By Robert Timcke

First you smell him, then you hear the odd branch or twig breaking as you move in closer. You know somewhere very close is 5 tons of animal but you can’t see him yet. How is that possible?
Then you pick up the movement of an ear gently flapping; then a trunk curls around another branch and you hear it break. All of a sudden, your heart starts racing. Your mouth is dry, you can feel a pulse beating in your neck … and your breathing becomes ragged. Your quarry is ten metres away. You have been following this elephant since sunrise, when the tracker found the massive 20-inch spoor on a game path, often losing the sign as you forged your way through nearly 16 km of thorn thickets. You have countless little burning and itching sensations where the thorns have punctured your skin. The tracker is working methodically trying to fathom in which direction to go next. The sun is getting higher and you hope at some point the elephant will stop in a thicket as the heat builds. And then suddenly, with the sweat running into your eyes, and small flies crawling into your nose and ears in search of moisture, the elephant is there, right in front of you! With the adrenaline rushing through your body, you try frantically to find the perfect angle for the brain shot – without the beast detecting you with his amazing senses of smell and hearing …

It has been said that you hunt buffalo with your brain and elephant with your feet. This, in my opinion, is only partly true when it comes to elephant – although there is no doubt that you will be tested physically AND mentally. These giants are unbelievably stealthy, having the ability to disappear if they detect something untoward, silently going into their “long stride” and maintaining it for hours. Planning and strategy certainly improves your chances of coming face to face with this magnificent beast. But beware, elephants can easily become aggressive – making this, all in all, a very challenging animal to hunt.

Botswana has the largest population of elephant in Africa – between 136 000 and 170 000 animals, making this potentially the premier elephant-hunting destination on the continent.
After banning elephant hunting for the previous six years, in 2020 the Botswana government decided to make a limited quota of elephants available for trophy hunting again. This decision was condemned by international wildlife activists – even though it was based on detailed research and information from experts and stakeholders, which advocated a sustainable utilisation policy, truly bringing the benefits to the local population. Elephant culling provides a much-needed source of protein and financial assistance to local communities that struggle to survive on a subsistence basis.
This policy is also helping to reduce the human / wildlife conflict. A large part of Botswana’s population live in remote areas. They plant seasonal crops, which they harvest and store to get them through the winter months. With the elephant population growing annually, more and more elephants are moving out of the vast national parks and reserves as the pressure of overpopulation forces them to look for more food and space. The elephants plunder the crops of these subsistence farmers, bringing them into conflict with humans. It is this conflict which the Botswana government wishes to avoid.
There is an additional facet to the growing numbers of elephants in Botswana: their impact on the conservation of other wildlife, for example the worrying destruction of vegetation and habitat.
Botswana, a landlocked country bordering South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, covers an area of approximately 600 370 km2 and is similar in size to Madagascar and slightly smaller than Texas. It has a population of approximately 2,5 million, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in Africa.
This provides vast expanses for wilderness areas and free-roaming wildlife. In fact, about 42% of the country’s land mass is reserved for the conservation of its wildlife.
Botswana is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and unspoiled countries in Africa. It is unique in its variety – apart from its grassland and savannahs, it is home to both the arid Kalahari Desert and the lush, water-rich Okavango Delta. With an area of 15 000 km2 this is the largest inland delta in the world, and one of the world’s premier wilderness areas. Add to this its numerous natural wonders and its friendly people, and Botswana becomes a premier tourist destination and hunters’ paradise.

The Okavango Delta is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Africa” and a World Heritage Site. A truly vast volume of water flows into Botswana from the Angolan highlands, across the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and into the Okavango River, which winds its way in a south-easterly direction and then starts to split up into this magnificent delta. The water eventually disappears into the desert sand! This truly amazing natural wonder is a major lifeline for Botswana’s fantastic wildlife population.

In Botswana, the hunter can follow in the footsteps of some of the most famous ivory hunters of old in pursuit of elephant. However, it also provides fantastic opportunities of hunting for other Kalahari dwellers such as kudu, eland and oryx, to name only a few. Botswana outfitters also receive a limited number of leopard tags. The Kalahari leopard offers a very challenging hunt, with most operators opting to hunt them with dogs. This requires a steady hand by the shooter, and nerves of steel with no room for error.
The strict conservation policies of the Botswana government, as well as the ability of game to roam freely, allows for good genetics amongst the wildlife population, which in turn provides fantastic trophy quality in the old bulls and rams.

The government has strict regulations in place with regard to hunting. All foreign passport holders hunting in the country must be guided by a Botswana-registered PH and booked through a Botswana-registered safari company. This ensures a high level of professionalism and good control of all hunting activities.
The hunter must also be in possession of a “game licence” in his / her name for the species that they wish to hunt. In addition, all hunts on state-owned land must be accompanied by a officer from the Department of Wildlife. The elephant hunts range between 10 to 14 days; and if you wish to hunt other endemic species, the permit can extended to 21 days.
Botswana also offers some of the best photographic / game-viewing safari destinations in Africa. It has a well-established tourism infrastructure, offering opportunities to visit some of the country’s famous reserves and parks like Moremi, Chobe, Magadigadi and Savuti National Parks, to name but a few. This can be done in the lap of luxury or on a mobile safari unit – all tailor-made to suit your needs.

Botswana’s climate is semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months – November to March. Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and highly localised. Often a heavy downpour may occur in one area, while 10 or 15 km away there is no rain at all. Showers are often followed by strong sunshine so that a good deal of the rainfall does not penetrate the ground but is lost through evaporation and transpiration.
The summer season begins in November and ends in March. It usually brings very high temperatures. However, summer is also the rainy season, and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down considerably, although usually only for a short period of time.
The winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm; however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing in some areas, especially in the southwest.

The in-between periods – April / early May and September / October – still tend to be dry, but the days are cooler than in summer and the nights are warmer than in winter.
For tourists, the best visiting months are from April through to October – in terms of both weather and game viewing. It is during this period that the wildlife of the great spaces gather around whatever water there is – the natural waterholes and the borehole-fed dams – and they are then at their most visible.
The rainy season is in the summer, with October and April being transitional months. January and February are generally regarded as the peak months. The mean annual rainfall varies from a maximum of over 650 mm in the extreme northeast area of the Chobe District to a minimum of less than 250 mm in the extreme southwestern part of the Kgalagadi District (see the map for districts). Generally, rainfall decreases in amount and increases in variability the further west and south you go.

Approximately 600 370 km²

Estimated population:
2 254 068 (2018)

Official language:
English • Setswana

Capital and largest city:

Botswana pula (BWP)

Gaberone’s main attractions:
The Botswana Tourism Organisation is the country’s official tourism authority. The city offers numerous activities and attractions for visitors. The Lion Park Resort is Botswana’s first permanent amusement park and hosts events such as birthday parties for families. Other attractions include the Gaborone Yacht Club and the Kalahari Fishing Club, together with the Gaborone Dam and Mokolodi Nature Reserve. The city’s golf courses are maintained by the Botswana Golf Union (BGU). The Phakalane Golf Estate is a multimillion-dollar development that offers both hotel accommodation and access to golf courses.

International Airports:
• Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, located 15 km north of downtown Gaborone.
• Phillip Gaonwe Matante International Airport, also known as P.G. Matante International Airport, serves Francistown.
• Kasane International Airport serves Kasane, a town in the North-West District of the country. ASM