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Wednesday 18 May 2016

Chobe at a Glance – the Land of Elephants

Claire joined Safari Destinations only a few weeks ago. She is happy to share some impressions of her trip to Chobe with us!

As first time visitors to Botswana you would undoubtedly include Chobe on your itinerary – a journey would almost be incomplete without this! From breath-taking sunsets over the Chobe River to hippos frolicking in the water nearby, you may even get a close up encounter with one of Chobe’s regular visitors – the African Elephant. 

I was fortunate to visit during the milder month of April (although the day time high still reached the lower thirties), water levels were reasonably high after the late rains this year and this allowed for a spectacular sunset cruise on the Chobe River. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and shared some history on the local people and their culture, the diversity of the animals living in the Chobe region as well as some humorous antidotes. 

The Chobe National Park is vast and covers a large part of the north eastern part of Botswana, with Kasane being the small town that services the area. Accommodation ranges from camping grounds to small family lodges, as well as luxury bush camps and some larger lodges dotted along the riverfront. There is certainly an option to suit a variety of traveller needs. All offer morning, afternoon or full day trips; in open safari vehicles; to the National Park and most offer day trips to Victoria Falls.

I fell in love with Chobe, the friendly people and the simple way of life – not only is it a photographer’s playground, it is a year round destination that invites you to experience a truly African adventure. Get #LostinBots with Safari Destinations!

 

 

Claire Robinson

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Claire Robinson

Friday 11 March 2016

Botswana’s Top Six Dining experiences

What do termite mounds, elephants, river rafts and the Milky Way have to do with unforgettable food experiences?

While most people visiting Botswana expect to experience diverse wildlife & lush landscapes, what they don’t often expect is a world-class culinary experience.

Here are our top six recommendations for unique dining experiences in Botswana

The Extraordinary Pizza Oven – Seba Camp
We all know how kids are… they love adventure and are busy exploring things all day long…until it comes to their palates. Once lunchtime arrives, there goes any spirit of discovery. But Seba Camp, deep in the magnificent Okavango Delta satisfies even the fussiest of eaters with their magnificent homemade pizza.

At Seba Camp, just as the kids think their morning game drive is wrapping up, they’ll find themselves pulling up to a beautiful spot next to the water, where a stunning surprise bush picnic awaits with soft blankets and pillows for lounging, as well as a play area for the kids. And what piece-de-resistance awaits your adolescent explorers? A termite mound transformed into a pizza oven!

Kids have the opportunity to prepare their own pizzas with the help of a professional cook and an array of toppings (healthy is well disguised!). While pizzas bake in the termite mound oven, kids have time to play, giving parents a chance to close their eyes for a moment, or lazily watch elephants cross the river in the distance. Once the pizzas are wolfed down, the slow cruise back to camp by boat begins.

Seba_2013-04-94Seba Pizza Oven

The Huckleberry Finn Experience – Xugana Island Lodge
Many people know the adventures of Huckleberry Finn who, together with a good friend, escaped the confines of daily life to raft down the Mississippi River. Fewer people know they can recreate the experience over a glass of wine and dinner for two while floating out into a star-lit lagoon from Xugana Island Lodge in the Okavango Delta.

Xugana Island Lodge appears to float above the waters of the Okavango Delta, surrounded by a papyrus-fringed oxbow lagoon. As the sunset fades and the tinkle of bell frogs begins, visitors can leave their island hide-away by pontoon, puttering out into the open water with nothing but the far-off snorting of hippos for company, far from the civilised world.

Once dessert is polished off, set a slow course back to camp, pulling into a jetty lined with hurricane lanterns to show you the way home.

Xugana Pontoon

Starlight Dinner of Your ‘Wildest Dreams’ – Camp Kalahari
In her music video Wildest Dreams, Taylor Swift provides a small glimpse of the Makgadikgadi’s breath-taking landscapes. Endless white saltpans surrounded by yellow grasslands dominate the area. In the evenings, as the sun sinks below the horizon, a curtain of brilliantly bright stars drops to the ground in all directions, creating the perfect backdrop for a night out in the nothingness.

At Camp Kalahari, open-air dining with a heavy dose of old-fashioned safari romance is the order of the day. Take a quad bike from camp and drive out towards the empty horizons, where the only objects to ever appear in the distance are the sun and the moon. While night descends, a twinkling of far-off light appears to be a new constellation at first, eventually revealing itself to be a lantern-filled dinner table, covered in fine china and gourmet food.

The silence and majestic surroundings perfectly complement the delicious menu Camp Kalahari serves up to create an unforgettable moment. Once the plates are cleared, you just might find your bed waiting close by, stuffed full of hot water bottles beneath the brightest stars you’ll ever see (even in your wildest dreams!)

