Botswana is a country of contrasts, largely parched with an inland sea, hosting an incredible variety of land mammals encountered privately. Where a good old-fashioned grit-under-the-nails authentic adventure can combine with proper luxury. Here are 5 of the top places to go, and why -
1. The Okavango Delta
In 2014 this vast, varied, wildlife-abundant wetland became the1000th World Heritage site - and the question was never why, but rather what took so long? An inland delta transforms the heart of the Kalahari in to a lush oasis offering sanctuary to a cornucopia of rare and endangered wildlife, including Wild Dogs, Black and White Rhinos, Cheetahs and the planet's largest population of Elephants.
2. The Makgadikagadi Pans
In sharp contrast to the watery-wilderness that is the Okavango are the Kalahari's Salt Pans - a sparse environment where a handful of desert-adapted reptiles, birds and mammals somehow eke out a living. While game can occur in phenomonal numbers (there's an annual Zebra and Wildebeest migration and tens of thousands of Flamingos occasionally alight) these are transient phenomona which are hard to predict - and the the focus here is not on wildlife but more the extraordinary remoteness, scale and solitude that can be found. Possibly more like another planet than anywhere else in Africa, the most extraodinary thing is that people have lived here for millenia, and it continues to be a home to the Kalahari Bushmen, an ancient culture who remain in harmony with their harsh natural enviroment.
3. The Moremi Game Reserve
The Moremi Game Reserve protects a large tranche of the Delta from its watery heart to the parched exterior, by way of Chief's Island and the 'Mopane tongue. This variety plays host to an incredibly wide variety of relaxed mammals, in the centre the swamp-specialists Sitatunga and Lechwe find their niche while only a short-hop away lies some of the finest Cheetah viewing country to be found anywhere.
4. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve
This 50,000 square kilometer wilderness (that's significantly larger than Switzerland) only opened its gates to visitors in the 1980s and still only receives smattering of permit-wielding adventurers. Possibly the ultimate Game Reserve, nothing prepares you for it's enormity and wild, mysterious beauty. The feeling of space is palpable and immediate. As on the pans the game is transient but after the summer rains large herds of Springbok, Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Eland and Giraffe gather in the best grazing areas.
At the other end of the tourist-number spectrum from The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the Chobe Riverfront, where a combination of relative proximity plus ease of access from the Victoria Falls and an extremely healthy population of obliging elephants (as well as the chance of seeing more large charismatic mega-fauna) has created something of a day-tripper's delight. Happily however it is still possible to find rewarding wildlife experiences within the Chobe National Park.