Everyone is exhausted after a long-haul overnight flight, often involving multiple connections and inevitably ending in long immigrations queues on arrival. Not to mention the build-up of going on holiday, delayed flights and lost luggage. On arrival, most of us are simply looking for a hot shower, followed by a G&T while we take in our surroundings, ending the day with a good meal and a comfortable nights sleep.
Victoria Falls is the ideal place to kick-off a safari. No onward flights or long road transfers required as most hotels are only a stone’s throw away from the airport. Comfortable accommodation with all the amenities allows guests to ease into their safari experience. As the properties in Victoria Falls are generally more affordable, there is less of a need to hit the ground running and more time to relax and find your feet. This is especially important when travelling with young children. Compared with the high-pressured start at the top dollar lodges in the Okavango Delta where every minute counts and where you feel compelled to jump on the first game drive on arrival, followed by an early morning wake up call on day one.
After a recent visit to Victoria Falls with my own family, I realized that 2 nights just isn’t enough for first time visitors and especially families to fully appreciate what this corner of paradise has to offer. I found myself rushing from one activity to the next, pressurized by pick-up times, with little time to relax and yet there was so much more than we could have done.
During our 2 night stay in Victoria Falls, we explored the Falls on foot, by helicopter and by Zip Line and that was about all that we had time for bar a mad dash around the market. There is a big choice of activities on offer beyond the falls themselves, one that I feel is grossly underestimated is the canoeing on the Zambezi River. For families, the falls has lots going on to cater to all ages and interests breaking up the typical safari routine.
Beyond the activities, the town has a holiday vibe, showcasing the country’s culture, local crafts (curio shopping) and a great variety of restaurants, which really add to the experience. Not accounting for the day of arrival and departure which are often lost due to flight times and transfers, one full day simply isn’t enough to take it all in. I would comfortably recommend a 3-night stay in Victoria Falls town itself. There is a selection of properties to match all budgets, offering potentially good value for your money, helping to stretch the budget when combined with the top dollar lodges in more remote game areas.
Day 1: Relax and enjoy a slow start to your safari
Dinner at the hotel
Day 2: Tour of the falls followed by the flight of angels (12 – 15 minute helicopter scenic)
Lunch at the Lookout Café (which will reopen in Dec 2019 after it burnt down half a year ago)
Canopy Tour / Elephant Interaction / Sunset Cruise
Day 3: Option 1: Full day upper Zambezi Canoe or Rafting experience
Option 2: A combination of the following with lunch on the terrace at The Victoria Falls Hotel
Horse Riding, Bicycle Tour, Village Tour, Pay It Forward (Family), Bird Watching, Shopping, Bunji Jumping, Croc Farm (Family), High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel, and more
Independent Dinning Options:
Traditional (Family): The Boma, Jungle Junction
Formal: The Livingstone Room, The Palm Restaurant
Casual: Zambezi House, Three Monkeys, The Lookout Cafe (will reopen Dec 2019)
The same could be said when coming off a safari in the delta. Days of early rising, long bumpy game drives and a day in transit, including the border crossing, is taxing of the best of us. Ending with 3 nights in Victoria Falls to slowly get re-acquainted with civilization before diving back into your daily routine at home is always a good idea.
Guests that have a little bit more time are recommended to spoil themselves with 4 nights in Victoria Falls, the 4 nights could be split between 2 nights in town and 2 nights in the quieter Zambezi National Park. The options are endless, we have put together some stunning itineraries which can be found on our “Best in Travel Zimbabwe 2019″, the packages for 2020 will soon be released.
The Okavango Delta, the largest oasis in the world, attracts large concentrations of all forms of life from the surrounding Kalahari Desert. During periods of flooding plants flourish, animals reproduce and large herds of mammals migrate away from the swamp, to the fringes and to areas in the surrounding desert that benefit from the water that is slowly making its way through the sand.
The exact opposite happens during dry spells! Large concentrations of animals come together around water pools, receding channels and lagoons. Considering the current water and flood levels and data on rainfall in the Angolan Highlands and the catchment area of the Okavango Delta it is very likely that the upcoming year will be very dry. It looked similar in the late 1990s and early 2000s – and game viewing around the core Okavango was nothing short of spectacular! We were there to see it. Elephants, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra jostling for a place around the precious wet; carefully watched by predators that follow the herbivores and focus ALL their attention around the last remaining watering holes.