Pans dinner Uncharted (Clare Doolan's conflicted copy 2015-06-10)

Brunch With the Giants – Stanley’s or Baines’ Camp
Elephants are one of the most fascinating creatures on our planet. Looming grey giants, they parade across the African savannah, completing the picture of a perfect wilderness. Usually, getting close enough to really appreciate an elephant’s size isn’t possible – unless you’re visiting Stanley’s or Baines’ camp in the Okavango Delta.

Go walking through the bush with the elephants at Stanley’s or Baines’ Camp and be escorted by wrinkly-skinned hosts to a fantastic sit-down brunch, literally in the middle of nowhere. Walking with the elephants through the bush and talking to their guides allows you to understand elephants, and their behaviour, providing a real connection with nature. You’ll sit down to eat, passing bread and butter along the table under the shade of your elephant hosts’ umbrella-sized ears. Alice in Wonderland has nothing on this tea party!

Getting up close and personal with the elephants at Baines’ Camp

Baines2 (1)Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 11.41.04 AM

Lunch at the Intersection of the Linyanti – Zarafa

Whatever waterway you see in the Linyanti, you can be guaranteed that the Zibadianja Lagoon has something to do with it. When water levels are good, this lagoon becomes more of a lake. And when bellies are empty, the best way to explore it is on board Zarafa Camp’s luxurious barge, over the course of a decadent lunch.

The Zibadianja provides an intersection for many of Northern Botswana’s waterways. Here, the Kwando River hits a fault-line, skimming the top of the lagoon before it changes its name to the Linyanti and makes a break for the Chobe. To the west, the Selinda Spillway reaches up from the Okavango Delta, connecting it to the lagoon in years of good rain. When the lagoon is full enough, it drains water south, feeding the Savuti Channel and eventually spilling out into the elephant-littered grasslands of the Savute Marsh.

Fully equipped with both lounge and dining area, the HMS Zib cruises the lagoon as elephants play in the shallows, birdlife skims the water, and guests enjoy the culinary delights of more-than-capable chefs. Top it all off with a cold glass of chenin blanc and you’re guaranteed an afternoon not easily forgotten.

HMS ZIb IIIIHMS ZIb III

Testing the Waters in the Okavango Delta – Pelo Camp

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all nature”. At Pelo Camp, this is truer than ever, as guests merge with the unspoilt nature of Botswana’s biggest UNESCO world heritage site during a bush brunch with a difference.

Heading out from camp by boat or mokoro, guests will find themselves perched on tables and chairs in the shallow floodplains of the Okavango Delta, atop bright, white sandbanks for a wet, but refreshing brunch.

Guests squish their feet into the clean, cool waters of the delta under their chairs, whilst savouring culinary delights in one of the most unique places on earth, surrounded by 360 degree views of palm tree dotted islands and open floodplains.

After brunch, a refreshing swim in the shallows of the Okavango Delta is on offer before a leisurely return to camp.

Pelo_2015-06-98

Ines

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Ines

Monday 25 May 2015

Botswana’s Top 5 Unique Travel Experiences

Botswana may have bragging rights to the world’s biggest elephant population, the Okavango Delta (recently named UNESCO’s 1000th world heritage site) and salt pans the size of Switzerland, but it also keeps a few lesser-known bucket list tricks up its sleeve. Look beyond the traditional game drive or boat cruise and be rewarded with an unforgettable adventure to compliment the wildlife experience on offer.

1. Al Fresco Slumber Parties

Spend a night outside your tent and get acquainted with the map of the universe overhead. Botswana offers sleep-out experiences as varied as a traveller’s many interests. Sleep a stone’s throw from an elephants’ bedroom (Abu Camp), follow the moon’s trajectory over the Makgadikgadi salt pans (Uncharted Africa) or bed down amidst the sounds of the bush and the croaking of frogs in the Okavango Delta (Kanana, Baines’ or Xudum).

Test it Out With: Our 8 Night “Botswana Focus – Superior” including 2 Nights The Elephant Camp (Victoria Falls), 2 Nights Ngoma Safari Lodge (Chobe / Ngoma), 2 Nights Kanana Camp (Okavango Delta) & 2 Nights Shinde Camp (Private Concession Bordering Moremi)

Sleeping above the elephant boma at Abu Camp

Sleeping above the elephant boma at Abu Camp

2. Get Amongst the Giants

Get up close and personal with the world’s largest land mammal. Walking through the Okavango Delta in the shadow of an elephant and learning about their social politics is one of the most awe-inspiring memories you’ll collect in the bush. Abu Camp, Baines’ Camp and Stanleys’ Camp all offer the opportunity to interact with elephants who keep calm in human company.

Test it Out With: Our 6 Night “Three Rivers – Deluxe” Package including 2 Nights Victoria Falls River Lodge (Victoria Falls), 2 Nights Selinda Camp (Linyanti) & 2 Nights Baines’ Camp (Okavango Delta).

