In every country, we've noticed some recurring, consistent themes which help give each place a unique national flavor. We thought we would share these "Country Impressions" with you all to give you a better idea of what our day-to-day life is like in each place we visit. Because we were on a mostly all-inclusive tour, we didn't include a "What Things Cost" section for Botswana (sorry).
Impressions of Botswana
- Botswana can be expensive unless you plan carefully. Remember that "high cost- low impact" tourism policy we mentioned earlier? Unless you plan on roughing it in basic camp sites, lodging can be very expensive here. Most of the hotels in Botswana are five-star game lodges, costing upwards of $400 per night, per person, inclusive of game viewing. We paid much less by joining our participatory camping excursion, and we're glad we did. We got dirty, we got hot, but we really experienced Africa as a result. Definitely the way to go!
- Join a tour unless you've got lots of time and money. It's difficult to travel independently through Botswana, unless you have a very good 4-wheel drive vehicle, a good map, and lots of African bush experience. Better to pay somebody familiar with the area and who has the right equipment to bring along.
- Botswana's beef is choice stuff...and it's also the single greatest threat to the country's natural environment. Cattle herding is an important part of the Botswanan culture, and it has been for hundreds of years. The problem is, the cattle industry exports a lot of beef for European consumption. Since beef is big money in Botswana, growing ranches are a big threat to the country's so-far unspoiled wilderness areas. Hopefully, the government will continue to maintain a balance between the economic gains of expanded beef production and nature conservation.
- HIV/AIDS is a terrible epidemic here. Believe it or not (get ready for a shock), 35% of Botswana's population is HIV positive. This is not an exaggeration. Like its neighbors South Africa and Zimbabwe, the country was slow to react to the initial AIDS crisis. A lack of education and cultural problems have combined to create a ticking time bomb. In the past few years, the government has undertaken a massive AIDS education program, but it's probably too little, too late. It's estimated that in 10 years, the population will suffer a terrible crash as a result of death from AIDS. A tragic situation.
Back to Botswana pg 2 On to South Africa!
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