Local Independent Destination Management Company: Botswana • Zimbabwe

Safari Destinations

At Safari Destinations

we get around!

Here's what we're excited

about at the moment…

Category Archives: Places

Friday 26 October 2018

Be prepared … we tested the new Tracks4Africa app

Driving through Botswana can present some challenges – difficult road conditions, destinations far apart from each other, remote areas and confusing “road” networks. All the more important is it to be thoroughly prepared and use the tools at hand to make sure your journey will be the safari of your dreams.

One of the priorities of our recent self-drive adventure was to test the different tools available. We were super curious to test the app that everybody is talking about – Tracks4Africa. We compared it with the Shell Maps, our maps (which are great as a back-up) as well as the Garmin GPS. During our self drive trip through Savute, the Caprivi, and the Panhandle it became very quickly apparent that the Tracks4Africa app is a very effective tool!

The app is very user friendly and the best about it, it works offline! Even in the remotest areas, the app connects the dots via GPS signal and allows people travelling to easily find their way around the complicated and sometimes a bit chaotic bush network.

Scarlet & Brinny finding a satellite phone signal

Scarlet & Brinny finding a satellite phone signal

Tracks4Africa allows to search by accommodation, places, GPS coordinates, or when you see on the screen where you would like to go, you can simply tap on the screen and it will calculate the route for you. You also have the option of putting in so called “way points” along your way. This way you can literally map out your entire trip beforehand and it will lead you from stop to stop. The indicated estimated driving times are very accurate and if it changes along the way due to rest stops, slower driving etc. the system simply recalculates.

We know that some clients struggle with the costs for the app. It currently costs USD 50, but this includes regular updates. The app covers many African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and many more. Users purchase it once and can use it again and again.

Driving through the bush, the app was most reliable. The ways leading up to the lodges usually are not mapped as some lodges do not advertise themselfes as self drive lodges, but by using the SD self drive maps with the accurate GPS points for the lodges, following signs or asking at gates even that was easily manageable.

For next season we are considering putting together self drive-kits including the paper maps of Tracks4Africa as well as the guide book. This can be pre-ordered through Safari Destinations and the clients would receive it on arrival. Our recommendation however is that clients study their itinerary beforehand, downloading the app (available for Android and iOS) and make themselves familiar with their route. Botswana is a demanding destination when self-driving and proper preparation is everything. IMG_0101

 

Scarlet Backes

Posted by

Scarlet Backes

Friday 28 September 2018

Love is in the air… a Traditional Botswana Wedding

It has always fascinated me to see how young Batswana are proud of their heritage. It almost seems as if they all have two hearts, one that beats for the modern world and the other that embraces their culture, values and traditions.

Here is the story of Tshepang and Ndiye, two of SD’s “rising stars”, who allowed me to share this with you.

What started off as silly jokes and ‘friendship’ led to a journey of love. We knew for a while that there has been an office romance going on, but now it is official. Tshepang and Ndiye celebrated their traditional wedding last weekend. These two very special people found their love in the workplace and decided to make a lifelong commitment. Congratulations to the perfect match. Tshepang & Ndiye

Traditionally in Botswana, when the groom’s inner voice tells him that it is time, he tells his uncles about his intention to marry. The uncles then “take over”. They will meet and discuss with the groom’s parents. A delegation from the groom’s side is sent to the bride’s parents to ask of their traditions. This is because although there is a lot of common practices, a few differences exist from tribe to tribe. The groom’s parents then visit the girl’s parents to get their consent which will then lead to the process called “Go battle mosadi” meaning “officially ask for the daughter’s hand in marriage” and is done by uncles to uncles. When the two families reach an agreement about the marriage, negotiations for bogadi/lobola (the bride-price) start. Bogadi/Lobola is a gift to the bride’s parents for their consent and also for raising the bride. Bogadi is paid in form of cows but we are very fortunate that families nowadays also accept cash. Knowing how special Tshepang is, it would have meant a whole herd of cows.

Both groom and bride should be present at the Patlo/Bogadi celebration. During Patlo/Bogadi there is a feast with traditional food and beer. All women have to dress up traditionally, which means a skirt, blouse, a shawl, and a head covering. Men should be in long pants and jackets. Women sit apart from the men on the floor, whereas men are allowed to sit on chairs.

