Posted on | August 8, 2009 | 4,400 Comments
You may be wondering if a Botswana vacation is the right use of your precious travel fund. Everyone is into their own thing and everything looks awesome in a guide-book or on a travel-agency website. When deciding whether to holiday in Botswana, ask yourself these questions:
Are you the type of person who…
1. Loves Wildlife? – If you want to view African wildlife, there is no better destination than Botswana. With 45% of the country covered by National Parks, a low human population density, and the largest concentration of elephants in the world, Botswana is a wildlife-enthusiasts dream. Botswana is home to most of the well-known African animals (including the fabled “Big Five”) and up-close-and-personal encounters are almost guaranteed. It is not uncommon for visitors to see numerous predators, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas along with abundant elephants, hippos, and many species of antelope.
2. Values Political Stability? – Since independence in 1966, Botswana has been a very peaceful country. It was ranked the most peaceful African country in the 2009 Global Peace Index. It is an African democratic success story, which is why most of the world hasn’t heard much about it. Elections are carried out peacefully, there is a strong rule of law, and the inhabitants of the land, the Tswana and San mostly, are from traditionally peaceful cultures, a refreshing change for Africa. Travelers in Botswana do not need to worry about the safety concerns of other African nations, such as violent crime, terrorism, and rampant corruption. Botswana has a zero-tolerance policy on corruption, which has eliminated the uncomfortable situation of paying bribes, a familiar occurrence for frequent travelers to Africa.
3. Enjoys the Wilderness? – Botswana is not a zoo. Even the luxury lodges have limited control over the environment. Elephants drinking from the swimming pool is not uncommon. Likewise, there are vast stretches of uninhabited land in Botswana where a traveler may not encounter another person for days. The exhilaration of vast spaces and connection with nature is intoxicating, but can also be unnerving. When driving yourself it can be stressful – when part of a guided tour it can be freeing. If you like the great outdoors and escaping civilization, Botswana may be your ultimate vacation.
4. Can adapt to adverse situations? – Even the highest-priced guided tour or luxury lodge vacation will come with unplanned adversity and problems. If you see these situations as an adventure (like when your Air Botswana flight loses your luggage with no option of retrieving it until the end of your trip), you will love your stay in Botswana. While it will often seem as if everything is running smoothly, a small problem can often lead to disaster. From airline delays to car troubles to unexpected weather, anything can happen to throw a wrench into your plans. However, I have no shortage of stories of adversity that, while stressful at the time, turned out well and lead to a fantastic vacation in the end.
5. Knows what they want? – There are many options for the traveler in Botswana. From primitive camping to unlimited luxury, anything on any budget is possible. The worst way to travel is not to know your budget, limits, and preferences. For instance, I’ve had visitors go on safari with me who claimed to love camping and the outdoors only to spend the entire trip complaining about putting up the tent, dirt on their bags, and getting up early. I’m not sure what they were expecting when they proclaimed their love for camping, but what I learned from that experience is it is very important to be honest with yourself when you plan your trip. If you don’t want to rough it, then don’t camp! If you want to see as much as possible of the country, then accept you’ll spend much of your time in a vehicle! It is important to know what you want out of your trip and choose accordingly.
6. Has a lot of time on your hands? – While there are 7 day safaris that are awesome, I have a hard time recommending anyone visit Botswana with less than 2 weeks to spend in the country. Unless you plan on coming back, or you have no way to visit but to do a short trip, plan to spend at least 2 weeks in the country, the more the better. The reason is the transit times. For one, it will usually take the better part of 2 days to get to Botswana from Europe or the United States due to the length of your flight to Africa and the limitations of the Air Botswana flight schedule. So plan on at least 4 days just getting there and back. Once you are in Botswana, travel is often on very poor dirt roads (since this is where the wildlife is) making travel slow. Even on the tarmac roads, distances are vast and much time is spent just getting somewhere. Plus, when you are on safari, you don’t want to ever say “We can’t stop and look at those lions now sweetie, we’re late getting to our campsite”.
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may wish to take a moment to think if Botswana is the right holiday location for you. It may be a great opportunity to go out of your comfort-zone and try something new, but be sure to prepare yourself for adversity and know what you want.