Getting up close and personal with the elephants at Baines' Camp

Getting up close and personal with the elephants at Baines’ Camp

3. Learn to Survive in the Desert

Botswana boasts one of the oldest communities of hunter-gatherers on earth, the San bushmen. For thousands of years the San have been surviving in the harsh conditions of the Kalahari where most would die of thirst in a few short days. Practice speaking in clicks as the San guide you in the desert and watch in disbelief as they pull hidden food, water and survival tools out of the sand. Meno a Kwena on the Boteti River and Uncharted Africa on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are our personal picks for best place to experience the hunter-gatherer lifestyle first hand.

Test it Out With: Our 10 Night ‘Adventure Safari – Option 2′ including 3 Nights Meno a Kwena Tented Camp (Boteti / Makgadikgadi), 2 Nights Sango Safari Camp (Khwai), 2 Nights Chobe Under Canvas (Chobe), 1 Night Ilala Lodge (Victoria Falls) and 2 Nights Pioneers Camp (Zambezi National Park – outside Victoria Falls)

Digging up scorpions with the bushmen at Meno a Kwena

Digging up scorpions with the bushmen at Meno a Kwena

4. Blaze Your Own Trail

So you’ve flown miles into the wilderness in a tiny charter plane, with nothing but bush in all directions, but it still doesn’t feel remote enough? Pack up a tent and head off on an exploration of Botswana’s waterways. Delve into the deepest Okavango Delta by mokoro from Oddball’s Enclave, exploring islands and camping along the way. Alternatively, pick up your paddle and tackle the Selinda Spillway by canoe with Great Plains, stopping en route to rest your weary arms and explore the bush on foot. You might end up with a few blisters, but you’ll take home even more stories – and they last longer!

Test it Out With: Our 10 Night ‘Botswana Odyssey – Option 1′ including 2 Nights Gorges Lodge (Victoria Falls), 3 Nights Selinda Explorers’ Camp (Linyanti), 3 Nights Machaba Camp (Khwai), 2 Nights Kalahari Plains (Central Kalahari Game Reserve)

Canoeing the Selinda Spillway

Canoeing the Selinda Spillway

5. Catch the View From the Top

There’s no better way to view the maze of the Okavango Delta than from above. While planes are required to fly at higher altitudes, helicopters can set flight paths tracing water channels from just a few metres above. Try your hand at aerial photography as you hover above herds of plains game and stop to take in your surrounds on a remote island with a glass of champagne in hand. The Mombo concession is our pick for the best place to see animals from above (and the only area with a chance of seeing rhino) whereas taking off from a water camp (such as Baines’ or Eagle Island) will give you the best idea of the lay of the land.

Test it Out With: Our “8 Night Botswana Focus – Premier” including 2 Nights Tongabezi – House (Livingstone), 2 Nights Zarafa Camp (Linyanti), 2 Nights Vumbura Plains (Okavango Delta), 2 Nights Mombo (Moremi Game Reserve) FREE UPGRADE TO HELICOPTER TRANSFER INCLUDED BETWEEN VUMBURA PLAINS & MOMBO

Checking out the Okavango Delta from above

Checking out the Okavango Delta from above

For details on the above mentioned itineraries, please log into our Agents’ Corner and download full rates, inclusions and exclusions.  For suggestions on how to combine more than one of these experiences in any itinerary, check out our package overview or contact your dedicated consultant.

Clare Doolan

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Clare Doolan

Monday 27 April 2015

The Flood has finally returned – Boating season opened at Baines Camp

Upon arrival at Stanleys Airstrip we were amazed about how much water has already arrived in the lower Delta. Just a few weeks ago on our last visit to the delta there were only few waterholes and sprinkles of water between thick bush and palm trees surrounded by sand banks and dried land. Our guide, Ice, welcomed us at the airstrip and on our 40 minutes game drive to Baines Camp we got the first impression that the flood had just arrived the day before. Making our way through waterholes, around termite mounts, through high thatching grass and between Palm trees we arrived at Baines Camp. Located in front of a beautiful lagoon with water all around camp, kingfishers hovering over the water and weavers building nests in the main area. It´s a magnificent atmosphere being in a true delta camp with the calls of the different birds, the hippos calling in the background, the wind whispering through the reeds and the peaceful quietness far away from civilization. Boating season has started at Baines Camp a place with a view at Baines Camp

