I am very grateful for my privileged life, my healthy family, my friends, and that our company has so far weathered the storm called Covid. Covid has restricted us in many ways, but it did not manage to take away my love for my job and especially my love for travel. My number one rule has always been, grab the opportunity when it presents itself and ignore anything that gets in its way 🙂
This is exactly what I did in early May. I missed my team in Maun and realized I needed to experience travel during Covid myself in order to share my knowledge with our agents. I ignored the so called experts and their warnings and went on a one month trip to Botswana and South Africa.
We flew with Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, our flight was on time, smooth and of course half empty. In Johannesburg we connected to Airlink, again the flight was on time and smooth. During the entire trip our printed versions of our PCR tests felt more important than our passports (by the way, we did our PCR tests in Frankfurt Airport at Centogene, results available within 6 hours – efficient and reliable). The tests had to be presented at all check-points. Starting at check-in in Frankfurt, at border controls, at the gate before boarding the flight. Again in Johannesburg in transit, at the gate and of course on arrival in Maun. What did I learn? As long as you have done your homework and have all paperwork at hand (and copies of all the papers) the ride is smooth.
For South Africa we had to fill in an arrival form which was handed out by the flight attendant before arrival in Joburg. This health form just asked if we had any symptoms etc. A similar form had to be filled in for Botswana. The flight attendant on the Airlink flight handed it out and we filled it in during the flight before arriving in Maun. At Maun airport, before entering the (new) airport building our temperature was checked, the form and the PCR tests were collected, a quick rapid test done (free of charge) and off we went into the brand new airport building which even has air condition 😉
I think the anticipation of travelling and not knowing what to expect makes people nervous. I can honestly say that once our journey started I was so excited, I knew nothing could go wrong.
In Botswana we worked hard and every free minute was spent in the bush. We explored the new Khwai Leadwood by African Bush Camps, Splash & Kwara Camps by Kwando Safaris and Shinde by Ker & Downey. We had amazing safaris, breathtaking experiences and inhaled every bit of excitement.
For our journey to South Africa we needed new PCR tests, which we had booked with Pharma in Maun, their office is only a couple of minutes from the airport. They guarantee results in less than 24 hours and are a very reliable partner. All guests travelling with Safari Destinations enjoy the carefree service of SD. We prebook the PCR tests be it in the bush (a nurse flies into camp) or in Maun / Kasane / Vic Falls… we make sure results are received on time before travellers depart. The service can be added to the invoice, this way clients don’t have to worry about a thing and enjoy their safari.
For more information please contact your dedicated consultant or email@example.com
Botswana is known for some of the last unspoilt wildlife areas in the world and as such offers a unique experience to anybody wanting to discover the beauty, remoteness and diversity of Botswana’s landscapes and its animals.
Besides lodge-to-lodge mobile safaris and fly in safaris, Botswana is a great destination for anybody seeking an adventure and wanting to embark on a one of a kind self-drive trip.
Camping in unfenced wildlife areas, waking up early with the sunrise while looking across the moonlike landscape of the salt pans and getting up close with some of the biggest mammals on earth is truly an unforgettable experience.
There are however a few things, travellers should keep in mind when deciding to explore Botswana on their own terms.
Driving through Botswana is nothing like driving through for example the well known Kruger National Park or Namibia, with tar roads and clearly marked directions. Botswana can present some challenges – difficult road conditions with deep sand, destinations far apart from each other, remote areas without signage and confusing “road” networks. All the more important it is to be thoroughly prepared and use the tools at hand to make sure your journey will be the safari of your dreams.
First of all, it is important to understand the different areas and the different types of self-drives.
Make sure you have done your research regarding which areas you would like to visit and what the road conditions are like. Road conditions can vary from main tar roads, to sharp gravel road, deep sandy roads and water crossings.
Unless you are only planning to drive on tar roads, driving with a 4×4 vehicle is an absolute must! Ideally, the vehicle should have a long range fuel tank or in case it doesn’t, you need to take extra jerry cans. There are no fuel stations in National Parks and even outside the parks, you sometimes need to drive far distances before reaching the next fuel stations.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the vehicle is properly equipped. Even on tar roads, there is mostly no network between cities. Therefore, it is essential to be travelling with a satellite phone should you have an emergency and need help.
Besides that, the car should also be equipped with tools you need in case you get stuck or have a break down, such as a spade, sand ladders, hi-lift jack, tyre repair kit, compressor etc. and of course spare tyres.
In order to find your way around, you should travel with adequate maps, GPS and best of all, Tracks4Africa. Tracks for Africa is a very user-friendly app that you can download on your phone, 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.
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.
The National Parks are completely wild and camping is only allowed in designated campsite areas.
The campsites are not fenced, which means, animals regularly walk through them, adding to the thrill of being up close with wildlife. However, make sure you keep a safe distance from wild animals – for your own safety but also to respect the wildlife. The same applies to when you are driving. Keep a safe distance from animals, do not go off-road and stick to the well-used track to ensure you have a smooth trip!
