Currency: The pula (BWP) is Botswana’s currency. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, although most camps here will take VISA and Mastercard credit cards, as well as US Dollars, Pounds, Euros and SA Rands.
Official languages: English is the official language of Botswana and widely spoken, although Setswana (also called ‘Tswana’) is spoken by almost everybody.
Visa: non needed
Independence: independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966
Religion: An estimated 70% of the country’s citizens identify as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians. There are also congregations of Lutherans, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. In Gaborone, a Lutheran History Centre is open to the public.
Souvenirs: In the northern part of Botswana, women in the villages of Etsha and Gumare are noted for their skill at crafting baskets from Botswana from Mokola Palm and local dyes. The baskets are generally woven into three types: large, lidded baskets used for storage, large, open baskets for carrying objects on the head or for winnowing threshed grain, and smaller plates for winnowing pounded grain. The artistry of these baskets is being steadily enhanced through colour use and improved designs as they are increasingly produced for commercial use.
Other notable artistic communities include Thamaga Pottery and Oodi Weavers, both located in the south-eastern part of Botswana.
Botswana’s art is varied. Essentially it falls into two categories: that of the !Kung peoples (also known as the San or the Bushmen tribes) and that of the Nguni-derived peoples such as the Batswana. The former is of greater antiquity in origin, and includes decoration of many of the devices and equipment the !Kung needed for desert existence. Items such as ostrich shells, clay water filters, animal skins, arrows, bows and pots often received added decoration by way of incised or relief decoration, imprinted pottery decoration, beading and carving. These tribes also carved art objects that had no other function, most often of animals. A more ancient art is that of cave painting, for which the !Kung are justifiably famous: right across the South-East African region their ancestors left dynamic paintings on cave walls, executed in unknown and highly resilient pigments that have lasted millennia. Depictions of animals, hunts, ceremonies and dances are common.
The Nguni peoples’ art is more similar to Nguni-derived peoples’ art in the rest of South-Eastern Africa. Sophisticated carvings of stone and wood (usually of animals or people), sculptures and ceramics of clay; ‘township’ art made of discarded or utilitarian urban objects such as bottle tops and wire; drums, beading, rattles, musical instruments such as the mbira and string instruments, carved walking sticks, knobkerries and many other art forms. One art that is particularly developed in Botswana is the preparation and marketing of hides and furs that have been stitched together, often combined in decorative panels using the different fur types and colours from different animals. These can have a definite use as well, being derived originally from the ‘kaross’ or desert blanket suited to the very cold conditions of the Kalahari at night and in winter. Woollen and crocheted blankets in local patterns are also popular. Basket weaving is also carried out to a high level of skill and variation to produce baskets from Botswana.
There is a great deal of overlap between the two groups’ artwork: for example the wire, ironwork and beads used in !Kung items would have been obtained by trade from Nguni peoples, who themselves would have obtained some of their raw art material such as skins and animal horns from the !Kung.
Leather-work is also popular, as are items made from legally culled animals such as elephant hair bracelets.
Best time to visit: During the rainy summer season, animals in many game areas disperse, while in the dry winter season they congregate around water sources, making for good game viewing. This does not mean, however, that game viewing is impossible during the summer season.
• April and November – best time to go, when large number of animals migrate towards the waterways of the Okavango Delta.
• November and December – the calving months are an excellent time to witness nature’s own timetable of regeneration.
• January to March – The rainy season sees the migration of large numbers of game into the summer grazing areas, while the delta comes alive with sounds of hundreds of bird species.
• March and April – thousands of zebras and other animals migrate towards the Savuti area of Chobe National Park.
• Summers (particularly from December through to February) can become exceptionally hot, and rain may make some roads muddy and impassable.
Area: 581’730 km2
Population: 2,2millions (2014)
Density: 3,4 per square kilometer
MaTakaTaka Top 5 places to visit:
1. Chobe N.P.
2. Okavango Delta
3. Moremi Game Reserve
4. Savute Reserve
5. Makgadikgadi Pans N.P.