My top 7 reasons to start planning your Safari now!
My trip to Botswana, one of the world’s most unique Safari destinations, with Wilderness Safaris
Is an African Safari on your bucket list? It was on mine, but my last experience will have me returning again and again! Whether you do one very special Safari in your lifetime or many, it is a new and inspiring experience each time. Every season and destination offer something uniquely special and different.
Wherever you choose to do your Safari, this is an adventure I recommend to families or couples wishing to celebrate something special, small group retreats, company incentives, and yes, even solo travelers! It is the type of travel that I would suggest for almost anyone, year-round, as can be a life changing experience.
Wilderness Safaris has been in operation for 39 years with over 40 Safari camps in 7 countries in Africa. They are an award-winning preferred partner that has been driving sustainable ecotourism in Botswana since 1983. Recently the team arranged an educational expert’s familiarization trip to Botswana for a few Travel Advisors that specialize in African Safaris, and as an Africa Specialist, I was thrilled to join!
Botswana is one of the world’s most unique safari destinations. It offers both land and water-based game viewing, a diversity of habitats, as well as varied wildlife populations. The Okavango Delta and Linyanti Wildlife Reserve are some of the world’s most beautiful natural places for exceptional wildlife encounters.
On this safari adventure, we stayed at four different Wilderness Safari camps and visited various others to further educate ourselves on options for our clients and every single one was fantastic.
We started with two nights in the Linyanti Concessions, in Northern Botswana, bordering Chobe National Park. The Concessions are known for their exotic animal species and luxury safari options where the wildlife roams freely through unfenced reserves. The big game in this area increases dramatically during the dry season when the area hosts large herds of impala, blue wildebeest, giraffe, and buffalo as well as the world’s highest density of elephant. Several packs of wild dogs are found in the area and lion, leopard and cheetah are frequently sighted. On night drives you may see nocturnal creatures such as civets, genets, honey badgers and spring hares. This vast, untamed wilderness is the perfect location for those seeking a unique African adventure in an exclusive and remote big game habitat.
A wonderful aspect of private concessions is that they allow you to go off-roading and are less congested, hence you may see much more wildlife.
We then flew on Wilderness Safaris small charter airline to the Okavango Delta, situated in the northwest corner of Botswana. The Okavango Delta is a World Heritage Site, as it is the largest inland delta in the world. The Okavango River branches out over the dry sands of the Kalahari Desert forming many waterways and crystal-clear lagoons with beautiful water lilies, as well as healthy floodplains and reeded islands inhabited with abundant wildlife. Seasonally the plains flood from June to November, thus attracting a lot of game. The flooding is due to the overflow of the Okavango Delta, creating very fertile soil and a lush green environment.
I was impressed at the photos my iPhone allowed, but nothing replaces a professional digital camera. WS offers a special camera program where you can request an Olympus camera with zoom lens, if you do not have one of your own, allowing you to take exceptional photos of game and landscape home with you on your memory card.
1. Variety of camps, something for everyone
There are many different styles of Safari and something for every budget. You can mix and match your camps, based on what suits you best. Wilderness Safaris offers something for everyone and almost everything is included: Adventure Camps which are rustic and plentiful, Classic Camps as a lovely deluxe option and Premier Camps that are all out luxury. Every camp is unique, comfortable and perfectly situated.
Tented Camps we stayed at:
We arrived by helicopter to Little Duma Tau, a Premier Camp on Osprey Lagoon, which sits just north of it’s larger sister camp Duma Tau. Both camps lie between two elephant corridors. Little Duma Tau has just four spacious and stunning tented suites, each with lounge, deck, private plunge pool and bathroom with indoor/outdoor showers. It takes the term Safari Camp to a whole new level with it’s sophisticated elegance.
Highlights: Sunset barge with hippos nearby, dinner under the stars, and a few encounters with an older Bull Elephant wading across the river next to our barge, then munching on his delicacy of day Lillies in camp whilst next to our tent, three female Lions chasing a kill and feeding 3-4 metres away from us in our open-air jeep. Hippo and animal sounds overnight that sounded like they were right by our tent.