You should not be driving at night. Besides it not being allowed in a National Park, it is very dangerous to drive on Botswana’s tar roads at night. Animals can roam freely and there are no fences or street lights along the roads which means farm animals use the warm tar as a sleeping place. Statistically the number one cause of road accidents is hitting an animal while driving at night.
For the less adventurous traveller Botswana can be perfectly combined with Namibia. One of our best selling trips is a self drive trip which starts and ends in Windhoek and which combines the stunning landscapes of Namibia with the vast Wilderness of Botswana. The Delta can be included on a 3 night fly-in, for the rest of the safari traveller stick to the tar roads and link Maun with Kasane via Nata (including a stop along the Boteti or the Salt Pans).
There is so much to explore – come and visit. As you know everyday not spend on safari is a lost day 🙂
It is often, that whenever reality and change merge we discover new places. The year 2020 has taught us that. As we start to look forward to what lies ahead. I would like to take pride in our land and honour the legacy and the heritage that our ancestors have left behind for us… Hidden gems that are unscathed and are still sacred and unknown by most. Heritage sites are said to have the power to heal the body, enlighten the mind, and inspire the heart. For your unique and extraordinary experience we put together a list of places in Botswana that we hold dear to our hearts for your next travels.
GCWIHABA CAVES – OKAVANGO DELTA
Gcwihaba is a fascinating underground labyrinth of caverns and pits, linked passages, fantastical stalagmite and stalactite formations, and beautifully coloured flowstones that appear like waterfalls of rock. Gcwihaba has been part of the Kalahari ecosystem for almost three million years. It was formed during an age when the area was much wetter. There have been dramatic climatic variations alternating very wet with very dry periods.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the area was inhabited by foraging peoples thousands of years ago. Late Stone Age tools, burnt ostrich eggshells, animal bones, even a fossilised primate skull, have been unearthed in the region. Indeed the caves hold important clues to the way prehistoric peoples related to their environments.
Gcwihaba is a designated National Monument and a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How to get there: Located in one of the most remote parts of Botswana, The Gcwihaba Caves can only be reached via a long and arduous 4×4 Nokaneng route, using a well equipped 4×4 vehicle. The road goes 122 kilometers west of Nokaneng to Xangwa village. From Xangwa, drive south to Xai-xai Village. The cave is a further 36km south east of Xai-xai village.
The Tsodilo Hills are one of the most historically significant rock art sites in the world, consisting of rock paintings, rock shelters, depressions, and small caves. Nobody knows the exact age of the paintings although some are thought to be more than 20 000 years old, whilst others are merely a century old.
For the people who live at the Hills – the San, the original inhabitants, and the Hambukushu who have periodically occupied the hills for the past 200 years – Tsodilo is a sacred, mystical place where ancestral spirits dwell. In earlier times, their ancestors performed religious rituals to ask for assistance, and for rain. They also put paintings on the rock face; and their meaning and symbolism remain a mystery even to today.
Exploring the three main Hills – Male, Female, and child – is a journey into antiquity. Archaeological research – ongoing for the past 30 years – estimates that Tsodilo has been inhabited for the past 100 000 years, making this one of the world’s oldest historical sites. Pottery, iron, glass beads, shell beads, carved bone and stone tools date back 90 000 years.
Because their tremendous historical and cultural importance, Tsodilo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
How to get there: From Maun, take the main tar road to Shakawe, 370km. The hills are 40km from Shakawe on a dirt road. The track to Tsodilo hills can only be negotiated with four-wheel-drive vehicles. If you want to make this a half day trip you can always fly in with a helicopter from Maun or the Delta.
TSWAPONG HILLS – MOREMI GORGE
Moremi Gorge is situated deep within the hills, which can only be reached by a rather taxing climb, Moremi Gorge is the source of three permanent waterfalls. The first two are smaller, but fan out into large waterholes, whilst the uppermost falls is a full ten-meters high, giving rise to spectacular scenes of clear water cascading over rocky outcrops, then collecting in a deeply hidden, lushly vegetated, fern-fringed lagoon.
The Moremi Gorge is a designated National Monument and is managed by the Department of National Museum, Monuments and Art Gallery. For self drives this would definitely be worth a stopover.
How to get there: Goo‐Moremi Gorge in Palapye, is a 2 hour drive from the Martins Drift border. Ideal for overnight travellers to Maun and Moremi Game Reserve.
THE CHOBE LINYANTI SYSTEM
Chobe National Park is home to Africa’s largest elephant population and comprises more than 10,000km2 of rich ecosystems and diverse landscapes. Most parts of the area such as the Linyanti and Selinda reserve are still intact as they are the least visited, and have retained its pristine environment. Chobe National Park is the third largest park in the country, which in itself is divided into three different ecosystems.
The Serondela area: also known a the Chobe riverfront, is located in the northeast part of the park, characterized by lush green plains and dense forests. The riverfront attracts large herds of Elephants and Buffalo, offering fantastic photographic opportunities as they bathe and drink in the late afternoon sunlight.
