Botswana is one of the prime wildlife safari destinations in Africa with iconic parks such as Chobe and Moremi showcasing great elephant concentrations and the Okavango Delta.The Botswana safari industry today is built on photographic tourism but for many years the country was the haunt of trophy hunters. The massive growth in photographic tourism has precipitated the end of the hunting industry, with an announcement by the tourism minister that hunting would be stopped in the country as of 2014.
Wild Places and Trophy Hunters
When seeing Maun airport for the first time one can be forgiven for thinking that it is the product of a decades old safari industry. Known to be one of the busiest small-craft airports in Africa, Maun has grown fast over the past ten years. Many aircraft stand waiting to ferry passengers to one of the many lodges around The Okavango and other parks of the country. But it has not always been so!In the first half of the 1900’s the northern wilderness areas of Botswana were the haunt of crocodile hunters and other adventurers, with tourism almost non-existent save for some hardy operators who ventured into the wild lands with guests. In the 1960’s hunters from Kenya, seeking new hunting grounds after the political changes in the country, settled in Maun and made Northern Botswana their new home.
For many years the Delta and other parts of Botswana were divided into concession areas and leased out to the hunting companies.
Birth of a Legend
The National Parks and Game Reserves of Botswana provided the most unadulterated wilderness in Africa and safari connoisseurs began to see the attractions of this new safari frontier. In the 1980’s a smattering of rustic safari camps sprang up but a Botswana safari was still very much a tented camping experience.
This began to change in the 1990’s with photographic safari companies tendering for the hunting concessions and soon more and more lodges sprang up – and they began to resemble the luxury lodges of South Africa. Today, like elsewhere in Africa, the Botswana safari is a lodge-based affair – with mobile camping safaris becoming the exception rather than the rule.
Botswana Tourism Tomorrow
Over the years trophy hunting in Botswana has been squeezed into smaller and smaller pockets and the announcement by the Botswana Government that hunting is to be stopped altogether in 2014 will open up new concession areas for photographic tourism. Sound tourism policies will ensure that the industry remains strong into the future.