Chitabe Classic Camp is in the 28 000-hectare Chitabe private wilderness reserve, a game-rich concession in the Okavango’s south-east, separated from the famed Moremi Game Reserve by the Gomoti Channel. Moving east to west, the landscape changes from grassy floodplains and woodland of mopane and acacia to seasonal palm-dotted floodplains, wooded islands, and dry woodlands. This camp has eight elevated, Meru-style guest tents, with elevated walkways connecting them to the main area, it’s a safari experience in itself, with such rich wildlife in the area. It is known for its biodiversity and being a Predator hot spot.
Highlights: Family of monkeys that welcomed us to our tent, seeing playful young male lions at sunrise, a hyaena stealing a timid young leopard’s kill whilst it ran up a tree and then almost stepped onto the hood of our jeep, learning about the Wild dog – an endangered carnivore, an elephant just behind our tent enjoying a snack, Dinner under the stars with local staff in the ‘Boma’ offering traditional welcome song and dance
Pelo Adventure Camp – ‘Pelo’ is the local word for heart, and is instantly recognizable from the air, due to it’s shape and intimate setting. It has five intimate guest tents with private verandahs and beautiful views of the Okavango, an elevated deck for sun downers and an outdoor ‘Boma’ for dinner and celebrations. In winter it is surrounded by water, but as we were there in fall, when the water levels were much lower.
Highlight: Pelo is known for Mokoro (traditionally a dug-out canoe, now made with fibreglass) excursions on the waterways known as the “Hippo Highway” as Hippos created some of the main channels in these estuaries in the Okavanga Delta and was one of the main highlights we enjoyed there.
Abu Premier Camp is set in a beautiful riverine forest in the Abu Private Game Reserve, one of the largest protected richly diverse areas in the Okavango Delta. The camp and it’s six luxurious en-suite tents look out over a large lagoon teaming with diverse wildlife. Each tent has it’s own distinctive design with indoor and outdoor shower, outdoor bath, teak deck and private plunge pool. There is a well stocked library, gym and main pool to keep you entertained when you are not enjoying the lounge and dining area or a night cap, around the fire and under the stars, overlooking the lagoon, whilst listening to the Hippos and other animals in the area.
Highlights: Elephant conservationist educational visit over high tea and sun downers in the bush before our Game drive, Watching a pack of Wild dogs doing their traditional greeting, dinner under the stars, a later night game drive - Hyenas separated a young hippo from it’s Mother, an open air scenic helicopter ride, a Hyaena walking within 3 meters of our dinner table in camp.
2. Scheduled and well organized, but also very flexible
Everything is already organized for you prior to arrival, but also allows for flexibility. To give you an idea of a typical day, I have added our general schedule below. We used much of our free time to visit other camps to further educate ourselves for our clients, but normally you will have down time in between game drives for other activities, or rest and relaxation.
5am - Wake up. Our guide walked by our tent to wake us
5:30am – Our guide returned to pick us up for breakfast, as guests do not walk alone before or after dark.
6:30am – Departure from Camp to do our first Game drive of the day
11am – Return for brunch and/or plan for lunch
12/1pm – Lunch, then time at leisure: Spa, Fitness, Pool, read, relax, other fun activities
3:30/4pm – Teatime. Meet for tea/coffee and light snack before next Game Drive
4:30pm – Depart for Game Drive to see more animals!
7:30pm – Sun downers out in the bush, whilst watching the sunset before return to Camp
8/8:30pm – Dinner in various locations to enjoy on property
3. Animals, Animals and more Animals!
The grass is higher on the plains in Botswana in the Fall, which can make it more challenging to find game, but there was no shortage. We saw something new at every turn.
More Highlights: Hearing Lions walking through camp in the night, Giraffes gracefully wandering along eating from the trees and by the remote air strips we would fly into each time we moved on to a new camp, Herds of beautiful Elephants with lots of babies, Hippos lulling us to sleep as they create their musical chorus throughout the night, a pack of endangered Wild Dogs doing their special greeting ceremony before they go hunting, having dinner whilst hearing Hyenas calling to their pack and as the calls became more frequent and louder, all of us jumping into the jeep to rush over to see that 24 Hyenas had separated a young hippo from it’s mother. There were Impalas everywhere we looked, Kudu, Baboons, Monkeys, Wildebeest, Cape Water Buffalos, Zebras, Giraffe, Crocodiles, an African Civet- a rare and wild cat, more than 300 types of beautiful birds and so much more, whilst in camp or driving in our comfortable Safari Jeep through various different types of terrain, which at times included the wonderful rich scent of Wild Sage and Basil.
