Time in Botswana
Botswana is always two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2); it doesn’t operate daylight saving time, so there’s no time difference between winter and summer months in Botswana.
Currency in Botswana
The pula (BWP) is Botswana’s currency, and at the time of writing (June 2015) £1 = P15.32; also see www.oanda.com for the latest rate. Travellers’ cheques and 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. At most camps/lodges, there are no extras to pay.
Food in Botswana
Botswana’s safari camps provide very high-quality food and drink – most serve international-style cuisine, alongside the local lager St. Louis, imported beers (Amstel or Windhoek), wines and spirits.
In Botswana’s villages and towns, meats, particularly beef and goat, are very popular; millet and sorghum porridge are staples. National specialities include Morama (an underground tuber), Morogo (wild spinach), Kalahari truffle, all sorts of beans, and Mopane worms – grubs, which are served boiled, deep-fried or cooked. Drinks include the cider-like bojalwa, or homemade ginger beer.
Driving in Botswana
For most visitors, necessary travel distances are often small, and Botswana’s few tarred roads are excellent. Away from these, many roads are merely unmarked tracks in the sand.
Health in Botswana
Botswana is generally a healthy country to visit. Several vaccines are sensible (typhoid, polio and tetanus), though none are required. Anti-malarial tablets are usually recommended. Always check the latest recommendations with your doctor or clinic before travelling, and perhaps see the Scottish NHS site for useful travel info on Botswana.
In Botswana, HIV infection rates are high, and AIDS is prevalent. Generally, this isn’t an issue for travellers, but you should be aware of the situation – take the same sensible precautions to avoid infection which are wise in most countries. We understand that blood supplies used by the private hospitals in Botswana have been carefully screened for a long time.
Language in Botswana
English is the official language of Botswana and widely spoken, although Setswana (also called ‘Tswana’) is spoken by almost everybody. Mother tongues include Birwa, Herero and Kagalagadi (languages of the Bantu family), Nama, Ganadi and Shua (languages of the Khoisan family), as well as Afrikaans of the European family.
Visas for Botswana
Travellers with British passports, as well as US citizens, do not need a visa when travelling to Botswana. For more visa information, see the Botswana Tourism Board site.
Weather and climate in Botswana
Botswana’s weather and climate is typical for southern Africa, although it gets less rainfall than the countries further east. For a month-by-month description, please see our separate weather and climate in Botswana page.
Wild animals in Botswana
Most of Botswana’s camps and campsites are unfenced. You must take great care with wild animals; they can all be dangerous.
Take a Namibia holiday; this is African travel at its most varied! Flying in, driving yourself, or being guided: the choice is yours. A classic Namibian holiday might include sunrise on top of the world’s highest dunes; a day relaxing in a hot mineral spring at the foot of the world’s second-deepest canyon; a wildlife safari watching lion stalk huge herds of antelope – and an evening observing wild black rhino by moonlight.
You can meet a cheetah at close quarters, stroll through a petrified forest, marvel at ancient rock paintings and see footprints as old as a dinosaur – or as fresh and close as a leopard outside your tent. Namibia is a real travel adventure, like nowhere else on earth.
Where to go on holiday in Namibia
Namibia’s range of climate and tiny population make it an easy place to get away from it all. Even its key attractions are relatively undervisited, so you’re unlikely to encounter more than a handful of like-minded people as you seek out the dense herds of big game in Etosha National Park, or take in the show-stopping scenery of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. For something more offbeat, consider Damaraland, home to black rhino, elephant and other fascinating, desert-adapted wildlife. Then there are the vast, coastal wilderness of the Skeleton Coast, the rugged mountains of semi-desert Kaokoland, and Bushmanland – which are Namibia at its most remote.
If you can’t resist the thrill of adventure, then head for Namibia’s adrenalin capital, Swakopmund – where adventure activities abound, along with some exceptional excursions into the surrounding desert. Or combine adventure with the wilderness that is Fish River Canyon, a 500m-deep gouge in the landscape that makes a spectacular backdrop for hiking.
And if – like many Expert Africa clients – you are drawn back time and again to explore Namibia further, consider the more verdant Caprivi Strip, where you can combine a classic safari with boat trips on narrow waterways and perhaps add on a visit to Victoria Falls.