In the furthest corner of Chobe National Park lies the Linyanti region. Secluded and remote, this short strip of marshy river frontage connects Chobe to the Okavango Delta. It has only a handful of safari camps and as such offers a highly intimate safari experience. There are large concentrations of lions, leopards, wild dogs, roan antelopes, sable antelopes, hippopotamuses above all enormous herds of elephants.
The Savuti Region: The Savuti area borders the Delta to the west, boasting of rich grasslands, savannah woodland and a large mixture of trees and vegetation, which makes wildlife particularly dynamic in this section of the park. Savuti is famous for its mysterious and fascinating channel that brings water from the Chobe to Mababe, creating a small marsh where it enters the Mababe Depression.
Magnificent Rock Art at Savuti!
Overlooking the Savuti channel is a group of rocky outcrops, which are referred to as the Gubatsa Hills. Though these hills house ancient San bushmen rock art of a similar style and outlined in red-ochre (similar to the nearest rock paintings found at Tsodilo Hills) they seem to have been done by different groups of people.
Botswana is known for her incredible skies, huge impressive clouds often build up all day for a short, late afternoon thunderstorm. Not only does this welcome ‘pula’ (the Setswana word for rain in Botswana), the rain also washes the air clear of dust, making for crisp afternoon game-drive photos.
Sunrises and sunsets are especially beautiful as the sky turns gold, pink, red and every colour in between, lighting up the clouds dramatically and creating more spectacular photo opportunities.
Pula is so precious that our money is named after it (and we also use it as a good fortune toast during drinks with friends). It is so special to us, as it transforms the land into a lush environment, full leafed acacia trees cast deep cool shade and wild flowers start to bloom which makes everything seem more charming. The acres of green grass and verdant leaves, sustain hundreds of thousands of grazers, which sustain thousands of predators. A whole ecosystem depends on pula and, of course, lots of our favourite safari activities like canoeing, boating and mokoro.
Botswana’s Green Season (starts mid November and ends early April) is one of our favourite times of the year. As the rains arrive so do the migrant birds from Europe, Asia and other parts of Africa. The carmine bee-eaters hovering over game-drive vehicles, waiting to snatch up bugs from the air, are exciting to watch. Kingfishers, kites, rollers and cuckoos embellish the air with extravagant song and colour. They stand out against the brilliant emerald foliage (even LBJs – ‘little brown jobs’ – look prettier). The pans are totally transformed by the magical pula and become havens for aquatic birds like flamingos and pelicans. Everywhere is good for birding – The Okavango Delta, Chobe river, Makgadikgadi Pans, Central Kalahari, and the Linyanti wetlands. Even your non-birders will appreciate the beauty of it all.
Travelling in the Green Season comes with lower rates than in other times of the year. Guests who have always dreamt of coming to Africa might suddenly find that travelling in the ‘secret season’ is super-affordable. If time is not of essence, you can stay for longer and immerse yourself in the experiences wherever you are, especially with the excellent discounts and specials available to you.
The other unique element of Green Season is that it’s the time year when many baby antelope are born en masse. Species like impala give birth all around the same time to ensure as many of their babies survive as possible – not only is there enough grazing around for all of them but giving predators thousands of options reduce the chances that your specific baby will be killed, if you’re an impala mom. The point is that you’ll get to see wobbly calves and tiny foals, which is very special to witness.
So, whether it’s bright green, dark green, light green or any green in between, the Green Season has plenty to offer. Yes, the longer grass makes animals slightly harder to find but it’s so rewarding when you do. Lower rates, fewer people, happy wildlife and pretty skies – what more do you want in Botswana!
TIP: Visit the Safari Destinations Agents Corner to get a glimpse of the Best In Travel package overviews curated for the green season.
It was a scorching day in November, typical weather for this time of year. I had put my bags down, grabbed a cold bottle of water and headed straight for my deck chair to take in the sweeping views of the Central Kalahari Desert.
The Kalahari was nothing like I thought it would be, except for the heat. That was exactly how I anticipated but one can never fully prepare for it.
Movement between my tent and the main area was more of a hop, skip and a jump! I had opted to wear open sandals, and these are great on a flat surface, but they sure made for clumsy dance in the red-hot sand.
Standing on the deck outside my tent, I took in the incredible views of the Desert before me. Those who have been to Botswana, know how flat the land is, one can literally see for days! Yet here in the Kalahari; equally as flat, an ancient sand dune exists, and up on this ridge is where Tau Pan Camp is located.
This was to be my temporary home for the next 24 hours and every image I had previously held in my imagination was wiped out by the beauty unfolding before my eyes. The Kalahari is not barren and sandy, as one would expect in most deserts. Even when it is dry enough to ‘qualify’ as a desert, it is not strictly speaking a desert because the ground cover is too dense.
