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African charm: Baldwin Ho visits beautiful Botswana, the up-and-coming tourist destination

By Baldwin Ho on 10th March 2020

Ever since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex enjoyed their first holiday together in Botswana; the interest in the country has been steadily increasing. And now with Qatar Airways launching their new flight route to Gabarone, Botswana, there’s never been a better time to fly over there to catch some winter sun, culture and enjoy the beauty of their natural surroundings.

Getting there

Qatar Airways has inaugurated its new route to Botswana

Surprisingly easy courtesy of Qatar Airways. If you manage to book the right connecting flights, you only spend slightly over 1 hour at Hamad International Airport in Doha. Although you might want to spend a few more hours there, given the airport was voted 4th best in the world by the Skytrax World Airport Awards in 2019. There are luxurious lounges and designer shops aplenty for you to saunter around. Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is relatively close to the city centre of Gabarone ensuring the whole travelling experience is relatively painless.

The flight experience

Flying with Qatar Airways means part of the joy is in the travelling especially if you book a flight with their state-of-the-art Qsuites

Flying with Qatar Airways means part of the joy is in the travelling especially if you book a flight with their state-of-the-art Qsuites. Qatar Airways has been voted the world’s best airline in 2019 (the only airline to win the competition 5 times, also winning in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017). Their lounge at Heathrow offers a la carte food service which is almost unheard of in other business lounges. The benefits of Qsuite probably deserves a whole article in itself to highlight but the main benefits include added privacy with a closeable door, the seat controls are logically placed, it is extremely spacious with a multitude of storage space and the quality of materials used from the exceptional leather finishing to offering comfortable sleepwear is just unrivalled.

Gabarone

Avani Gaborone Resort and Casino is one of the best luxury hotels in Gabarone, the capital of Botswana

It is a modern capital built in the 1960s and free from the shackles of any colonial history. There are relatively few high-end hotels in Gabarone; if you are looking for a convenient base to explore the surrounding areas, one to consider is Avani Gaborone Resort and Casino which is only 20 minutes from the airport and a short drive away from Mokolodi Nature Reserve (more on that later). It has a swimming pool, gym, spa and plays hosts to many of the city’s top events with a spacious conference space.

If you are looking for a hotel, closer to the action, then Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone in the heart of the central business district is just the hotel for you with many of the city’s key sites within walking distance.

Safari

Mokolodi Nature Reserve is well worth a visit when staying in Gaborone

If you don’t have the time to fly to the north of the country like Harry and Meghan, then Mokolodi Nature Reserve is an option to consider being a short drive away from Gaborone. It is a private not-for-profit game reserve. You might not be able to spot the big 5 although rhinos are known to roam in the area; you are more than likely to spot plenty of giraffes and deer.

Arts and culture

Botswana has done relatively well compared to other African countries due to the discovery of diamond mines. And it was pleasing to see companies like De Beers plowing back some of their profits into local community projects. One of the success stories has been Thamaga Pottery Centre, which began as a rural development project in the 1970s and has now blossomed into a successful exporter of high-end ceramic-ware. They have pottery-making classes for tourists who want to experience the techniques first-hand. And you can see all the stages from clay preparation to glazing and firing.

You can visit Bahurutshe Cultural Village and sample local cuisine whilst getting a glimpse of local Setswana culture. Not only can you see and hear traditional dance and music but you might also see the staff re-enact a traditional wedding. You are more than likely to try the national dish of seswaa which is a meat stew served over thick polenta or pap.

Botswana is full of history and culture to enjoy

If you are looking to purchase local handmade crafts such as the famous baskets of Botswana and wood carvings, the best place to visit is Botswana Craft. The cost might be slightly higher than from street stalls but you do get a much wider selection. Their gift shop is spaciously spread out across 2-floors with every imaginable gift item possible. The Courtyard restaurant in the complex offers popular local cuisine and they frequently have live concerts on site.

For statement art pieces and something altogether more avant-garde, head out to the Thapong Visual Arts Centre which has the brightest artists in residence creating contemporary pieces that define modern Botswanian culture.

In a nutshell

Pardon the pun, but Botswana is sparkling bright in terms of an up-and-coming tourist destination thanks to numerous royal visits in recent years. Make sure you check out the country whilst it still retains its African charms.

Factbox

Book flights to Botswana with Qatar Airways.

For more information on visiting Botswana, head over to botswanatourism.co.bw.