Botswana Safari: Chapter 3, Nxai Pan
Before continuing on the safari, a brief history note. Before 1966, Botswana was the British protectorate known as Bechuanaland. Seretse Khana, a chief-in-waiting for one of the largest tribes, was studying law in London in the mid-1940’s when he met Ruth Williams. They fell in love, and against both families’ objections were married. (Apartheid was the official or non-official policy in most south African countries at that time.) Britain and Khana’s regent/uncle behaved abominably, but the people rose up and chose Seretse Khana to lead them. He became the first president after independence and led his extremely poor country to financial stability by 1970. He reinvested the mining and agricultural profits into education, infrastructure, and health care. He hired capable people regardless of color, and managed to avoid corruption problems. The fourth and present president is his son, Ian. Presidents are elected every 5 years and allowed 2 terms.
Botswana chose the zebra as its national animal to symbolize black and white living in harmony and they put zebra stripes on their flag. The blue background of the flag symbolizes water.
The pula replaced the South African rand in 1976 as the official currency. In a dry, land-locked country, water is the gift of life. Pula is the setswana word for water as well as a greeting. This is what their currency looks like.
While the zebra will remain the national animal, the national bird, the gorgeous Violet-breasted Roller was recently replaced by the Kori Bustard. The rollers are plentiful, while the bustard is in some peril. Bustards are the heaviest flying birds, and are tasty. Loss of habitat plus pot hunting (for human consumption) are putting heavy pressure on bustards. By making it the national bird, wildlife protectors are bringing the bustard to national attention.
Okay, on with the safari. Next stop is still in the Kalahari area just north of Makgadikgadi park. We’re working our way back to Maun on a loop tour. The park is Nxai Pan. The “x” is pronounced as a click from the language of the native Kalahari inhabitants, the Bushmen, or San people. Most San now live in villages.
Part of the reason travel in the outback is difficult is that the few road signs there are, are frequently knocked over by playful elephants.
At the gate while the guide checks in, I spot a skink and a sunbird .
Camp is set up under a splendid baobab tree. Rains have been enough to leaf out the baobabs and start the flowers blooming. (Interesting little tidbit, many ancient plants on the planet, such as the baobab, are found only in southern Africa and Australia which were attached as part of the single proto-continent of many eons ago.)
Visited the Baines baobabs, made famous by Thomas Baines, the explorer/artist who discovered and then painted them in 1860. What is so amazing is that these trees look the same today as they did in 1860!
Next day, while exploring the park we find some of the usual suspects and some new ones.
Moving north to a new campsite, we find lots more signs of life.
We will have 2 days to catch up at the Old Bridge Backpackers luxury tent, before the next adventure in the Okavango Delta.
If you are interested in Botswana, be sure to see the movie made in 2016 called “A United Kingdom” based on the country’s true history found in Susan Williams’ 2006 book, “Colour Bar”.
Short video of Nxai Pan animals: https://youtu.be/fXNSC8G6Yh8
Signing off until the next chapter.