After settling into our room we are ready to go for high tea and excited about our first afternoon activity. To our surprise we are the first guests this season to go on a boat cruise, thanks to the newly arrived flood! The last boat cruise at Baines Camp was almost six months ago and now we are the lucky guests being spoiled with exploring the hidden parts of the delta. Having been on many boat cruises before and enjoying the smooth ride without the typical African bush massage, this one was special. Just the day before dry land and grass was covering the area around the camp. Now water was flowing through the reeds making it possible to see parts of the delta which are not accessible during summer months. The water was still brown and the bottom not visible. Only after a few weeks the reeds, the living microorganisms and the natural filtration will clean the water making it clear. Slowly we make our way through the channels, which is not that easy as the grass which is still floating in the water gets stuck in the propeller of the boat. We have to stop every now and then so our guide can pull out the reeds from the propeller. But this gives us time taking pictures of the scenery and enjoying the silence. The new flood also brings fish and new birds to the area, which we discover on the banks of the channels. Since the water is not that high yet we are able to stop at a small sandbank to have our sundowners. In between reeds, palm trees, papyrus and birds we watch the sun go down while enjoying our gin & tonic. As the sun disappears behind the horizon we make our way back to camp.

To watch the phenomena of the returning flood and what it does to the wildlife is an experience that can hardly be described. This is Botswana, the unpredictable Wildlife and ever changing landscape. Amandine and Jessica at Baines Camp

 

 

Jessica Sears

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Jessica Sears

Friday 28 November 2014

Mana Pools – Africa’s forgotten Paradise

Mana Pools

Mighty Zambezi River, Mana Pools

I have always been in love with Mana Pools.

Mana is my mentor – a remote and wild park that feeds my soul with all her sights & sounds – I’ve visited her time and again in her different seasons. Her moods are many and despite the diverse ecology and terrain, each one of these trips has been memorable for one thing. I’ve had some of the best close-up game encounters ever! Sitting under the watchful eye of a professional guide meters away from lion, wild dogs, the legendary standing bulls of Mana and a myriad of plains game and birdlife is just one way in which this park immerses you and brings you back to the fundamental core of nature and our place in it. Goliath-7

Your clock adjusts to sunrise and sunset and you fall into beat with the natural order of things, according to the rhythm of nature and camp life – the game is clearly abundant in peak season and our recent visit took us to just a few of the camps that have the privilege of operating in and being the custodians of this special park:

Chikwenya, Vundu, Little Vundu, Camp Zambezi and Zambezi Lifestyles as well as Goliath Safaris (I had stayed at Kanga and Rukomechi on my last trip).

Zambezi Lifestyles – *top spot – really enjoyed being right on the flood plain (Ngundu 2 site), saw game all over the place (NOTE the camp moves between different sites depending on which is available, all are on the river) enjoyed the simple comfort of the tents and space of the camp – 4 tents set up boasting the new flush toilets in the open air bathrooms – great bucket shower – excellent local staff managing camp (Cloud was a treat to be in camp and on safari with, very passionate, knowledgeable and eloquent, we also did our canoe trip with him, we weren’t just ‘guided’, we were educated too) – tents/hardware were all solid – food was amazing (I made a point of going to meet the cook, these bush cooks really are talented is all I can say!) – Highlight: herd of 400+ buffalo and sitting on the vehicle near Zebra Vlei watching a pack of 7 adult wild dogs with pups in the late afternoon, they went off on the hunt as the sun went down.

Goliath-6

Goliath Tented Camp – *top spot – also really enjoyed being in this camp (I rate both Zambezy Lifestyles and Goliath as my trip highlights) – Camp is on a private concession so in the same location annually.  Owner and Pro-Guide in camp is Stretch (Andrew) Ferreira, he is running the camp – the location is stunning with shade over the central areas looking out onto a channel and island just in front of camp, beyond the island is the main river. The first thing you feel here is welcome and are encouraged to feel right at home and ‘part of the family’ – camp layout is neat and functional with a super river front lounge/dining/breakfast/fire pit areas, the tents are set slightly back – the extended size east African tents are very nicely fitted with tasteful teak and wrought iron furnishings, the beds are very comfortable and I loved the open air shower area – vehicles are open top and in good condition – food was awesome! Highlight: pride of 5 lions right outside camp having a snack out of the cooks cell phone, about 15m from us.

If you are a safari addict and look for close wildlife encounters with excellent guides – then Mana Pools should be your next destination! Our recommendation for an intense safari experience is the 10 night itinerary “Spezialised Guides of Zimbabwe” with:

3 Nights Goliath Safaris Tented Camp, Mana Pools Natonal Park
3 Nights Musango Safari Camp, Matusadona National Park
3 Nights Camp Hwange, Hwange National Park
1 Night The Elephant Camp, Victoria Falls

Mana Pools National Park

Ursula Edwards

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Ursula Edwards

Friday 28 November 2014

The Untamed Wild – a journey to Zambia

My First Safari Into The Untamed Wild

…and despite of innumerable safaris through Botswana and into Zimbabwe, Zambia had always infused me with awe and a tempting curiosity for its claim to fame to be the door into the REAL, deep Africa.

…and all I found were lovely, warm people, welcoming me at airports, airstrips and camps, and an abundance of happy, healthy, relaxed animals.

