South Africa, Zimbabwe & Botswana
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To discover the meaning of the popular festivals in Botswana, you must first know that this country has a rich cultural heritage. The festivities in Botswana continue to be celebrated as they were hundreds of years ago, and they follow the principles of ancestral tradition and culture.
The festivities and popular festivals in Botswana depend on the diverse ethnic groups which inhabit the country. The Herero, the Kavango, the Khoisan, the Lozi, the Ndebele, the Shoto, and the Tswana are the main ethnic groups which make up the original population of Botswana.
These men and women have managed to avoid the collapse of the colonial era and tribal conflicts. Dominated by the absolutism of family monarchies for centuries, however, it was not a source of slaves, unlike many other African countries. Its political institutions have been modernized, and debates replace tribal clashes.
Although there are inequalities in the quality of life among the different ethnic groups, the country has managed to maintain peace, being a safe destination for millions of tourists. With these factors in mind, let's look at Botswana's most popular festivals month by month.
In January, the inhabitants of this country celebrate the New Year with outdoor parties, traditional music, dances and popular events with lots of food and drink. More than seventy percent of the population is Christian, so it is hardly surprising that they celebrate this festival of Christian origin just like in the rest of the world.
For the inhabitants of this country, protection of the environment is a key issue, so in this regard, they actively participate in World Wetlands Day, which is celebrated in February. If you are visiting the country in February, you will be able to attend some of the popular events and festivals in Botswana which are celebrated for this important reason, such as the protection of their wildlife.
One of the most important festivities in Botswana is the Maitisong Festival, a popular festival which takes place in March and lasts nine days. For more than a week, the people take to the streets to enjoy numerous shows of traditional music, performing arts and cultural events. It is a kind of carnival, but with cultural and artistic content, and it takes place in Gaborone.
If you are in the northwest in April, you can attend one of the most culturally rich festivals in Botswana. The Festival of Maun combines tribal dances, music, poetry and everything which has to do with the tribal culture of this area of the country. A very authentic celebration, which you cannot miss.
May is the month which hosts another of the most important festivities in Botswana, the TjiLenje Cultural Festival. To enjoy the events which take place in this festival, you will have to visit the city of Nlapkhwane. The traditional dances, the ancestral games, and the typical food and drink of the region are the protagonists of this festivity.
Lovers of the motor will have their time in June during the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, an annual race which attracts fans from all over the country. If you like motorcycle, motor or even quad-biking racing, you can't miss this sporting event.
July is the setting in which to celebrate President's Day, one of the most patriotic Motswana festivities. For four days, popular events are organized with dances, songs, and speeches to honor the country's president.
If you visit the Kalahari desert in August, you're in luck, because you will see one of the most unique Motswana festivals. The bushmen celebrate at the Kuru Dance Festival, a traditional festival full of music, dance, and songs. The celebration lasts three days and is an authentic celebration which highlights how alive the Bushman culture is today.
September gives way to one of the Motswana festivities with the biggest taste of freedom, Independence Day. This day, which is celebrated every 30th September, is characterized by many street parties, parades, and events related to the culture and traditions of the different ethnic groups which make up the country.
At the end of October and the beginning of November, the Spirit Of Praise is celebrated, an annual music event which attracts artists from all over the country. The exciting event is a competition to choose the best artists through a 7-week search. The public select their favorite artist from among all the participants.
As the majority of the population are Christian, Christmas is another popular holiday in Botswana. The Motswana are very faithful, so these dates are celebrated with great religious fervor. In addition to the typical Christmas dinners, there are concerts of Christmas carols and local choirs which celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus.LEARN MORE
The variety of dishes to eat in Botswana lives up to the name that its cuisine has created. In many countries around the world, Botswana’s cuisine is known as the Rainbow’s Gastronomy. The country’s ethnic wealth has a lot to do with this in this sense.
This country has a huge variety of traditional dishes, the ingredients of which include meat from different animals, cereals, nuts, fruit, as well as fish and seafood. Among the varieties of meat to eat in Botswana, besides the usual beef, goat, and deer you can find giraffe, ostrich meat and oryx meat.
In the tubers and cereals area, millet, sorghum and native products such as bogobe and mabele are part of many recipes in the country. Peanuts, as well as the sought-after Kalahari truffle, are delicacies that you can also try in this African country.
As for seafood, oysters, lobsters, and clams are high-quality products that you can eat in Botswana. For its part, tuna is the preferred fish, which is prepared in different ways.
