My Safari to Botswana
A trip report from my Botswana Safari…
A report from the Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pans
This was my first safari since February 2020, so I was super excited to head back to the bush……..
This was my first safari after almost 14-months and so I was extra excited to be heading back to the bush. I had heard that due to exceptionally high rain fall in Botswana and the Okavango Delta catchment area, that the water levels were at some of their highest they had been for many years….this was going to make my Botswana Safari even that much more special. On this safari, I would be visiting some new camps and lodges I had not seen before, as well as see some newly rebuilt and refurbished camps.
I had my Covid-19 PCR test done 2 days before departing for Maun, giving me enough time to collect the results before my flight. Cape Town International Airport was not very busy and so check-in was a breeze and aside from having my temperature checked, there were no other delays as a result of Covid. At check-in they checked my PCR test results and before Emigration I had to complete a health form, but apart from that everything went very smoothly. On arrival in Maun, everyone has an additional Covid-19 Rapid Test done (for free) and once the results (about 15 minutes) are cleared you proceed through to Botswana Immigration and Customs. The newly rebuilt Maun Airport is looking good, although there are still some things they are still working on, but it is a huge improvement from the old airport.
I was met as I came through into the arrivals hall and was assisted to my next flight to the far north of Botswana, to one of our favorite wildlife reserves, the Kwando Reserve, renowned for its exceptional game viewing. The Kwando Concession is one of the biggest private reserves in Botswana, yet they only have 2 safari camps, making this one of the most exclusive safari experiences in Africa.
Kwando Lagoon Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
I started my Botswana safari with 2 nights at Kwando Lagoon Camp in the north of the concession. The setting was stunning amongst large ebony trees and overlooking a hippo filled lagoon of the Kwando River. One of the unique things about a safari with Kwando is that they have a guide and tracker team one every vehicle. This just adds an additional safari experience as the tracker can see animals prints in the road and also keep an eye out for animals and the guide can focus on the guest experience. The guide and tracker team really comes into their own, when you come across wild dogs that are on the hunt and having the extra pair of eyes keeping an eye on the dogs as they move, with speed through the bush after their quarry.
The area of Lagoon Camp is mixed habitat of open grasslands, leadwood woodlands, riverine woodlands, rivers, lagoons, and pans. This means the wildlife that are resident in the area are just as varied. Over the course of 2 days, we saw so many different animals from sable, roan, elephant, lion, eland, giraffe, buffalo and so much more. We saw lots of wild dog activity as they were in search of a den, but unfortunately on this occasion, we did not get to see them.
Splash Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
From Lagoon Camp I headed south to the Okavango Delta and the next part of my Botswana Safari. The Kwara Concession is a large private reserve on the northern edge of the Okavango Delta with access to great wildlife as well as the wetlands of the Okavango Delta. This makes the camps here perfect for someone who only time to visit one area within their Botswana Safari…..here you get the best of both worlds. I stayed at the new Splash Camp which is a great option for anyone looking for a luxury wildlife safari to Botswana. Whilst staying at Splash Camp, I also visited the newly rebuilt Kwara Camp. Kwara is a little more luxurious and appeals to honeymooners or anyone looking for a more refined safari lodge. Kwara does not allow kids under the age of 18 and they only take 4 guests per vehicle on their safaris.
Whilst at Splash Camp, we had exceptional game viewing including seeing lions and wild dogs on every game drive. Again, the guide and tracker team worked well and were able to spot animals that we couldn’t. The highlights of our safari at Splash Camp included seeing mating lions, watching wild dogs on the hunt (unsuccessful) and then watching a lioness move her 3, 3-month-old cubs across a shallow channel.
The habitat of the Kwara Concession is also mixed with mopane woodland, riverine woodland, grasslands and typical Okavango Delta lagoons, wetlands, pans and rivers. Being a private concession means we can drive off-road to follow or track animals, we can enjoy night game drives and certain times of the year, guests can enjoy walking safaris. Whilst on our safari at Splash Camp, we enjoyed morning, afternoon and night game drives as well as a boat trip through the waterways of the Okavango Delta.