Elephant mothers who let us come very close to admire their babies, lionesses lying down in the shade of our vehicle, leopards twinkling at us from comfortable branches of huge old trees.

Big smiles and professional hosts awaited us at camps, people proud of their country and its natural beauties guided us. We travelled on sandy  roads, cruised on the mighty Zambezi and reluctantly took flights knowing that while up in the air, we would miss out on landscapes and daily life scenes.

Luckily I was accompanied and guided by an almost ‘local’ Zambia lover and expert, my colleague Bettina.

We opted on a Best of List to share with you our most memorable moments of a fabulous journey through a country offering so many (un)tamed  safari options. The choice was a tough one, the list could have been much longer ….

BEST SIGHTINGS – both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are beaming with wildlife, I have had the most rewarding night game drives ever, with lots of leopards, lions, civit, porcupine, genets.

South Luangwa:

Huge pride of lions, unfaced by us, 13 ladies with their youngsters

and more Mfuwe Lions

So many leopards in different positions on our day & night drives

Pack of 13 wild dogs

Lower Zambezi:

While travelling by boat from the most Eastern part of the park to the park entrance on the Western side we enjoyed hundreds of very happy elephants in the river and along the Zambian and Zimbabwean shores – I have never seen so many babies and youngsters with very relaxed mothers – must be a good life along this magic river.

Ellies Crossing from Zam to Zim

 

BEST GUIDE – a difficult choice as most of the guides we met were outstanding ref their scientific wildlife knowledge, respect of animals, empathy with their clients – but we had to choose:

MANDA – Billimungwe Camp/The Bushcamp Company

Apart from his excellent guiding and his incredible knowledge about his country and national parks, nobody could ever fascinate us the way he did with poo, plants & prints  – thanks to our brave Scout we even felt save while we were LION tracking, but found a BLACK MAMBA.

Best Guide Manda - walking in SL

 

BEST FIREPLACE – as we think this very fine safari habit is in danger of extinction and the warm, romantic, orange glow is replaced by the blue light of laptops too many times already. We enjoyed a very nice conversation on comfy cushions after dinner at CHINZOMBO Camp with manager Mario & fellow guests exposed to the nightly sounds of the bush.

Best FirePlace Chinzombo

…and afterwards we sank into the BEST BED as the camp has installed the high tec, low consumption Evening Breeze cooling system around the bed.

BEST FOOD – this was impossible to decide, as anywhere we went we enjoyed fresh and tasty food, grown in the nearby areas, we are delighted to hear that the supplies for camps are grown and transported rather sustainably compared to other safari countries and local farmers profit directly from tourism.

Therefore the category MOST SURPRISING FOOD goes to KANYEMBA Lodge, where Zambian fruits and vegetables are turned into delicious Italian specialities thanks to the boss’ cooking skills and culture, so we sampled home made banana gelato, porcini risotto, aubergine antipasti while the ellies munched away on the tropical gardens’ trees next to us.

BEST Pool

And as we all know that inspection trips are exhausting, especially if the temperatures rise up to 40 degrees in November, we had to spoil ourselves in some private pools. We especially liked the feel and the views from

CHONGWE CAMPS’s Honeymoon Suite overlooking the confluence of the Chongwe River and the Zambezi

Best PVT Pool - Chongwe HoneymoonSUite

We continue with being spoilt, our timing was obviously perfect, as we visited

SAUSAGE Tree Camp

where we were invited to join their Signature River Lunch – we were taken out into the middle of this gigantic river only to find a wonderful lunch buffet and a shady set table, legs in the cool water, the biggest handwash basin on earth, a true memorable experience and a unique emotional sensation – considering the huge crocs we had seen on our transfers and the hippo family stalking us – so the choice of

BEST SPECIAL EVENT was quite easy!

Best Sepcial Event

 

We close our blog on a fabulous trip with the most elegant event combined with wonderful views from the top of a hill –YES, I loved the hills and mountain ranges ‘escarpments’ coming from rather flat Botswana – over the plains of South Luangwa NP,  garnished with a dramatic thunderstorm passing us

BEST SUNDOWNERS must go to CHICHELE

Best Sundowner - Chichele

 

 

Christine Ess

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Christine Ess

Wednesday 5 November 2014

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH BOTSWANA

When I arrived in Maun a few years ago I didn’t plan on getting involved in the tourism industry. Now 6 years and over a hundred camps later, I admit I changed my mind … Botswana infected me with the famous Safari Bug (as all safari goers know, there is no cure for it)!

Safari was a completely new terrain for me and my compassion towards safari tourists was, honestly spoken – really limited. What value would a safari provide, that a journey to a picturesque beach where people can relax in the sun while watching the waves in the ocean, couldn’t? But life proved me wrong: I figured out quite quickly that safari is more than getting up REALLY early and sitting in a loud, open and sometimes VERY COLD vehicle. Safari is a passion, it is a life changing experience. And yes it has to offer much more than just lying in the sun getting a tan….