Finally, as for fruit, you can savor papayas, bananas, and delicious avocados. As you can see, the Botswanan cuisine is extremely desirable. Now let’s find out more about some of its most emblematic traditional dishes.
This is one of the most traditional Botswanan dishes and consists of beans, corn, and lamb. The bean mixture is cooked over low heat, and when it is almost ready, the lamb is roasted. Then, everything is mixed in a single dish, which is served with sprigs of parsley.
This Botswanan dish is prepared with tripe. A stew is prepared with sliced tripe, which is served with potatoes and peas as an accompaniment. It is flavored with chili, ginger, and garlic.
If you like meat, another dish to eat in Botswana is Seswaa. To make it, beef, goat, and sheep are cooked very slowly until it is completely tender. It can be served alone, or accompanied by beans or rice, and is also used to fill sandwiches and other types of bread.
This type of minced meat burger is the star of fast food in Botswana. It is served in the customary round burger bun, and also has ground meat, onion, red pepper, spinach and occasionally liver. It is seasoned with curry, thyme, salt and chili sauce.
Phaphatha is the bread of Botswana, and it is cooked in a dry pan. You’ll find it alone, or filled with meat. It is a very filling bread, so as a starter it can be quite heavy. You will also find it as breakfast or a snack in most places around the country.
Without a doubt, chickens raised in the wild are tastier than farm-raised chickens. On top of this, the chicken is cooked in a three-legged iron pot on an open fire, which gives it the best flavor. This way of cooking the chicken has caused other food to be eaten in Botswana, and the authentic taste of traditional food is experienced.
To prepare this traditional Botswanan dish, sorghum, corn or millet flour is placed in boiling water, turning into a soft paste, and is slowly cooked. Sorghum or corn is sometimes fermented, and milk and sugar are added. This dish is called Ting. Without the milk and sugar, it is sometimes eaten with meat or vegetables for lunch or dinner.
Another way to make bogobe is to add sour milk and melon to make lerotse. This dish is called tofu by the Kalanga tribe. Cereals are part of the basic diet in many tribes in Botswana.
But what about drinks? Below we will find out about the most popular traditional drinks in this country.
To accompany some of the tasty dishes of Botswana, you can try the famous beer, Bojalwa. This beer is made from the fermentation of sorghum, and those who try it adopt it as their favorite drink for the duration of their trip. For lovers of strong beer, Tho Tho Tho reaches 80% alcohol content.
But if you want to try a truly traditional drink, order Madila, the drink which is popular with the people of Botswana, which is made of fermented milk. For homemade liquors, Khadi is made from a base of distilled sugar and mushrooms. For soft drinks, Ginger is a homemade drink, made with ginger, sugar, and pieces of pineapple or other fruit.
Now that you know what to eat in Botswana don’t hesitate to try some of their traditional dishes and enjoy a simple, but very healthy and ecological cuisine.LEARN MORE
Handicrafts are one of the main souvenirs to buy in Botswana or the Republic of Botswana. This country, situated in the south of the African continent, is famous for the Kalahari desert which takes up 70% of its surface area. Most of its typical products come from handicrafts made by women.
When you travel to this country, one of the best-known products to buy in Botswana is wickerwork. The women of Etsha and Gumare, two villages in the north of the country, are skilled artisans. You will also find ceramics, paintings, wood carvings, and more handicraft products from the area.
Let’s look at which are the most prominent souvenirs of Botswana, and which ones the travelers who visit the country from all around the world take home.
As we already mentioned, wickerwork forms part of the most typical and emblematic things to buy in Botswana. If you visit the north of the country, you must go to Etsha or Gumare, where the women make all kinds of items with palm leaves.
From baskets, plates and other kitchen utensils, to items and accessories for personal use. The art of wickerwork has improved and increased its production over the years.
Another of the typical products of Botswana is pottery, but to get to know the artisans first hand, and buy one of the most authentic pieces, you need to visit Thamaga.
This village in the southeast of the country is home to a very important artisan community who do the most traditional pottery. The handmade pots which are simply painted are true works of art.
In the district of Kgatleng, also in the southeast of the country, they make incredible terracotta handicrafts, which have been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Women are at the forefront again, making traditional terracotta figures and utensils. These handicraft items are undoubtedly one of the things to buy in Botswana with the most cultural and aesthetic value.