You remember all those times when we said: Or should I rather suggest to the clients to travel a bit later? When the game viewing is a bit better? Don’t you think June is maybe too early? Maybe rather September?
In 2019 we are up for a much longer season of enhanced game viewing with less animal movement out of the Okavango, a true premier savanna game drive and superb walking experience. In essence: it will be September from June onwards…..
Sure, the water levels might get too low to conduct boat cruises and mokoro excursions sooner than in previous years in a lot of areas. But there is still a number of camps around, located close enough to the more permanent channels, where your clients can enjoy gliding through the swamp on a mokoro. Our consultants know exactly where to find those camps to add to your clients’ itinerary and where to include mokoro or boating.
But don’t let anybody fool you into believing that a dry cycle in the Okavango is bad news.
It is great news for a photographic safari. Get ready for an amazing season !!!!
Ever been on honeymoon with 28 in-laws? Or made promises of the most awesome holiday? Or wanted to make others fall in love with Botswana? Maybe you can answer yes to one of these questions but all three?! That is me: going where others fear to tread!
I sent my request for this holiday, thinking: “Puuuh! We are a large group. 29 pax! How on earth are we going to fit all those people into safari vehicles and go on safari for 6 nights?” The worst of it: an unhappy safari would mean 28 in-laws mad at me that I overpromised on my beautiful Botswana. So the pressure was on. My national pride was at stake! I love my country and wanted my new family to fall in love with it and to go home raving about this awesome safari experience. The solution to my crazy request was a mobile safari with Bush Ways Safaris!
The first day of our Bush Ways’ semi-participation safari started with a bang. Eddie and Moscow, our guides, with their assistants, and our three safari vehicles with big trailers including all safari equipment expected us outside Maun Lodge ready for our journey to begin. Excitement filled the air! After a briefing of the route of the day, was the vehicle naming ceremony. We were ‘The Xakanaxa Endurance’. I secretly hoped that this was not going to be a journey of me “enduring” unhappy in-laws. In their usual style, Bush Ways’ staff were on time, organised, friendly and informative. So far so very good.
The first stop of our journey was Khwai. And boy she did not disappoint, revealing some amazing sightings for my new extended family. On day two, we spotted a pride of 17 lions with cubs!! They had killed 4 buffalos the previous night and they were busy feasting when we arrived at the sighting. The cubs were running around with buffalo guts, falling over their feet and haul. Vultures were scavenging around also wanting to join in the feast! Looking around, I saw happy smiling family faces. It was going well.
Next we set off for Savute. It had rained a lot the previous night, so temperatures were just right for game-viewing. The rainy season means loads of babies and that is what we got: baby giraffes, baby impalas, baby kudu, baby elephants, baby zebra and even six baby hyena in their den with Mom. A sighting of 2 male lions drew our attention but we caught our breath with the next sighting. It was too good to be true. It was a fully-grown male leopard lying in a tree! Seriously it was too good to be true! That evening, sundowners with the setting of the bright orange Botswana sun, had us all feeling contented. Life was good.
Next up was Chobe, ‘the mothership of elephants’. Being the rainy season, I did not expect to see as many elephants as I did! We counted about a thousand elephants: they were everywhere! Moms and babies, teenagers and even the big bulls! All this with the backdrop of spectacular scenery! Interesting was also the amount of giraffe seen. On our way to setup camp, a leopard ran in front of the car and crossed the road to the other side. This had us laughing and cracking jokes: “What’s next, a leopard riding on top of a lion?” Otherwise, we had seen it all.
By the 6th night, the last night of our safari, our semi-participation safari had the girls putting up their own tents. Being the bride, I allowed my husband to do that for me! Our last night meant a special meal for us all. While the food was yummy the entire trip, night 6 was just that extra special. Food is one of my guilty pleasures and each morning I would ask about the meals for the day. On day 6, Moscow whispered into my ear that we would be having seswaa, morogo and phaleche (delicious meat in cabbage and pap), I squealed with excitement! And it did not disappoint. KD, the best chef ever, has gifted hands, he even masters baking a cake with no oven.
And so on day 7, with happy bodies and full hearts, we said good-bye to Bushways, heading off on the next leg of our journey. From the reservations staff, to the guides and guide assistant, offering us superb service and support at each step of the way, and being integral to our adventure, we had been provided with a holiday of a lifetime. Thank you to each one that had made it special. We had more than endured! I had done well!
