Having never been to Nxai Pan National Park this was my first chance to discover this somewhat hidden gem in the desert. The landscape was stunning. One could see that the area had experienced some rains prior to our arrival as the flora was slowly coming back to life with bright green shoots and leaves providing a stark contrast to the dry landscape. The majority of trees and shrubs were coming into bloom with a stunning array of multi coloured flowers making for great landscape photography.
We could not have scripted our arrival at Nxai Pan Camp more perfectly. We arrived to a very warm welcome from the Managers, Lets and Thabo. Our camp orientation, however, was delayed for forty five minutes due to the fact that one rather cheeky elephant had decided that the camp pool would make for a better source of drinking water than the waterhole directly located in front of camp. Spectacular to say the least!
After high tea we went out on a short game drive towards the busy waterhole where elephants were dominating the water point to the chagrin of the other wildlife such as buffalos, jackals and other desert species. The inter-action between the elephants themselves and the other wildlife was fascinating, keeping us mesmerized as Chester explained the animals behaviour we were observing.
The next morning we embarked on a short nature walk with Shoes, the resident bushman and our tracker. He provided us with numerous anecdotes and information in the ways of his forefathers during a short walk in the vicinity of the camp. Quite a character if there ever was one, explaining that my failure to start a fire would guarantee that I would never find a wife to marry! The following game drive provided great sightings in the form of three cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, elephants galore and the highlight for us, aardvark out in the open during the day time!
We went through to Baines Baobab’s on our way to the Nxai Pan National Park gate. The baobabs stand out rather majestically as one approaches and the experience is quite humbling as one realises just how long these immortalized baobabs have stood the test of time.
FACTS ABOUT NXAI PAN CAMP
Nxai Pan Camp is run by Kwando Safaris
Activities on offer include game drives, bushman experience and day visits to Baines Baobabs
Camp consists of 8 custom-built rooms (including 1 family room). All rooms are en-suite with thatched roofs and insulation making them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
If your client is looking for a unique, cozy, romantic and chilled camp, then Pelo is the answer.
Most of these requirements will already be met as the little aircraft descends over the palm tree dotted, flooded landscape of the Jao concession. Your eye gets caught by a tiny island in the shape of a heart; the Setswana word for heart is PELO.
All 5 tents are on stilts facing the water, the intimate terraces open up to the safari wonderland of the deep Delta and are filled with the beautiful cacophony of birdsong.
Pelo is a water camp, meaning there are no vehicles on the island. It therefore combines superbly with productive land camps in Khwai, Moremi Game Reserve or Savute. This camp is a little jewel and shines well at the end of a safari.
Here you come to glide silently over Delta Waters in a Mokoro and explore the endless diversity of the floodplains by boat. Most importantly you come to chill and enjoy yourself and the universe – it should also win the prize for the most stunning pool in the Delta!
Jao water levels vary greatly, your safari consultant will have the best advice for you. Pelo sits in fairly deep waters, which dry out last in the Delta – another reason to include Pelo in your next itinerary!
FACTS ABOUT PELO
Pelo is run by Wilderness Safaris as an Adventures camp.
Activities on offer include mokoro trips, boat based game viewing and seasonal catch and release fishing.
The camp has five guest tents, complete with a covered front veranda, and both an indoor and outdoor shower.
Pelo is open annually from 1 March to 30 November.
As much as I tried, I simply couldn’t jump over the sunset! Clearly I’m not fit enough, as it took a couple of attempts to get as high as I did! Lack of fitness aside, I’m sure you can see it was quiet fun to try! Fun and enjoyment sums up Rra Dinare camp, a new stunning camp on the Southern side of the Okavango Delta.
Upon arrival it’s immediately apparent that everything is still super new. The wood still smells woody, the linen is nice and crisp the mosquito nets are super white and I’m sure there is not a single mosquito that can go through those! I absolutely loved this camp!
The food was delicious and generous with a wide assortment of drinks, teas and coffee. It was a really special thing for me to be brought a piping hot cup of tea in the morning! Talk about being pampered like a princess! Nobody has ever brought me tea at 6am! I could do this every morning.
The stilted Boma area overlooks the Gomoti River, where elephant, buffalo and hippo amble past. In the afternoon bushbucks are often around the camp nibbling on bushes underneath the tents…so cute! I got to relax by the pool and the amount of game viewing in front of the camp could easily make one think about opting out of a game drive – not that I did. Despite my notions of relaxing poolside, the game drive did not disappoint – I saw loads. I’m no photographer so I really appreciated how the game always seemed to be right in front of me, at the right time, for me and my camera. At one point a lioness rolled upside down and looked like it wanted to be petted, waited for me to snap a couple of pictures, and then turned over again.