Ndiye and Tshepang had their traditional wedding last Saturday. It was a day filled with joy. We wish the couple lots of happiness and fun organizing their “white wedding” which they will celebrate in a couple of months. Remember, Batswana are blessed with two hearts… IMG-20180927-WA0010

 

 

 

Carina

Posted by

Carina

Tuesday 31 July 2018

The Full Monty in Victoria Falls

I tested the idea of combining 2 nights in Vic Falls with 2 nights in the nearby Zambezi National Park. We stayed at Zambezi Sands which is only an hour outside the fast-paced Victoria Falls town, but it felt like another world. A remote safari experience where you can fully immerse yourself in the wilderness and unwind in the peace and tranquillity of the Zambezi National Park. We had the river to ourselves to enjoy at leisure on our evening cruise compared with the typical sunset commotion experienced from town. Practically speaking, many visitors combine Victoria Falls & Chobe on a 4-night stay which involves two border crossings and double entry visas. Both can be avoided if you replace Chobe with a safari experience in the more exclusive but less wildlife dense Zambezi National Park. IMG_0864

After doubting this combination for years, I feel like I have found the sweet spot, which has been underestimated by us all. Our 4-night stay was the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation, and provided for a well-rounded experience as outlined below, suited to both families and individual travellers.

Day 1:      Arrival at Zambezi Sands from Botswana in time for lunch and an afternoon siesta Sunset cruise where we had the river to ourselves (no traffic compared with VF & Chobe)

Overnight Zambezi Sands, Zambezi National Park

Day 2:      Game drive including an incredible bush breakfast on the banks of the Zambezi River

Afternoon canoeing on the Zambezi River (this activity was the highlight of my trip) IMG_0886

Overnight Zambezi Sands, Zambezi National Park

Day 3:      Morning game walk (another highlight) before our departure to Victoria Falls

Lunch at the Lookout Café overlooking the Batonka Gorge

Afternoon canopy tour, which was a thrill for both the kids and grown-ups alike

Dinner at the highly recommended Palm Restaurant and overnight at Ilala Lodge

Day 4:      Morning tour of the Victoria Falls followed by a flight of angels (it was a treat to fly over the path that we had just walked and see the falls from a different perspective)

Lunch on the terrace at the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel (you have to try the signature frozen lemonade)

Afternoon exploring the local market and curious shops (great arts and crafts to be found here not to mention the experience itself)

Dinner at The Boma Restaurant offering visitors a traditional dining experience with entertainment (the kids loved it and I got my mopane worm certificate)

Day 5:       Back to Botswana first thing in the morning IMG_0914

My guiding experience at Zambezi Sands was exceptional and the walking and canoeing activities stood out as the highlights of my trip. With all the new developments in this area, Safari Destinations are excited to present two new packages for 2019 showcasing this ideal combination:

4N Victoria Falls Full Monty – Deluxe

4N Victoria Falls Full Monty – Standard

Rounding off this 4-night package, I would recommend a 3 night stay in the game rich Hwange National Park. The trio showcases the best of Zimbabwe combining the beauty of the Victoria Falls, the peace & tranquillity of the powerful Zambezi River and the spectacular wildlife found in Hwange. For those wanting to combine a visit to Botswana, 3 nights at a game rich, land based camp in the Delta with a possible extension to the contrasting Makgadikgadi would be a match made in heaven. IMG_0964

 

Lorraine Potter

Posted by

Lorraine Potter

Friday 13 July 2018

Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp Re-Imagined

IMG_8420-1What was your overall impression of the Camp?

The newly rebuilt Stanley’s camp is situated in the Southern reaches of the Okavango Delta. With a modern explorers theme, the camp is looking and feeling refreshed, but has still kept the classic safari feel.

In addition to game drives and mokoro excursions (no boating), Stanley’s offers an Elephant interaction, which is one of the most unique experiences in the Delta (at an additional cost). This experience is very educational as you meet and get up close and personal with some of Africa’s biggest giants.  You learn about their history, behaviour, biology and some of the human conflict threats these gentle beasts are facing.  This is all before going for a walk through the delta “hand in trunk” and sitting and having a delicious bush lunch accompanied by the elephants themselves grazing in the background.  Please note it is advisable to pre-book this activity as it is a first come first serve basis, with one activity a day only taking maximum 10 clients at a time. _dsc8121

 

How does the camp compare to similar camps in terms of value and experience? 

After the rebuild Stanley’s rates have experienced an increase for 2019. Being situated between the Boro and Santandadibe Rivers, Stanley’s Camp does not guarantee a big game experience but has the unique advantage of being able to offer guests the elephant interaction year round, and the added benefit of being able to offer mokoro excursions during the flood (typically Jun - Sep), creating a varied itinerary on a 2 night stay. The hardware of the camp is brand new and being a Sanctuary Retreats property, it has the edge in terms of service, guiding and the food experience which helps justifying the price increase. IMG_8416-1

How would you combine this camp in an itinerary and why? 

Stanley’s Camp would need to be combined with a stronger game area, that possibly has boating as well, as this activity is missing from Stanley’s.  I would mix it with the newly re-built Splash Camp as strong game area, and they can boat all year round

You could combine it with Chief’s Camp as long as you start with Stanley’s, with this combination creating a circuit, you would then start to qualify for Long Stay rates, bringing the overall cost down a fraction.

What type of clients does this camp suit and why? 

