
Even though most of the country is covered in the Kalahari sands, there are two yachting clubs, and places where it is possible to rent kayaks. The opportunities for boating are of course dependent on water levels, and these are difficult to predict in advance.
Several companies offer guided kayaking excursions in the Okavango Panhandle and Okavango Delta – the longest excursion offered is a 10-day paddle from the Namibian border to Maun. The excitement of kayaking in the delta comes not from white water, but rather from sharing the waterways with the wildlife.
Figure 42: Kayaking safaris in the Okavango Delta, Botswana offered by Kayaktive Adventure Safaris. Picture credit kayakbotswana.com
Outside the Okavango, there is less water, but there are still opportunities for kayaking. If you are keen to include a little paddling in your itinerary we will see what we can do.
Every village in Botswana has a football ground. If you see a game in progress feel free to stop and mingle with the spectators. Someone will be pleased to explain who is playing. There is also a national league which is keenly followed. Games are broadcast on Botswana Television, and they also attract good crowds in venues like the modern Obedi Itani Chilume stadium in Francistown. Crowds are invariably polite and good-humoured.
Figure 43: Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown, Botswana.
Other popular team sports are netball, cricket and volleyball, and the country currently fields three rugby teams. All of these sporting codes are pleased to welcome tourists to their games. If you would like to include a sports match in your travels be sure to tell us.
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