Botswana: Spectacular Wildlife
If you have never been on a safari before, you should definitely put it on your list of “Things I absolutely must do before I die”. ‘Why?’, might you ask. The answer is simple. It will give you the chance to mingle with an incredible variety of exciting animals: elephants, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, and the list goes on. Watching them in their element allows you to become familiar with the personalities and behaviours of each species. Sometimes they can be so close, you could actually reach out of the vehicle and touch them if you were foolish enough to do so (not recommended). Go on a safari and prepare to be blown away by the whole immersive wildlife experience!
Africa, in general, is incomparable to any continent in terms of abundance of large land mammals. Botswana, in particular, is a game watching paradise. Here you will get the opportunity to see all the animals that make up the so-called Big Five: lions, African elephants, Cape buffalos, leopards, and rhinos. This country is absolutely swarming with elephants : their population is currently estimated at 120,000. However, the last two in the Big Five can prove to be somewhat elusive: rhinos have been teetering on a brink of extinction recently (although the situation has improved in the last few years), and leopards are usually quite difficult to track down.
Botswana is a landlocked, sparsely populated country dominated by the Kalahari desert, which makes up almost 80 per cent of the total land area. The open plains of savannas and grasslands are teeming with a vast diversity of land mammals that, in addition to the Big Five I have already mentioned, include cheetahs, hippos, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, blue wildebeest, antelopes, springbok, etc. Botswana also has a large number of endangered African wild dogs. You have the opportunity to see animals going about their normal, daily lives: elephants greedily eating large amounts of leaves and tearing tree bark, leaving a trail of destruction; lions lounging in the shade after a meaty feast; wild dogs stalking their prey; male cheetahs marking their territories; zebras and giraffes grazing together; and, as darkness falls, hyenas producing their spine-chilling howls.
The cheetah is my all-time favourite animal, and Botswana is one of the best places to see it. This large feline is incredibly graceful. Watching it on the move is a mesmerising experience, whether it’s walking at a leisurely pace looking for some shade, or chasing an antelope at what feels like nearly the speed of light. It is the fastest land animal on earth, and can reach speeds of up to 120km/h in seconds!! Cheetahs are daytime hunters with sharp eyesight and stealthy movements. Their fur, with its distinct black spots, allows them to blend in with their ambient surroundings. They usually chase their prey for less than a minute (accelerating from 0km/h to 100km/h quickly depletes most of their energy). In the past, cheetahs have been tamed, and used for hunting antelopes and other such prey. After our trip to Botswana, we spent some time in Zambia, where we had a chance to visit a cheetah sanctuary. The cheetahs that lived there behaved just like your normal house cat: they liked to have their short, coarse fur stroked; they liked to play; and they purred loudly in order to show their appreciation for petting.
Safari holidays are intense, and yet this intensity pays off with an unforgettable experience. A typical day goes like this:
6am – Wake up
6.30am – Breakfast
7 – 10.30am – Morning drive
12pm – Lunch
4pm – 7.30 – Afternoon drive
8pm – Dinner
10pm – bed
Safari holidays are long days of early mornings and many hours of driving around the game reserve searching for animals; and yet spectacular wildlife viewing makes everything worth it! I hope this post will inspire you to go to Africa!