Botswana is a lovely country with amazing scenery and people not found elsewhere. They are also sort of famous in Africa for being the most politically stable country since independence (a multi-party system with no vote rigging and a free press is unheard of anywhere else), so it’s always nice to support the places that get it right.
– I am in love with the Okavango Delta and consider it to be one of the true highlights of my entire trip. Just an amazing place completely unlike one you will find anywhere else on Earth. Plus the campfire night where we got an odd mix of local African music and some of our own tunes going was simply magical.
– Also, do yourself a favor and fork over the extra dollars for a flight over the Delta so long as you’re there. You won’t regret appreciating the scale and doing a safari by air, I promise you!
– I saw a male lion in Chobe National Park as well as so many elephants that I got sick of them. Plus there was luxury camping meaning I didn’t have to do food prep or anything! Sweet.
– As a fun little detail, my sister and I were very impressed that when we wanted a plastic bag to carry our grocery purchases in Maun they charged us the equivalent of ten cents for the bag. There is something very interesting about a nation considered third world which is more environmentally friendly than your own.
– I got bit by mosquitoes in the Delta, the only place in a malarial zone where such a thing happened (we were careful and took pills regularly and bathed in repellant, but mosquitoes seem to think my blood is tastier than candy). This is annoying because if I ever develop flu-like symptoms the next year I need to get tested for parasites living in my bloodstream, which is a titillating prospect I must say. As a complete aside however one of the world’s best malaria study centers is at CWRU, so I’m sure those researchers would be totally psyched.
– It is unfortunate to mention that the one time someone tried to cheat me during my entire trip (in a very real sense, not a “trying to see if I can get away with an overinflated price” sense) was in Botswana, at the Maun Campground. My sister and I decided to upgrade to really nice digs after the Delta which were rather expensive for Africa, which were lovely until a fire started on the electrical pole beside our bungalow. Oh lovely… anyway, fire was put out but we were obviously without power or hot water, and instead of offering any refund on this the campground waited until very late at night to offer us $5 off a $60 room or the full refund if we wanted to set up our tent at that godforsaken hour. Somehow we weren’t particularly touched by this offer so we put up at tent that night on principle. As I said, this is the only time I felt in any country that someone was not going out of their way to be nice to the customer, probably because this campground has a bit of a monopoly in Maun for people who want to go out to the Delta.
– Last, there is an odd little ritual in Botswana whereby every 100 km or so there is a checkpoint and everyone needs to walk through disinfectant with their shoes. This is ostensibly to curb the spread of foot and mouth disease but seeing as there have been no cases in this part of the world for years it’s really more a remnant of government bureaucracy they haven’t managed to be rid of.
What really annoyed me was how one day we went through these checkpoints around lunchtime, and they checked our coolers and discovered we had salami. Technically you’re not supposed to carry meat through the checkpoints but the real reason the salami was unearthed is because the guards were hungry and wanted to confiscate it, but in order to screw them our cook and driver ate the stuff quickly rather than hand it over. Thus later at lunch that day there was a salami shortage, which is a great tragedy when the only other meat you can get in that part of the world is spam mystery meat a finicky eater such as myself won’t touch.
Funny the things that really upset you in hindsight. Cheers!