Gaborone is the capital of Botswana, located in the southern reaches of the country. As the locals know it affectionately, "Gabs" is also the largest city in Botswana, but has little history as a city. The locals of Gaborone, at the present, do not feel as though the city is traditionally their home.
However, they do understand that Gaborone is where their future lies, and the capital can be considered the pulse of the country and the driving force in making Botswana a nation. If you’re looking to be at the forefront of an emerging country while still experiencing the wildlife Africa is well known for, then Gaborone is the perfect place for you.
Culture and Immersion
Though Gaborone is rapidly expanding as a city, its wildlife and nature are its originals draws as a place of study. With much of its surroundings untouched by urbanization, this is a place to become one with nature.
Kgale Hill – One of Botswana’s largest hills, Kgale Hill boasts a fantastic view of Gaborone and its surroundings. The baboons won’t come after you, but if you stray into their territory, you will be in danger. Try to stay on the path. There is no entrance fee, but do go only when there are other cars. If you’re the only one there, there is a chance you may be robbed, so just stay wary. The view is enough to warrant the visit however.
Otse Village – About 30 minutes away from Gaborone, Otse Village, Letsekela in the local language, has hills all around the village. The eastern hills, Manyelanong, have a game reserve protecting the endangered Cape vultures. This is definitely worth a visit as Manyelanong is one of the only two sites you can spot the Cape Vulture. The western hills, Baratani, are famous for a story about two lovers who eloped, hid in a nearby hill, but never returned. The locals do not climb this hill for fear of never coming back.
Mokolodi – This game reserve is generally the main reason people come to Gaborone. It offers a 2-hour drive around the reserve with chances to spot giraffes, hippos, baboons, elephants, rhinos, wart hogs and zebras. Honestly, it would be a waste of your trip if you didn’t come to Mokolodi, so make it one of your priorities. The restaurant is quite nice as well, so be sure to try that during your visit too.
Gaborone Game Reserves – This reserve is smaller than Mokolodi, but boasts an equally diverse range of wildlife. Birds, monkeys, ostriches, wart hogs, kudus, boars and zebras are all animals you may chance upon. If you have your own car, you can drive around the reserve yourself, and there are nice picnic spots throughout the area, but be careful of the monkeys and ostriches.
Culture Shock and Support
The culture, societal norms and overall atmosphere of Gaborone are guaranteed to be different from what you’re used to in America. As a result, you can be sure that you’ll be sitting on a wholly new and different experience. And, you’ll be extremely glad you embraced the culture fully. However, the beginning can be a bit daunting, and changes are always scary. So, be sure to pick a problem that caters to American students, so that you can be well informed of the cultural differences and avoid making a faux pas.
However, remember that you have your fellow students! If you’re missing the long hours of studying and the obnoxiously loud people back in the US, well, then you’re weird. On a more serious note, talk to your fellow peers! If you’re experiencing some homesickness, there is every chance that they are as well. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to talk to someone about home, it is completely normal and who knows, you may become even closer friends!
Helpful Hints/Insider Tips
Bus and car are probably the most popular forms of traveling. Gaborone, along with being the actual capital, is considered the car capital of Botswana. The buses are quite extensive, but they are crowded and often not air-conditioned. However, they do get you where you need to go, so these two issues are usually ignored.
Combis are another form of transportation. They are white vans that don’t follow a specific route, but do have lines they follow, so if you’re unsure, just ask the driver. If you know where you want to go, walk towards your destination, and combis will honk at you to let you know they’re passing you.
Gaborone, and the rest of Botswana, is on the Pula. Just to put the currency into perspective, 9 Pula equals 1 dollar. Because Gaborone is the capital of Botswana, the prices are a bit more expensive than the outer cities, but it is still very easy to get by on a student budget. ATMs can be found all over the city, so you won’t have a problem withdrawing money.
Ahh the woes of money...and being a college student. Here are a few scholarships to help you out:
- Fulbright offers a number of different scholarships for those traveling to Botswana.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships