Coming from South Africa and hearing foreigners say, ‘You’re from Africa’ as if I was from another planet. Often asking where do you live, in a house or with the lions? Does it ever rain? Do you have any stab wounds? And then there are the people who don’t ask but presume they need supplies, like bringing suitcases full of food, or are shocked to learn you can get cereal. This mindset changed when I visited Botswana for the first time.
Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world, Botswana is starting to find its worth, becoming one of the fastest growing economies. The country is also one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with a rough population of 3 people per square kilometer (9 people per square mile), compared to United Kingdom that has 259 people per square kilometer (671 people per square mile). Botswana it has found its place with mining, cattle farming and tourism.
Diamonds where commonly found in Botswana, with large scale diamond mining starting in 1972, dominated the industry with its great quality. There is also a rich source of other minerals such as copper, gold, nickel and soda ash.
Cattle is held in high esteem from a cultural view and monetary value for the economy, exporting tons of meat every year. I did find this part of traveling through Botswana very difficult. Having to stop fairly regularly when crossing over foot and mouth zones, where you need to dip your shoes, drive the car through treatment and have your belongings searched for any meat or animals produce. Animal produce without the correct vet testing will be confiscated at these zones and therefore it is best not to travel with animal produce at all.
Saving the best topic till last, tourism. Botswana is surprising untouched compared to most places I have visited in Southern Africa. Namibia and South Africa have towns and cities that are very upmarket and westernized. Gaborone, the capital of Botswana is similar, but one of the more tourist areas and 5th biggest town, Maun is very different.
Maun in equivalence is meant to be like Port Elizabeth in South Africa or Leeds in England, yet there is no resemblance. Maun has the bare basics of a city with many forms of livestock roaming the center, which is very entertaining. These few unexpected quirks made it all the more incredible and unique, making it a place to easily feel out of place but yet making you love it more than any other, with some of the most life inspiring places to lose yourself.
Some places that can be experienced in Botswana, that will get their own articles, include the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, a nature enthusiasts dream. A place still on my list to properly experience is The Kalahari, I have passed through this area, but never had the opportunity to fully appreciate the Central Kalahari National Park. Other features that stand out are the towering baobabs, salt pans and the pop-up stalls that are selling beef, as no cow is wasted even after its been hit by a car.
What a remarkable country, that is starting to strive. For now it is still very much untouched, which is what makes this place special and unique, but with western influences and an economy increasing in leaps and bounds, this may soon change. Regardless what becomes of it, I will keep my most treasured memories of true wild dogs crossing a main road in the middle of nowhere. A once in a lifetime experience that is becoming more rare.