‘Tau’ is the Setswana word for lion and the Kalahari is famed for the impressive compliment of black-maned lions, the very same that frequent the permanent water hole located in front of camp. What I thought was going to be a quiet dreamy night under the stars, turned out to be rather a noisy and interrupted sleep with a choir from the wild; well more like a symphony of roars from one pride to the next that bellowed throughout the night. It was an impressive sound, one that never rings tired with me.
I sat down in my deck chair, dusted the sand from my feet and lifted them up to the small table in front of me. Head back, eyes closed and just about ready to take in my afternoon siesta when something inside me insisted that I look up.
As I opened my eyes, I caught a glimpse of a bushy striped tail hanging from a rafter; and there it was…a beautiful little genet, sleeping peacefully in the shade of the thatch. We both had the same great idea for that hot afternoon in Africa; quiet uninterrupted blissful sleep.
For those wanting to visit the Kalahari, do it on your next planned safari in Botswana. It’s wild and mysterious beauty almost never disappoints!
Interesting facts about the Central Kalahari:
With 52,000 km2 the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the world‘s second largest protected area and one of the most remote and pristine areas in Africa.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is mostly famous for its ancient fossil river beds, which form valleys through the bush of which Deception Valley is the most famous. A highly recommendable read is “The Cry of the Kalahari” by Delia and Mark Owens.
Specialized desert species are found in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve with gemsbok (oryx) and springbok often seen; the famous black-maned Kalahari lions and of course bat-eared foxes. And if you are very lucky, the brown hyena.
Although the Central Kalahari is an all year round destination, an especially magnificent time is during and after the summer rains when the colors of the Kalahari explode and grey turns into fifty shades of green. The rainy starts in mid November and ends in March.
Information on Kwando Tau Pan:
Tau Pan is one of two lodges located within the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the other being Kalahari Plains.
Activities offered at Tau Pan include game drives, day trips to Deception Valley, Sunday, Piper and Passarge Pans, star gazing and nature walks with Bushman trackers.
Accommodation consists of 9 environment adapted en-suite rooms including 1 family room and a sleepout deck (an absolute treat for the more adventurous!).
100% solar operated
Guide and tracker team
For us at Safari Destinations we are striving and pushing through no matter how hard and bleak things may seem. We know that soon we will look back and pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve done well…
August was dedicated to the “Women In Tourism” who have brought us so much inspiration. As we saw women coming together being the matriarchs of our societies, taking the lead and being the magic that the world needs right now and giving us hope to work harder and to stay positive.
SD ladies never lurk behind… Carina and Lorraine have taken the reigns and together they are showing us their passion for travel. Not only are they fighting for Safari Destinations they are also fighting for the travel industry in our country. They are leading by example like many other Women In Travel, who are strong, resilient and BOLD.
True success is built on relationships. SD is proud to be the professional home of many strong women who show endless dedication, they never give up and they always keep their spirits alive:
Ursula (Zimbabwe Office) says: “Gosh, how things have changed! Looking back, I’m amazed at what we’ve achieved on every level, looking forward, I’m as uncertain as the next person. What I do know is that the Falls will continue to flow, and as long as it does and I have breath in my body, I’ll remain an advocate for all who wish to travel here. I’ve learnt a few things too… more patience for sure, to be kinder to myself and to actively seek the positive, no matter how small – over negative. I still need to work on that patience but I literally just can’t wait to welcome our first post-pandemic guests back!”
Andrea (Reservations Department) says: Strolling through European forests for a change is incredibly relaxing; I can just walk – without trying to figure out who broke the branch in a distance and will jump out from behind a bush any moment; I have learnt to appreciate these “low adrenalin” walks, where your eyes and mind can wander and wonder.
Julia (Marketing Department) says: “The last few months have been extraordinary in many forms, this has brought challenges, uncertainty, hope, all of which we are experiencing in one form or another. This has made me realise that we are more resilient than we ever imagined, I have learnt to be more patient and most of all I have learnt to be GRATEFUL! Grateful for the beautiful spaces we get to spend our free times in, Grateful for the loving family and friends that we have. Grateful for the what the future has ahead of us and much much more“
Tebby (Reservations Department) says: “Breath and repine less…to help with my sanity amidst this pandemic I started doing yoga with my baby boy. This has helped me replace stress with peace for my soul.”
Caroline (Marketing Department) says: “I have learned to do things that I wouldn’t normally do…I now do yoga and I have found peace, happiness and serenity on my yoga mat and cycling early in the morning. These two things have given me comfort and some emotional freedom”.
Sarah (HR department) says: “Family which includes our dogs and cats, have been an important part of remaining grounded and sane during corona madness. Our three sausage dogs love a walk along the riverbank. With the flood having reached our doors, this is a favourite activity for all concerned.”
Keneilwe (Reservations department) says: “During these unusual times , I have learnt to appreciate my family and friends, being in lockdown and not being able to see those closest to me made me appreciate the moments we spent together as it’s more apparent that nothing in life is guaranteed”.