This camp would suit all sorts of clients across the board.  Those wanting up close and unique wildlife experiences, clients that love elephants and are interested in conservation, and just simply those wanting to enjoy the Okavango Delta.
IMG_8398-1

How does the seasonality of the area change through the year and what effect does it have on a visitor’s experience, with specific reference to wildlife and activities?

Situated in the Southern part of the Delta, Stanley’s Camp is greatly affected by the flood water levels.

During the high flood levels, June – August/September time, the water levels are high enough in order for you to enjoy Mokoro.  So the mix of land and water activities is offered during the winter months, which offers guests the variety in experience.  However, once the water levels start dropping towards September/October time, Mokoro excursions are affected and normally stop.  Boating is not offered at Stanley’s Camp.

Although Stanley’s Camp is not renowned for its excellent game viewing, we were lucky to see Lion, Elephant and general plains game.  Hyena are known to frequent the area.  We did travel at the end of the rainy season and so the grass was still long, making visibility more difficult than during the dry season, when the grass and bush has died down, making spotting game a lot easier.

Are there any areas that could be improved? Are there any issues that could impact guests’ experience that should be highlighted to help manage expectations?

I must say that I was really impressed by the new camp.  Having stayed at Stanley’s Camp a few years ago, the rooms are now substantially larger than what they were before, and there is plenty of room for guests to move around.  The bathrooms are done well.  Spacious and provide enough privacy, should guests be travelling together who don’t know each other very well. Dietaries were catered for and we enjoyed a great 6 course fine dining experience which really enhanced our stay.
_dsc83681

 

Safari Destinations itineraries showcasing this property: 

10N Northern Highlights Superior Safari

 

 

 

 

Storm

Posted by

Storm

Thursday 5 July 2018

24 magical hours in Savute @ Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge

Let’s start with the essential 2 rules about a stay here:

  • No matter what you do ALWAYS carry your camera with you, ready to shoot
  • No matter HOW freezing it seems in the morning: GET OUT THERE!!

 

Had I listened to the first rule myself, I could have added amazing shots of 2 honey badgers out in the open right in front of the lodge in some golden morning light, watched right from the breakfast table – instead I held on to a fluffy, moist blueberry muffin and a mug of freshly brewed cappuccino. You see: life can be full of tough choices at Belmond Savute!

new Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge

When climbing off the plane at Savute airstrip, the guests climbing on said: If you want to see animals, you need to go with Robert. And my heart sank. I am a huge fan of good guiding and always massively disappointed when sitting on a vehicle with a driver who is just racing from one photographic opportunity to the next. Luckily – I was to be proven very very wrong!

After settling in, freshening up and some tea time treats we headed out on our first drive. Driving through what smelled like a herb garden my curious 7 year old son showed interest in all these smells and Robert stopped, got us some wild basil and shared stories about it. “So do you think this would keep mosquitoes away?” Which got us on to some other herbs and traditional methods and a lively discussion, plus some more sample picking and smelling. While pointing out tracks and interpreting what we saw around us, we slowly made our way towards a spot where some cheetahs were hanging out earlier. Lucky us, most vehicles had already left the 2 sleeping males, who felt now it was time to get up and get active – and to get a good look from some elevation.

And yes: cheetahs are clearly NOT built for climbing ;-) Tree climbing cheetahs in Savute

After this fabulous afternoon we were so excited, that we couldn’t wait to go exploring the next morning – despite of being able to see the clouds of our own breath when exhaling. It was COLD!!

Robert had the perfect technique to battle this aspect as well – even my 6 year old daughter was comfy and toasty, after he wrapped her up in fleeces, blankets and a poncho: “ready to go to the moon”. We tried to find the lions that we heard during the night, but they tried to play games with us. Tracks literally everywhere! In all directions, back and forth, right and left, and back again – hmmm. What happened here last night?? And our imaginations ran wild.IMG_1466

After some fun tracking, a pack of wild dogs were waiting for us in the middle of the road, just around the corner from a mother leopard trying to catch some guinea fowls. While most cars simply waited behind the dogs, Robert decided to approach them differently. We left all the cars behind, and moved to another area, trying to anticipate their next move – and it worked! Stotting impalas all over the woods, showing off their strength, and the pack chasing at top speed. How exciting was that!! We eventually said good bye to the dogs to have a look what was happening out on the marsh.IMG_1437

Some lonely male wildebeest were guarding their territories, then Robert noticed that one of the wildebeest FAR away held up his tail really high – hang on…. ????? So 2 big male lions were crossing the marsh, where were they heading to? We decided to go the same way and see – a little grassveld pipit joined us, flapping and running right in front of our car, for more than 1 kilometer. Now, yes, it made it! Oops, no, it’s back…. The kids had so much fun watching it ALMOST flying off to the side, and back it was – giggles and laughs without end.

