Botswana – the lion country

I was recently watching the documentary “The Last Lions” filmed in the Okavango Delta. It brought back memories of my trip to the delta a few years back, especially that of a lioness that I came across on a safari drive. The lioness had looked quite lost and distressed, looking into the distance as if searching for something. The guide told us that her pride had been shot by the villagers as they had gone into the village and attacked some dogs. This young lioness had escaped death, perhaps she had been with her cubs, when the others were killed. Whatever the reason, she didn’t seem to know that her family was no-more or perhaps she was hoping that they had survived somehow. She did not seem bothered by all the jeeps travelling alongside her. Watching the documentary, I wonder if her small pride might have been driven to the edges of the delta by other larger prides. Having moved closer to the villages and running short of food, they must have foraged into the villages and met their demise. Human villages encroaching further and further into the delta should be prevented. It is sad that the lion population, according to the National Geographic documentary, is down to 20,000 from their population of 450,000 fifty years ago.

lioness

The trip to Botswana was quite an unexpected one as it had not been on my travel list. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series had been my introduction to the country and while I had found the place fascinating, I had not thought I would visit there anytime soon. Then, I received an invitation from some family friends living in South Africa to visit them there before they returned to Sri Lanka later that year. When my colleague and I decided to visit South Africa, a friend of my colleague invited us both to travel with her to neighbouring Botswana where her relatives lived. I am glad we took her up on her invitation as the trip to Botswana remains among one of my favourite travels to-date.

DSC06059

From Johannesburg, we took a flight to Gaborone. Only Air Botswana and South African airways flew into Botswana so there was not much air traffic. From Gaborone, we went on a five hour drive to Francistown, where our hosts lived.  After arriving in Francistown at the home of our host family and spending the day with them, we took a car the next morning to Planet Baobab in Gweta. The website of the B&B was lovely and we found that our expectations was met when we arrived there and were shown our quirky accommodations in traditional huts. After a restful afternoon and evening around the B&B, simply soaking in the atmosphere, we woke up early in the morning to go on our booked tour. We went on a drive to the Nxai salt pans, which were a part of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is said to be roughly the size of Switzerland and is the remnants of Lake Makgadikgadi, which dried up around 10,000 years ago.

salt pans

The driver/ guide stopped soon after we had entered the park so that we could enjoy our picnic breakfast in the middle of nowhere.

breakfast at the salt pan

While driving through the park, we came across herds of zebras. The guide informed us that it was the seasonal migration when hundreds of zebras travelled for water. I was delighted to see the beautiful zebras in the wild.

zebras

I learnt that the zebra is the national animal of the country and also that the black and white stripes in the middle of the Botswana flag, representing racial harmony, was inspired from the zebra.

zebra migration

The guide took us next to meerkat territory. One of my sisters, who is a huge fan of meerkat manor, would have loved this. We came across the cute meerkats, who seemed to be habituated to humans and seemed comfortable in coming right up to us.

meerkat family

meerkat

We stopped at Chapman’s baobab, a 3500 year old baobab tree, named so because it was used as a post office in the old days and people left messages in the tree as they travelled along the route.

Chapman's baobab

After the lovely drive around the Nxai salt pan, we returned to Planet Baobab and continued onward to Maun. Maun is considered the tourism capital of Botswana as it is the gateway to the Okavango delta, the world’s largest inland delta. The Sango safari camp staff picked us up at Maun and took us into the Okavango delta past the Moremi game reserve. At the camp, we stayed in a luxury tent with proper beds, comfortable pillows and duvets as well as an en-suite bathroom. There was no electricity at the camp and only lanterns were available. Hot water was provided, upon request, by heating a bucket of water and having it poured into the small water tank that provided the water for the shower pipes.

safari camp

During our drives in the delta, besides the lioness, we also came across elephants, a hyena and her cubs, a few giraffes, impala, red lechwe and some very colourful birds.