Carina says: “I have always known that working in tourism means living my dream. Nothing else has fascinated me more than exploring new places, working with like-minded, open-minded and energizing people. In tourism women can achieve the most amazing things. Tourism is full of strong women that started with only an idea and with their passion, hard work and drive they achieved more than they would have ever imagined. These women are often too shy to be proud of their achievements. Especially in difficult times like these we should be more generous with ourselves and give us the credit we deserve for pulling through, for not giving up. Soon we will be looking back with a big smile on our face knowing that no matter how big the hurdle is we can overcome it and the challenge will have only made us STRONGER.
Some know Mombo as the “Place of Plenty”. Others refer to it as Mma Di Campo (“The Mother of all Camps”). With its considerable nightly rate and renowned reputation for sensational wildlife sightings, those who are fortunate enough to stay at this beautiful place cannot be blamed for having very high expectations.
Along with the name and the reputation come a significant amount of excitement. Like the flutters you get before meeting your favourite star or the thrill of seeing the top of Kilimanjaro towering over the Serengeti for the first time.
Land at the Mombo Airstrip and instantly this buzz rushes through you. Guides come bounding across to welcome you and helicopters are on standby to take you anywhere, any time.
So, here you are, you’ve finally arrived at the famous Mombo Concession and your guide takes you on the short 20-minute journey to the lodge. As if they’ve come to welcome you, the track is full of life. Impalas line the road with their young calves leaping through the grass. Geese, ducks, sandpipers and colourful bee-eaters flock the small pans along the road and the characteristic shrill call of the stunning turquoise woodlands kingfisher welcomes us. We’ve arrived in mid-February, the middle of the Green Season, a time when the bush is full of colour and new life.
We’ve arrived at the lodge and the staff’s smiles await you along with the eagerness to make this time at Mombo your most memorable. Sitting down for lunch, we’re treated to crisp baby vegetables and lightly grilled Chobe bream. The “new” Mombo is around two years old and meticulously maintained. When you start to look around, the touches of comfort and elegance are all over, from the motion-sensor lights in your massive room to the carefully packed sachets of Fairtrade ground coffee and bottles of vintage wine in your private lounge. We could tell you about the USD12 000 worth of complimentary Olympus mirrorless camera gear you are free to use, the refreshing private pool, day-bed and more of the delectable meals and snacks we were treated to during our stay but what we really couldn’t wait for was to set out and explore what this famous concession in the heart of the Okavango Delta would deliver. Because, let’s be honest, there are beautiful properties all over Africa… the reason people come to Mombo is for a safari experience to beat all safari experiences.
Well, 48 hours later, and we were completely and utterly blown away by what we had witnessed.
On our first afternoon drive with Moss we headed out to where the breakaway pride had been relaxing the morning before. Sure enough, we rolled up to within breathing distance of them. A perfect place to take in some shade from the hot afternoon sun and start learning about the dynamics of the resident and roaming lions of Mombo.
About 20 minutes later, the distinctive continued shrieking of the red-billed spurfowl alerted the guide to what was most likely another predator. Just 150 metres from the relaxed pride of seven lion was a massive male leopard. Moss called this striking male leopard Sergeant and one couldn’t help noticing how passionate he was in sharing the excitement with his guests. His eyes were fixed on the animal as he shared the years of how he has watched this individual through his challenges and triumphs existing in this predator-rich landscape. Sergeant is reaching the end of his dominance and you can see he has been through a lot as he panted hard in the afternoon heat.
As we made our way along the marshy plains it started to become evident. It’s not just the animals or the thrilling sightings we were being treated to, it’s the sheer beauty of the area, which is unlike anything we’ve seen. It’s Africa as you imagine it. Some of Botswana’s largest baobab trees look as though they’ve been placed there deliberately. You’ll find yourself alongside rolling floodplains where carmine bee-eaters swoop by the vehicle and then into dense forests with old gnarly jackelberry trees. It truly is a breathtakingly beautiful African wilderness.
Nothing could have prepared us for the treat we were in for the next morning. We told Moss we would be ready to set off nice and early to make the most of our time out there. And if you don’t want to miss out on the fresh cappuccino and scrumptious handmade toasted sandwiches cooked on the fire… do not fear, they will wrap it up for you for your breakfast on the go.
We headed towards an area called Tsessebe Plains to find the Mathatha pride. We found them and they were on the move. It was clear where they were headed. The buffalo herd of around 400 animals or more was not far away. Lions are never far away from a big herd of buffalo.
Once again, we were staggered by how quickly we encountered the next predator. A majestic male cheetah was watching these lions with a clear amount of distress. It was the flick of its tail Moss spotted across the grassland. When we got closer, we were treated to rich golden morning light as we followed this cheetah from termite mound to termite mound, posing for us.
