Days 135-140 - Wednesday 05/03/08 to Monday 10/03/08
Everyone we met told us we'd love Botswana because the wildlife is actually wild rather than in nature reserves. A couple of hours on the Trans-Kalahari Highway and we were beginning to think it was pretty dull - not even desert as you'd imagine it, but miles and miles of flat bushland. Late afternoon we were looking for a spot to bushcamp when Robin spotted an animal by the side of the road up ahead. Amazingly it turned out to be a leopard - something I thought I'd never see, even in a reserve. We found a great campsite tucked off the road; the owner couldn't believe we'd seen a leopard - he'd been there 10 years and never seen one. However, he told us to watch out for the 3-m black mamba that had been spotted around the camp lately and told us to keep our tent doors SHUT.
Much of Botswana is a real wilderness. The Kalahari covers 85% of the country and there are some vast nature reserves, but unfortunately you're no longer allowed to travel to the really remote places unless you have two vehicles and satellite communications. Apparently this is because a Swedish group got lost for two weeks and the government had to send out the army to look for them.
Politically, Botswana is much more relaxed than Namibia. The country didn't suffer from apartheid and so doesn't have the same black/white issues. And unlike so many of the African countries we've passed through, they haven't been screwed over by their government. The mineral wealth from diamonds was ploughed into education and health, while freedom of speech, press and religion are part of the constitution.
In the north of Botswana the Okavango River flows in from Angola and meets the desert, forming a huge inland delta. Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of year and the the whole area was flooded out. We spent a couple of days in Moremi National Park, but only one road was open and even then we nearly got stuck. It was a good experience though: we saw loads of elephants, and the camps don't have fences road them so animals wander through at night. We were glad to be in a rooftent as the loud rustling sound in the bush turned out to be a hyena.
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Diary South Africa