Leopard in Khwai

Leopard in Khwai

I can tell many stories I experienced during my time at Safari Destinations: being caught in a tree house in the delta (because of a hippo-grassing-blockade underneath), watching a puff adder attacking the wheels of our vehicle, escaping from charging elephants in reverse gear, nearly bumping into a hippo’s bum on a night drive, watching an angry lion with his mouth wide open on a game walk, an elephant rubbing his skin on the canvas of my tent (lying inside begging that he doesn’t lie down)… just to name a few of my adrenalin-powered moments on safari. But at the same time I also had many touching sightings: a wild dog den with month-old puppies learning how to hunt a vulture, a relaxed elephant shaking palm trees to get nuts from the treetops, a lioness grooming her cubs, a blacksmith lapwing hiding its chicks underneath its wings (at first you wonder why the bird has 6 feet..), a leopard lying on display in a tree just for you to get a beautiful photo, a Sitatunga antelope in the middle of the reeds watching us on a boat cruise and finally, the myriad colours of the most beautiful sunsets on earth.

Now I understand the safari tourists: it’s not just about the adventure, it’s being surrounded by unspoilt nature while watching beautiful animals in their homes. When you are on safari you start to acknowledge that there are still paradises out there, where time, status & performance don’t count. It’s more about being in harmony with yourself and nature and the wildlife.

I’ve been to 107 camps and have seen pretty much every corner of Botswana (and a bit of Zimbabwe). Personally, it doesn’t matter if you have a private pool, a fancy 6 course dinner or if you get your cup of coffee delivered to your room in the morning. What makes a safari memorable is being in the wilderness, smelling the bush, listening to nature and absorbing it with open eyes.

Many people will never have the chance to experience such wonders while they are stuck in big cities with millions of people and no opportunity to see true beauty. It’s up to those of us who are privileged enough to experience such wildernesses to tell people about them, encourage them to travel and keep them safe for the next generation.

Sunset in Savuti

Sunset in Savuti

“THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT SAFARI LIFE THAT MAKES YOU FORGET ALL YOUR SORROWS AND FEEL AS IF YOU HAD DRUNK HALF A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE – BUBBLING OVER WITH HEARTFELT GRATITUDE FOR BEING ALIVE”.  Karen Blixen 

 

Ines

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Ines

Thursday 9 October 2014

An exciting afternoon game drive at POM POM Camp, Okavango Delta – Botswana

IMG_6287

Pom Pom Camp, western Okavango Delta

Last weekend Jessica flew to Pom Pom for a quick 1 night stay to check out the lodge.  Here is her feedback:

Pom Pom is only a short five minute drive from the airstrip. The large main area is really cool, which helps during the hot days. All the tents have a great view over the river and buffalos come very close. The rooms are fantastic. We loved the colors and especially the white curtains in the tents, which we have not seen before. The hot outdoor shower is really big and the water pressure is perfect. Coffee and tea is being served in the tents at wake up time, which makes it really nice to get up.

Activities/ Guiding:

Roaring Lion at Pom Pom Camp

Roaring Lion at Pom Pom Camp

Our guide Rex, very nice and friendly guide met us and took us on the evening  game drive. Our plan was to find lions, we saw fresh lion tracks and followed them. We drove for about 38km trying to find this male lion and while doing that we saw  lots of animals just to mention a few, impalas, red Lechwe, Kudus, wildebeest, Duiker, Giraffe, Tsessebe, buffalos, lots of birds. It was getting a bit late so we stopped for our sundowner drinks. As we set up the table we heard him roaring, so we jumped into the vehicle, left the drinks there, drove off and he was about 150 to 200 m behind us, lying there calling for his brother. What an amazing sight. Rex our guide was not willing to give up on the lion hunt which was great, so our long drive and hunt was paid off eventually. It was so wonderful to hear him roar just about 4m away from the vehicle. The brothers met and it was a phenomenal way to end the evening.

On our morning game drive it was time to find a leopard. Rex took us for a leopard hunt, we saw a lot of animals while on the hunt. We finally found the mother leopard with two cubs but we could only see the one cub, since the other one was hiding. That was just incredible, wonderful game drive. Back on time we dropped two clients at the airport and kept on going on a game drive for about 40 minutes before heading back to camp for brunch.

 

 

 

Carina

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Carina

Thursday 18 September 2014

CHOBE – LAND OF THE GIRAFFES!

“People come to Chobe for the elephants, but I say this is one of the best places in Botswana to see giraffes” says James of Chobe Game Lodge.  Whatever you want to call them, a tower, journey, aggregate or corps there’s no doubting we’re seeing plenty. ‘I must’ve seen at least 180 on a game drive the other day, it was incredible.  You’ll often see more of them than the elephants.”

