The diversity of Botswana is truly spectacular. With a relatively short light aircraft flight you can hop from the incredibly lush wetlands of the Okavango Delta, where the seasonal and year round waterways are filled with islands, to the arid expanses of sands and salt pans in the Kalahari Desert. The landscapes change significantly in colour, but also in the types and concentration of their plantlife, and in the kinds of bird, mammal, insect, and reptile species which live there. In fact, it can be hard to believe that places as distinct as the Linyanti Channel and the Makgadikgadi Pans are actually both in the same country.
It is the Okavango Delta which first springs to mind when people think about Botswana. Often referred to as “Africa’s last Eden”, the Okavango was the 1,000th site to be inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Unusually, the watery landscape is not the result of rainfall, but rather waters flowing down the Okavango River from mountains in Angola. The food here is bountiful, enabling an estimated 200,000 large mammals to make their home here, including 30,000 elephant and buffalo. The number of birds is uncountable, but more than 400 different species have been recorded.
The contrast between the Okavango Delta and the arid Kalahari is stark. If it weren’t for the river, all of Botswana would be a desert landscape. Technically, it is a semi desert as it occasionally gets some rain, but both the plants and animals which exist here have had to adapt to the very low moisture levels. There’s no doubt that this is a dramatic landscape. The red earth gives way to salty white pans; an occasional acacia tree stands tall above the grasslands. On a game drive or quad bike adventure you can see for miles, racing towards the horizon, then finding a relative highpoint to stop and watch the sun go down.