Fifteen minutes later, after being spoilt with photographs of this cheetah, we ventured to the thickets where the impalas alarm calls were causing panic. This was not typical behavior for antelope in the presence of a cheetah. If you’re an antelope within visual contact of the fastest land mammal on the planet you’re best of making a run for it sooner rather than later. Moss realized there must have been another predator. Sure enough, he spotted a leopard dash for the bush – but we didn’t see it. She was moving away from three huge male lions who were after her kill from the night before.
We were almost exhausted by the morning’s excitement but that wasn’t all. We headed back to the buffalo where the Mathata pride had been seen moving closer. The script was set. A buffalo had stopped to wallow in a pool of rainwater and was flanked on all sides by seven lion. He’d allowed himself to lag behind and we settled in. Not more than three minutes later and it all kicked off.
Those who are fortunate enough to have witnessed a kill will know it can be distressing to see nature at work. Like killing machines each lion had its job in bringing down this beast. One to weigh down the rear and several others below the legs to weaken its stance. Importantly, one young male clenched his awesome jaws over the buffalo’s mouth to suffocate his distress calls that would invariably bring with them the rest of the buffalo to rescue him.
What a sighting and what a magnificent place. The place of plenty for sure. A place which preserves the pure essence of Africa as it was millions of years ago, beautifully intact.
For travellers who are lucky enough to afford a stay at Mombo the answer is yes! It is absolutely worth it!
Think back to 2010… Nicholas Sarkozy was president of France, Barack Obama was the president of the US, Ian Khama ruled Botswana and Angela Merkel was chancellor of Germany (OK, some things change faster than others!). The best movie at the Oscars was The Hurt Locker (we had totally forgotten about that one) and the top songs were by Ke$ha, Train and Lady Antebellum (who, who and WHO?). There was no Instagram until October of that year, Nxai Pan and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve had no permanent camps, Natural Selection didn’t exist, and who would have thought that AirBnB or Uber would grow so quickly?
Things were very different then and no more so than at Safari Destinations. Our little company was just four years old. Our office was above Mack Air opposite the airport and we had about 15 staff, half of which are still with us today. 2010 was the year when Lorraine and I started searching for a new home for our business, which we found only a couple of kilometres down the road. We bought our new premises in 2011 and thought we would never need all the space – hahaha, were we wrong.
21st century technology
In those long-gone days, most of us still worked on large desktop computers and used the small but efficient Nokia 5300 mobile phone. The fax machine still played a key role (remember how the ink faded right at someone’s phone number?!).
Kay, reservations manager, recalls the prehistoric days before the IT revolution, ‘We used to do everything ourselves: no personal administrators or fancy systems.’
Karen, reservation supervisor, who was the sixth employee to join in June 2008, agrees. ‘When I started, we were quoting manually using Excel and we were also doing all clients’ documentation manually, too, which used to take hours. Now, we have a clever system that works out costs and pulls documentation like invoices, vouchers and confirmations.’
The longest-standing staff at Safari Destinations agree that the biggest change the decade has brought is the colossal change in technology.
‘It really has changed my job in a big way,’ says Angela, Travel Experiences manager. ‘We used to carry a huge manual file with more than 60 Operations Reports when going to the airport to meet clients and, believe me, it was HUGE… Every time you received a call from a supplier, agent or client, you would have to find a little corner in the terminal and flip through the file as fast as you could in order to retrieve information. Today that big black folder has been replaced by a single tablet.
The Travel Experiences team
Angela touched on another big change over the decade: the development of a specialized and highly skilled Travel Experiences team that handles all client meet & greets at Maun International, smoothing arrivals and departures, handling lost luggage, welcoming clients and everything in between.
The Travel Experience team in 2020 makes a big difference to a client’s overall experience and are very appreciated by the rest of Safari Destinations. Kay and Karen remember having to drop consulting in order to race over to the airport to meet their clients, then race back again. ‘Back then, each consultant had to go and meet their own clients. There was no such thing as a “Travel Experiences” team. I must admit, I’m very happy we do now have a Travel Experience team!’, laughs Karen.
But no matter how sophisticated the technology became, Safari Destinations always put people first and the years between 2010 and 2020 saw some incredible projects for staff and the community.
As a mom of two girls herself, Karen appreciates Safari Destinations’ focus on boosting the next generation. ‘The support the company offers parents who have children is one of my biggest highlights of the past decade. Allowing our children to physically be on the office premises in a cottage (known as the Kiddies’ House), being supervised, whilst we can work is a massive benefit.’ This development was ahead of its time in Maun (and actually the rest of the world) and support for working parents is a growing and welcome global trend into 2020.
‘One of the biggest projects,’ says Lorraine, ‘is the vision to build a school and after-care facility for the Bana Ba Letsatsi (BBL) underprivileged children, a dream come true and a testament to the meaningful contribution Safari Destinations and our partners have made through tourism. The long-awaited building will be started in 2020.’
Other notable community-engagement projects include the start of the ‘Magic Bus’. This is a mini-bus that is sponsored by Safari Destinations and gives transport to especially the elderly of Maun, who may otherwise have to walk long distances to attend a clinic or go shopping.