Kwara Camp or Splash Camp are exceptional camps and will suit anyone looking for an amazing wildlife safari to the Okavango Delta.
Kadizora Camp, Northern Okavango Delta, Botswana
From Splash Camp I flew even further up the Okavango Delta to Kadizora Camp. On arrival we were met by the resident elephant that was busy feeding on the marula fruits that had fallen right by the main deck. Kadizora is a little more rustic in style, but still very comfortable. The tests are being rebuilt which will make a big difference.
The area is at the very north of the Okavango Delta and also offers both land and water activities for guests. Game viewing is exceptional with excellent lion, leopard and wild dog sightings through-out the year. Whilst on our safaris at Kadizora, we saw lions and wild dogs on most game drives. We even found the wild dog den with the alpha female staying guard. The pups are still too young to leave the den, but we did see the rest of the pack after they had been on a successful hunt. For someone looking for a good value for money safari to Botswana, Kadizora is an excellent option.
Jacks Camp, Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana
One more stop on our Botswana safari and this was out in the Makgadikgadi Pans east of Maun. We had a long flight via Maun but arrived at the newly rebuilt Jack’s Camp on the edge of the salt pans. I had stayed at Jack’s Camp a few years back and so it was great to see and experience the new camp and wow what a transformation. They have kept the history and style of the old camp but have rebuilt the guest tents and main area. The tents are now enormous and are side on maximizing the view out over the pans. Each tent now has a large lounge, bedroom, ensuite bathroom with indoor and outdoor shower as well as an expansive deck and private plunge pool.
I love the Makgadikgadi Pans and the experiences guests can have and feel it is one of the most under-visited areas on a Botswana Safari. The arid landscape and experiences of the Makgadikgadi Pans really compliment the wetlands of the Okavango Delta and so combining both areas on a Botswana Safari works really well.
Due to the excessive rainfall this past season most of the pans were full of water which attracted flocks of flamingos and other water birds. This also meant that driving out onto the saltpans had to be done with extra care as the waterlogged pans are often covered by a dry crust of salt which often breaks under pressure. We had a goal of finding one of Africa’s least known carnivores, the brown hyena. The Makgadikgadi Pans is one of the best places to see these scraggy looking animals. We set out in search of this unique animal and within a couple of hours our guide had spotted a youngster relaxing at the edge of its burrow. We approached with caution and soon found her to be very relaxed which allowed for some incredible photo opportunities.
One of the real highlights of a stay in the Makgadikgadi Pans at any of the 3 camps (Camp Kalahari, San Camp or Jack’s Camp), is the opportunity to spend time with a group of habituated meerkats as they emerge from their burrows in the mornings. As they emerge from their burrow they will often snuggle up to guests for extra warmth and they will often use guests as a vantage point to keep an eye out for predators. The great thing about this experience is that the meerkats come to you and it is on their terms. Guests are forbidden from touching the meerkats.
On one evening, all the guests head out into the Makgadikgadi Pans on quad bikes riding out far enough that you are unable to see any of the trees, so the pans just stretch out as far as you can see. The complete isolation and big blue skies is overwhelming and makes you realize just how small we are in this vast world. Being so far from any cities makes this one of the best places in the world for star gazing. At times, the stars can be so bright, that even without the moon you can see your own shadow on the pans.
Now is the time to travel
All in all, my safari to Botswana was a huge success as I got to see some new camps and areas as well as see some of the camps that had been rebuilt.
Travelling during Covid-19 was a breeze and most of the camps were half-full, so everyone had plenty space to enjoy the wilderness without worrying about catching this dreaded virus. All the staff at the camps wore facemasks and there were plenty hand sanitizers around for guests to use. Twice a day, the camp manager would check guest temperatures and check for any symptoms.
Now is definitely the time to travel and experience Africa as it was 20 years ago and at a fraction of the normal rate.
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