Guided by the direction of the male lions and following the pipit we ended up with the rest of the pride, some females feeding on a wildebeest and 5 cuddly little fur balls, roaring like their dads, schmoozing their mums and eventually, collapsing and falling asleep all on top of each other in a cub heap.IMG_1513

Back at home we hung the sage and the wild basil – to test how much of a mosquito repellent they are. And asking: “So what was your favorite bit in Savute?”

  • the cute little cubs
  • and remember the funny pipit who ran with us for SO long
  • and the honeybadgers at breakfast
  • and the elephants up close from the hide during tea time
  • oh – and of course: THE HEATED POOL !!!!

 

Thank you so much to Robert, our fantastic guide, for an all-round, all senses, mega fun experience. For teaching us about the bush, for putting it all into context and all the stories about the background and history of the animals we saw.

What a safari experience!

Keeping the fantastic Belmond Savute Elephant opening special in mind: Book some seats to Savute and get yourselves out there. Go experience!IMG_2726

 

 

Andrea Reumerman

Posted by

Andrea Reumerman

Thursday 5 July 2018

Mapula Lodge – a Safari reminiscent of my childhood

 

What was your overall impression of the camp?

Our handsome and very knowledgeable guide, Kyle, went out of his way to show us the very best of what Mapula has to offer. His passion for the bush and all the creatures and plants there within was contagious. Even after having done hundreds of safaris both Amandine and I learnt a whole pile more! Game was scare on our short visit but he made up for it by proposing to take us swimming in the flood water and sharing his “nature” books with us as we enjoyed tea and time-out in the bush. IMG_3813

 

The area is generally rich in game, including Leopard, Cheetah, 2 packs of Wild Dog, Hyena, Sable Antelope, herds of Elephant, Giraffe and plains game all congregated in one big garden of safari Eden! Under the management of Uncharted Africa, Mapula has been tastefully transformed from a red-listed product to a much sought-after camp in the delta. With Eric at the helm and a well-trained and solid team I believe it will give similar camps a run for their mone

A particular mention for the swimming pool which is large enough to do a few lengths in but remains discreet at the same time. It’s built in a way that it makes you feel like you are swimming in the lagoon, surrounded by palm trees and lush greenery.

There are plans to offer Hot-Air Ballooning and a fly-camp experience which we look forward to being able to promote to our clients. sable_mapula

How does the camp compare to similar camps in terms of value and experience? Are there any notable special offers applicable?

  • I think it offers excellent value for money considering that it’s a small camp on a fantastic private concession, has above average guides and is tastefully decorated in the immediately recognizable Ralph Bousfield Unchartered Africa taste, reminiscent of a bygone era.
  • The exception being during the month of August when a peak surcharge is applied. Further reduced long stay rates are available at Mapula when it is combined with Meno A Kwena – speak to your local expert.

How would you combine this camp in an itinerary and why? 

I would be confident in recommending 3 nights here in order to get the full experience and to discover what the concession has to offer completely. My suggestion would be to combine it with Savuti, Khwai, Makgadikgadi and of course Chobe, which fits into most itineraries. 10mapula_lodge_-_main_area_from_the_air

What type of clients does this camp suit and why? 

  • 1 Unit is suitable for families: Consisting of 2 rooms separated only by a curtain. Each room has its own bathroom and outdoor shower.
  • As it is an intimate camp, I would suggest it to honeymooners and couples seeking peace and quiet.
  • The adventurous because Mapula can offer off the beaten track activities such as swimming in the fast-flowing flood waters that quickly fill the dusty tracks or having an afternoon siesta on mattresses out in the wilderness. The ballooning and fly-camp activity will appeal to this market once operational.

How does the seasonality of the area change through the year and what effect does it have on a visitor’s experience, with specific reference to wildlife and activities?

The camp is set on a permanent lagoon. This makes fishing and boating possible all year long. However, the lagoon is home to a large number of happy hippos so if the water level goes down too much those activities would be suspended.

The camp being near the panhandle receives the first floodwaters of the year so they can start their mokoro activities earlier than those camps further down. The mokoro station is not in front of the camp. It’s a 10-minute drive to the jetty. Although we enjoyed the activity, the water was still pretty low so we were wrapped up in cobwebs to start off with! As the water levels rise it will become more pleasant.

When the flood comes down the area where the camp is situated becomes an island. This means that sometimes there’s good game in the immediate vicinity…. and sometimes not, the result being that guests may have to drive further afield in search of the herds.  During high flood levels, it may be advisable to combine it with another game rich area within the delta e.g. Shine, Splash… IMG_4153

Are there any areas that could be improved? Are there any issues that could impact guests experience that should be highlighted to help manage expectations?

The food was imaginative, of good quality and nicely presented however the quantity for the first lunch we had was insufficient. Sundowner snacks were not original and could be improved – biltong / nuts / dried fruit.

Eric, the manager is running a good show. The staff seem genuinely happy to be working together and the service was attentive without being overbearing. They have kept 1 or 2 staff members on from the old camp. They clearly know the area intimately and you can tell that they love the area and are delighted to share information and stories with the clients.