Giraffe country!

I still vote that Chobe is the place of the Elephants.  Eleven year old Emma sitting in the vehicle next to me agrees, so we put a bet on it, splitting our game drive into two camps.  Emma and I sit on one side of the debate, scrambling to tally up elephants as her parents and James count off giraffe wherever they spot a head sticking out from behind trees.

Emma is a star at running our mini elephant census and she doesn’t miss a trick.  Breeding herd.  Eight.  At least.  (we add one or two more, just in case we’ve under-counted by a few legs).  Emma’s parents up front are pointing at a giraffe behind a tree, but as we shift our focus to the tree line beyond it becomes two; then three, then four…  This is the thing with giraffes, there’s always more.  Having all that height equals an impressive range of vision.  Giraffes can spread out in the bush and effectively keep an eye out for predators.  It seems there are always more on the horizon, slowly chewing leaves and adding themselves to the scorecard.

I won’t admit it, but I’m feeling a slight sweat coming on.  I whisper to Emma that we need a distraction as I spot more giraffes coming up on the left.  “Oh WOW!’ we exclaim, waving our arms for attention ‘what’s that on the RIGHT?!  More ELEPHANTS maybe?”  It doesn’t work.  Team giraffe are busy counting and suddenly they’re in the mid twenties.  This does not look good.  I point feebly at a bush ‘oh look, more elephants!’  I say, substituting real sightings with fake ones.  ‘No wait!’ Emma says stopping me, ‘there really ARE elephants!” and sure enough, another breeding herd.  Add twelve.  Team elephant is closing the gap.

Elephants in Chobe

Elephants in Chobe

The afternoon seems to have passed in five minutes.  We realise we’ve ignored the multitudes of impalas, waterbucks, buffaloes and, more importantly, the start of a sunset slowly melting across Chobe’s over-filled floodplains.  As numbers climb into the thirties on both sides, James calls a truce and suggests we make peace over G&Ts as white-faced ducks socialise next to us by the floodplains.  It’s a tense detente, but one that Emma and I finally agree is necessary to save team giraffe from embarrassment.

Later, I’m joining my aunt on her first ever game drive with Connie, one of the Chobe Angels.  A few minutes in, we start with the basics.  “This is an impala’ says Connie ‘you can tell the difference between the males and the females because the males have horns.”  It’s easy to get blasé about impalas when you’ve been on a few game drives, but my aunt is captivated and Connie really eases her into the bush experience.

The pace builds quickly when we turn a corner and find a leopard chilling out in a tree, the blue of the Chobe River spread out behind him.  I start telling my aunt how lucky we are when we drive on a little further and find a pride of nine lionesses strolling along the water’s edge.    My heart stops in my throat as a big male kudu walks right at them and the lionesses slink down in the grass.  With less than two metres between predator and prey, a lioness springs up and the kudu’s instinct to survive kicks in.  He bolts off across the floodplains, throwing up bursts of water and sending birds shooting into the air.  Lucky for the kudu, these girls are still young and haven’t fine-tuned their hunting skills yet, despite putting on an impressive show.

IMG_1306-1

When I begin telling my aunt how lucky we are again, two leopards in a tree appear and I suspect she thinks I’m having her on.  One of the leopards has an impala up the tree and is busy snacking as the sky begins to grow dark.

We head back to Chobe Game Lodge in the fading light, excitedly going over the events of the afternoon when Connie delivers again, spotting five lion cubs sitting in the dust.  Their mothers are gone, probably looking for dinner, as the young cubs watch us from only a metre away.  We’ve already taken plenty of photos.  This is one of those sightings better enjoyed without a camera and committed to memory instead, as the light runs out on the day.

Where to stay in Chobe

Chobe National Park is Botswana’s busiest due to its ease of access from Victoria Falls and via Kasane Airport without requiring any onward charter flights.  Where travellers stay in Chobe will seriously alter the kind of safari experience they receive, whether it’s a town stay with park access for activities, within the park itself for a complete bush setting, or a river-based experience in the Caprivi Strip.

KASANE

Properties in Kasane are typically bigger hotels booked on packages with a set amount of activities and meals, often excluding drinks.  These are the most affordable options for exploring Chobe and activities are often out-sourced to third party operators with no guarantee you’ll have the same guide each time.   Most Kasane hotels are on the river with their own jetty for boat cruises, though neighbouring hotels share the same route, making them the busiest departure points for getting on the river.   For game drives, guests drive approximately 20 minutes to Sedudu gate and queue for entry with vehicles from other hotels.  The result is that game driving into the park from Kasane results in a busier game drive experience, shared with more vehicles but often at a much more favourable nightly rate.

Kasane Hotels: Chobe Safari Lodge, Mowana Safari Lodge, Chobe Marina Lodge, Chobe Bush Lodge.  Smaller lodges in the area include Kubu Lodge, Chobe Bakwena, Chobe Chilwero and the Old House.