4. Food Safari
There is no shortage of delectable and exceptional food, hence the term “Food Safari”. The decadent snack and meal options were endless, which will please the frequent light food grazer, as well as the hungriest of guests!
We were offered various choices on the menu at each camp. An amazing vegetarian menu, as well as meat/fish options, and special dietary requests were addressed as required. There is something for everyone to enjoy depending on your palate. Each Chef and their team go over and above! Make sure you bring those stretchy pants!
5. ‘Wow’ Moments
Each day we experienced wonderful “Wow Moments” that took our breath away. Incredible unique moments, such as a scrumptious lunch on a barge whilst watching the hippos call to one another and elephants wading across the river only 5 metres away, a scenic open air helicopter ride, taking a Mokoro ride down the Hippo Highway, enjoying watching the sunset at creatively set up areas, with a sundowner in hand in the middle of the bush after amazing game drives, before heading back to camp, for specially prepared dinners, out under the stars, enjoying traditional and local song and dance under the stars in the Bomas, a nightcap around the fire whilst watching and listening to animals around camp before you turn in for the evening, to do it all again the next day, and so much more.
Every day is a completely different experience!
6. Knowledgeable Guides, Educational and Wonderful Staff at Each Camp
Our guide Oli has been a tracker for over 20 years and was a fountain of knowledge. There was no question he could not answer! Between Oli and our host Vasko, they gave our group a truly educational and entertaining experience, whilst making sure everyone felt safe, secure and well taken care of the entire time. Oli always attended to each and every person in his group, making sure to assist however he was able. You could see that he was well loved by the staff at the camps. Our mornings would begin with checking tracks for Lion, Cheetah, Leopard and other animals that assisted Oli in deciding which direction to go to view the animals we were all so excited to see.
I worked in management at luxury hotels for many years and must say that the staff at each camp were simply exceptional. They went over and above and made our experience so much more. It was wonderful to see local ladies from the area in management at various lodges overseeing the operation and each of the teams were warm, kind and extremely attentive to the needs and wishes of every guest.
7. Sustainable and Conservative focus
One of the many reasons I love partnering with Wilderness Safaris, is that they are focused on sustainability and conservation. They are strongly committed to operating a successful ecotourism business that positively impacts conservation and community empowerment, forming part of the company’s commitment to its 4Cs sustainability ethos of Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation.
In the 1980’s when the new Botswana government took over, they realized that they needed to work on preservation as their land and the animals were being depleted. They changed the concessions from hunting to being more protected, and focused on tourism, so that the land and animals would begin to grow and flourish again.
Wilderness Safaris Botswana owns, manages and runs 26 world renowned safari camps in the Okavango Delta, Linyanti and Central Kalahari Game Reserve, making a sustainable difference to the ongoing biodiversity protection of these wilderness areas. They believe that they should be able to remove a camp, leaving no trace behind. Thus each camp is built around the trees, flora and fauna, so that the natural environment can continue to thrive.
All Wilderness Safaris camps are operated with as light an environmental footprint as possible, with 12 of its camps in Botswana being 100% solar powered and most camps also have elevated board walks, so as not to damage the ground. This also makes many of them wheelchair friendly. WS has approximately 1,079 staff employed, of which 1,039 are local citizens, providing local opportunity, and 47% are female.
I was so impressed, not only with my personal experience overall, but with all of the sustainable and conservative efforts that Wilderness Safaris contributes in every country they are based in.
As I mentioned, there is a safari for everyone. I work with various great preferred partners throughout Africa. My Safari with Wilderness Safaris was a truly exceptional experience and has me already dreaming of where I will go on my next safari. …How about you?
Please reach out to me if you are interested in planning an African Safari or similar travel. There is no time like the present to start planning your next exciting adventure. My Preferred Partners and I are here to assist and often clients receive special amenities and benefits when booking with me.