 

Safari Destinations itineraries showcasing this property:

 6N Three Rivers Standard

10N Desert & Delta Option B  DCIM102GOPRO

 

Sarah Graham

Posted by

Sarah Graham

Tuesday 3 July 2018

The rebirth of a Moremi Game Reserve icon: Welcome to Camp Moremi 2.0

One never quite knows what to expect when an iconic camp undergoes a complete rebuild. We had the pleasure pf spending a night at the newly built Camp Moremi which is situated on the picturesque Xakanaxa Lagoon in the eastern extremity of the Okavango Delta, within the Moremi Game Reserve. The camp is set a short distance from the lagoon, perfectly nestled under the natural shade of large Jackal berry trees and within a short driving distance of the new Xakanaxa airstrip. 

camp_moremi_-_fire_place

The camp offers morning/afternoon game drives in the Moremi Game Reserve and boating safaris on the Maunachira River. The staff made us quickly feel at home and took excellent care of us which complemented the excellent guiding.  The bush brunch setup on the morning of departure was a lovely surprise which all clients would thoroughly enjoy and find memorable. There is simply no way to describe the feeling of having a delicious brunch prepared for you whilst overlooking a beautiful and productive waterhole in the middle of the Moremi Game Reserve.

How does the camp compare to similar camps in terms of value and experience? 

Camp Moremi is offered on a fully inclusive basis which includes airstrip transfers, all meals and beverages (local and non-premium) and activities at a very competitive rate considering the hardware of the newly built camp. It is definitely more modern in terms of design than its competitors in the region with much larger rooms that even though are canvas based, cannot be described as “Classic Meru safari tents.” The camp is tastefully decorated and has a much lighter and airier feel than its predecessor. camp_moremi_gues_room_interior1

How would you combine this camp in an itinerary and why? 

Located in the game rich Moremi Game Reserve, this camp provides a solid land based game viewing experience along with the added advantage of boating all year round. It works well within the Desert and Delta Safaris portfolio of camps such as Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Okavango and Leroo la Tau with the added benefit being the rate reduction depending on how long the stay is within these camps and which package is employed. The rebuild does however mean it would be best to avoid Xuguna Island Lodge after a stay at Camp Moremi as the hardware is simply not on the same level. It works well being placed in the middle of an itinerary i.e. coming from Victoria Falls/Chobe or Maun (Central Kalahari/Delta) or at the beginning as clients can quickly fulfil their big game viewing experience upon arrival from Maun Airport.

Outside the Desert and Delta Safaris chain of camps and lodge, it would work best combined with a true delta camp such as Kanana Camp or Stanley’s Camp. These camps are situated in private delta concession and thus work best after a stay at Camp Moremi and not before. They would complement the experience at Camp Moremi by offering clients different experiences such mokoro excursions, walking safaris, night drives and the option of off-roading to get up close to the wildlife. The Elephant Interaction activity available at Stanley’s Camp (at a supplement) or a three nights stay at Kanana Camp thus offering the sleep out under the stars at no extra cost, are unforgettable experiences that can be added to have a truly memorable safari experience. If clients are looking for a mix of experiences, it would be worthwhile to combine this camp with a superior mobile safari such as Savute Under Canvas coming from Victoria Falls/Chobe and if there is no availability at Camp Okavango for a two night aquatic experience after Camp Moremi, cast your gaze to Pelo Camp as an alternative. DSCN1140

 

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Nxai Pan National Park, and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans region would also make for a great combination with Camp Moremi.  The choice of region will depend on the month of travel looking at the clients’ interests.

What type of clients does this camp suit and why? 

This superior level camps suits a variety of clients. It has a great family unit (2 separate bedrooms that have their own bathroom facilities all under one roof) that caters well for families travelling with children below 12 years and adolescents. This room is located in close proximity to the main area for convenience. They offer generous child rates for children from 6 years (minimum age) to 15 years but please note a private vehicle will have to be booked at a supplement if there are children who are less than 12 years old at time of travel. The Ultimate Family Safaris package from Desert & Delta Safaris which include private activities at all properties is geared towards providing a flexible and child friendly experience.

For clients with limited mobility, there is a room specifically tailored to their needs that is connected to the main area by the boardwalk and wheelchair friendly. This would also work well for elderly clients due to the distances between rooms.

It is a perfect camp for a first safari experience being located in the renowned game rich Moremi Game Reserve. There are a number of rooms on raised platforms to please those of us who would rather avoid ground level accommodation due to the creepy crawlies that may join us, but please note that there is a section from the main area to these rooms that is not connected to the raised boardwalk. DSCN1199

How does the seasonality of the area change through the year and what effect does it have on a visitor’s experience, with specific reference to wildlife and activities?

