Detailed Map

Full Name
Republic of Botswana

Area
569,582 sq km

Capital City
Gabarone

People
60%, Bakalanga, Basarwa, Bakgalagadi

Languages
English, Setswana

Government
Parliamentary Republic

President
Festus Mogae

Prime Minister
Pascoal Mocumbi

Beyond the narrow eastern corridor where the majority of the population is concentrated, Botswana is a largely road less wilderness of savannas, deserts, wetlands and salt pans.

It's bounded on the south by South Africa, which lies across the Limpopo and Molopo Rivers. In the north-east is Zimbabwe, while Namibia wraps around the country's western and northern frontiers. At Kazungula in Botswana's far north, four countries - Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia - meet at a single point midstream in the Zambezi River. Botswana's landscape is almost uniformly flat - the semiarid Kalahari covers nearly 85% of the country, including the entire central and south-western regions. In the north-west, the Okavango River flows in from Namibia and soaks into the sands, creating 15,000 sq km of convoluted channels and islands that comprise the Okavango Delta.

Botswana's dry lands boast more than 70 species of snakes, including three species of spitting cobra. Poisonous boomslangs (Afrikaans for tree snake) and vine snakes are common in the Okavango, but they generally don't bother humans. Although this part of southern Africa offers an adequate sampling of LBJs ('little brown jobs'), it is also home to an array of colourful and exotic bird life. Among them are the dandified crowned crane; the gray lourie, with its sulky 'go-away' call; the stunning lilac-breasted roller; and the dour secretary bird, which trounces snakes by hopping up and down on them like a secretary banging on a typewriter. Botswana's wonderful national parks and reserves are home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including elephant, cheetah, hunting dog, leopard, hyena, giraffe, hippopotamus and zebra.

Safari means 'journey' in Swahili, and nearly everyone who visits southern Africa plans on at least one, as there's no better way to experience the region's spectacular wildlife. Usually, visitors do their spotting from a swanky 4WD and/or from a Mokoro. But it's also possible to do it on horseback rides. Most trips through the Okavango Delta include some hiking on the palm islands, and the Tsodilo Hills are particularly attractive for bush walking.