Being out in the bush in Botswana you really feel like there is nothing else for miles, except for nature, animals and starry skies. It gives you an incredible feeling of freedom and is the reason why Botswana safaris have always been my favourite.
Besides the amazing wildlife, the Batswana people are proud and friendly and I always get the impression that they are passionate about their country and heritage.
In my early twenties, I was an overland guide and travelled through Botswana once a month. We used to camp in two-man dome canvas tents, but on my recent trip, we stayed in comfortable tented camps and lodges.
Having the extra luxury of a bed to sleep in and an en-suite bathroom is certainly wonderful, but even with these extra comforts, I still had the sense of being close to nature.
Kicking Off in the Kalahari
At the start of our safari, we travelled to the sandy Kalahari Desert staying at Deception Valley Lodge. From Maun, it is roughly a 30-minute flight by small six-seater Cessna light aircraft.
Arriving at the airstrip it is a short drive to the oasis-like lodge surrounded by semi-desert. There are only eight suites at the lodge, all of which overlook a waterhole that attracts animals during the dry season when surface water becomes scarce. The rooms are extremely spacious, each with a separate lounge area, en-suite bathroom and outdoor shower.
In the afternoon we met a few of the local San people living in the area. They took us on a walk in the bush and showed us some of their old hunting techniques and plants that can be used for various purposes. The San people have such colourful characters and a great sense of humour.
They dug out a porcupine hole and lay waiting for it to make its appearance, all the while joking with each other about whose hunting skills are better. They also dug up a fruit which looked like a melon, growing underground in the sand. When squeezed, juice poured from the fruit and they quickly held it up to catch the drops in their mouths.
The lodge also offers morning and afternoon game drives to spot wildlife. Kudu and giraffe are plentiful and because the Kalahari is one big sand pit, it is ideal for tracking lions and leopards by their spoor.
Three Remote Delta Camps
On this trip, we went to three camps in the Okavango Delta. The most basic camp of the three, but with a beautiful rustic charm, was Odd Balls Camp. Accommodation is in canvas dome tents with beds and bedding provided and each tent has an outdoor bucket shower.
There are 15 tents so at full capacity it can accommodate 30 people per night.
The communal lounge and dining area is the perfect spot to hang out, meet fellow travellers and watch the sunset over the Delta.
A bit further away from Oddballs Camp is Oddballs Enclave – a more exclusive and intimate camp than its bigger sister. Oddballs Enclave only has five spacious tents.
The tents are set on raised platforms and each one has its own semi-detached, outdoor bathroom with a bucket shower.
The deck overlooking the Okavango floodplains is ideal for lounging around during the day and sipping a G&T at sunset.
The third camp we stayed at was Delta Camp. This camp is located in a forest and has seven reed chalets, positioned to provide the best views.
Some of the chalets are fitted with 3 to 4 beds making them ideal for families with young children or groups of friends.
Delta Camp does "rustic luxury" really well and the attention to detail was refreshing. The chalets and lounge-dining area are beautifully decorated and meals are lovingly prepared by the cooks.
The magic of these camps is their location - tucked away, deep in the Delta.
These camps are only accessible by light aircraft (about a 20-minute flight from Maun). They are situated on one of the largest islands in the Okavango and Chiefs Island is a quick mokoro trip across the channel.
It is the guides who are the real gems of these delta camps. They are born and bred Okavango people, raised with the Islands and waterways as their backyard. These local guides are finely tuned into the Delta environment and know each and every sound the animals make.
What I love most is the guides' respect for all the animals. You really get the feeling that you are in the best hands while out in the bush.
Our guide took us out on a mokoro, gliding through the reeded waterways to Chief’s Island where we did a bush walk. On the walk, we saw a number of antelopes and an elephant in the distance.
I didn’t expect to see a lot on the walk because we covered quite a small area on foot, compared to the distances travelled on a typical game drive. Being at ground level is, however, a completely different experience. It felt like we became part of the bush. Our guide showed us termite mounts, dung beetles and elephant dung which can apparently be smeared onto your skin as an insect repellent.
For useful travel info about the Okavango Delta (seasons, weather, geography etc) take a look at our blog post - The Okavango Delta Explained.
Wildlife Photography Heaven & Camp Savuti (Chobe)
This was my first time in Savuti and I had high expectations. I was hoping for an outstanding safari experience with lots of wildlife, especially the predator sightings everyone always talks about. Savuti is, after all, a go-to destination for serious photographers with their HUGE camera lenses. Professional photographers camp out in this area for months, following the lions, hyenas and leopards. We saw a few photographic crews in their kitted-out 4x4s on our game drives.