giraffe

elephant

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While it was a privilege and an unforgettable experience to come across some of these majestic animals in the wild, I also felt that we were being intrusive. At the Nxai salt pans, though, it had not felt intrusive and the herds of zebras and meerkat groups we came across had not seemed disturbed by our presence. However, within the Okavango delta, it felt as if we were intruding. Intruding with the numerous safari jeeps rushing at the animals and crowding them out, intruding with the expanding villages cutting down the trees depriving wild life of their natural habitat and shooting them down when they seek food from the villages. It affected me to the extent that I resolved that I would not go on another safari drive again. I hope there are stricter regulations placed on safari drive operators on the number of drives they can undertake and they are provided with training and guidelines on how to move within national parks with the least negative impact on the wild life. Places like this pristine Okavango delta need to be conserved for future generations.

OkavangoParticularly for the lions…

lioness

[I am sharing this post at Monday Escapes #35, hosted by Ting@My Travel Monkey and Allane@Packing My Suitcase and at Wanderful Wednesdays, hosted by Lauren@Lauren On Location, Van@Snow in Tromso, Isabel@The Sunny Side of This and Marcella@What a Wonderful World]

”wanderfulwednesday”
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28 thoughts on “Botswana – the lion country

    • I would have preferred safari operators to share information on their website regarding their approaches to taking people on a safari drive. However, as such info is not available online, the next best option would be for travellers to share their experience and opinions about the safari operator (s) they have used. Reviews on blogs might not only be useful for other travellers but also get the message across to safari operators that they need to change their working mode.

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  1. I’m excited to see your photos of so many animals, but I am glad you’ve come to the conclusion that you hope there are means to conserve this natural wildlife. As I travel I’m finding I value the same things when I make travel choices.

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    • It was an amazing experience, seeing the wildlife and I am glad I did take that trip because it helped me appreciate conservation efforts more and inform my future travel choices.

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    • I agree that a safari is a very special experience, Elizabeth, and there are ethical operators out there, if one is lucky to come across them. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  2. What a fascinating country and what an amazing story you told us! I didn’t know that their flag was inspired by zebras! So sad to hear about the lions though 😦 And I completely understand why you would feel as an intruder! I haven’t been to a safari yet and am unsure about whether or not I should ever go on one but what I know for sure is that we should really all respect nature so much more!

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    • Botswana is indeed a fascinating country, Van. Not only was it a beautiful country but I felt safe there travelling around, which I did not feel in South Africa. As for going on a safari, I think it is something to experience at least once. Plus, one might come across an ethical operator that one can spread the word about.

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  3. What a one of a kind experience. And I am with you, as much as animal safaris are a “must” I would rather experience them in the wild like in your first experience. Thank you for linking up! You have filled my wanderlust so much!!

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    • Seeing animals in the wild are a special experience, which if carefully regulated, could lead to better outcomes towards conservation efforts. Thank you for hosting Wanderful Wednesday, Isabel!

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  4. How crazy it must have been to see all of those animals up close! I’m obsessed with meerkats (I think it’s a Lion King thing) and I can’t believe that one is sitting right on the guys head! I definitely know what you mean by feeling like you were “intruding” on the wildlife. It’s so hard to know where to draw the line with things like this! At least you are conscious of it and it looks like an awesome trip! Thanks for linking up for #wanderfulwednesday! 😀

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    • The meerkats were extremely cute and it was my first time seeing them in the wild. I think the guy was one of the park staff, which is why they seemed more comfortable with him. It was indeed an awesome trip and I think it is important to at least go on one safari drive to experience and form one’s opinions on conservation efforts. Thanks for hosting #WanderfulWednesday, Lauren! 🙂

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  5. I love your honesty about feeling you were intrusive. I think I would feel the same. Also, what a great experience though, considering you didn’t expect to go to Botswana. Ps. I love The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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    • It sure was a wonderful experience, Ting, and I have always been open to unexpected opportunities where travel is concerned. Thanks for hosting #MondayEscapes.

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  6. Pingback: Goodbye Tromso Island - Hello Mainland Norway - Snow in Tromsø

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