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The San were among the first human inhabitants of this region before the Setswana migrated southwards and slowly occupied the region from the 16th century onwards, until early in the 19th century. By mid-century missionaries arrived, including David Livingstone and Robert Moffat, and by 1885 the territory was a British protectorate. Botswana gained its independence in 1966 and has been the most stable democracy in Africa. The first president ruled from 1966 until his death in 1980, the second till 1994 (re-elected twice, then resigned) and the third from 1998.
The country has a strong currency with one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa, maintains a neutral international political stance. It is heavily reliant on mining (especially diamonds) & tourism and maintains close ties with its neighbor South Africa, an economic powerhouse for the region.
Wildlife is abundant in Botswana and includes lion, giraffe, leopard, antelope, elephant, crocodile and ostriches. Botswana is semiarid and has an average annual (summer) rainfall of 640 mm (about 25 in) in the north to less than 230 mm (less than 9 in) in the Kalahari. Drought is therefore not uncommon and the vegetation is mostly savannah.
Geographically Botswana is relatively flat (the average elevation of about 1000 m) and can be viewed (for all intents and purposes) as three major regions as follows:
Chobe National Park in the north, another outstanding wilderness area of enormous diversity – lion and elephant can be viewed from river cruises or 4x4 game drives.
The Okavango Delta is a vast marshland and one of the largest inland river deltas in the world – 15 000 km2 of wilderness and prime safari area. The Kalahari Desert in the central and southwestern regions occupies over half the land area of Botswana. It is a mystical, harsh and unspoiled landmass.
The saltpans of north-central Botswana and the Tuli block in the far eastern corner of Botswana are also areas of significance.
Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta and one of the best safari experiences you will have. Countless safari and air-charter operators have offices here, thus it is busy with people coming and going especially around the airport. The best time to go is during the winter months from May to October when there is little or no rainfall and the days are warm and cloudless. Nights can be cold though so take a jacket. November to April can be very hot, with most of the rainfall between December and February.
Maun has developed rapidly from a rural frontier town and has spread along the wide Thamalakane River. It now boasts good shopping centers, hotels and lodges as well as car and 4x4 vehicle hire. However, it still retains a rural atmosphere and local tribesmen still bring their cattle here to sell and you could see antelopes grazing the riverbanks.
In the centre of the Okavango Delta is the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, a 3,000 km2 paradise. Proclaimed a wildlife reserve by the Tswana people in 1963, Moremi is undoubtedly one of the world's most pristine wilderness areas. The foresight of the local community has ensured that nature has flourished undisturbed, offering a glimpse of the divine, a veritable Garden of Eden. Moremi is a place of lily-covered wetlands, grass plains and forests, where even at the busiest time of year you're likely to be the only spectators at a most dramatic animal sighting.
Moremi consists of a network of waterways surrounding two large islands, Chiefs Island in the west and Mopane Tongue in the east. The area's diverse ecosystems, riverine woodland, flood plains, wetlands and reed beds, mopane forest and dry savannah woodland are all flourishing, broken only by the occasional jeep track. This diversity of habitats provides rich pickings for an impressive variety of animals and around 550 bird species. As Moremi is a fenced reserve, game viewing is impressive throughout the year. However, the cool dry winter months from March to September are an ideal time to visit, as the chances of seeing lion, elephant, leopard, hyena, eland, kudu, roan antelope, giraffe, zebra, impala and buffalo are excellent. On the sandy riverbanks and wetlands, sightings of hippo and crocodile are commonplace.
The Okavango Delta in northern Botswana (near Maun) incorporates the Moremi Game Reserve and is a unique wildlife paradise - one of the finest in the world. It is also one of the largest inland river deltas in the world. This unsurpassed natural environment is a maze of waterways, islands and reed banks creating a perfect habitat for lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, hyena, wild dog, kudu, impala, roan, zebra, lechwe, hippo and crocodile, amongst others. There are approx 440 bird species in the delta and fish species are also abundant, including tiger fish, sharp-toothed catfish, barbell and bream.
Travel through the swamps and surrounding areas is generally done by open 4x4 game viewing vehicle or a peaceful meander in a ‘Mokoro’, a flat-bottomed dugout canoe.
The Delta is hot throughout the year with temperatures ranging from approx 14°C in January to 24°C in July. Rainfall averages 525 mm annually, but varies greatly from year to year. Water levels and flooding reach a maximum between March and July, after rains at the source and the usual 15 000 km2 can expand to approximately 22 000 km2 in high-rainfall years.