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Wednesday 26 October 2016

Mad about Mana Pools

The beauty of Mana Pools

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.

Carmine Bee-Eaters

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. IMG_2865

Mana Pools is captivating with the landscape, all the different species and the excellent guiding. I will definitely come back.

 

Amandine Delcluse

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Amandine Delcluse

Friday 30 September 2016

Fly, Fly Away…

On the weekend, Amandine, Karen, Scarlet and myself had the opportunity to fly out to Kadizora in the Okavango Delta. Lost In Bots
Kadizora is based in the north eastern part of the Delta in a beautiful concession that is fortunate enough to have the Selinda Spilway and Vumbura River running through it.
Unfortunately the floods this year were not big enough to flood the Selinda, and so the mighty Selinda has reduced to a stream.  A stream still big enough to go for a couple of hours boat ride and see the most amazing game.  It was like something out of Stephen King, because the water levels have dropped so drastically, the food resources have concentrated, and so have the bird population who are part of this feeding frenzy, hundreds of species of birds from storks to pelicans to maribus, to eagles, king fishers and many more feeding on the fish and frogs that now fight for survival in the stream and ponds that remain. #LostinBots
What next?  In the next week, the water activities will move to the Vumbura River, where there are permanent lagoons, making this a huge advantage for this camp, is having water activities most of the year round.
We experienced a classic safari style, and the food that came out of the kitchen was just too decadent, as usual I left after 3 days feeling like I’d been on an eating safari.  Other highlights from the camp was having elehant all around our tents all night feeding off the Marula trees that shade the main camp, hearing the lions roaring right close to camp at first light, there is nothing quite like that sound in the bush.
The highlight however, was having the opportunity to do a Hot Air Balloon Safari.  Yes, now offered only in this concession in the Okavango Delta.  What makes it possible is the lay of the land and the shape of the concession.  The prevailing winds tend to run right down this concession, making it possible for the vehicle on the ground to chase the balloon and meet you at your landing point.
They wake you up at a completely un-natural hour, all depending on the winds, their direction and speed is to where you will launch from, in our case we were woken up at 3.30am and had a 2 hour transfer to the launch spot, as you are welcomed with coffee and biscuits, before climbing into the basket (max 4 pax) and taking off at first light as the  sun is rising.  After the nerves have settled, and you have taken in the landscape from the air, and taking 101 photographs, your balloon pilot lands the balloon, where you are welcomed by your guide who has been chasing you on the ground with snacks, champagne and your certificate. 
This activity does come at an additional cost and is weather dependant.  The activity only runs between 18th April and the 30th September and although can be booked direct at camp is advised to be pre-booked, as they can only take a max of 4 pax per day. 
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Wednesday 7 September 2016

Botswana’s Price Tag

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.Buffalos in the Okavango Delta

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 

Leopard

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. Male Lion

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!

Ines

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Ines

Monday 27 June 2016

From the Delta to the Desert – on Safari with Ralph Bousfield

Wow – what a special experience! Recently I was privileged to join a group of agents on an Uncharted Africa educational to Moremi, the Delta and the Salt Pans.

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.

 

 

Storm

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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

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