We also went on a Mokoro excursion. I´m not a big fan of water but after a lot of jiggling on the game vehicle a Mokoro was the best thing that could happen to me. It was so smooth and more than appreciated. Our Mokoro poler was knowledgeable and cautious and told us when we could not go further as there was a hippo “tanning” on the other side of the channel. I told him that I was very happy with his precautions! I don´t take risks!
FACTS ABOUT RRA DINARE
Rra Dinare is an Under One Botswana Sky Camp, sister camp of Pom Pom Camp.
The camp is run on solar power.
Activities on offer are Game drives with each vehicle carrying 6 pax, Walking Safaris and seasonal Mokoro excursions are also available. The Guides are very knowledgeable and informative.
Rra Dinare has a maximum of 8 tents with one family room inter-leading. The rooms are very spacious with outdoor showers (no inside shower).
Wakeup with coffee/tea brought to the rooms every morning. The dining for all meals is communal. Private meals for honeymooners or for guests who prefer more privacy are available on request.
To get more info please click here and see recent images and general information about Rra Dinare.
Three of my colleagues and I recently had the pleasure of spending two nights at The Lodge located north of the expansive Central Kalahari Game Reserve. We were picked up at our offices in Maun just after lunch for a comfortable four and a half hour road transfer in their air-conditioned 4×4 to this rather unique product. Although there was not much to see on the way, we kept our spirits up by discussing exactly what we were about to experience as it became apparent that although we were seasoned travellers in regards to camps and lodges in Botswana, we did not quite know what to expect at this property as big game viewing is not the primary focus. This is not to suggest that there is no game in the area (as I realised later on) as we encountered zebras and kudus during our stay there but rather that this property has a completely different ethos as compared to the camps we regularly visit in more predominately game rich areas in the delta.
We arrived to a very warm welcome by Teddy, the lodge manager and his ever smiling staff. The lodge really is beautifully built to match in with the surrounding area and the twenty-five metre lap pool had us all wanting to take a dip right then and there! We freshened up with a welcome cool drink and prepared ourselves to hear the usual camp briefing regarding operations safety pre-cautions and activities. Instead of the usual early morning wake up at 05h30 in the morning for a game drive we were advised we could sleep in until breakfast was served at 07h30! The activities on offer had us all spoilt for choice as one could go on a game drive, walk, fat bike tour of the area or horse riding. Other activities on offer are golfing (desert style!), tennis, an authentic bushman experience (either a walking safari to discover what the desert can provide in terms or nourishment and medicine or a more in-depth fly-camp experience at a bushman village located close to the lodge) or if one is feeling like being pampered, massage treatments are also available at a small supplement. Needless to say we all chose our prepared activities for the following morning with two of my colleagues opting for the horse riding and the third taking in a massage. I opted for fat biking riding with a twist as I was going to follow my colleagues on the horses.
In hindsight, this was probably not the best decision I have made in my life, as the next morning I quickly came to realize one cannot follow horses on a bright orange fat bike through the Kalahari veld. As my colleagues got introduced to their horses and the guides, I took this time to name my fat bike “Bubba” as all the horses had names I did not want my trusted bike to feel out of place. The ride started with a light trot which Bubba and I easily kept pace with, but this was to quickly change. When the horses went into a canter, keeping up with them rapidly become more difficult. Thankfully they stopped when they realised that I had fell from view and waited for me and Bubba to catch up. It was at this point, I made the decision to return back to the lodge with Bubba and let them enjoy the rest of their ride, as I was clearly slowing them down. Again, in hindsight, probably not the best decision as fat biking through tall grass on your own on a bright orange fat bike in a concession that can have wildlife pass through it without a guide would be considered foolhardy at best. I could just imagine the confusion on a leopard’s face seeing me and Bubba huffing and puffing along! Swinging my neck around every two seconds to check for wildlife whilst trying to stay on the “path” we had taken was a challenge to say the least.
My joy at finally seeing the lodge appear on the horizon was that of the desert when it rains. Pure and utter joy and relief!
Departing the next morning, it dawned on us that we had experienced something completely unique in the tourism industry of Botswana. They whole ethos is centred more around the relaxing and varied experiences available rather than big game sightings.
A fitting and relaxing end to any safari.
