Botswana’s Most Unusual Animals
Featured destinations: Botswana
Published 15 June 2017
Botswana is a landlocked country situated between Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world with a human population of just over 2 million. However it is packed to the brim with wildlife, and is one of the best places to go on safari in the world. It has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and Okavango Delta which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods.
What will you see on safari?
In Botswana you’ll find safari regulars such as the Big 5. We’re talking elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. Not to mention plenty of giraffe, zebra, baboon, crocodile and wildebeest. There are 22 species of antelope in Botswana, so it’s near on impossible not to see one.
However, Botswana is also home to lots of other brilliant creatures, big and small, and as far as I am concerned, the more unusual the better. Below are some of my favourites.
image: Lucy Tolley
White tree frogs
Botswana can be a very dry place, and is somewhere that I did not expect to see any tree dwelling amphibians. However, we managed to spot a grey foam-nest tree frog. These little frogs often live in arid climates and they have adapted so that they can live months at a time away from water: a truly remarkable creature living in what can be such a dry barren landscape.
image: Lucy Tolley
The Lion King gave the hyena some bad press back in the day. However it was totally unfounded, and hyenas are my favourite safari animal. They are more intelligent than chimps and aren’t just scavengers, although they will take an easy meal when it’s on offer. They are formidable hunters, hunting in packs with jaws strong enough to devour bones. The females rule and are more muscular and aggressive, with three times more testosterone than their male counterparts.
Everyone knows about meerkats thanks to the ‘compare the meerkat’ adverts. But did you know that they are actually a member of the mongoose family and there are 34 species in the world, 10 of which are found in Africa?
What’s so special about these little guys is their amazing ability to fight venomous snakes. They have receptors that make them immune or resistant to venom and their fierce nature makes them fearless in battle against some of the most poisonous snakes in the world. Not only that but they are just super cute, and a great safari spot!
The honey badger is the badass of safari animals. It is distributed widely across Botswana, but difficult to spot. It has few predators due to its thick skin and ferocious defensive abilities and there are stories of it taking on lions, and winning. Fittingly, it holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for "World's Most Fearless Creature”.
image: Lucy Tolley
Monkeys are fairly common in a lot of countries; however Botswana is home to the ververt monkey. It’s a tree dweller with a very cute face, is shyer than baboon, but still crafty enough to steal your breakfast. But what makes this monkey stand out from the crowd is its bright blue scrotum.
Aardvarks are truly odd looking animals. They have a long snout, trotters as feet and they love to snooze. They are nocturnal so spotting these guys is tricky, however they feed on ants and termites so hanging out around a termite mound is as good a bet as any. These creatures are serious about food and can consume up to 50,000 termites in a single meal!
Most of us are familiar with the regular big cats such as lion, leopard and cheetah. However there more wild cats residing in Botswana and wider Africa than just this bunch.
The caracal is smaller than the above, very elusive and secretive which makes it difficult to spot. What is so different about this cat is that it can leap up to three metres to catch birds whilst in mid-flight, which is a seriously impressive feat. Even more interesting is that the ancient Egyptians tamed these cats and used them for hunting until the 20th century.
These creatures are covered in hard scales which they use as a form of protection. When they feel threatened they curl up into a ball. They look like a mini prehistoric dinosaurs and I love them! They enjoy snacking on ants, but are sadly on the endangered list. Their population is threatened by hunting for meat and their unusual scales.
One of the highlights of my trip was getting up close and personal with an elephant shrew. These little rodents are readily found across Botswana and despite their name, they aren’t related to shrews, they are more closely related to elephants. They can twist their long flexible snouts in search of food, just like their trunk-wielding cousins.
There are so many other wonderful creatures I could have included on my list. If going on safari is on your bucket list then Botswana is certainly the place to go.
Head to Botswana with one of Round the World Experts' Botswana Holidays.