Thursday, May 20, 2010

Botswana - Africa's Last Eden

Botswana's BEST hunting is for elephant and while other species occur in great numbers, these giants are what the country is best known for - they have too many Elephant, something the green brigade vehemently refuse to accept.

Without a doubt, your best chances of Elephant above 60 lbs and well into the 70's and 80's is in Botswana, with an estimated total population nearing 200,000 there is no hesitation by the CITES authorities to allow a quota of over 200 animals per year. Even this number is considered far too low as an off take to control the population explosion however some quota remains unsold each year.

Elephant occur throughout the southern and central regions of the country while the north remains largely void of elephant due to the arid conditions.

The Chobe National Park holds the largest concentration of elephant and severe habitat destruction has occurred here in the past having a knock on effect on the other species found here. All your hunting concessions in and around the Chobe as well as the blocks surrounding the massive Okavango delta are good for elephant.

Typically in a day you will look over 10 to 15 bulls, most of which will be small or have worn tusks. Botswana elephant tend to have very soft ivory so you'll see many bulls with one tusk or worn down ivory. Although, take note of the thickness of the tusks even is they are worn - I know of an old timer who shot a bull with stumpy broken tusks and it turned out they were close on 90lbs due to their thickness.

The Chobe Enclave is virtually surrounded by the Chobe National Park, home to Africa's highest concentration of Elephants. Pandamatenga lies along the Zimbabwean border and is a traditional migration route for Elephant between the Chobe National park and Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.

okavango delta - swamps
This river delta, a labyrinth of lakes, lagoons and channels, is the largest inland delta in the world - the water never reaches the sea but is instead just absorbed by the sand. It also makes up 95% of Botswana's surface water. Despite all this water, the peat and papyrus grasses burn extensively each year.

Although large game animals are limited here, expect to see lion, leopard hippo, the endemic red lechwe and sitatunga as well as herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe. Bird life is abundant - Pel's fishing owl, the palm nut vulture and numerous waterfowl and waders.

Fishing is also excellent: 60-70 species of fish including the tiger fish and some with very strange body shapes and adaptations: the perch that can climb out of the water and the squeakers that can hunt upside down.

Transport on the slow-moving water is by mokoros which is a simple dugout canoe and often shots have to be taken from these moving platforms.

This is big game country with lion, elephant and buffalo and well as all the other plains animals. It is also home to huge zebra herds which undertake an annual migration; smaller in scale only to the Serengeti wildebeest. There is an unbelievable animal density of 5 animals per square kilometer. Wild dog populations also occur in the Savuti and the largest elephant population in the world lives in the Chobe.

Dense riverine forests of marula, ebony and leadwood alongside grassy woodlands, couch grasslands and woolly caper bushes characterise the vegetation. The knobthorn and camelthorn are everywhere.

tuli block
Situated in the eastern region, the Tuli block is home to the largest privately owned game conservation area in Southern Africa - all 120 000ha of it. It is an isolated area and unspoiled by civilisation with huge granite outcrops, deep river gorges and lush woodlands. With few fences, this network has an abundance of elephant (the world's largest privately owned elephant population) and big cats.

In this rugged terrain you will also find Meyer's parrot, a rich archaeological history, alluvial semi-precious stones and an enormous basalt dyke - evidence of a huge lake that covered the area.

makgadikgadi pans
Another world's largest - the largest area of salt pans which cover 12 000km2 where there is very little water but the wildlife and birdlife is spectacular when it rains. An expanse of barren sand and sky, the pans are home to flamingos, pelicans, ducks and teals; one year seeing a migration of 1,5million greater flamingos!

Once a super lake, the Ntwetwe, Sowa and Nxai pans are home to Botswana's famous baobabs and large zebra herds, blue wildebeest and smaller antelope.

It's said that this is a good place to learn to trust your GPS!

kalahari desert
Home of the famed black-maned Kalahari lions, this thirstland forms the largest stretch of wind-blown sand in the world. Made up mainly of thorn scrub, an amazing number of creatures both large and small have adapted to living in this harshness. Raptors here are numerous, coasting in the baking sun and endless horizons.

There are several game reserves in this area, including the newly established Peace Park between South Africa and Botswana. Black and white rhino live in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary and cheetah, leopard and lion, of course, abound.