Ask anyone who knows me and you’ll immediately be convinced of my fixation on exploring the whole of Africa.

Each country has its own story to tell, and I’ve made it a point to visit each of its 56. Who knew a love could be as immense as the love I feel for an entire continent? And, I can promise you, it is immense. Nothing else could persuade me to travel anywhere from 25 to 60 hours one way if this wasn’t so. To put it bluntly, I am absolutely obsessed with this mass of land.

What has consistently drawn me to this region of the world is its mesmerizing and archaic history, its stunning creatures, its kind people, and, perhaps even more so, its ever-evolving, cinematic landscape. In fact, it is this admiration of vistas that ultimately drew me to visit Botswana in the first place.

A silhouette of a person at sunset
Silhouettes of a group of a trees at sunset

A rhino in a field at sunset
In Botswana, lush, green grasslands make a lavish home to the diverse, terrestrial wildlife, while nutrient-rich waters cater to their aquatic cousins. Between the Makgadikgadi Pans, the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari Desert, and more, Botswana has a landscape that kills (both figuratively and literally). That said, this southern African country had long been on my bucket list, and it did not let me down — I was completely transfixed by it each day I was there.

To date, I’ve visited six African countries, and each has been quite different than the last in terms of overland and airborne travel. Generally speaking, the planes are smaller, customs are more lax and chaotic, and the roads vary greatly in terms of drivability than the places I’ve visited in the United States and Europe. I think much of what makes travel to and within Africa such an adventure is the way in which you get from point A to point B. It seems as though something interesting is always bound to happen. Whether it’s getting a flat tire in Chobe National Park or embarking on nerve-wracking rides in “banana vans” to an unknown destination in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco — there is always a story to be had.

A leopard peeks out from the trees

A bunch of deer stand in shadows

Ultimately, I found that overland travel in Botswana was much more pleasant than I’ve experienced in other countries across the continent. Roads were spotted with potholes at times, but in the grand scheme of things, moving to and from locations was both smooth and uneventful. I’m all for the occasional bump in the road (no pun intended), but sometimes it’s nice to proceed along your route without encountering an array of issues. For this reason alone, Botswana is an alluring travel destination for those intending to venture long distances across country via car.

2 rhinos stand in a field

Whenever you travel to an African country, you’re likely to harbor both positive and negative preconceptions about what it will be like. This is both a beautiful and an unfortunate aspect to traveling within the region, but one that I believe makes exploration in the continent even more important. In my experience, you’re much more likely to have erroneous beliefs of yours subverted than found to be true.

Personally, I’ve found that I tend to have concerns about getting sick whenever I visit a developing country. In fact, I almost always assume I will become ill at one point or another, so I pack accordingly — Imodium, Tums, electrolyte drinks, the whole nine yards. While I still believe it is important to pack for those unfortunate, and hopefully infrequent, occurrences, this fear of mine is not always accurate. This was the case in Botswana. Not once did I succumb to a food-borne illness, or any other illness for that matter. I did, however, become uncomfortably dehydrated on numerous occasions, so I do advise you to prepare for the heat, should you be traveling in warmer times of the year. But, ultimately, I felt completely healthy and energized each day of the trip.

A man stands in a field
A pride of lions looks towards the camera

Botswana’s 225,000 square miles (582,000 square kilometers) consist of barren desert, expansive waterways, and unbelievable nature. From spotting the Big Five to flying high over the Okavango region of the country, camping beneath the stars, listening to the cry of a hungry lioness, and watching branches give way to a herd of elephants, you’re in for something special when you visit this stunning country. It is for this reason that I recommend spending as much time in Botswana as humanly possible. But, even more so, the guides and local people who so graciously teach visitors about their country, customs, and wildlife make this place truly remarkable.

A visit to Botswana takes you to a different world — a place where the music you hear pulses through the sounds of the animals and insects that surround you, where the sights are sweet and the people sweeter, and where you’re so much more in tune with nature that thrives in the bush around you.

Botswana is more than special; it’s truly otherworldly.

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Shaylyn Berntson
Shaylyn Berntson is a California-based photographer. She credits her love for the outdoors to having grown up in Idaho - where she plans to settle one day. Till then, you can find her high in the mountains, or planning yet another trip to Africa.