To celebrate Botswana’s 50 years of independence in 2016, staff took part in the ‘500 Man Hours’ project that encouraged them to collectively give 500 hours of time to community projects. Today, Safari Destinations works closely with the Maun Animal Welfare Society (MAWS), Women Against Rape (WAR), Bana Ba Letsatsi (BBL) and many others. Many in the industry are also aware of SD’s work with Sekgoma Primary School, the bed night bank, Travel for Impact and various drives for donations of winter clothes, blankets and foodstuffs.
‘People’ also refers to how Safari Destinations finally started employing the so-called ‘stronger sex’ (ha! Us ladies change tyres, set up tents, dig game-drive vehicles out of sand AND give birth!). ‘The number of men employed is also a big change. In 2008, when I joined, employing men was not in the pipeline; however, once more women joined the company, there was a definite need for some male company!’, jokes Karen.
A maturing industry
As Safari Destinations grew from a toddler to a teenager over the decade, the broader safari industry also matured radically. Everyone agrees that far more players have entered the market, bringing fresh ideas and new people, and making every supplier raise their game to stay competitive. Often this had meant a new level of luxury: wine cellars, Wi-Fi, media rooms, gin bars, specialist spa treatments and à la carte dining were all virtually unknown in 2010.
As Angela says, ‘Suppliers have had to keep up with trending luxury décor in order to stay relevant while not destroying the authenticity of the camps or environment.’ ‘Yes,’ says Karen, ‘More properties are popping up, which means new players as well. The upgrading or rebuilding of a lot of properties to a very high-end level means some products are far more luxurious now than ever before.’
And keeping up with times means the decade also saw huge shifts in how it uses technology.
‘Smart-phone technology and websites being a go-to place for people to do research has been a big change. There is so much more access to information now,’ adds Karen.
‘Social media is a plus. It makes it so much easier for all concerned to get the message out there and also for clients to dream up and plan exotic holidays. Wildlife documentaries, viewed across the world, are also a plus but trying to get an 8-10-day trip to compare with a documentary that is five years in the making, is sometimes challenging, to say the least! Luckily, we rise to the challenge!’, laughs Kay.
‘The rise of social media over the past decade has changed many things,’ agrees Andrea. ‘In some ways, thanks to smart phones and social media, travel is less about the experience of being in moment now and more about what you can post to Instagram later… Every camp now needs a few corners that are highly Instagrammable. It’s the same with some sightings: if the light is low or branches are in the way, then there’s no point in stopping for a photo for some guests. Some clients want the exact experience they’ve seen on Instagram – unfortunately, the elephants aren’t trained to drink from the same swimming pool at the same time every single day!,’ she jokes.
‘Social media also allows for a lot of information, which is a good thing as Karen says, but sometimes that information is put out by amateurs who get things wrong. TripAdvisor is now a staple source of information for clients that they trust without knowing the full story of a stranger’s holiday – a good camp may get a bad review for something beyond their control. As professional consultants and experienced experts, knowing what product would suit which clients is a skill that cannot be replaced by a single TripAdvisor post.
As Kay says, ‘with more and more beautiful videos and photographs appearing online every day, we need to remember that they represent just one moment of a safari. A photographer chooses a single perfect image from a whole journey. For us, the fun and excitement remains in finding sightings, having great guides, smelling the wild sage, hearing the bulbuls call to each other and seeing remarkable landscapes – not in reducing it all to a few pixels on a screen.’
A decade of good laughs
While it’s never easy to grow a business from strength to strength, it is certainly made a lot easier if everyone has a good sense of humour. The Safari Destinations employees who’ve been around since 2010 and before have shared plenty of jokes and funny anecdotes over the years.
Kay groans at some of the crazy requests… ‘We’ve been asked to provide a double room with a sea view at the Victoria Falls Hotel! Once a client was disappointed because they couldn’t take a mokoro from Nxamaseri to Tsodilo Hills to see rhino!’ ‘Oh, that’s nothing,’ says Karen with a straight face. ‘I was once asked if the clients would be able to see unicorns on safari…’
Travel is a big and often stressful part of our jobs as we have to see as many properties as possible, make extensive notes, take photos (and videos now with our phones – unthought of in 2010!) and remember countless names, numbers and facts. But even educational travel has it’s funny side: Lorraine and I were once hosted at Baines’ Camp by Sanctuary Retreats.
‘They ran us a romantic bubble-bath following the afternoon activity that we had no choice but to use. So, we had fun taking a picture of the two of us fully dressed in the bath!’
We’re all looking forward to seeing what advancements, achievements, jokes and memories the next ten years will bring us!
I often get asked which places I would recommend for a relaxed armchair safari. Safaris can be exhausting: early mornings to catch the predators hunting, late nights watching ‘bush TV’. Having done numerous safaris and often rushing from one place to the next to make sure we know all the camps we are offering, I came to realize that a slower pace is the way to go. If clients insist on seeing many different areas they often don’t have enough time to stay three nights in each camp. In this case, I highly recommend adding the occasional ‘armchair destination’ into the itinerary, where guests can enjoy an afternoon spent in camp, watching the animals from the comfort of their lodge.
