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A Quick Intro To Gaborone, Botswana

BY MELISSA ZHANG, from Chronicle of a Traveling Cal Bear

Botswana

I remember saying goodbye to my brother at the Hong Kong International Airport departure gates, and laughing at myself for the first time: here we go, solo leg to Botswana! This was my first trip, not only to the African continent, but also to the Southern hemisphere. My excitement rose with each takeoff and new language that wafted into my ears inside the cabin.

Where is Botswana? A landlocked country bordered by (clockwise from above) Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia. Most travelers cross the globe to Botswana for its unparalleled offering of wildlife. Indeed, almost 90% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert, home to the bush (dry shrub land) and all the animals and plants you can imagine on an African savanna. No rush, I will gladly introduce you to Chobe National Park in a later post!

SEE ALSO: Uma Thurman’s Africa Snaps Will Give You Serious Safari FOMO

For fellow runners out there, there is an absolutely insane Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon happening here on Oct 24, 2015. Registration is limited to 100 entries. Weeklong 252 KM challenge in the desert- open invitation!

Anyway, I hear it’s your first time planning a trip to Botswana, too? Here are some thoughts from your humble writer from Day 1. We will focus on the capital of Gaborone to begin with.

Botswana tourist

Getting here:

Air Botswana operates the only flights into Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, Gaborone. There are direct flights from Atlanta, Washington DC, New York City, several European cities, and Hong Kong into Johannesburg, where I recommend you make your connection flight. I had an excellent experience with South African Airlines, as well as their subsidiary Mango Airlines within the region.

Fun surprises:

Prepare to board increasingly small aircrafts the more landlocked the direction you fly. Trust propellers.

Lodging:

Most hotels and lodges are within a 10 minute drive from the capital airport. The Peermont Walmont (The Grand Palm is a fancier version of the Mondior) and Cresta Lodge are common names you’ll run across in Southern Africa lodging. The Grand Palm includes a casino, magnificent banquet hall and summer garden, complete with the best live singer south of the equator, for $100-150 per weekend night, which is great considering state officials are welcomed here.

Botswana lodging

If with local friends:

I also spent a night in my local friend Jane’s house, which was a deliciously homey experience considering her mom made me porridge and eggs at 5 AM on the morning I left Gaborone. I learned that districts in Gaborone are segmented distinctly by function. For instance, you would find the commercial, residential and community (schools) zones separated by 5-10 minute drives. Parents have to send their kids to school by 7 AM.

Food:

It’s all about mind-blowing roast meat. My friend knows me (too) well and planned FOUR food stops around the city right after I landed: Nandos for the peri-peri chicken. Sanitas for the charming garden, artisan crafts and cool, summer lemonade. Bull & Bush for the perfect, juicy steak and buzzing beer garden. Mugg and Bean cafe for the South African franchise cafe experience, also because the neighboring Rodizio Brazilian Restaurant was closed by the time we arrived at 8 PM. Restaurants and shops close very early.

Botswana food

After 16 hours of traveling, my first day in Gaborone (Ha-bor-ro-nee), the capital of Botswana, finally came to rest at the Grand Palm Hotel on Bonnington Farm that chilly Sunday night in July 2015. I passed out quickly with dreams of dry, grassy scents and a crisp, orange sunrise.

Photos: Melissa Zhang

 

Melissa Zhang contributor profile

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