Botswana is home to a wonderful range of animal species and habitats, and is for many the most rewarding of the safari destinations within the region.The county's natural heritage includes almost 550 different bird species, over 170 mammal, 150 reptile, 40 amphibian and 80 fish species, as well as over 3 000 recorded plant species, all ensuring that a trip through any of the country's many wilderness areas can't fail to impress.
BirdlifeThe Black Egret has a unique feeding behaviour known as "shading". By using the wings to cover its head, it creates a canopy of shade that is thought to attract small fish and other aquatic organisms.For birders the Pel's Fishing Owl is a prize tick on their must-see list. It is not so much scarce as difficult to spot, and the best way to find it is to look amongst the densest of trees on heavily wooded islands.There is nothing more majestic than a Fish Eagle sweeping down to grab a fish from just below the water's surface. These birds are commonly seen throughout Botswana, wherever there is permanent water.This photograph was a set-up with a dead fish thrown for the Fish Eagle.This Female Bateleur shows the adult plumage colours that make her the most striking of all raptors. While these birds are not common, visitors on an extended safari should be able to see them, particularly in the drier regions. Male Ostriches raise their wings and swirl them about above the body in a mating display, to attract female suitors.Black Crake are commonly seen scrambling about the lower levels in papyrus beds on all waterways and lagoons throughout the Okavango Delta.Common throughout the Okavango Delta and the waterways of Chobe and Linyanti, Little Bee-Eaters have a habit of huddling together at favourite roost sites during the cold winter months.
Animal PortraitsLions are usually on the top of 'must-see' lists. While they occur in every national park and in most private concessions, the best viewing is in the central and northern regions of the Okavango and in the Moremi, the Savuti Marsh and along the Linyanti, Kwando and Chobe rivers. Roan Antelope are on the endangered list in southern Africa. For the best chances of viewing them, visit the drier camps in the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwando regions, and the far northern Okavango during winter.Warthog, which have been known to share their burrows with nocturnal species such as hyena, have the habit of reversing intostrongthe entrance so that their heads always face whatever danger may be lurking. The silhouette of a Leopard cleaning itself - something they do on a regular basis, but particularly after feeding.Being predominately a nocturnal species, and because of their solitary and secretive nature, Leopards are not seen nearly as often as lions. However, once habituated to the game drive vehicles, they offer exciting close-up photographic opportunities. An extremely adaptable species, they are found in almost every type of terrain.Male Giraffe engage in a form of combat known as necking. The animals stand side by side and swing their heads in order to land hefty blows on each other's neck and upper chest. This behaviour will eventually determine the hierarchy of dominance amongst the adults.
PredatorsOf the large cat species, Leopards have the most varied and adaptable diets. In the areas where medium-sized and smaller antelope species, such as impala and steenbok, occur, these form the majority of the leopard's prey. In more marginal areas, they will prey on birds, rodents and even carrion.Lions commonly form coalitions, usually with two or three members but occasionally with as many as four or five, which improves their chances of holding a pride territory for longer periods. Here two lions share a buffalo kill, but with smaller carcasses they will often compete aggressively for food. Wild Dogs hunt in packs, and small- and medium-sized antelope are their favoured prey. Once an animal has been brought down, the dogs feed together and, if there are pups with the pack, they are allowed to eat before the adults.
The PlainsTaut with tension, a group of Impala drink at a water hole: they are particularly vulnerable from attack by predators when they are drinking.Buffalo are highly gregarious, non-territorial animals and have large home ranges. Although an average-sized herd consists of several hundred animals, in the northern areas of the Okavango Delta and the Chobe National Park they move in herds of over a thousand.Of all the antelope species, the Red Lechwe has the strongest association with the waters of the Okavango. Adaptations, including long, splayed hooves, strong hindquarters and a shaggy coat, allow them to inhabit the islands and floodplain edges wherever water occurs.Photograpy by Ian Micheler
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