This is part of an ongoing series. See Botswana Blog for more!
T-minus four days until departure. I. Cannot. Wait.
This post has a special interest to me, as wildlife is certainly the aspect of this trip I am the most excited about. I actually just came back from Pilanesberg National Park, a game reserve here in South Africa, where I spent a lovely weekend watching elephant, rhino, lion and a plethora of other animals in their natural habitat. Witnessing nature in action is, to me, the best thing about living in Southern Africa. It is also the most exciting thing about heading into the bush for two weeks on an Avis Safari rental 4×4.
Sidenote: for the past two weeks, my macbook has been out of commission. I’ve been blogging, emailing and posting via smartphone and tablet, which is exhausting and my eyes get super tired quickly, not to mention the pain of typing on a screen keyboard. But I’m back online now, thanks to Apple Solutions Experts in Randburg. If you happen to live in South Africa and need work done on your mac, take it to them!
OK, back to the purpose of this post – wildlife. As I said in my earlier post, Botswana Blog: the country – what’s Botswana all about?, there are over 160 species of mammal, 600 species of bird, 150 species of reptile, and an intimidating and frightening 8000 species of insect and spider species, all in Botswana.
The lion, despite being one of the easiest big cats to spot in a wildlife reserve (especially compared to leopard!), is actually under threat. Recent estimates for Botswana say there are around 2,700 lion in the country – about 14% of all that remain in Africa.
There are more elephant in Botswana than in any other country on the planet. In fact, over a third of the world’s elephants reside in Botswana, with the population estimated at over 130,000. Despite this impressive number, 15% of the country’s elephants have been lost to poaching and other forms of wildlife crime since 2010.
Don’t be discouraged: there are some impressive efforts ongoing in Botswana to address wildlife crime. For rhino, this includes the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project, which began sending rhinos back into the wild in 2001. There is also the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, which is a community based project. Ricky and I plan to stop there for a night towards the end of our trip. About 30 white and 4 black rhino are protected within the sanctuary’s borders.
While 80% of snakes in Botswana are not venomous, there is still that 20% you have to look out for! Cobras, puff adders and black mambas are among the most dangerous. I plan to take every precaution to watch out for slithering visitors.
Snakes are far from my biggest concern, however. I wouldn’t say I have arachnophobia, but spiders do give me the heebie-jeebies. There are quite a few poisonous 8-legged creepy-crawlies in Botswana, including the sac spider, baboon spider and violin spider. Every night I plan to sweep our tent, centimetre-by-centimetre, to ensure we have no unwanted guests!
According to Lonely Planet, Botswana is “a birding paradise”. I’m actually quite excited about this aspect, as I find birds to be endlessly beautiful and enchanting. One of the best things about a game drive is this: even when you haven’t seen anything big (i.e. elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, etc.), chances are good you’ve seen some beautiful birds. Unless you just blast through the park and don’t stop to look around, there are colourful birds at nearly every bend in the road! We will be spending a few days in Okavango Delta, which is apparently one of the best spots for birding. Bring it on, my feathered friends!
Of course there is a lot more to be said about wildlife in Botswana, but I’ll be saving some of the interesting information for future blog posts. I’m sure I’ll collect hundreds of photos of animals, from the biggest elephant investigating our campsite, to the smallest scuttling six-legged creature running across my foot in the dark and giving me a full on heart attack.
Stay tuned for my next post on our itinerary!