Geography in Botswana
Botswana is located in the center of the South African continent and is surrounded by Namibia to the north and west, South Africa to the south and southwest, and Zimbabwe to the east. Most of the 582,000 km² land area lies on relatively flat highlands with an average elevation of approx. 1000 m above sea level and is occupied by the steppes and savannas of the semi-deserts, in the south and southwest of the Kalahari. The highest mountain is 1494 meters above sea level. NN. Monalanong Hill, southwest of the capital Gaborone.
In the northwest is the depression of the Okavango Delta, into which the Okavango River drains the northern mountains of Zambia and Angola. Due to the heat and drought, however, there is no year-round water surface in this depression, but only periodic flooding with subsequent silting and drying of the areas further away from the estuary, which in this area has produced creatures that are uniquely adapted to such conditions. Due to the complex hydrology of the delta system, there is a tide delay that protects central parts of the delta from drying out during the low-precipitation season.
The other larger receiving waters such as the Limpopo in the south and the Cuando and Zambezi in the north partially form the national borders of Botswana.
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Flora and fauna in Botswana
Steppes, thorn and bush savannahs, dry wood forests and the semi-desert of the Kalahari determine the landscape of Botswana on four fifths of the country’s area. To the north-east of the center of the country are the extensive salt pan areas of Makgadikgadi, which are predominantly vegetation-free Saz deserts, but during the rainy seasons can periodically develop existing waters and then form points of attraction for numerous bird species. The edges of the salt pans are covered with grass savannahs.
Further north extends the Okavango Delta and the wetland around the Chobe River. The vegetation here forms dense papyrus and evergreen forests along the permanently flooded swamps, canals and lakes. In the periodically flooded areas, due to the special living conditions, a very unique vegetation has developed, ranging from colorfully blooming water lilies to salt-tolerant halophytes on some islands with increased salt concentration in the soil. Frequent plants in the less flooded areas are the Makalani palm, various Ficus species and the liver sausage tree. A total of over 1300 plant species have already been identified in the Okavango Delta.
Large parts of the African animal world are represented in Botswana. The “Big Five” lion, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo and leopard are indigenous to Botswana as are countless other African animal species. These include the eland, wildebeest or springbok, cheetahs and rare African wild dogs, striped hyenas, hippos, reptiles, jackals, springboks and of course the zebra, which is also featured in Botswana’s national coat of arms. In addition, 500 bird species are at home in Botswana, such as the African ostrich, stork and flamingos.
National parks and nature conservation in Botswana
Botswana protects the considerable biodiversity of living beings by placing more than 40 percent of the country’s area under nature protection, which is unique in the world. The main national parks in Botswana are:
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Central Kalahari Wildlife Park in Botswana is the largest national park in Botswana and, with an area of almost 53,000 km², is larger than Switzerland. The vegetation consists of large trees, bushes, grass and sand dunes and the dry desert, which, far from any mass tourism, is a special experience for individual and adventure travelers. A wide variety of wild animals such as wildebeest, giraffes and herds of springboks and gourmets cavort here. From far away you can hear the roar of the Kalahari lion, a “musthear” on every trip to Botswana. The reserve is also the home of the San. These African natives have been living here in the southern part of Africa for around 25.00 years. For tourists there is the possibility to stay in simple or luxurious accommodations.
Okavango Delta World Natural Heritage
The Okavango Delta has been under the special protection of the Unesco World Natural Heritage since 2014. With an area of approximately 20,300 km², the Okavango Delta is Botswana’s second largest nature reserve. The nature park includes the well-known Moremi game reserve which takes up a third of the delta area. The delta, which in the geographical sense actually represents a swimming fan, is the largest inland delta in the world and not only provides swampy landscapes, but also a unique flora and fauna in an environment characterized by periodic floods and complete drying out.
Hippos, crocodiles, various species of antelope, buffalo, elephant and wildebeest cavort here, which also attract hyenas, leopards and lions due to their high population density.
The few, heavily regulated accommodations in the Okavango Delta are mostly luxury lodges and can often only be reached by plane or via adventurous game trails. Self-catering camping is also available.
The Okavango Delta is also part of the cross-border protected area Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Chobe National Park
Northeast of the Okavango Delta, the Chobe National Park joins the floodplains of the river of the same name as the third largest national park in Botswana with an area of almost 10,000 km². The park contains four ecosystems. In the north is the only larger, contiguous forest area of Botswana. In the west as in the center of the park there is a large dry savannah. Here you can see the largest elephant population in Botswana.
The south of the Chobe National Park is occupied by the well-known Savuti wetland and the Linyanti swamps. The Savuti region is known for its annual animal migrations. Wildebeest, impalas, kudu and zebras and various predators roam the country here. Much of nature is still very original and untouched.
The Khutse Game Reserve
The dry landscape of the Khutse Wildlife Park connects to the south of the area of the Central Kalahari Wildlife Park. Many different animal species and birds have settled in spite of the dry and vegetation-poor landscape. Wildebeest, antelopes, jackals, leopards, cheetahs and lions roam the savannah landscape. The vegetation here includes acacia, black and buffalo thorn, white-stem boscia and the camphor bush. The animals can best be observed in the area of the few water holes.