In December I spent a few days in Kasane and had the chance to join a Pangolin morning boat cruise on Chobe river. The funny thing is that although I call a semi-fancy camera my own, which I have used blindly on many game drives in the past, I never actually learnt a thing about taking good pictures. This rainy morning in December was my moment, I knew it. I was super excited to be guided by Guts who is one of the owners of Pangolin Safaris and has years of experience as a photographer. The Pangolin boats are all equipped with state of the art digital cameras and lenses. Guts and his business partner Toby have created camera-mounts which offer the best possible flexibility for you and your camera. During this three-hour activity the photograhic guides teach the guests how to use the camera and the lens, which settings to use. They explain it in such a way that even beginners like I understood. At the end of the experience the guests get to take their SD card home. If they are keen, they can use the editing suite in the Pangolin Chobe Hotel to start working on their pictures.
Each boat only takes a maximum of eight guests, making the cruises not only educational but also very exclusive. Using smaller boats they generally also travel further on the Chobe river. All guests staying at the new Pangolin Chobe Hotel enjoy these special experiences when booking the fully inclusive package. Generally on a two-night stay all guests would join two cruises (morning and afternoon cruise) plus a game drive. The Chobe river can get busy, especially in the afternoons when all the Kasane Lodges take their clients on boat cruises. To avoid the crowds, Pangolin takes their guests further and also offers the alternative of quieter morning cruises.
To make the most of this experience and to really have an impact on the rest of your clients’ safari we suggest to include Pangolin Chobe at the beginning of an itinerary. This way your clients can learn from the best and apply all they learnt during the rest of their safari. They will love Botswana even more and return home with fantastic memories.
Perfectly positioned to watch the sun go down while sipping on a gentle gin & tonic or cooling off in the sparkling swimming pool after a sun-soaked day. Let the mind slowly unwind, the body recover and the soul rejuvenate! Rediscover tranquillity at the newly opened Setari Camp, located on a picturesque island in the Northern Delta.
We had the pleasure of staying at Setari recently and were thoroughly spoilt with delicious food, a selection of drinks and heart-warming hospitality. The tents are spacious, well-appointed with everything you need and very private from the next.
There is a private viewing deck in front of each tent with endless views over the floodplains; the ideal spot to put your feet up, read a book or just relax and take in the stunning scenery. For those wanting to burn off some unwanted calories, there is a small gym on site…but even I could not drag myself there!
This camp is suitable for just about anyone, raised high off the ground, it is safe for children to move around freely between the tents, the main area and the swimming pool. Children can take part in boating, seasonal fishing and village visits, while there is also the option of mokoro activities and bush walks for adults. One of the greatest advantages at Setari is the year-round water availability which means boating and mokoro throughout the year.
Those wanting to wind down after a busy safari, will find their haven at Setari and equally those on honeymoon can enjoy the privacy and tranquillity in one of the remotest parts of the Delta.
- Setari opened in October 2018
- located in the waterrich region of the Okavango Panhandle, a birders paradise
- 8 double tented suites and 1 family suite
- activities: motor boating, mokoro excursions, guided walks and village visits
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.
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.
We have been debating the hot topic of self drives for years. The trend seems to be that more and more clients have independently travelled South Africa and Namibia by car, and as a result they think visiting Botswana in the same style is the natural conclusion. Botswana is wilder, has less infrastructure, less tarred roads, is a much more challenging destination. Self-driving in Botswana is for the adventurous, people that want a guarantee to see the amazing game in Botswana should always choose to travel with a guide, self-driving is possible in the National Parks and Game Reserves, the famous private concessions in the Okavango Delta or Linyanti can only be accessed by plane and visited with a professional guide.
As your partner on the ground we selected a group of brave individuals to go and explore some of the parks of Northern Botswana, their mission was to test a variety of maps available in the local shops, the Tracks4Africa’s app, our self drive maps and the directions we hand out.
