26 interesting facts about Botswana

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Home to a gargantuan desert, an unparalleled array of wildlife and ancient rock art, these are the most interesting facts about Botswana

A hippopotamus in Botswana
Interesting facts about Botswana include its diverse wildlife (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Botswana
Capital city: Gaborone
Population: 2,317,233
Area: 581,730 sq km
Major languages: Setswana, English
Major religions: Christianity, Badimo
Time zone: UTC+2 / Central Africa Time
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Botswana

1. Botswana has been continuously inhabited by Khoisan (Khoe and San) speaking people for at least 18,000 years from around 17,000 BC to about 1650 AD.
(Source: Britannica)

2. However, a recent study suggests that the ancestral home of modern humans may have been in Botswana. According to DNA samples, scientists believe that Homo sapiens lived 200,000 years ago in an oasis south of the Zambezi River in modern-day Botswana.
(Source: The Guardian)

The Okavango Delta accounts for several interesting facts about Botswana
The Okavango Delta accounts for several interesting facts about Botswana (Shutterstock)

3. Until 2004, Botswana had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection. Today, it has one of Africa’s most advanced treatment programmes and medicine for the virus is readily available.
(Source: BBC News)

4. Botswana is the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds after Russia and Africa’s largest.
(Source: British Geological Survey)

5. In 2015 the world’s second-largest diamond was discovered in Botswana. The 1,111-carat stone was found in the Karowe mine. It was the biggest diamond to be discovered in Botswana and the largest to be found in more than a century.
(Source: BBC News)

A drone view of Karowe mine
The open-pit Karowe mine (Fair Use/Sotheby’s)

6. Botswana is the longest continuous multi-party democracy in Africa.
(Source: Washington Post)

7. From 1885 Botswana was a British protectorate known as Bechuanaland. In 1966 it gained full independence from the UK.
(Source: Britannica)

8. Sir Seretse Khama was Botswana’s first president serving from 1966 to 1980. In 1950 he was forced into exile by Britain after marrying an English woman, Ruth Williams. When he returned he negotiated the terms of Botswana’s independence.
(Source: The Telegraph)

A bronze statue of Seretse Khama with blue sky
A statue of Seretse Khama in Gaborone (Shutterstock)

9. The enormous Kalahari Desert stretches over a huge part of Botswana. It covers at least half of the country’s land area and potentially up to 70%.
(Source: African Wildlife Foundation, Britannica)

10. As such, Botswana is an extremely arid country and has often suffered from droughts. Its currency is called ‘pula’ which means ‘rain’ in Setswana.
(Source: Independent)

11. It was once thought that Botswana was part of the only four-nation quadripoint (the point where four territories meet) on the planet. However, GPS has now confirmed the countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe do not all meet at one point. Instead, the area features a unique ‘double tripoint’ where two tripoints are separated by around 150m: Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia in one site and Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana at another.
(Source: NASA)

Elephants in the Okavango Delta
Elephants in Botswana (Shutterstock)

12. Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants, numbering over 130,000. The Okavango Delta plays a core role in the species’ survival.
(Source: UNESCO)

13. Incidentally, the Okavango Delta in Botswana became the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site when it was inscribed in 2014.
(Source: UNESCO)

14. Botswana is landlocked by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. A landlocked country has no direct access to the sea. There are currently 45 such countries and five partially recognised states.
(Source: CIA World FactbookThe Economist)

A map of Botswana
Botswana is landlocked (Shutterstock)

15. Botswana is a sparsely populated country. It is smaller than France in size, but where 67 million people live in France, there are only 2.3 million in Botswana. There are 4 people per square km of land in Botswana and 122 in France.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book, World Bank)

16. Around a third of Botswana’s landmass is officially protected either by national parks and game reserves or “wildlife management areas”.
(Source: Anthony Ham, Trent Holden (2017) Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia. Lonely Planet: London)

17. The Botswana flag is one of the few African flags that does not use the colours of the Pan-Africanism movement of red, black and green.
(Source: Moira Butterfield (2019) The Flag Book. Lonely Planet Kids: London)

The Botswana flag
The flag of Botswana (Shutterstock)

18. Bechuanaland had no distinctive national symbols of its own prior to independence. Instead, the flag’s black stripe and white bordering stripes represent a belief in racial cooperation and equality. The light blue background is associated with the sky and water.
(Source: Britannica)

19. Botswana is home to a wide variety of wildlife. It is possible to observe the famous big five game animals in Botswana: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo.
(Source: Bradt Guides)

20. There is also a huge variety of other animals including between 160 and 500 distinct mammal species, at least 593 bird species, 150 unlike reptiles, more than 8,000 insect and spider species, and more than 3,100 types of plants and trees.
(Source: Anthony Ham, Trent Holden (2017) Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia. Lonely Planet: London)

Two Meerkats on a sand bank
Meerkats in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert (Shutterstock)

21. The body of a man known as ‘El Negro’ rests in Botswana. Having died in 1830 (probably in modern-day South Africa), the man’s body was dug up, stuffed and then heinously displayed in European museums. In 2000, following a campaign, the man’s remains were reburied in Botswana.
(Source: The Guardian)

22. There are over 4,500 rock paintings preserved in an area of Botswana known as the “Louvre of the Desert”. The ancient paintings in the Tsodilo Hills are thought to be over 100,000 years old.
(Source: UNESCO)

23.  Taylor Swift’s music video for her song Wildest Dreams was shot in Botswana. The video, which featured a mostly white cast, was criticised for presenting an “African colonial fantasy”.
(Source: The Guardian)

24. Mopane worms, which are actually caterpillars, are a delicacy in Botswana. The insects are rich in protein and calcium and are often stirred into stews of tomatoes and peanuts.
(Source: France 24)

25. Chobe National Park was Botswana’s first national park and is considered one of Africa’s great wildlife destinations. It has a huge population of elephants, several species of predators and 440 recorded bird species.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

26. Botswana has the largest salt pans in the world. The Makgadikgadi Pans cover an area of over 30 000 km2. They make up part of the Makgadikgadi Pans Landscape – a site on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
(Source: UNESCO)

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Botswana using reliable sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.