Pick #1: Meno a Kwena Tented Camp, Boteti River, Botswana
This camp has been one of my favourite places since about 2004. It is situated above the Boteti River, offering stunning views of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Its unique location guarantees outstanding game viewing from camp. All tents are built along the edge of the cliff. The best time to travel is between April and November when the zebra migration arrives along the Boteti in search of life-giving water. The camp offers an authentic San Bushmen nature walk, full-day trips into the Makgadikgadi and, for guests that stay a minimum of three nights, a sleep-out under the stars in the middle of the vast nothingness of the salt pans can be booked.
Pick #2: Nogatsaa Pans Lodge, Chobe National Park, Botswana
Nogatsaa had been on my list of camps I needed to visit since its opening. Years ago, I had been camping in this very remote part of the Chobe National Park and loved the area since then. When the owner of Ghoha Hills told me about his plans to build a safari camp in Nogatsaa I was super-excited. The camp is situated on the edge of the Nogatsaa Pans, which have water pumped into them throughout the dry winter months. The pan is one of the few reliable water sources in this harsh area, making it a hot-spot for large herds of elephants. It is the perfect spot for a relaxed armchair safari: guests don’t need to leave camp, they can watch the animals come to drink. We saw hundreds of elephants, buffalo, giraffe, roan antelope, waterbuck, kudu and even a resident baby hippo during our stay. Access to the camp is by road from Kasane; the drive takes about two-and-a-half hours.
Pick #3: Deteema Springs Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Deteema Springs opened in May 2019 and is the second addition to the Machaba Safaris’ portfolio in Zimbabwe. The camp was built on the old Deteema Picnic site, a very popular spot with Hwange visitors. The national park authorities asked that the design of the new camp incorporates the old picnic site and the architects did an excellent job. This tented camp is super-comfortable and offers amazing views over the springs and towards Deteema Dam. Guests can skip an afternoon activity and enjoy the comfort of their veranda to watch the elephants come down to drink from the fresh-water spring.
Pick #4: Savute Elephant Lodge, Chobe National Park, Botswana
The Savuti region in the Chobe National Park has been especially famous for its large lion pride, the Marsh Pride. They had to adapt to the super-harsh environment of this intriguing place in order to survive. This group of sometimes up to 30 lions have become experts in hunting elephants – a spectacle that can’t be guaranteed but one that anyone who has witnessed it will never forget. Savute Elephant offers its guests a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the environment. The hide underneath the terrace and pool offers amazing views over a busy waterhole that gets pumped all year and attracts lots of animals during the day and night.
Pick #5: Kanga Camp, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Kanga Camp lies hidden in the backland of Mana Pools National Park. Its unique attraction is the super-busy waterhole right in front of camp. The animals know that Kanga Pan is the only reliable source of water in the area and they make use of that knowledge. Guests can enjoy a delicious lunch on the main deck while watching the elephants come to drink. This authentic bush camp consists of six comfortable tents and guests get a true bush feeling in this remote part of the park.
Tucked away in the Khwai Private Reserve, Tuludi from Natural Selection has access to 200 000 hectares of land to explore… so we went exploring!
Tuludi is stunning. Every small detail has been thought of while putting the lodge together. The main area offers so many different places to sit – the problem is that they are all very welcoming so the choices seem endless! All these different seats have different views of the area surrounding the lodge.
The whole lodge, including the staff, is premier material. Food is à la carte with a good number of choices that are out of the ordinary but tasty. The rooms are spacious and restful yet romantic with outside bathtubs. The family room is stunning. In fact, the whole camp is family friendly especially with the fun addition of the slide in the main area!
The vehicles are so comfortable that no bumpy road can ruin your game drive. They also have an elevated hide overlooking water for lunches or dinners.
Comparative value and experience
Tuludi offers a chic modern style, some of it’s design elements are unique, like the bar, made of thousands of mosaic pieces – stunning artwork. This new camp has the air of a premier camp at more classic rates, it would go perfectly well with the likes of Kanana, Nxabega or Xaranna. I can also see it being combined with Ngoma Safari Lodge, Belmond Savute Elephant or the new Selinda Camp.
This lodge is definitely for clients wanting a luxury safari who love their comfort. It’s also good as an upsell for honeymooners. Tuludi is a good family camp for children aged six and over but a private vehicle must be booked in this case.
Seasonality, wildlife and activities
Tuludi is one of four camps in the vast Khwai Private Reserve. Only vehicles of one of the four camps are allowed to gamedrive in the area, making it an exclusive experience. The main source of water is the eastern-most finger of the Okavango Delta, the Khwai river, which attracts large herds of elephant and buffalo. The permanent waterholes are home to resident hippos. During rainy season the floodplains fill up, changing the landscape from open grassy floodplains to lilly-filled lagoons.