This is the first of a series of blogs about “Self-Driving in Botswana”, we will write about our experiences, the road conditions, the user-friendliness of the maps and Tracks4Africa app and much more, enjoy the ride…
Here is Seeletso’s impression of his first self-drive-adventure:
When I was initially asked if I would like to join a self-drive educational from Maun across Savute to Ngoma and into Namibia then back through the Panhandle to Maun I didn’t hesitate for a second. I was only concerned about traveling in the extreme heat of October (we often get more than 40 degrees in our so-called suicide-month), and the stories I had been told of people getting stuck in the thick sand in Savute and Chobe. The last time I was in Savute was in 2002 as part of a Wellness Club in High School where we put up sign posts to guide everyone visiting the Savute region, so this was an opportunity to revisit this area and to check if our signs were still around or the elephants had destroyed them.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man… my moment had come. I joined Tlotlo, Brinny and Scarlet on this adventure. Being the farm boy that I am, I nominated myself to drive all the way through the park to Ngoma in Chobe. A Wild Wheels car was delivered and handed over the day before our trip, a Toyota Hilux double cab with 2 roof tents and plenty equipment. The handover is vital to make sure that all equipment needed for the trip is in the car and works properly. The vehicle came with a GPS system loaded with Tracks4Africa maps, a satellite phone, fridge, high-lift jack, spade, sand ladder and other necessary tools. We also got a proper briefing on how to use the tools, how to lower the tyre pressure. When hiring a vehicle from a local Botswana operator the equipment is guaranteed to deal with the conditions in the parks in Botswana. Clients choosing to travel through the parks need to make sure they have the right equipment. Ready, we left Maun early morning for our first destination, the recently reopened Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge (yes SD travels in style). The drive from Maun via Mababe to Savute took us about 5 hours of solid, but not fast, driving. After the Mababe Gate (guests that stay in lodges usually travel with a voucher from the lodge confirming that park fees have been paid, at the Gate only the payment for the vehicle needs to be made, it helps to have Pula at hand, the costs for locally registered vehicles is 10 Pula a day, foreign registered vehicles are 50 Pula a day) it became a little more challenging as the thicker sand began. We reduced the tyre pressure from the normal 250 to 180 bar. The Sandridge road is the most direct and easiest way to Savute even though the thick sand there has been a challenge to many. I was up to the challenge and hoping to get photos of us being stuck. To my surprise the sand was not that tough, I do not know if it was my bush baby driving skills or the Hilux just performed better than I had expected. With the vehicle on four wheel drive the stretch was easy enough.
The main challenge of the road was a few kilometers after the Savute Gate on the side track which took us to Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge. Apparently, the trucks that came in for the rebuild of the lodge are the reasons for the state of the road. Extremely thick sand with deep burrow tracks, but nothing to worry about as long as you are driving a 4×4. From Savute to Ghoha Hills there is no thick sand, but the road requires one to drive at slow speed as it is bumpy and uneasy.
At the Ghoha Gate it is advisable to ask the Wildlife officials which is the better route, as the direct route is not in great conditions. Here you drive left (north west) towards the Linyanti cutline and once on the cutline turn right and the road leads you all the way to Kachikau village. Before Kachikau the tarred road comes back to life and at the nearest fuel station we pumped back the tyres to 250 bar. After a night at Chobe Elephant Camp the crew crossed over to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia then spent a few nights in the Okavango Panhandle and back to Maun. The border crossings at Ngoma into Namibia and Mohembo back into Botswana were all smooth and quick. The A3 road from Shakawe to Sehitwa has lots of potholes even though there were few patches of roadworks there and there. (We will speak more about the Panhandle section in a coming Blog).
“Insider tips from your local experts”
- It is advisable to not self-drive in the rainy season, the terrain is difficult and chances of getting stuck in mud or having to cross water are high.
- Make sure your car is loaded with all the necessary equipment before you depart for your Safari (e.g. tools, GPS, satellite phone, working fridge, lockable doors, spare wheels), check all is in a good working condition.
- When switching from tarred/gravel road onto sandy roads reduce your tyre pressure and when going back on tarred road remember to increase the pressure.
- On sandy roads please switch onto H4 for 4-wheel drive at all times, if sand is too thick and car fails engage Low range to avoid getting stuck, the next car might only come by after 24hrs.
- Respect the animals on the road, especially Elephants.
- Do not stop and get out of the car in bushes, find a clear open space for your safety.
- Always ask the people working at the entrance gates which road is better or how do you proceed forward.
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.
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
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Safari Destinations itineraries showcasing this property:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!