I was fortunate enough to spend a week on safari during our so called green or secret season. Everything seemed to be bursting with life, from the lush green bush to the intermittent cloud bursts that warned us of their impending approach and of course there were babies – everywhere! I don’t ever recall seeing a giraffe that small or the tiny blue wildebeest that was even smaller than the average Impala. The weather was perfect. It was certainly not a sweltering and unbearable heat and when it did rain (which of course was every day) it was more often over in an hour. Undoubtedly the biggest drawcard is the price tag as green season is the cheapest time to visit Botswana.
My journey started in Chobe but this time it was a completely different experience from my previous visits. I had the pleasure of staying on the Chobe Princess for the night and often this option is overlooked when starting or ending a safari in Botswana, yet it was the most relaxing and certainly the most rewarding game viewing experience. Feet up and reading a book, I would glance periodically at my surroundings only to find crocodile sunning on the bank, or a hippo out of the water. In fact it gave new meaning to the size of these animals, seeing them plunge from the bank into the water. Our guide took us out on a tender boat later in the afternoon and we watched a herd of Elephant come down to the water’s edge – expecting them to quench their thirst and move on. But we witnessed something I had never seen before amongst elephants… whilst I had seen them in water before this time was different as 3 young bulls cavorted and tumbled around, disappearing completely under the water for a moment before resurfacing. The only obvious sign would be the trunk peering out every now and again. I loved every minute of this spectacle.
The highlight of my week away had to be the Xaranna concession in the Okavango Delta. With an expert guide and tracker to take care of our safari needs, we managed to see the Big 5 in 24 hours. Whilst this might be the normal expectation for most, very few concessions have the endangered Rhino. Through various means, White Rhino have been relocated from South Africa and reintroduced here over a period of time. It was certainly a proud moment to come across the magnificent prehistoric looking animals grazing peacefully in the bush nearby.
The rain showers did not keep us from our game drives and with a poncho readily available we embarked on both the morning and afternoon activity. The Delta was teeming with wildlife and though more scattered during the wet season, we were never disappointed. My husband, a professional photographer, commented on photography during this time of year, claiming that with less dust particles in the air, clarity in photographs was certainly better. I can only agree based on the stunning images he captured!
So in a nutshell, it will rain and probably more often than not. But with that comes the reward of new life, little lives finding their way; explosions of colour from the ground to the sky; a photographic playground; warm summer days and lastly a little more money in the bank account.
Ina lebe seromo. This is a Setswana proverb that means: you are your name. Your name is your destiny, it is who you become, and it is you. Batswana just like most if not all Africans, understand that your name defines your fate, it shapes your life. Thus for most Africans, names bear deep meanings. Within SD itself, there are Batswana who have been endowed with special names and these names and their origins are more than meets the eye.
This is a Kalanga name, meaning “Him/Her” (Keene in Setswana). I am the first male child who is considered the overall caretaker and leader in my parents’ absence. I bear responsibility to ensure that the family is held together. I am “The One” in my family, with them I am the King.
This means that ‘We are fortunate’ or ‘We are blessed. This is a joyful name, a baby girl, a gift to the family. ‘Re’ in Setswana means us…so the first part of my name signifies unity. Now we know why I am a team player and a people’s person. J “Sego” in Setswana means good fortune or luck. It means I am a blessing in other people’s lives. To me, every time someone calls my name: “Resego”, it is a validation and a salutation that “WE ARE BLESSED”!
Kalanga names are beautiful and Chawada is another Kalanga name that has a spiritual connection. Directly translated, Chawada means “What you Desire”. My parents are believers and after a long wait, hoping to have a son, I, Chawada was born instead. Giving thanks and submitting to God’s will, my parents then named me Chawada. In other words, they were submitted to God’s plan for what he desired for them. Chawada Ndzimu too tji bokela – Whatever you like for us Lord, we are grateful!
Helmie is a Swedish name meaning “Will, desire”. It originates from helmet (protection). It is a rare name to find in Africa, let alone Botswana. I am named after Boineelo‘s (the writer of this article) elder sister. My aunt who gave me this rare and beautiful name was very close friends with Boineelo’s sister in high school. It goes to show that we never know the impact that we have in people’s lives and how deep meaningful connections can be. So make sure your life impacts those around you in a positive way and maybe just maybe your legacy might live on in a name, just like it did for me!
Lindiwe is a deeply spiritual name, one that signifies, comfort, love and protection. Being the spiritual person that I am, God has shown me comfort in times of need, protection in times of trial and love at all times. I am protected, it is my fate. I live in constant peace, knowing that what and who I am, is greater than the trials I may face. When at peace, all is well. I can live my life with a joyful peaceful heart.
