Perfect Trip: Botswana
There can be no better place to experience a safari than beautiful Botswana, says Kirsty Leyns, Botswana specialist.
Mokoro trip in the Okavango Delta
Having been fortunate enough to travel all over Africa, the one question that I am asked time and time again is “Where is the best place to go on safari?” This is always an incredibly difficult question to answer and sometimes factors such as season and budget can choose the safari destination for you. However, if you were to put me on the spot and make me pick my personal favourite, I would choose Botswana every time. If you want to truly experience a pristine natural environment, see wildlife at its best and feel utterly immersed in the wilderness, this is the country for you.
My ideal trip is a very classic safari to the Okavango Delta and the northern wetlands of the Linyanti before continuing over the border to the Livingstone region of Zambia. This is a simple itinerary, but absolutely perfect for an unforgettable, authentic safari experience!
Days 1-4: Winding waterways
Following a direct flight to Johannesburg I connect through to my onward flight to Maun in Botswana – the ‘Gateway to the Delta’. Within minutes I am airborne once again, but this time flying low so that the Okavango Delta’s waterways, islands and lagoons are easily discernible. At this altitude it is possible to spot the larger mammals from the air. Just 20 minutes later when we land I am a world away – absolute silence – just the breeze through the trees, a plethora of differing bird calls and the sound of cicadas. A guide is waiting to collect me and we set off into the bush towards the camp.
Barely five minutes later the vehicle screeches to a halt. “Elephant,” he says. “Where?” I reply, wondering how I can possibly be struggling to spot such a huge animal. “There” he says, pointing, “behind that tree.” As though on cue, the elephant saunters across the dirt track metres in front of us and casually makes its way through the undergrowth. I've definitely arrived in Botswana. I am staying at Kanana Camp built on teak decking close to the Xudum River. Being totally unfenced the wildlife is literally on the doorstep. There are guided activities early each morning and late afternoon and they are varied – game drives, a mokoro (canoe) excursion, a boat trip, a bush walk or perhaps a spot of fishing. Over the next two days I explore the concession around the camp with my guide. It is a mix of wetland areas and open plains, so the game is really varied. I track lions, learn to recognise bird calls, visit a heronry teeming with storks, and even watch a hippo grazing in front of my room. Gliding silently through the channels in a mokoro is a perfect way to see the Delta up close, and the best way to end each day is relaxing at the lodge by the campfire as the sun sets across the water.
Days 5-7: Open plains
On the morning of my departure I head out for one final game drive before returning to the airstrip for the next part of my adventure. My flight this time is a little longer, as I leave the Delta behind and continue to the Linyanti Wetlands. This is a vast area of pristine wilderness stretching between the Linyanti River and the Okavango Delta. The difference in habitat is obvious as soon as I land; here there are wide open grasslands and shady forests. I can see zebra and giraffe in the distance and again I am reminded how lucky I am to have the opportunity to see this unspoilt natural environment. For this part of my trip I am staying at Linyanti Bush Camp on the banks of Linyanti Marsh, the only water source for miles around. As I arrive I can hear the honking of hippos in the water nearby and the bark of baboons. Here, the safari activities consist primarily of game drives, night drives and walking, but fishing is also possible when water levels are high enough. I have another two days of mindblowing game viewing – the herds of elephants are bigger than I have ever come across.
Days 8-11: Zambezi heaven
This morning is my last flight within Botswana. We are heading northeast to the small town of Kasane on the border of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A driver is there to meet me as the final stage of my journey begins. We head to the border at Kazungula on the Zambezi River and I view with unease the lines of lorries and cars waiting to cross on the ferry. “Don’t worry about them,” my driver says as we walk into a building to clear immigration formalities, “You will have a quicker journey.” My passport stamped, I am ready to leave Botswana. A boat is waiting and the wide river is crossed in no time, bringing me to the shores of Zambia. From here I'm taken to my final destination, Waterberry Lodge, on the banks of the Zambezi. During my stay I visit the majestic Victoria Falls – a must see for any stay here. But the rest of my time is spent enjoying the serenity of the river – fishing, birdwatching and reflecting on the memories I will take home with me.
Day 12: Going home
The bustle of Livingstone airport is quite a shock to the system as I check in for my return flights. I will miss the wildlife and remoteness of Africa, but I know I’ll be back!