Famous for its wildlife and diamonds, Botswana is a jewel. From its deltas and river valleys to its deserts and grasslands, the exceptional beauty of this destination is worth exploring. The country has began to flourish economically in more recent years, but even so, it continues to face social issues, like high rates of unemployment and dangerous HIV infection rates. Along with the rich game reserves and national parks that will give you a front-row seat to roaring lions and towering elephants, the troubling social problems provide numerous opportunities as a volunteer abroad in Botswana.
Where to Volunteer in Botswana
Botswana is located in the center of Southern Africa, sharing borders with Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Wherever you’re volunteering in Botswana, you’ll discover a vast diversity in this Texas-sized country. Here are the best places to volunteer in Botswana.
Gaborone. On the Notwane River in southeast Botswana lies its capital and largest city. Sprawling with urban buildings, such as shopping malls, the city is the epitome of modern developments and is growing rapidly. Here you can explore the National Botanical Garden or the National Museum and Art Gallery. If you happen to be here in late March or early April, don’t miss out on the Maitisong Festival, which holds concerts and films around the city.
Maun. You’ll find this “tourism capital” in northern Botswana, which retains the essence of a rural town with a modern twist of shopping centers. If you fancy outdoorsy activities, you can go on island bush walks, visit crocodile farms, or go horseback riding and bird watching. Plan a long weekend to take a trip to the nearby Chobe National Park, Okavango Delta, and the Mokolodi Game Reserve.
Serowe. Take a trip outside of modern areas and visit this eastern Botswana town, which is located between two hills: Rra-Swaneng and Mma-Swaneng. With its historical significance of Khama III building this town on an 11th-century village at the base of Thathaganyana Hill, and being the birthplace of the first Botswana President, this location is the perfect place to soak in some of the history of this country.
How to Volunteer in Botswana
With wildlife as the foundation for tourism in Botswana, it’s not surprising that several volunteer programs focus on animal conservation. Multiple volunteer organizations help place volunteers in programs that attempt to address social issues through various avenues. Here are a few popular volunteer projects in Botswana.
Rehabilitation. Some small-town areas need volunteers to help young people who suffer from disabilities who face discrimination and social stigma. With this placement, you’ll be giving a helping a hand to those in need by serving them with physical treatment, educational training, and counseling.
Wildlife Conservation. Promote the conservation and awareness of fragile ecosystems by providing support to researchers. With close-up meetings with big cats and more, you’ll be helping with maintaining fences and cleaning enclosures. Become a guardian of the animals, as you preserve their habitats and learn their way of life.
AIDS. Get involved with caring for young children with HIV in rural communities, where you’ll support the centers with counseling and education. Not only will you be helping provide a hot meal for these locals in need physically, you’ll also be able to lift their spirits mentally with cultural and sports activities to help bring joy to their lives.
Costs of Volunteering in Botswana
Unless you’re in a city, Botswana is relatively affordable overall, and about 50 percent cheaper than United States expenses. Most program fees cover the cost of housing, food, and transportation. Most programs require the volunteer to cover the cost of international airfare, but with the help of scholarships and your network through FundMyTravel, you’ll be well on your way to the trip of a lifetime.
Accommodations in Botswana
Depending on your program placement, you could be sleeping in a tent gazing under the stars, in a game lodge at a national park, or in a cozy bed with a host family in their home. You could also opt to share an apartment in a city area with other volunteers, but the price can get a bit spendy if you want your own room. Most programs will provide you with a homestay arrangement, which is the best way to learn about the culture at its core.
Visas for Botswana
To enter the country, you’ll need a passport with six months of validity with at least three unused pages. As most volunteer programs in Botswana are fewer than 90 days, you won’t likely need a visa unless you’re staying longer — visit GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information on requirements. If you’re entering in areas where yellow fever is prevalent, you’ll need a vaccination certificate beforehand.
GoAbroad's Insider Tips
Communicating with the locals in Botswana is not difficult for English speakers because the nation’s official language is English. One of the local dialects, called Setswana, is also widely spoken among about 90 percent of the population.
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face here is just getting around. Expect chaotic buses, poor road conditions, animal interferences, and no street names or addresses.
Whether it is the craving for lush, alluring greens or the warm appeal of the red desert dunes, you’ll delight their eyes and minds as a volunteer abroad in Botswana.