One of my best safaris ever! I was lucky enough to visit Mana Pools in early October. We arrived after a 2,5 hour flight from Victoria Falls and were picked up by our guide. I was blown away right from the start! Why ? Because I drove through the bush with different types of trees and shrubs. I was quiet surprise that there is no grass in some area and it is only this beautiful ochre sand.
The mighty Zambezi River is the boundary of the park with Zambia and it is a paradise for hippos, elephants, crocodiles and birds, especially the carmine bee-eaters. On my boat cruise, always having the beautiful view of the Zambezi Escarpment in the background, I had the chance to experience the carmine bee-eater flying around me and to see their nests on the bank of the river.
I only spent a few nights in this beautiful national park. I stayed at the unique Kanga Bush Camp and the amazing Ruckomechi. Both camps are totally different and both are special and definitely worth a visit. I was lucky when I arrived in Ruckomechi to see a breeding herd of elephants with very small baby elephants crossing the river. For seconds they disappear under the water, is that not amazing to see this kind of behaviour?
During the dry season, some lodges pump water for the animals. Water is the source of life as we all know. It was great to see all the different species coming to have a drink. We had baboons playing around, elephants and warthogs mud bathing, impalas, zebras, kudu drinking…When the sun is down, some others species will come for a drink such as leopard, civet, genets and hyenas.
Mana Pools is captivating with the landscape, all the different species and the excellent guiding. I will definitely come back.
Why are safaris so expensive in Botswana?
Since my beginning with Safari Destinations this question haunted me on many occasions. Especially people who visited East Africa or travelled to more mainstream safari destinations like Namibia or South Africa before, are surprised when finding out how much more a safari to Botswana costs.
In order to get our head around the “price tags”, we first need to understand the philosophy behind Botswana as a tourism destination: The strategy follows a high cost – low impact approach.
Low tourist density. The restrictions on allowed beds per concession area are quite strict compared to other countries. This means that a camp can only host a certain number of guests and only operates on a small-scale vehicle operation in order to minimize the human impact on nature. This automatically leads to a lower number of tourists in Botswana and makes the experience of the guests much more exclusive.
But please note: there is a difference between national parks and private concession in terms of accessibility and tourist frequencies!
Environmentalism & high costs: In order to run a camp in Botswana, the camp operator has to pay the government quite high conservation fees and leases for the areas. Together with the governmental restrictions, it encourages sustainable constructions in wildlife areas. The idea is that every camp is built in a sustainable way so that it can be removed completely after the lease expires, without leaving any traces in the landscape. And I think every person who has swapped from standard electricity to solar power knows how cost intensive the installation of such renewable energy sources is.
Both points have a convenient effect on the tourist experience on safari:
- On game activity, tourists in Botswana (normally!) face fewer other tourists and have an exclusive wildlife sighting – meaning they only share it between fewer vehicles whereas in other destinations vehicles already queue to a certain extent in case of an exciting predator sighting.
- Landscape is mainly impacted by natural forces and not by humans, which often goes along with strong photo opportunities. Moreover, most camps and mobile operators are perfectly equipped with open vehicles to make a photographic safari a success (no window-/vehicle frames, better light effects). This also creates a distinction between Botswana and other destinations, where only closed vehicles are allowed. Besides the clear commitment to photographic safaris by the companies, nature also does its part by providing unique undisturbed sceneries for its visitors and local people.
You don’t believe me? Check out the following hashtags on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to get an idea of the beauty of Botswana:
#lostinbots & #whyilivehere & #thisischobe
There you have a proof of the diversity of landscapes Botswana has to offer: massive rivers (e.g. Chobe), dry savannahs (e.g. Savute), fascinating river systems (e.g. Okavango Delta), impressive salt pans (e.g. Makgadikgadi) and the vastness of the Kalahari desert.
- The diversity in landscape is not only an opportunity for landscape photography. It also provides different habitats and is therefore home to a wide range of animal species. Botswana boasts itself with “quality game”, not “quantity game”. Obviously we also count large herds of elephants and buffalos as well as comparably high numbers of predators (lions, leopards & cheetahs) in Botswana. But what other destinations can’t compete with is the high number of rare species like: wild dogs, brown hyenas, leopards, sable and roan antelopes to name a few. Normally these animals are hardly ever seen on conventional safaris. Botswana however provides the habitats for them and therefore increases the chances of witnessing these rare species on safari.