The Moremi Game Reserve offers great game viewing all year round due to the diverse range of habitats within the reserve – from open floodplains to belts of mopane woodland. The best game viewing will be during high season (July – October), with the arrival of the flood waters in the region and the increased visibility due to the lack of foliage. The ability to offer boating all year round is a great advantage, especially during the green and shoulder seasons (November – June) as most delta camps have to curtail their aquatic activities due to receding water levels. The rainy season (December – March) may make for less concentrated game sightings due to the thick foliage but the  heavily reduced nightly rates during this period of travel does compensate for this. It is also great for photographers due to the vibrant and vivid colour contrasts caused by the short but spectacular thundershowers which bring the vegetation back to life.

Are there any areas that could be improved? 

The food and wine list needs a little polishing to fit with the rebuild of the camp. The current game drive vehicles also do not match the new property but thankfully this will be changed in the near future.

Safari Destinations itineraries showcasing this property: 10N Northern Parks Superior SafariLost In Bots

 

 

 

 

 

Tlotlo Saleshando

Posted by

Tlotlo Saleshando

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Mashatu – Botswana’s Best Kept Secret

Until recently I thought that I had been to all the great places Botswana has to offer. I thought I knew it all – wow – was I wrong. It took me 15 years in Botswana to finally step into a secret gem, a place of wonders, Mashatu – one of THE best kept secrets in Southern Africa. Scenic-opening-Shem-Compion

Our challenge until now was how to include and combine Mashatu with Northern Botswana. Thankfully, the introduction of special flying rates from either Johannesburg or Maun have enabled us to resolve this “tiny” issue and opened up access to this phenomenal and unique place.

What was your overall impression of the camp? 

Mashatu impresses with very varied landscapes, from dry river beds to rocky cliffs, soft hills or huge open spaces. Ones eye never tires from the overwhelming beauty of nature in this remote corner of Botswana. It was interesting to see that there is very little grass which makes game viewing and wildlife photography even more rewarding. Along the rivers you can find beautiful large Nyala Berries, the locals call them Mashatu Trees.

Game Viewing in the area is excellent all year round, chances of seeing the big cats are brilliant. In our short two game drives we saw cheetah on a hunt, several leopards and a lioness with her 2 month old cubs. P1020336

Unique experiences add to the charm of this jewel: we joined a mountain bike safari which offered us a totally different perspective of the bush. Our morning cycle was guided by Mosa, a very experienced ranger. We pedaled leisurely for about 20 km along ancient elephant paths, watching plains game in a distance and enjoying and absorbing the colors and smells of nature. Another brilliant way of getting up close to the animals is the Photo-Hide. which provides a safe place in which to view of the herds of elephants and even the occasional leopard who come and drink from the waterhole in front of the hide. Guests are also accompanied by a professional photographer who provides tips and tricks on how to use their cameras and can answer any questions they may have.

IMG_3348

How does the camp compare to similar camps in terms of value and experience? Are there any notable special offers applicable.

There are actually no other camps offering a similar experience. Mashatu has a truly unique offering. The two camps in the reserve are very different in terms of look and design. Mashatu tented camp is an authentic safari camp, offering the safari addict a comfortable place to stay while enjoying the bush. It is ideally combined with camps like Pelo or Gunns Camp for the water experience, and in Vic Falls I would recommend Gorges or Little Gorges Lodge to complete the itinerary. The more upmarket Mashatu Main Camp is much bigger, with more rooms, a large new pool, different sitting areas and even a discovery centre. I see Mashatu main camp work wonderfully with the likes of Camp Okavango, Kanana or Splash in the Delta and in Vic Falls it could be completed with a place like Zambezi Sands or Old Drift.

Specials: Both camps offer a great 4 nights for the price of 3 special during the months of January to April.

How would you combine this camp in an itinerary and why? 

Ideally Mashatu is the first stop in an itinerary, flying in from Johannesburg Lanseria and continuing to Maun. There are daily flights from Joburg to Limpopo Airfield (Mashatu’s gorgeous little airport). This way guests arrive on a positive note, the immigration officers in Limpopo are friendly and professional. Another advantage of starting your Botswana safari with Mashatu is to avoid the long immigration queues at Maun Airport (which can sometimes take up to two hours). The flight from Mashatu to Maun is either on a scheduled flight on Wednesdays or Saturdays or on a private charter.

Alternatively guests can arrive by car from South Africa before continuing their journey in Botswana or across the border to Zimbabwe. Walking_Safari

 

What type of clients does this camp suit and why? 

This camp basically suits all different target groups. Main Camp has a family unit and can accommodate families with children. The tented camp is better suited for couples or single travelers.

Adventure seekers found their heaven, Mashatu offers mountain biking, guided walks and horseback-safaris.

How does the seasonality of the area change through the year and what effect does it have on a visitor’s experience, with specific reference to wildlife and activities?