Despite this diversity, Namibia’s population is tiny – only a little over two million people in a country that is larger than the UK and Germany combined, or twice the size of California. The reason is water – or lack of it. With permanent rivers only on its northern and southern boundaries, Namibia is exceedingly arid. For the most part, rain puts in a regular appearance only in the country’s more northerly regions, around December to March; further south and along the Namib coast, rain is increasingly rare, and may not fall from one year to the next. Temperatures, although similarly extreme in the desert, are more temperate elsewhere, with daytime averages around 25–35°C in the rainy season, cooling to 15–25°C in the winter months – and sometimes plummeting below zero at night. (To understand more about the weather, see Namibia’s climate statistics)
Namibia’s landscape is dominated by a central plateau, which is home to rolling hills and rich farmland. To the west, the land falls off in a dramatic escarpment down to the Namib Desert, which runs for 1,600km alongside the Atlantic Ocean, and is best known for the spectacular apricot-coloured dunes of Sossusvlei. To the east, the plateau slopes off more gradually, merging into the great sand sheet of the Kalahari Desert.
In the heart of southern Africa, land-locked Zimbabwe is a vibrant country with dramatic landscapes, impressive national parks and welcoming people. After some difficult years, it is now returning to its rightful place on Africa’s safari circuit.
Home to abundant wildlife, top of the range guides and good lodges, Zimbabwe had all the ingredients for the perfect safari holiday. However, in the decade between 2000 and 2010, its politics caused great damage and distress and the number of tourists plummeted.
Today, Zimbabwe is getting back on track. Politically, it still has some tensions, as many countries do, but the general situation has improved considerably and the country is far more stable. Tourism in particular is recovering, which is great news for safari-lovers. Victoria Falls’ new international airport is set to open in the summer of 2015, able to accommodate larger wide-bodied aircraft, potentially increasing travel options with direct flights. New lodges are opening across the country and a convenient univisa for access to both Zambia and Zimbabwe has just been introduced. All of this bodes well for Zimbabwe to re-emerge as a superb safari destination.
Zimbabwe is bordered by two rivers, the Zambezi to the north and the Limpopo to the south. In between is an inland plateau filled with kopjes (granite outcrops), beautiful national parks, rugged mountains and lush forests. There is a huge variety of things to see and with relatively few visitors and no mass tourism, plenty of opportunity to find peace and quiet.
A Zimbabwe safari can be exceedingly varied. You can go on a game drive in Hwange National Park, take a canoe safari or a walking safari in Mana Pools National Park, fly over Victoria Falls on a Flight of Angels or view the granite boulders and rock art in Matobo Hills National Park. For many visitors, a trip to Victoria Falls (Mosi-ao-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders) is a highlight of their time in Zimbabwe.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is a spectacular waterfall on the border with Zambia. Here you can relax, taking in the beautiful scenery, or take the more adventurous approach with one of the many activities on offer. (Read more about Victoria Falls…)
Hwange National Park
The largest game park in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park offers a variety of scenery and game. It is great for walking safaris and game drives to see the abundant wildlife, particularly herds of elephant. (Read more about Hwange National Park…)
Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park
Located on the Zambezi River, Lake Kariba is one of the world’s greatest man-made lakes. The game here is concentrated on the southern shore of the lake, in Matusadona National Park, where safaris can include viewing wildlife by 4WD, boat, canoe or on foot. (Read more about Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park…)
Mana Pools National Park
Among the most scenic of Zimbabwe’s safari destinations with a collection of ox-bow lakes surrounded by vegetation, Mana Pools National Park attracts large amounts of wildlife. You can take in the stunning landscapes, try a canoe trip along the Zambezi River to view the big game or go on a walking safari. (Read more about Mana Pools National Park…)
Matobo Hills National Park
An area scattered with huge piles of granite boulders, Matobo Hills National Park has some of the region’s most breathtaking scenery. Take a walk among the hills to view the rocks and the superb Bushman rock art. (Read more about Matobo Hills National Park…)
Chizarira National Park
Chizarira National Park is a remote region overlooking the Zambezi Valley best explored by walking and 4WD game drives. The rugged terrain dotted with gorges and ravines attracts those who take walking and safaris seriously. (Read more about Chizarira National Park…)
Gonarezhou National Park
One of the least visited of Zimbabwe’s safari parks, Gonarezhou National Park has prolific birdlife, particularly after the rains. It has the feel of an unspoilt wilderness, allowing for good game viewing beneath the majestic forests. (Read more about Gonarezhou National Park…)
The range of hills and mountains stretching down the Eastern side of Zimbabwe are the Eastern Highlands. Come here for a safari full of beautiful scenic drives, fantastic walking and hiking trails, and some very gentle, low-key bird-watching and wildlife experiences. (Read more about the Eastern Highlands…)
Zimbabwe in the news
Zimbabwe, like many countries in Africa and elsewhere, has political tensions and troubles that are frequently reported in the media. For more information on Zimbabwe’s situation and on our stance, see Zimbabwe is Visiting Ethical?