If you want to take home one of the souvenirs of Botswana with more artisanal value, visit The Lentswe Oodi Weavers, a cooperative of Swedish origin in the village of Oodi. This village, situated approximately 20 km to the north of Gaborone, in Francistown Road is the home to the best weavers in the country.
The women, who now own the cooperative, produce necklaces, tapestries, napkins, cushion covers, jackets and coats, all designed by the weavers themselves. The wool is woven and dyed by hand and most of the designs depict rural scenes, animals or geometric patterns.
Wood carving has been used traditionally in the production of traditional objects such as tools, bowls, cups, and spoons. All of them made from the grained wood of the mopane tree.
As well as practical utensils for everyday use, the artisans carve figures of animals from the wood. At present, many artisans are using mopane wood to also carve jewelry.
This is a relatively new handicraft tradition in Botswana, which is currently gaining popularity. It was recently introduced and taught to ivory carvers who, with the worldwide ban on the sale of ivory products, were in danger of losing their livelihoods.
Tourism has meant that these artisans can continue working, turning their works into the perfect souvenirs to buy in Botswana during your trip. The artisans make elegant, finely crafted jewelry and small figurines which look and feel like real ivory, but without being so.
Tourism and tourists’ fascination with the Bushmen has revived the traditional handicrafts of this ethnic group. Currently, the Bushmen produce and sell hunting items, fire-making sticks, beaded jewelry and belts, leather items and musical instruments.
Authentic ostrich eggshell continues to be used to make objects to sell to tourists. The contrast of the creamy white beads on the brown and black leather string makes these items particularly attractive. In fact, they are one of the typical products to buy in Botswana with the most success.
There are many artists who sell their works in the local shops and in exhibitions in the shopping centers in Gaborone or Francistown. Most of the artists, of course, prefer to hold exhibitions in the National Museum or in their own houses. The National Museum of Gaborone organizes a yearly art competition for all of the schools in the country, whose results are usually quite interesting.
If you have a chance to visit the National Museum, and you love art, you will be able to connect with the author of the work. If your budget allows it, you can choose any other handicrafts item that we have mentioned earlier.LEARN MORE
A package holiday to Botswana will open up a world of wildlife, landscapes and a friendly culture to all who are lucky enough to explore this vibrant country. Landlocked between Namibia, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Botswana has a fantastically varied terrain including the plains of the arid Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 10% of the country, and the lush wetlands of the Okavango Delta.
When travelling to Botswana, visitors will receive a warm welcome from the population, made up of different tribal groups as the country is said to be one of the safest and friendliest in the whole of Africa. Most of the world’s ‘San’ population call the lands of Botswana their home.
English is the most widely spoken language of the Batswana, the name given to the people of Botswana, although Setswana is the local tongue.
Since the country became independent in 1966, the economy has seen remarkable growth thanks to its abundant natural resources, meaning that Botswana is one of the more wealthy countries in Africa. Almost all escorted tours of Botswana will focus on the vast national parks, some of the richest in the region and considered the most exclusive safari destinations, as Botswana has aimed for quality over quantity when it comes to tourism. 38% of the country is designated national reserve land and animals roam freely without borders or restrictions.
Both the Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta are home to a plethora of wildlife such as lions, crocodiles, cheetahs, hippos, elephants and wild dogs making them the perfect destinations for safari holidays. Aside from the national parks, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan is another unmissable natural attraction; an impressive landscape of crisp white land and one of the world’s largest. Botswana is also known for its diamond mines, concentrated in the Jwaneng area where the world’s richest diamond mine is located. Many tours of Botswana will begin in either Gaborone, the capital city which is home to most of the population and located in the southeast of the country, or Maun, a once tiny village that now serves as a gateway to the wonderful national parks and safari routes. Visitors will be enchanted by the untouched landscapes that serve to open one's eyes to how abundant nature can be when left to flourish.
Botswana has the highest population of elephants in Africa, so nature lovers can enjoy admiring these gentle giants, particularly around the Chobe River area. Lovers of adventure can experience 4x4 rides in the Kalahari, canoe trips on the Chobe River and bush walks in the many game reserves.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you expect to leave Botswana.
Visa not required for stays up to 90 days.
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Other useful information
ATMs are available in the major towns and larger villages, but most only accept Visa.
Please consult your doctor regarding the vaccination against yellow fever and malaria prophylaxis. Travellers over 60 years must consult their doctor as the Yellow Fever vaccine can have serious side effects.
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