CHOBE NATIONAL PARK

Staying inside the national park creates a much more relaxed safari experience as you can start your game drives earlier and drag them out later, all the while staying in bush (rather than town) surrounds.  Being inside the park also means being the first on the roads looking for sightings in the mornings and the chance to pick up animal tracks on the road before they’re covered over with tyre tracks from vehicles.  Chobe Game Lodge is the only permanent lodge inside the park and the only place in Botswana where your boat cruise starts within the park, avoiding the boat traffic from Kasane.  A mobile safari is another alternative for staying within Chobe National Park and experiencing the bush surrounds.

Chobe National Park: Chobe Game Lodge, Chobe Under Canvas and Mobile Safaris (ie. Letaka, Bush Ways)

NGOMA GATE

Lodges on the Ngoma side of Chobe enjoy a bush setting (an hour from Kasane by road), elevated views over the Chobe floodplains and a short transit to the Ngoma gate for game drives.  Although these lodges are outside the park, there are only three on this side of Chobe, meaning you avoid the queues at Sedudu Gate on the Kasane end of the park.  Animals are often spotted directly from the lodges and short night drives are possible in the vicinity immediately around the lodges, due to their location outside the park.  Lodges in this area operate their boat cruises from Kasane Town.  Due to the distance involved, cruises are normally mid-morning (when the river is quieter) as part of a longer day trip through Chobe National Park.

Ngoma Gate: Ngoma Safari Lodge, Muchenje Safari Lodge and Chobe Elephant Camp.

CAPRIVI STRIP/CHOBE RIVER

Staying in the Caprivi is all about experiencing the Chobe River by boat.   To stay in the Caprivi, you’ll need to check-in to Namibia even though you’ll share the water with boats from Botswana.  There are three options: lodges on Impalila Island, houseboats and Chobe Savanna Lodge.  Lodges on Impalila Island are very close to Kasane, meaning that there’s no advantage location-wise for beating Kasane’s sunset cruise fleet.  Lodges here are in a prime position for fishing, being close to the rapids and also for birding with quite a few small heronries around the island.  Houseboats moor at various positions on the river opposite Chobe National Park, and benefit from less surrounding boat traffic.  The houseboats use smaller boats for cruising guests up and down on the Chobe River.  There are smaller houseboats with four to five cabins as well as the larger Zambezi Queen.  The Zambezi Queen is quite large, running on set departures, meaning guests stay with the same group for the duration of the two or three night cruises.  Chobe Savanna Lodge is situated across from Puku Flats in Chobe National Park from where buffalo, elephants, giraffes and hippos are often spotted directly from the lodge.  Savanna also enjoys the benefit of a more exclusive river experience being located further into the park.

Caprivi Strip: Pride of the Zambezi, Ichobezi, Zambezi Queen, Chobe Savanna Lodge, Impalila Island Lodge, Ichingo River Lodge.

 

Clare Doolan

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Clare Doolan

Monday 4 August 2014

Have you ever heard of the GRUFFALO?

Last year Lorraine and I started a tradition of our two families going on safari together. This year our annual family safari took us to Hwange. Travelling with kids is an adventure. Seeing nature through their eyes makes you realize how wonderful our planet really is. Did you know that a wildebeest looks a bit like a Gruffalo. For all ignorant people out there, “The Gruffalo” is one of the best-loved children’s books ever. ”A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo?”
“A gruffalo! Why, didn’t you know? He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.”
And so begins the story of a quick-witted mouse as he encounters a host of predators who seem to think he might make a tasty treat. As he ventures deeper into the deep dark wood, stumbling across a hungry fox, a not-so-wise owl, and a slimy snake, spinning ever-extraordinary yarns about the scary, scaly gruffalo, he quickly realises that the hungry beast he has been talking of isn’t imaginary after all.

The Gruffalo, also known as blue wildebeest

The Gruffalo, also known as blue wildebeest

On Safari with the Gruffalo:

Three bush babies strolled through the Hwange vlei,

they saw some Lions lying in their way,

snoozing and dreaming of roasted Gruffalo on a spit,

the Bush Babies turned around and away they slid…

Our days in Hwange were filled with extraordinary gamedrives. Living in Botswana also means that our children grow up being spoilt safari-goers, but Hwange can easily compete. Especially the south-east of Hwange offered outstanding game viewing (Davisons, Bomani, Camelthorn and Little Makalolo). It never got boring, the kids loved every moment of it. Hwange in combination with Victoria Falls and Chobe is a great destination for a family safari!

Who runs the fastest - watch out the Gruffalo is right behind you!

Who runs the fastest – watch out the Gruffalo is right behind you!

The Gruffalo only left bones

The Gruffalo only left bones

 

Carina

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Carina