The camps in Mashatu offer a year round experience. Excellent value for money from January to April with the 4 for 3 nights special. In Green season (rainfall is very low in this area, with more than 330 days of sunshine) the landscape miraculously changes into a colorful spectacle. Mashatu is much less seasonal than the northern parts of Botswana and offers excellent game viewing throughout the year.

Safari Destinations itineraries showcasing this property: 

9 N Best Kept Secret Safari

3N Mashatu Safari

 

IMG_3306

 

 

 

 

Carina

Posted by

Carina

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Self Driving in Botswana: the how, where, when and why (not)

Exploring Botswana on a self-drive is becoming more and more popular. However it is not for the faint hearted nor is it for the ill prepared. We realize it is time to give you, our agents, a small guideline how to consult clients who want to drive themselves, what to expect and who the ideal candidates for such an adventure are.

Very often we receive enquiries mentioning that the clients are very experienced as they have been self-driving in Namibia and South Africa. Well, well…. Botswana is a totally different level of adventure.

Unfortunately, Botswana cannot be compared to South Africa or Namibia where the roads (and road signs) are generally very good and the whole experience is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Botswana is actually a fly-in destination. There are 18,482 km of beautiful highways, but only a quarter of these, 4343 km, are paved or tarred, which is not to say those don’t get flooded nor are they kept in good condition. It is a well known joke that we all hold a degree in driving and are pros at dodging potholes! IMG_6971

All expert professional guides work by the following motto: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance and this very much applies to planning a self drive itinerary too whether you’re planning a route on the main roads or an adventure through the parks!

In all seriousness, contemplating a self drive itinerary through Botswana incorporating its National Parks is not to be underestimated and can be seen as an authentic “cultural experience”. One must have a sense of adventure and take all that is African in their stride from long delays to the often comical communication glitches. As mentioned above there is a very limited road network with single lane highways, no hard shoulders and minimal road signs so don’t consider the holiday ruined if you encounter challenges along the way or things don’t go according to plan – it’s all part of the adventure. The season one decides to travel in is also vitally important. There is almost only a short window of opportunity because the summer months – our rainy season – is highly unrecommended for all areas in Botswana as can be seen below when even us experienced bush girls got hopelessly stuck in the mud for hours. Nor are the winter months – which is our dry season, flood levels are high – this is to be considered if the Delta is on the itinerary. Depending on the size of the flood most of the roads are closed and bridges overrun by the flood waters, therefore decreasing the area that can be navigated and explored. Towards the end of our dry season the temperatures sky rocket so all the sand roads become very thick and very sticky and unless the clients know what they’re doing with their gearbox and tyre pressure getting stuck is virtually guaranteed.Pam self drives

The free ranging wildlife is another element of self drive itineraries that may cause some excitement. All parks in Botswana are unfenced (as are all of the neighbouring countries except South Africa) which means animals are free to roam and this they do to their hearts delight. Travelers need to have some basic understanding of animal behaviour and know that animals always have right of way. It’s not only the wildlife that uses these road networks, but also a huge amount of domestic livestock, who move between grazing and water sources. This means that not only does one need to have the utmost respect for all animals but driving at night should always be avoided. DSC_3670

What a lot of people also don’t realise is that the distances here are not navigated at the same speed as they are used to at home. 100km here does not mean 1,5 hours… It can easily take 4-5 hours to cover 100km – due to the road conditions, animal movements and the clients’ knowledge of challenging 4×4 driving. One can have the fanciest, finest equipped vehicle, with all the latest gadgets but have no idea how to put it into 4 wheel drive let alone Low range or difflock. So unless clients have that knowledge, no matter how fancy their car is, if it’s stuck in 2 wheel drive they will not get out, and revving the engine, burning the gearbox and spinning the wheels will not get them out any quicker.

Can you imagine the stress of knowing you’ve got an international flight to catch but you’re stuck out in the middle of the bush, trying to dig your way out of the sand? This is why we always recommend a pre-night in town before flying out!

There is a lot to consider when booking a self drive itinerary so let us advise you on the best routes to take, the best time of year to successfully navigate the inevitable challenges and the 4×4 driving courses we recommend clients take, before embarking on this adventure!

Hereby a short list of the Dos and Don’ts for your clients to consider on a self drive:

DOs:

