Size: 220,000 square miles (a little smaller than Texas)
Climate: Winter and fall (April through August) are dry, with temperatures ranging from hot during the day to below freezing at night. Spring (September through November) is even hotter and drier. Summer (November through March) is cooler and extremely humid, with frequent rains and thunderstorms.
Language: English (official language), Setswana (national language)
History: Botswana gained independence from Britain on September 30, 1966
Geography: Botswana is a landlocked country, bordered by Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Two-thirds of the country is dominated by the Kalahari Desert in the south and west. The swamps and lagoons of the Okavango Delta, fed by the Okavango River from Angola, cover the northwest. Hills of granite rocks and vast grasslands characterize the northeast.
The village of Gudigwa is located on the northeastern side of the Okavango River, and is home to 800 Bukakhwe (Bu-KA-kweh) San Bushman. The Bukakhwe culture dates back thousands of years, and to this day the locals maintain their traditions as hunters and gathers with strong ties to the environment. The people are experts in the medicinal uses of plants as well as tracking animals.
The camp at Gudigwa is owned by the Bukakhwe Cultural Conservation Trust (BCCT), which is a community-run board, charged with managing the camp and reinvesting its proceeds into community development projects. The goal of the Gudigwa ecotourism project is to reduce pressures on wildlife in the delta by providing alternative sources of income that respect the Bukakhwe's cultural heritage.
Enjoying relative prosperity from diamond mining, the government of Botswana has successfully promoted high-end, low-volume tourism, creating the third largest industry in the country. Recognizing that tourists visit the region for wildlife viewing, the Tourism Department's website boasts that 15 percent of Botswana's land-area is protected through the creation of national parks and game reserves. In contrast, officials have recently been under-fire for protecting wildlife and land to the detriment of local communities, particularly the marginalized bushmen tribes.
However, the Okavango Delta, home to the bulk of Botswana's prized wildlife, remains largely unprotected and is threatened from a variety or sources, from veterinary fences to cattle ranching. On the other hand, unique to this region is an opportunity to protect this special place before any real damage is done. Setting up more protected areas, creating alternative means of income for the local people, and promoting responsible tourism in the area can all contribute to the viability of one of the most spectacular places on Earth.