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Discover Southern Africa: Botswana

One of the most sparsely populated countries in the world and famed for its outstanding natural beauty, Botswana has a huge amount to offer tourists keen to experience an unspoilt wilderness and tranquil isolation.

The country, neighbouring South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, offers visitors a fantastic Botswana safari in the National Parks and game reserves, which contain the world’s largest concentration of African elephants. The different habitats, including grasslands, desert and the world’s largest inland delta, are home to roaming wildebeest, antelopes, endangered wild dogs and other big mammals.

As well as its natural wonders, this Southern African nation will in 2012 witness the country’s first qualification for the African Nations Cup. The excitement within the country for the national team’s greatest achievement is sure to be phenomenal.

Independent since 1966, Botswana has become one of the fastest-developing nations in the world and has also enjoyed stable democratic rule for more than forty years. The rise in national GDP over this period is considered an economic miracle, with income per person jumping from $70 to $14,000. Almost three-quarters of the country is covered by the Kalahari Desert. The rest includes rolling vast grasslands, salt flats and the Limpopo River Basin. These fantastic habitats contain a number of nature reserves. The Okavango Delta region in the north of the country is the Africa that holiday-makers dream about. A journey to this area involves crossing wetlands and dense forests rich in wildlife. In this region alone there are 122 species of mammals, 444 species of birds and 64 species of reptiles. Animals are protected in the Moremi Game Reserve, which in 2008 was voted Africa’s best reserve.

To the North East of Moremi, the Chobe National Park, on the banks of the Chobe River, provides a home for many roaming elephants. The most easily accessible of Botswana’s wildlife parks, Chobe encompasses swamps, floodplains and woodlands in its 11,700 sq km.

In central Botswana, holiday makers can follow in the footsteps of Dr Livingstone and traverse the Makgadikgadi, part of the Kalahari Basin. The vast arid grasslands attract flamingos and mass zebra migrations and also contain trees that some say are 3,000 years old.

Eastern Botswana provides a view into the rich history of this nation. Francistown, the country’s oldest settlement, was the heart of the region’s gold rush in the 19th century. In fact, its name comes from a British prospector, Daniel Francis and the town is encircled by ancient mines. Colourful local markets dot the city and pleasant, peaceful parks provide respite. There is a lively nightlife, complete with local music and dance.

The capital Gaborone, where the population will soon celebrate their entry into international football, is a modern cosmopolitan city. In contrast to the remote isolation of northern Botswana, the city provides all the modern amenities one would expect, including malls and luxury hotels.

In short, Botswana is a lesser-known but beautiful alternative to its larger, more boisterous neighbour, South Africa. It has everything a traveller might want, from truly awe-inspiring natural wilderness to large, bustling cities.

This guest post was contributed by Leyla, an aspiring blogger with a passion for exotic travel. She is currently working on behalf of Tribes Travel, an award-winning fair trade company specialising in independent, tailor-made travel.

Image by Greenwich Photography