  1. Be open minded and flexible: driving in Botswana is not as easy as you may think. Road conditions can be challenging in many areas and include soft sand, slippery clay, deep water and broken bridges. Getting stuck or breaking an essential part of your vehicle happens easily and often.
  2. Be prepared: plan your route carefully and don’t underestimate the time it may take to cover those distances.
  3. Make sure you have rented the correct type of vehicle and your car has all the necessary equipment from highlift jack to a spade and most importantly a GPS (Download the tracks4africa App which works OFFLINE!) and ideally a satellite phone. You will be in remote areas with no cell phone signal and the next car coming might be days away.
  4. Carry more spares and extras than you’ll ever think you’ll need – i.e. fuel, water and tyres without overloading your car.
  5. Have a nicely stocked medical kit with you – the smallest cut can turn into something nasty quickly in the right conditions.
  6. Treat officials and bureaucrats with respect. Losing your temper never gets you anywhere. Remember the 3 Ps: politeness, patience and perseverance.
  7. Be aware of rules and regulations: Botswana has so-called vet fences which prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases such as Foot and Mouth. These fences restrict the movement of any cloven hooved products so you might end up handing in your recently purchased BBQ meats and road snacks to the local officials and you will not win any argument with them.
  8. Preferably travel in convoy.
  9. If you change your plan and arrive a day later or not at all at the next prebooked accommodation, please let us know, otherwise we will start a search which can become a challenging thing, like finding a needle on the Salt Pans.
  10. Embrace the spirit of African adventure in all its glory!

 

DON’Ts:

  1. Do NOT drive off-road! This is prohibited in all National Parks to keep the wilderness pristine and undamaged. Respect those rules also outside the parks. Also driving around a puddle is not always the best route – if you don’t recognise Mopane forests for the treacherous things they are then you will inevitably get stuck driving around the puddle rather than taking the road most traveled straight through the middle of the puddle.
  2. Do not drive in the dark.
  3. Do not feed the animals, this will only encourage them to lose their fear of humans which can end disastrously.
  4. Do not leave your vehicle under any circumstances. You do not know the bush nor the animals. You have a better chance at staying alive with access to the safety of your car and the copious supplies of food and water then risking a walk through the bush and an encounter with a buffalo. EVERYTHING out there is faster than you are.
  5. Do not lose your sense of humour – Africa will inevitably throw challenges at you and keeping an open mind about it all will prevent you from losing your sense of humour and/or patience.
  6. Do NOT travel unprepared. Study the maps, directions and distances while planning your trip not once you arrived in the country.
  7. Prebook all accommodation, Botswana has a very low population density, distances between villages can be huge. If planning a camping trip, campsites have to be booked about 11 months before travel to avoid disappointment.

Here is some helpful information about road conditions in Botswana: https://traveladventuresbotswana.com/helpful-information/driving-and-road-condition-information/

Most importantly: Botswana is by far the most challenging destination and can in no way be compared to Namibia, South Africa and even Zimbabwe and Zambia due to the unique circumstances of season, habitats, environmental conditions and lack of infrastructure! WhatsApp Image 2018-05-07 at 18.52.07

 

Pam Zweerts

Posted by

Pam Zweerts

Monday 18 June 2018

Why we love it: the 10N Authentic Lodge & Mobile Safari

The combination of a mobile safari with time-out at a lodge or camp on either side provides the best of both worlds. There is time to get dirty and experience all the action up close and personal, and  time to dust off, relax and indulge in some modern comforts.

Ilala Lodge is conveniently located in close proximity to the Victoria Falls Hotel for afternoon tea, the local market for some shopping and the mighty falls themselves. Ilala is well known for having one of the best restaurants in town. view_from_patio

The Bush Ways Fully Serviced Safari is glamping at its best, an experience of the wild in comfort, covering some of the prime wildlife areas in Botswana, including the Chobe Riverfront, Savute marsh & Moremi Game Reserve.  This is the perfect balance of adventure, relaxation & comfort with all camp chores taken care of for you.  You’ll enjoy a luxury camp set-up for you on arrival, including walk-in tents, en-suite bathrooms, comfortable camp beds and a guaranteed a window seat on game drives.
The mobile portion of the itinerary is easy to book and there is still availability for 2018.  Select departures run with German or French-speaking translators.  Click on the below to read a firsthand account from one of our experts. DSC04711

No safari to Botswana is complete without a fly-in to the Okavango Delta to view the waterways from the air and glide through the channels on a mokoroOddballs Enclave is an old classic whose style and intimate atmosphere works well in combination with the mobile safari. okavango_delta_activities_41

This safari offers excellent value for money !

Last but not least, we are passionate about mobile safaris because…

  • the guides are among the best and get to know their clients over the course of the safari, focusing on their interests and building on their knowledge.
  • travellers get to experience more of the country when they drive between locations, making it as much about the journey as the destination.
  • mobile safaris give you access to exclusive campsites in prime wildlife areas, and the flexibility for an extended exploration of areas en-route between locations.
  • mobile safaris take travellers out of their comfort zone, creating memories to last a lifetime.
  • mobile safaris offer a more intimate wildlife experience than most lodge stays.
  • mobile safaris offer great value for money, catering across all comfort and budget levels, and can be booked privately for families and small groups.

Click here to read more about the mobile safari experience: http://www.safaridestinations.net/we-get-around/bush-ways-safaris-mayonnaise DSC04651

 

Lorraine Potter

Posted by

Lorraine Potter

Plugin from the creators ofBrindes :: More at PlulzWordpress Plugins