Adventure on a Botswana Safari
It was our first time on a walking safari in Africa. Our adventures in the Botswana bush included an elephant chasing us, a male lion roaring then circling us, and a hippo jumping out of lagoon just a few feet from us. Our guide tells us that “Botswana has the lowest density tourism footprint in a prime wildlife and wilderness area.” Botswana is a “must” for safari lovers!
Located in Southern Africa, bodering Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, Botswana teems with wildlife throughout the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, parched Kalahari Desert, salt pans of the Makgadikgadi, and throughout Chobe National Park. It also is home to the World Heritage Site of Tsodilo Hills, where there are over 4,000 San rock paintings in a spectacular outdoor setting.
What to do in Botswana?
Considered the world’s largest inland delta, the Okavango is a “wetland wonder”! From its source, the Angola Cubango River’s crystal clear waters flow through Namibia, dropping down Popa Falls, and winding their way through the channels, tributaries, lagoons, and floodplains of Botswana’s Delta. Known as the fan-shaped “Jewel of the Kalahari”, the Okavango is an oasis that extends through the plains and pans of the desert that covers most of Southern Africa.
Its waterways create a haven for Africa’s most celebrated wildlife species – elands, birds, rare white and black rhinoceros, and elephants. Here you can explore the Okavango channels by motorboat or the traditional mokoro boat, and enjoy close-up access to hippos and elephants. Keep a lookout for tiny reed frogs clinging to lily stalks, or a croc stealthily gliding under the water! Bring binoculars since this is a bird’s paradise with over 240 different species inhabiting the delta.
Chobe National Park:
Chobe National Park is the second largest National Park in Botswana and has one of the largest populations of elephants (80,000!) in the world. Within minutes of entering the park, a herd of about 50 elephants crossed our dirt road to greet us. During the dry season, the herds of elephants congregate along the flood plains of the Chobe River. The vast size of the park, 4,500 sq. miles, provides a diversity of terrain, from floodplains and marshes to forest and mopane woodlands. You’ll experience high-density predator and game viewing from lions, buffalo, leopards, puku, lechwe, kudu, hyenas, and more! If you have a few extra days, head to Linyanti in the north where there’s more wildlife sightings.
We didn’t make it to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve on this trip, but we heard this vast, remote area of Botswana is home to large herds of arid-adapted wildlife. Many adventurers enjoy these vast open spaces, and camp in the wild under the stars, where they hear animals roaming in the middle of the night not far from their tent. On a desert safari, we’ve heard you can watch herds of elephants enjoy their mud baths, or follow lions as they hunt their prey. The wildlife sightings and photo opportunities are known to be fantastic.
Where to Stay and Dine in Botswana?
Maun: If you need to overnight in Maun, one option is the Royal Tree Lodge, located on a private game reserve along the banks of the Thamalakane River. Just 20 minutes from Maun, the Okavango Delta gateway, this lodge have private tented chalets not far from the main reception area. The thatched guest area extends to a teak deck shaded by Motsentsela trees, where you can read from the lodge’s books on the nation’s explorers and history, or relax and share safari sightings while enjoying a refreshing drink. Activities offered at the lodge include birding, game walks, horseback safaris, and game drives.
There are about 40 lodges throughout the Delta, and plenty of wildlife to see at all of them. We stayed at a few camps and lodges listed below.
Camp Okavango – our first morning in Botswana, we transferred from Maun to Camp Okavango by a light aircraft over the papyrus lined channels and open lagoons of the delta. Located on a remote island Nxaragha, in the Okavango Delta, we checked into a Desert & Delta Safari Lodge called Camp Okavango. The accommodations are safari luxury with Meru style tents that are raised on teak decks, secluded in the woodlands, and overlooking the floodplain.
From this location, you can take a motorboat to nearby islands, and go on walking safaris with a guide. Following our guide, our small group walked in a straight line, and learned about the delta ecosystem’s flora and fauna with a guide. Between safaris, you can relax by the pool and take a siesta under an umbrella. Before the sun set, we took a ride in the traditional dugout canoe, “mokoro”, and paddled through the shallow waters surrounding the island. Our guides found a nice location to watch the sunset and served us appetizers as we sipped our sundowners.