With the improved economy and stability, and the knock-on effect on the tourism sector, many tour operators are now going back to Zimbabwe. We at Expert Africa never left. Feedback from guests has been extremely positive: wildlife sightings have been superb and local people, delighted to see tourists coming back, have been warm and welcoming. Zimbabwe blows away visitors’ preconceptions, suggesting that perhaps the most important thing to take with you is an open mind.
During the troubled times, questions were raised over the morality of going on a Zimbabwe safari. We are very clear where we stand. We use BA Comair (British Airways’ southern African affiliate airline) and South African Airways to get travellers to Zimbabwe in the first place. We then offer mostly small, independent safari operations to our travellers, throughout Zimbabwe. These are businesses, run by good people whom we have known for years. In the difficult times, trade was particularly thin – and for many their future was very uncertain. They worked hard to try to pay their staff a living wage, and to protect the animals that live in the national parks. We supported these businesses throughout those tough times but help is still needed to ensure that these people have a future and that the beautiful safari parks and wildlife of Zimbabwe will be preserved for future generations.
We take some degree of pride in having stuck with Zimbabwe, believing it needed – and still needs – our support for several reasons. Firstly, ordinary Zimbabweans were innocent victims of the political situation; we shouldn’t punish them further. Secondly, if camps and lodges remained in business, tourism would be able to return swiftly to Zimbabwe’s world-class wildlife and cultural attractions when things changed – this has indeed proved to be the case. Finally, by consigning ordinary Zimbabwean’s lives to the scrap heap, we would have been giving in to some politicians intent on serving interests other than those of the majority of Zimbabweans.
Tourism in Zimbabwe has helped – and will continue to help – both communities and conservation. Without tourism there would be no wildlife here, and without wildlife, there’d be no tourism. Local people benefit from employment and see a tangible advantage in keeping wildlife alive. If tourism had ceased, Zimbabwe’s national parks would have become powerless to resist pressures for increased hunting and unable to manage the threat of escalating poaching.
For all these reasons, we will continue to offer trips to Zimbabwe to visitors who understand the situation there. We will continue to monitor developments in Zimbabwe, and advise any travellers if we feel the situation has changed.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Mozambique was in a mess – used as a pawn in the Cold War and wracked by poor governance and civil war. This drew to an end in mid-1990s, and the country started to get back on its feet. In the last decade tourism has started to grow here.
Mozambique is best known for its beach holidays which can be amazing. Long, palm-fringed beaches with sand so fine that it squeaks underfoot, remarkable deltas, shady mangrove forests and freshwater lagoons; tropical islands surrounded by turquoise waters, where iridescent fish swim amongst pristine coral; this is the coastline and islands of Mozambique.
However, Mozambique travel, especially on the mainland, can be difficult. Hence our Mozambique programme has always concentrated mainly on beach holidays on the islands. These split into two archipelagos:
The coastal town of Vilanculos acts as a gateway to Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago – a chain of four main islands: Bazaruto Island, Benguerra Island, Santa Isobel and Santa Carolina (formerly known as Paradise Island). A marine national park covers most of the archipelago, protecting the exquisite marine life in these turquoise seas. A beach holiday in these islands combines well with a safari to southern Africa. (Read more about Bazaruto Archipelago… )
Alongside the Tanzanian border in the far north of Mozambique, the Niassa Reserve is an impressive 42,000 square kilometers. As one of the largest protected areas in Africa – it is a vast expanse of wilderness and with few other visitors you are likely to see little or no other people during your time here. This park is perfectly suited to people who want experience a vast untouched wilderness with no one else around. (Read more about Niassa Reserve … )
The other areas of Mozambique that we occasionally send travellers to (or through) include:
In northern Mozambique, Pemba itself is a fairly neat, unremarkable town, with a good hotel if you need to overnight here. This is the jumping-off point for trips to the Quirimbas Archipelago, and there are a few lodges on the mainland around here, which have the advantage of being generally less costly than the islands. (Read more about this area… )
In southern Mozambique, Maputo is Mozambique’s capital; it was founded in the late 18th century and named by a Portuguese trader. Now it’s a vibrant, modern African city where the roads are lined with makeshift stalls, old colonial buildings and modern offices. More complex trips around Mozambique may occasionally require a night’s stop here to make the flight connections work. (Read more about Maputo… )
Inland, and on the north-west side of Mozambique, this is a wilderness reserve on the shores of Lake Malawi. Transport logistics make this easy to combine into an itinerary around Malawi, yet tricky to approach from the Mozambique side! (Read more about Manda Wilderness…