PERSONS PER SQUARE KILOMETER
The Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country in southern Africa, neighboring Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. It is predominantly flat with only a few hilly areas.
The Kalahari Desert blankets the southwest of the country, while The Okavango Delta stands out as a thriving oasis in the north of the country – one of the world’s largest inland deltas.
Between these, in the north-central area are the Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the largest salt flats in the world. The pan is all that remains of enormous Lake Makgadikgadi, which once covered an area larger than Switzerland, but dried up several thousand years ago. This large seasonal wetland is composed of several large component pans, the largest being Nwetwe Pan, Sua Pan and Nxai Pan.
Botswana’s lowest elevation point is at the junction of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, at a height of 513 and its highest point is at Tsodilo Hill, at 1,490m.
The country is divided into four drainage regions, which are sometimes indistinct due to the arid nature of the climate. The Chobe River forms the border with the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, together with the adjacent swampy area, is part of the Zambezi basin. Most of the north and central region of the country is part of the Okavango inland drainage basin.
The easternmost part of the country falls into the Limpopo drainage basin and the southern and southwestern regions, which are the driest of all, are drained by the Molopo river along the South African border and the Nossob river through the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, and are technically part of the basin of the Orange River. But these rivers hardly ever reach the Orange river before they dry out, the last recorded occurrence was in the 1880s. Besides the Chobe, Okavango, Boteti and Limpopo rivers, most of Botswana’s rivers cease to flow during the dry and early rainy seasons.
In 1837, the Afrikaners were the first ones who took the current Botswana into their hands. The former Bechuanaland became part of the British protectorate in 1885, which lasted till 1966. Some years before the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was established and won the first elections. Bechuanaland became independent 30 September 1966, and Seretse Khama became first president. Bechuanaland became The Republic of Botswana, a parliament democracy.
After the death of Seretse Khama, he was succeeded by Ketumile Masire and Botswana became member of the SADCC (South African Development Coordination Conference). In 1998 Ketumile Masire is succeeded by Festus Gontebanye Mogae. He keeps this position until 2008, followed Ian Khama until 2018, with Mokgweetsi Masisi as the current president (2019).
Botswana’s climate differs per region and is heavily dependent on localized rainfall. The rainfall varies in the inlands from around 200 mm per year, while in the north this can be more than 640 mm per year. Overall, Botswana has a subtropical climate, but there can be long dry periods.
Currently, Botswana has a population of 2.3 million (2019). Botswana is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries with a population density of just 4 people per square kilometer. The former British protectorate Bechuanaland adapted the current name after independence in 1966. The capital and largest city of the country is Gaborone.
The population of Botswana is composed of mainly the Tswana (79%), an ethnical group who speak Tswana, a Bantu language. This population is divided into eight main subgroups. There are also small numbers of Kalanga (11%), Basarwa (3%), Kgalagadi and a relatively small number of Caucasians. Even though English is the official language, the local Tswana language is commonly used.
The local currency is the Botswana Pula (BWP). Pula means ‘rain’ in the Setswana language. One Pula is worth one-hundred Thebe, which means ‘shield’. The coins available are: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 Thebe and 1 and 2 Pula. The available notes are 10, 20, 50 and 100 Pula. Up until 1920, the Pound Sterling was used in Botswana, which was followed by the South African Pound. Finally, in 1976 the Pula was introduced.
For your daily expenses it is always important to have a wallet with smaller bills and keep the rest of your cash separated and out of sight. Especially when you spend several days in more remote areas, like wild parks, ensure you have enough cash on you.
Furthermore, it is recommended to take a ‘mix’ of means for payment, including cash, a world card and a credit card (VISA or MasterCard). There can always be a case in which you cannot pay with your normal debit card. E.g. you need a credit card to rent your car. Also, we recommend having American Dollars with you for emergencies, which you might also need when crossing the border to Zimbabwe.
There are plenty of ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) in the larger destinations of Botswana. Remember that for every transaction you will be charged additional banking fees. Also do not forget to change the security settings of your bankcards to ‘Worldwide’ if necessary – ask your local bank for instructions.
The natural division of vegetation in Botswana depends strongly on the rainfall. The largest part of Botswana is savannah with only small parts of denser vegetation. The most common trees are the Acacia and Mopane trees. The largest forests can be found in the north, at the shores of the Chobe river. Botswana is known for its large diversity in animals, the most African wild species can be found here. The country hosts around 164 different types of mammals, 157 kinds of reptiles, 80 varieties of fish, 550 kinds of birds and countless sorts of insects.
The government has reserved thousands of square kilometers as protected areas. Some of these protected areas are the Chobe National Park in the north, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park at the border to South Africa.
The official language is English, besides many different local languages, such as Mbukushu, Naro, Subiya, Tswana, Kalanga, Afrikaans, Herero and Birwa.
You do not need to apply for a visa for Botswana and/or Namibia (for most countries of origin), for a visit of less than 90 days. However, in either case ensure that you have:
– A passport with validity of minimum 6 months
– A proof of owning sufficient financial resources
– A proof for the first destination after arrival
– A proof of a return ticket or to the next destination after your holiday
– An original unabridged birth certificate when travelling with children under the age of 18
For Botswana and Namibia, recommended vaccinations are DTP, and vaccination against hepatitis A. Malaria does occur in Botswana, therefore ask your local health services for the most updated advice on vaccinations and preventative care. When coming from a yellow fever area, a yellow fever vaccination is also compulsory.
For the biggest part of the population, small-scale agriculture and stockbreeding is the most important source of income. In most cases, only a few people of a large family have a paid job. The rest takes care of the farm. The country’s water shortage, and a continuous lack of facilities have delayed agricultural growth. Only a small part of the country is cultivated. Around the time of independence, the only minerals found in Botswana were manganese, gold and asbestos. .
Since then, large nickel and copper sources have been found, as well as salt. There are also huge coal mines, sources of Antimony, Sulphur, Plutonium and Platin. The three diamond mines are the most important for local economy. These mines represent one of the larges diamond reserves in the world.
The large number of wild game parks attract many tourists and are therefore also a significant source of income. Especially the Okavango Delta is internationally famous, a river that is swallowed by the Kalahari Desert, and therefore creates an enormous and unique natural phenomenon.
Botswana is a parliamentary republic, with multiple parties, that operates under the constitution of 1966. The country is headed by a president, who head of state as well as leader of government, and serves for a period of 5 years. The current president (2019) is Mokgweetsi Masisi (party: Botswana Democratic Party). The government consists of two Chambers: one House of Chiefs, which consists of 15 seats and where the most important tribe leaders hold position.
The second one is the National Assembly, which consists of 47 seats (40 chosen, 7 named by the president) with a term of office of 5 years. The most important politic parties are the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and the Botswana Independence Party (BIP).