Botswana: Celebrating 50 Years of Independence

Sep 26, 2016 Conservation
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On 30 September 2016, Botswana will celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence. It was on this day in 1966 that Botswana (then known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate) was granted independence from British rule.

Today we celebrate Botswana’s momentous milestone anniversary by reflecting on a few of the reasons why we believe in and are proud to be a part of this amazing country’s 50-year journey.

To understand the success of tourism in Botswana we need to look back to the state of the country in 1966. Botswana was then a very poor country with a population of 550 000 and high levels of illiteracy and infrastructure. At this time beef production was the main source of economic production. This changed in 1977 with the beginning of diamond mining operations. Diamonds transformed the economy and between 1966 and 1996 the economy grew at 9% per annum and at around 7% per annum subsequently.

Botswana could have easily ignored another main avenue of revenue had it not been for progressive leadership that saw the potential of the country as a prime wildlife and safari destination. Today, tourism is the second-largest contributor to Botswana’s GDP – with nearly 40% of land set aside as national parks and wildlife reserves.

We’re proud to work in this beautiful country, considered to be one of the most stable, peaceful and transparent countries in Africa. Botswana is in fact the original ‘home’ of Wilderness Safaris and it was here in 1983 that our exciting journey of discovery and learning first began.

While Wilderness Safaris has since expanded into other parts of our continent, we have never strayed far from our roots. The country’s ecotourism model has indeed influenced the way we operate our camps not only in Botswana but also throughout the other countries in which we operate. The country’s “low volume, low impact, high value” tourism policy has prospered and ensured the conservation of land and wildlife as well as that benefits are accrued to local communities.

Our first permanent camps were opened in 1985 – Xigera and Xaro, with Mombo Camp opened in 1990; both Xigera and Mombo are still in existence. Today we operate over 20 camps in the country, providing jobs and income for many Batswana – as well as being involved in a large number of conservation and community projects in conjunction with our NGOs – Wilderness Wildlife Trust and Children in the Wilderness.

From being one of the poorest countries on the continent, Botswana is now one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It is this success story combined with natural riches and a visionary government that make Botswana one of the most rewarding countries in Africa and possibly the most exciting for a safari to appreciate the plethora of wildlife great and small…

We look forward to the next 50 years!

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By Kate Collins

Kate grew up exploring the bushveld on her family rose farm, living among Nguni cattle, geese, warthogs, ostriches and horses. After completing an Honours degree at the University of Cape Town, Kate began working at Wild magazine as a journalist and as the Digital Editor of the Wild Card website. Kate has travelled to destinations throughout southern Africa, enjoying the many rich offerings of our country. Her work at Wild magazine helped secure her next move to Londolozi Game Reserve where she worked in their Creative team managing online communications and assisting guests with their wildlife photography. Kate now lives in Johannesburg and is proud to be a part of Wilderness Safaris in her role as copywriter. “I am very excited to work for a company that makes such a huge difference to people’s lives and to the wild places throughout our incredibly beautiful and diverse continent.”

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