The safari cuisine is delicious, and we enjoyed dinner with other guests under a thatched open-air dining room overlooking lush gardens, pick up a book in the wildlife reference library, or after dinner sit around the fire at the expansive open-air patio and look at the starry night. After retiring to our tent, we listened for grazing hippos into the night, and were awakened by a choir of exotic bird songs.
Okuti – we transferred by light plane from Camp Okavango to the delightful camp at Okuti situated alongside the Maunachira River, which flows through the Xakanaxa Lagoon, in the middle of the Moremi Game Reserve. Operated by Ker & Downey Botswana, this lodge was rebuilt in 2007 and offers a welcome touch of African comfort with excellent cuisine, followed by local singing at nightly campfires. Okuti offers luxury African style chalets with a central restaurant, lounge area and swimming pool. This lodge welcomes families and is child-friendly. From Okuti, guests can enjoy 4X4 game drives in Moremi Park, or motorboat safaris where you can explore the maze of delta waterways.
We had some incredible wildlife viewings from the open safari vehicles, and even got up close to a pride of lions. For bird lovers, you’ll want to go on a motor boat excursion on the Xakanaxa Lagoon with its beautiful scenery. You can find herons and storks especially during the breeding season in the winding channels. Keep a lookout for crocs resting on the banks, or elephants tromping through the grassland along the lagoon.
Camp Moremi – a short drive from Okuti, is Camp Moremi surrounded by giant ebony trees. A Desert & Delta Safaris Lodge, located in the Xaxanaka area of the Moremi Game Reserve, and offers spectacular game-viewing. From the lodge, you can go on early morning or late afternoon 4×4 game drives or motor boat excursions. There are a variety of landscapes that surround this area from vast open floodplains and shallow lakes to dense mopane woodlands. Many species are sighted in these areas from leopard, lion, wild dog, elephant, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, lechwe, kudu, sitatunga, and various birds.
After safari, there are several places to relax at Camp Moremi. One is the elegant, elevated thatch and timber structure, the main building that includes a dining area, bar, and lounge. Or the swimming pool and sundeck, and there’s always the privacy of your luxury African style safari tent raised on a platform with a teak deck where you can retire and rest. One of our favourite places to go was the viewing deck where you can see wildlife from above and enjoy expansive views of the Xaxanaka Lagoon.
From Camp Moremi, we flew to Kasane and drove about 30 minutes to the northeastern entrance of the Chobe National Park. We stayed at the picturesque Chobe Game Lodge, the only game lodge located inside the park. Overlooking the Chobe River and the Caprivi floodplains, this luxurious game lodge greets guests with tranquility, comfort, and culinary delights! Even Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton found this lodge secluded enough to get married and celebrate their wedding.
This lodge is unique in that it has “all female” safari guides to take you on game drives, and game viewing by small boats, or sunset cruises along the Chobe River. You’ll see hippos, crocs, giraffes, lions, and herds of elephant, antelope, lechwe on the grassy floodplains and through the park. Diverse wildlife surrounds the lodge, in fact, we were entertained by the warthogs that graze on the lodge’s grounds, and enchanted with the nightly stargazing, and sounds of the hippo pods in the river just outside our door.
In between safaris, during the heat of the day, you can siesta and relax by the pool or check in to the Kwa Maningi Spa for an African “Rungu” Massage. Your masseuse will use a “Masai” Warrior throwing stick for this truly deep tissue massage. Book your appointment at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at Hotel Reception.
If you’re there in May, you’ll see the annual zebra migration. With over 350 species of birds in this area, you will most likely see saddle-billed storks, long-toed plovers, pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers, Bradfield’s hornbills and the jewel-like carmine bee-eaters. Heuglin’s robin is a delight to hear in the early morning.
How to get there?
Want to go on a Safari to Botswana?
For more information and details, email: info@GlobalAdventuress.com
Written and Edited By Patricia Atkinson and Patricia Stone
Travel Acknowledgements: We would like to thank ATI Holidays for partially hosting our stay.