Following Botswana’s independence in 1966, Gabarone was planned and built in order to become the capital city. It is well organised with a distinct city centre and residential areas. There are a few shopping malls dotted outside of the centre, which dilutes the rigid structure of the city somewhat but Gabarone remains generally safe, clean and functional.
Today, Gabarone is home to around a quarter of a million people and is arranged into different sections called Blocks or Extensions. However, most of these segments have earned nicknames, which can be confusing to first time visitors so check with the locals if you are not sure.
Kasane is a well-known town en route to Botswana’s big attractions such as Chobe National Park, the Okavango and Linyanti. This small town is located on the banks of the Chobe River, close to the meeting place of four continents – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, and two rivers – the Chobe and Zambezi. It is an unremarkable place although it is in a prime position as a base from which to cross over into either Zambia or Zimbabwe in order to get to Victoria Falls.
Francistown is located in the fertile hinterland of Eastern Botswana and is a centre for agricultural services in the area. Located on the crossroads between important tourist areas and major cities, Francistown is a busy light industrial, textile, leather manufacturing and retail hub.
Tourism is big business in Chobe but conservation is everyone’s business.
Human activity can have disastrous effects on sensitive ecosystems and species if allowed to continue unchecked and unsupervised. The Chobe Wildlife Trust (CWT) is a non-profit organization formed in 1988, in order to assist in conserving the assets of Chobe National Park and its immediate surroundings. Working alongside Government agencies, NGOs, Community Based Organisations, and the tourism industry, CWT is committed to promoting research and educating the public on environmental awareness and conservation management.
Many of the locals in Botswana live in wildlife areas and CWT focuses on enlightening them with regard to making nature conservation a way of life and ways in which man and nature can cooperate to ensure the survival of all species in an environment, including humans. One of the main focuses of conservationists worldwide is the preservation of the rhino and both the black and white rhino populations in Southern Africa have suffered heavy blows from poaching activity recently. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary was established in Botswana as early as 1992 and is heavily supported by CWT. Encompassing 4300 hectares of Kalahari sandveld, the sanctuary provides refuge for both species of rhino, along with a number of species of other animals and birds. The Sanctuary is a community effort, and the locals benefit financially from tourist activity in the reserve.
Throughout Africa this has proven to be a recipe for conservation success, and 16 rhinos, the produce of this project, have been transferred out of the sanctuary to other parks over the years. Consistent poaching patrols are carried out in the reserve in order to keep an eye on the rhino population by the park rangers as well as the Botswana Defence Force, which enables the animals to roam freely within the confines of the park. In line with CWT’s aims, one of the most important and successful aspects of the Khama is their education centre, where students can spend time amongst the animals learning about nature conservation. In this way, a culture of conservation is fostered amongst the youth, ensuring a brighter future for all.
A guided day trip to Victoria Falls town and its world famous landmark, Victoria Falls, is a worthwhile addition to any African itinerary.
Upon arrival, head straight to the end of town toward the Forest Walk that has been carved out of the rainforest to showcase the most impressive views of the magnificent Victoria Falls. If you are early enough, you may even catch the last rays of sunrise casting a pink hue on the plumes of spray from the waterfall. The trail meanders through a wonderland of exotic plants through a rain of mist from the falls, with each viewpoint both better and wetter than the one before.
‘Chain Walk’ provides breath-taking views of Devils’ Cataract at the lowest point of the Falls and Boiling Pot, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls and Livingstone Island will also be revealed en route. Your guide will fill you in on all the historical details and interesting folklore surrounding this Natural Wonder along the way.
Once you have taken advantage of every possible photo opportunity it is time to enjoy a traditional Zimbabwean lunch. The Mama Africa Eating House is a good choice for traditional Shona dishes and decadent puddings against a background of live jazz music. Another option is the Rainforest Restaurant at the entrance to the falls. Here you can have a selection of salads, health wraps, burgers or freshly caught fish.
After lunch your tour resumes with a visit to the open-air craft market where you will need to ‘bring your game’ with regard to bargaining and bartering. The market is filled with carvings of green malachite, animal figures carved from wood, spoons, masks, jewellery boxes, walking sticks, bangles and so on, and each stallholder will have you believing that his deal is the best – they can be quite insistent. Negotiations on price are the norm here and bartering is commonplace. T-shirts and shoes are hard to obtain in the area and are acceptable currency in the market.
If you can tear yourself away from this bargain-hunters heaven, you can explore some of the town before meeting your transfer back to Cresta Mowana.
Chobe is a chocolate-box for the avid photographer, providing delightful opportunities for fame and glory on the photographic front. Wildlife in all its forms is abundant here and the landscapes are just picture perfect. Although a self-drive or package safari will provide you with plenty of photo opportunities, you should consider embarking on a specialised photographic safari if you are serious about your shots.
A quick consultation with your internet search provider will reveal a variety of photographic safari operators to choose from in Chobe and there are a number of factors you should consider before deciding:
reputation : consult reviews from previous guests to determine their levels of satisfaction
level of expertise required, you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of novices
Chobe National Park takes its name from the river which borders Botswana and Namibia and lies along this boundary on the Botswana side. Apart from thousands of elephants, Chobe is home to a high concentration and large variety of other game species, supported by several habitats including mopane and baobab trees, acacia woodlands and verdant flood plains.
These habitats are divided into four distinct and ecosystems:
In the beginning, as is often the case in Africa, there were only the San Bushmen. These nomadic folk were simple hunter gatherers wandering the plains of Africa in search of sustenance. Being nomadic, they eventually moved on, leaving a legacy of rock art behind in the hills of Chobe National Park.
The pristine wilderness stayed relatively undisturbed until the never-ending sprawl of civilization, however basic, arrived in the beginning of the twentieth century. A this point, the region was divided into various land tenure systems, most of it classified as crown land, meaning that it belonged to the queen to do with as she pleased.
Try a different approach to game and bird viewing while in Chobe. The river, from which the park takes its name, offers a fascinating grandstand view of life on and off the shores of this beautiful watercourse. From your discreet seats on board a mokoro, you can view animals coming down to drink undisturbed, watch the elephants playing in the water and sneak up on great floating groups of hippos, without causing them annoyance. Your experienced poler, as the oarsmen are called, would have grown up paddling on this river and will ensure that you are always well out of harm’s reach.
The mokoro itself originates from the tropical rainforests and woodlands of this area, and would have been carved from the very trees which overlook your stately passage. Large straight ebony, kigelia or teak trees are selected to fashion the mokoro, based on their strength and durability. Once the selected specimen has been felled, the trunk is hollowed out and smoothed and moulded to make a canoe-like vessel. Due to the depletion of these forests in recent times, you may have to settle for a modern day fibreglass canoe instead of a traditional mokoro, but the wildlife don’t seem to notice the difference and, as long as the craft is silent and maneuverable, the experience is just as enjoyable as when aboard the real thing.
A canoe trail on the Chobe river is an exciting adventure for two and, although it is intimidating to encounter hippos close-up on their own turf, the only real danger is crocodiles. Hippos rarely attack mokoros, as they are used to these unobtrusive craft, and your poler will go out of their way to avoid croc’s, as he is ‘in the same boat’ after all. Any apprehension you experience will be more outweighed by the brilliant birding, unparalleled game viewing and outstanding photographic opportunities to be enjoyed aboard a mokoro on the Chobe River.
Chobe is a wonderful place for creating lasting memories on your honeymoon. Imagine the romance of dining under African skies alight with thousands of glittering stars, surrounded by the soothing night sounds of the African bush. Imagine the joy at discovering the marvels of true wilderness together, the luxury of soft linen and downy pillows with canvas overhead and the promise of the brilliant African sunrise on Africa’s most beautiful river.
Attentive, discrete staff will see to it that your every whim is pandered to, and you will be swept off your feet by the outstanding levels of service in this seemingly isolated place. Fine wines and sumptuous dining are laid on as a matter of course, with some local specialities to fascinate your palate. Local dancers and drummers perform on occasion, adding a festive flair to your dining experience. A wide range of activities, both sedentary and otherwise are available at Chobe’s selection of resorts.
Drift along in contemplation aboard a traditional mokoro in the beautiful Chobe River or join in a sunset cruise and make some new friends. You can take part in an elephant encounter and get to know more about these gentle giants, or simply relax alongside the sparkling pool with chattering songbirds overhead. Game viewing is a daily occurrence and you are sure to experience some unforgettable sightings amongst Chobe’s wealth of species. Walking tours and cultural excursions can also be organised. Breath-taking scenery and photographic opportunities will fill your days, and at night you can be assured of the finest and most luxurious accommodation, total rest and ultimate relaxation.