Punt silently along Botswana's picturesque waterways in a dugout canoe, past swaying reeds and tall grasses. This placid wilderness of lagoons, grassland and flooded plains is home to huge numbers of birds and animals, including hippos wallowing in deep channels and the largest concentration of elephants in Africa.
On an island at the heart of the Okavango Delta lies the Moremi Game Reserve, boasting a range of eco-systems from grassland and woodland to waterside. In the Kalahari, vultures soar on the thermals, looking down on the Makgadikgadi with its mile upon mile of shimmering white salt pans stretching endlessly to the horizon, its sandy expanses holding only a peppering of thornbush and the odd sighting of meerkat, mongoose and hyena. This is the territory of the huntergatherer San people with their clicking tongues, wide grins and jovial spirits. Quad bikes provide an exciting way to discover the dusty pans.
Venture into Chobe National Park where the wetlands and waterways are alive with hippos, crocodiles, waterbirds, buffalos, big cats and more. For more leisurely wildlife viewing, take a river cruise on board a luxurious houseboat on the Upper Zambezi, where the river is broad and languid. Botswana is wilderness as it should be, unspoilt and unsurpassed.
The best time to visit Botswana for game viewing in the delta areas is during the dry winter season from April to October when animals are drawn to water sources. Days are warm and sunny although nights can drop below freezing – in October temperatures can be particularly hot. The Okavango area tends to be more moderate than the Kalahari where seasonal differences are more extreme and activities vary according to wet (November – March) and dry (April – October) seasons.
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For close encounters with the huge herds of elephants that come to the Chobe River to wash and drink, we recommend a two or three night cruise on the Zambezi Queen, a stylish and sophisticated river safari. Reminiscent of a deluxe boutique hotel, the boat has just fourteen cabins furnished in modern African décor with floor-to-ceiling windows leading onto a private balcony. Relax in the lounge, bar and sundeck with plunge pool and dine in the elegant dining room. Complimentary activities include water-based safaris by tender boat and fishing; an optional trip into Chobe National Park can be arranged.
The largest inland delta in the world, this is the perfect environment in which to enjoy tranquil cruises along the water channels, viewing water-adapted species such as red lechwe and sitatunga antelope from a different level. Aboard a mokoro canoe propelled by your accompanying guide, navigate along channels carved by hippos and get up close to birds and amphibians such as the tiny, spotted reed frogs. You may even see those hippos yawn when you join a sundowner cruise from a Delta camp to catch the kaleidoscopic sunsets.
For a true sense of the expanse of the Delta’s flooded plains, take to the air. Covering over 16,000 square kilometers during the peak of the flooding, this lush watery wilderness is a maze of papyrus swamps and shallow reed beds, dotted with palm islands and laced with a network of channels and lagoons. On board your helicopter, the side doors can be removed to allow for enhanced photographic opportunities as you track animals from the air and fly above the roving fish eagles. Scenic flights can be arranged from camp, with a guide to assist with animal tracking or perhaps touching down on an island for a drop of Champagne to celebrate a special occasion; alternatively, you may opt to include a helicopter trip as you move between camps.
To splash through the shallow Delta waters on horseback is to become one of the herd, the wild animals being much more accepting of a horse. Led by expert ranger guides, gallop with giraffe and antelope and track elephants as they move between islands. Our specialists can arrange a day ride from andBeyond Xaranna Camp or if interested in a full horse-back safari, a stay at Macatoo Camp.
Created in traditional East African 1940’s safari style, Jack’s Camp comprises a handful of canvas tents equipped with indoor/outdoor showers, Persian rugs, paraffin lamps, crisp cotton sheets and en suite bathrooms. Tucked away in a palm grove, the camp is known for the quality of its guides who often team up with local bushmen to provide unforgettable insights into the wildlife and ethnic culture. Head there in the dry season from April to October for an unforgettable journey across the dry Makgadikgadi Pans by quad bike. This scorched, lunar-like landscape offers a genuine desert experience – the truly adventurous being able to opt for an overnight trip, sleeping on a bedroll under the stars at Kubu Island. Enjoy an encounter with a group of habituated meerkats to see the desert through their eyes and observe their social interactions.
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