All those points lead to an exclusive safari experience, which is reflected in a higher price tag. But behind the tourist experience is a mostly unknown enormous logistic expenditure. And these need to be taken into consideration before labelling Botswana as “expensive”.
Food delivery and waste management: Botswana is a landlocked country, most supplies are imported from South Africa, by the time the food arrives in Maun it has travelled more than 1000 km already. From Maun the journey continues. Most camps are located in remote areas. In order to provide a culinary experience for guests during their stay, every single food item and can or bottle of beverage needs to be brought into camp. Due to most of them being inaccessible by road this is done by aircraft, which is not only a tremendously logistic operation but also results in high operational costs for the camps. And not only the fresh food is getting delivered, also the reverse transportation of waste out of wildlife areas takes place by aircraft.
High staff guest ratio: The staff members of the camps need to be flown in and out of camp (duty, leave, doctors visits,. ..) as well, and in order to deliver such a remarkable customer service the camps operate on high staff numbers. Normally 3 or more staff members are in camp for one guest.
High maintenance costs: The location in the unspoilt wilderness also results in high maintenance costs for a camp. Water pipes break regularly because of animals impact, wood constructions or canvas need to be replaced several times – not only for the visual effect but also to be functional e.g. in keeping the heat out of a guests unit. The same applies to safari vehicles. They need to undergo frequent maintenance because of the “unhealthy” combination of water, heat and sand which quickly leads to signs of wear and tear. Additionally, spare parts need to find their way into camp which again involves logistical costs.
This shows that there are many visible and invisible components for the price tag.
Botswana – one of Africa’s best kept secrets!
Arriving at our mobile camp set up between 2nd and 3rd bridge in Moremi Game Reserve after dark was like arriving in fairy land, with all the lanterns down the pathways and throughout the camp. Welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, we were settled in.
This luxury mobile set up boasts a combination of elegance and a kind of exploration history giving you all the comforts of beds, en-suite bathrooms with bucket showers and flush toilets. This was to be our home for the next 2 nights. A mobile safari gives you a private camp feeling much closer to the bush than the infrastructure of any lodge. Lying in bed at night and listening the bush come alive, as certain curious species of game come to inspect the different smells and activities of our camp.
Our Guides, Ralph Bousfield and Greg certainly did not disappoint with their in depth knowledge and passion for the bush and stories of exploration, history, culture and scientific facts kept us all engaged and entertained the entire time we were with them. The other advantage of a mobile safari is creating a trust and a bond with your guide that will be with you throughout your trip.
Day 3 we boated far into the Okavango Delta, to our Island stop where Devon (our Camp Manager) was waiting for us, fly camp set up, with more food and drinks. Our set up was a roll mat with a mosquito net under the vast stars in the middle of the Okavango Delta. It gave us a feeling of being truly in the wild, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Here we experienced the water ways of the Delta, whilst competing against each other on the number of Sitatunga and Otters we spotted. Nature walks around the island with Ralph proving to Simona we could still make a pizza from natural plants, mushrooms and shrubs on the island as well as curing malaria at the same time.
Day 4 our Delta experience was over and we flew out to the openness of the Makgadikgadi Pans. Our home here for 2 nights was in the most feminine of all 3 Uncharted Africa camps, San Camp.
You have a choice of 3 camps all meeting 3 different styles and budgets, whilst you can all enjoy the same activities.
Camp Kalahari situated further back in the grasslands is the least expensive of the 3 camps. It is currently raising all the tents, to allow the breeze to blow through and give you more of a view of the Pans.
San Camp being the lady of the 3, situated on the edge of the pans themselves is seasonal and only operational from April to October. Its white tents on the edge of the pans gives you the true feeling of being on the moon.
Jacks Camp, this colonial and historic camp based at the edge of the pans but slightly back into the grasslands is the grande-dame of the three. Packed with history and science with their registered museum, it does look fabulous after the completion of its refurbishment.
One thing to mention on the activities, is all 3 camps run the same activities on a rotational cycle so that guests from 2 different camps don’t do the same activity together. This is the reason that a 3 night stay in the dry season is recommended to be offered the surprise sleep out (weather dependant). Activities include a cultural bushman walk, game drives looking for more adapted desert species, quad biking in the dry season, following and interacting with the very comical habituated meerkats, horse riding as an optional extra and watching the sun set where it is so silent that your ears ring.
A safari to the Salt Pans is such a unique experience, from the Zebra migration in the Green Season to exploring the pans on quad bikes in the dry season, it should not be missed.