With an area of almost 600 000 square kilometres, Botswana is virtually the same size as France or Texas. Situated in the centre of southern Africa, it is a landlocked country, with Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe as its immediate neighbours. Botswana lies an average of 950 metres above sea level and is more than 600 kilometres from the nearest coast. The Tropic of Capricorn bisects Botswana.
The most striking features of the country are its flatness and aridity. With the exception of the eastern part of Botswana where the great majority of Batswana live and where the summer rainfall is slightly higher, three-quarters of Botswana is technically a desert. This is what makes the Okavango Delta even more remarkable. It is a wonderful wetland within a desert, getting its waters from rain falling in central Africa, 1000km away.
Botswana is one of Africa's success stories. Prior to independence in 1966, it was one of the world's poorest countries. When tourism started to arrive in Botswana in the 1970s, very few people who lived outside Botswana had even heard of the Okavango. It was undiscovered, only visited by a few hardy adventurers. But South Africa's first democratic elections began a change in the area. Within Botswana, there were big changes, too. Diamonds were discovered in the Kalahari shortly after independence and this kick-started the economy. Sir Seretse Khama was the country's first post-independence president. He was a wonderful leader and one of the most pragmatic and far-thinking presidents any country could ever hope for. Seretse laid the foundations that Botswana needed to propel itself forward, without compromising democracy; the result is a booming economy in a stable country.
On the wildlife front, Seretse's son, Ian, is one of the country's unsung conservation heroes (and currently its president). When he became head of the military, he positioned his troops to secure Botswana's borders from poachers. The game concentrations within the country multiplied overnight. Many people owe their jobs and careers to his actions.
The country abandoned mass tourism and focused on high quality / low volume tourism as the best way to create a sustainable industry that would employ a large percentage of its people, while still preserving the environment. Today wildlife and tourism employs about 45% of all the people who live in northern Botswana.