Botswana Wildlife – Powerful & Prolific (09.04.14)
One of the most surprising and exciting aspects of a visit to Botswana is the astonishing abundance of wildlife.
Surprising, because 84% of the country is covered in flat Kalahari Desert terrain, aptly known as the ‘thirstland’. Exciting, because once you start exploring the Kalahari and Okavango – as well as the three national parks (Chobe; Kgalagadi Transfrontier; Nxai Pan & Makgadikgadi) and seven game reserves (Central Kalahari; Gaborone Khutse, Mannyelanong; Maun; Moremi) – you are simply bowled over at the huge numbers of animals of all kinds.
Over the years I have been fortunate to experience both ends of the spectrum. Firstly the arid Kalahari, and secondly the lush, wildlife-supporting eco-systems.
When I first visited Botswana in 1983 I hitch-hiked across the north and eastern regions, where my overriding memory is of waiting by the roadside hour after hour while the sun beat down on the sparse tarmac highway, or more often than not, the local scratch-gravel savannah roads. The likelihood of anything living in those conditions seemed as remote as the chance of a vehicle coming my way. In contrast – as of my blog posting last week – having just visited the extraordinarily verdant Okavango Delta at the end of its heaviest rainy season in thirty years, I have also seen how fabulous the country’s wildlife regions are.
If my previous blog’s images-from-the-air do nothing else, they highlight how amazingly fertile and green the Okavango Delta and surrounding areas are. So much so that even before landing I was preparing myself for a previously under-estimated variety of flora and fauna.
That said, after my fellow travellers and I touched down at Chitabe airstrip and started our journey into the bush, with our soon-to-prove uber-knowledgeable guide, Brooks, I realised that nothing could prepare me for the reality. At almost every turn he had a wildlife surprise awaiting. Never mind the country’s 650 species of trees, or 2,500 species of plants – before long we were learning how to spot all manner of birdlife and how to pick up a number of larger mammal trails.
Before I had time to work out how I was going to adjust to life without my bag (stuck in transit somewhere between London and Maun), I was gazing at a panting leopard resting in the mid-afternoon shade. Moments later, it soundlessly glided through the grass and jumped up into a thorn tree to survey the surrounding land like a regal chief.
This was, along with many other extraordinary moments, the beginning of my realisation of quite how diverse and abundant this region of southern Africa is for animal life.
The plethora of species in the Delta has to be seen to be believed. With the essential assistance of well-trained, experienced and knowledgeable guides we, at Nomadic Thoughts, have taken great delight over the years in bringing clients closer not only to the wildlife action – but also to a greater understanding of the wildlife scenario playing out before them.
An expert guide will be able to pick the right trail (by vehicle or on foot), explain the dynamics of what is happening at a particular time of year and share the most exciting local wildlife aspects in the region. This of course, is in addition to keeping you safe and choosing the best spots for a sundowner.
These images, all of which I took last week in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti Reserve, highlight in a small way how spectacular Botswana’s 64 species of mammal, 157 reptiles, 550 birds, 70 fish and 38 amphibian are.
From the finger-nail sized reed frog and the extra-inquisitive bull elephant to the rainbow-coloured kingfisher and tree-top-high fish-eagle, Botswana’s wondrous diversity and proliferation is breathtaking.
Long may it last.