Let me tell you, the stories are true... I saw the legendary wildlife sightings with my own eyes. We experienced incredible sightings - a lion pride at the waterhole, ...
a leopard with its kill up a tree,...
and a pack of wild dogs at sunrise.
It is almost as if the animals in this area are somehow more photogenic. At one point I even got quite emotional while out on a game drive.
Africa is just such a beautiful place and Savuti surprised me in every way. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to be there in the moment.
Camp Savuti is a great place to return to after a game drive. The tents are spacious and comfortable; perfect for a mid-day nap.
In the evening we sat around the firepit with a glass of wine telling stories and making jokes. I did not want to leave this camp and promised myself that I would come back again one day.
Secluded Camp Linyanti (Chobe)
The Linyanti safari was also a first for me and I didn't really know what to expect. I knew that Linyanti is situated in the remote northwestern region of Botswana near the border with Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. Just the name Linyanti sounds idyllic and romantic to me. The flight to the airstrip takes about 40 minutes and from there it is a rough and bumpy two-hour road trip to Camp Linyanti. This area is, in fact, a swamp floodplain and after heavy rainfall, the airstrip and roads become flooded. The camp is located next to the Linyanti Lagoon which is fed by the Chobe and Kwando rivers.
Arriving at camp all the staff gathered to welcome us with big smiles. Lunch was set out on the deck and we almost immediately got stuck into the delicious salads, pasta and warm baked bread.
The camp features five big tents, elevated from the ground, with a small sitting deck for enjoying the views over the floodplain.
After we had a look around camp we got whisked off on a game drive and it wasn’t long before we spotted elephants. In the dry months (June - October) a large number of elephants, buffalos and lions are often spotted in the Linyanti area. On our drive, we did not see any other vehicles and felt like we had the whole area to ourselves.
Moremi Bush Camp (Delta)
Our second last stop was Xaxanaka airstrip where we were picked up by our guide and driven into Moremi for an overnight in the bush. We headed to our mobile camp, set up in a shady spot under the trees. Our tents were ready and featured a camp bed, sleeping bag and bush en-suite facilities. It is a basic camp, but it has everything one could need for a night out in the Moremi wilderness.
Out here you need to remember that you are deep in wildlife territory so you need to keep an eye out for anything that moves in the bush. Just as we were about to go on a game drive an elephant strolled into the camp. Gently walking and picking leaves from the trees, the elephant bull took his time and we waited patiently in our tents until he was a safe distance away before we made a run for the vehicle.
On the game drive, we were again spoilt with a variety of excellent sightings. Lots of buffalos, a male lion ‘posing’ for a few close-up pictures and hippos.
That night lanterns lit up the camp and we had a delicious dinner prepared by the camp crew. We sat around the campfire until late, every so often hearing noises in the bush, wondering what could be watching us from the shadows. Luckily, I sleep really well in a tent and the night sounds are like soothing music to my ears.
Then, it was time to go home. Our last bush flight took us to Maun, where I took a quick walk around the local shops for souvenirs before boarding my flight to Cape Town.
Goodbye Botswana, may I see you again soon!
These Botswana Safaris go to the places Ingrid visited on her trip:
- Budget Delta Mokoro Trail & Savuti Safari - Oddballs’ Camp (Okavango Delta) & Camp Savuti (Chobe)
Kalahari & Okavango Delta Lodge Safari - Central Kalahari & Oddballs’ Enclave (Okavango Delta)
Kalahari Bushman, Okavango Delta & Savuti Safari (8 Days) - Central Kalahari Desert, Oddballs’ Enclave (Okavango Delta) & Camp Savuti (Chobe)
Kalahari, Okavango Delta & Savuti Lodge Safari (10 Days) - Central Kalahari Desert, Oddballs’ Enclave (Okavango Delta) & Camp Savuti (Chobe)
Okavango & Savuti Botswana Lodge Safari (7 Days) - Oddballs’ Enclave (Okavango Delta) & Camp Savuti (Chobe)
Okavango Delta & Central Kalahari Safari - Deception Valley, Central Kalahari & Delta Camp
Okavango Mokoro & Savuti Wildlife Safari (5 Days) - Oddballs’ Enclave (Okavango Delta) & Camp Savuti (Chobe)