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Botswana

The joys of bush braais, beers and Mma Ramotswe’s favourite tipple

Kelly Phelan | March/April 2015

DO the Okavango Delta, recently designated the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Sitefrom above in a hot-air balloon, or at water level, on a mokoro (canoe). Picture a Venetian gondola, only more rustic. Afterwards, glamp in a luxury tent at Jao or Nxabega camp.

DON’T leave your vehicle to look at animals along the side of the road. A close encounter with a baboon or hippo may result in an impromptu trip to the emergency room.

DO visit Chobe National Park, home to over 70,000 elephants. Stay in tents or chalets at Kwalape Safari Lodge or, if you’ve got some spare pula, splash out at Chobe Safari Lodge.

DON’T drink the coffee (it’s dreadful); instead take a leaf out of the book of Mma Ramotswe, Botswana’s number one lady detective, and fill your cup with rooibos tea.

DON’T shy away from Botswana’s favourite culinary indulgence: mopane worms, the schoolchild’s high-protein snack of choice. Although they can be boiled, fried or cooked in hot ashes, for entry-level consumption try them dried, when they taste similar to salty crisps.

DON’T miss Café Dijo in Gaborone. After enjoying the delicious dijo (food in Setswana) and the free Wi-Fi, climb nearby Kgale Hill to get a bird’s eye view of the sprawling capital.

DON’T leave without sampling the local crafts. The Batswana make beautiful woodcarvings, jewellery and baskets, hand-woven from mokola palm. Find them at the Bushman Craft Shop and the Craft Centre in Maun.

DON’T skip the dry bits: the Kalahari Desert, home to the San Bushmen, and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan. Camp at Nata Lodge, or wallow in Ralph Lauren-style luxury at Meno a Kwena, on the zebra migration route.

DON’T hesitate to strike out on your own. Botswana is one of the safest destinations in Africa, and self-drive safaris in well-appointed Land Rovers (try Safari Drive) are commonplace. But be careful: arrive at your destination before dark and check the weather before booking your ticket. In the wet season (Dec-Feb) the roads are often closed because of flooding.

DO obey traffic signs. With only 2m mainly law-abiding inhabitants spread across a country the size of France, local police anxiously await customers skirting the law.

DO remember your zoom lens. Botswana is a twitcher’s paradise, home to nearly 600 bird species including its national bird, the bewitching lilac-breasted roller.

DO celebrate your safari with a sundowner—the local Bojalwa ja Setswana and Chibuku beers are excellent thirst-quenchers—and a bush braai (barbecue) of boerewors sausages and, for the brave, eland, warthog and goat.

DO shell out for a painted ostrich egg. Be sure to get a permit from the seller, otherwise it may be confiscated at the airport.

DO pack a generous supply of patience, for African time marks its own languorous beat. If you want something in a hurry, emphasise that you need it “now, now”.

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