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Duba Plains Camp, Duba Concession

Luxury holidays in Botswana

Duba Plains Camp, Duba Concession

By Botswana specialist Alex

Let’s face it, you go to Botswana for its incredible wildlife. But, there’s another string to the country’s bow: its unparalleled exclusivity thanks to intentionally low visitor numbers and intimately sized camps and lodges. The feeling of having vast swathes of land to yourself comes as default here, and that’s exactly why I love it.

You’ll find classic luxury here, with the option to choose opulent stays where your every need is catered for. You can also discover your own style of luxury, be that the chance to try new experiences in unique landscapes, stripping back unnecessary frivolities to fully embrace nature, or seeing the natural world through the eyes of an expert guide who’ll show you how to use all your senses to read the land.

Choosing a luxury safari in Botswana

Okavango Delta
Okavango Delta

You can enjoy a luxury safari that encompasses one, all, or some of Botswana’s three key wildlife areas — the Okavango Delta, the Central Kalahari, and Chobe National Park. Each region gives you completely different landscapes to explore and wildlife to spot. They’re also dotted with a wide range of camps and lodges that we can help you choose based on the style of stay you’re looking for and the activities you want to do.

Below, I’ve shared my suggestions for luxury stays and experiences in each region to help you decide where’s right for you, but this is just a taste of what’s on offer.

Best luxury camps in the Okavango Delta

Duba Plains Camp: for traditional tented luxury

Duba Plains Camp
Duba Plains Camp
View from Duba Plains Camp
View from Duba Plains Camp

Set within the private Duba Concession, Duba Plains Camp has just a handful of expansive rooms that balance the feel of a classic safari with all the comforts of a hotel. These redefine the word ‘tent’, kitted with everything you could ever need — lounge areas, en suite bathrooms, air conditioning, indoor and outdoor showers, and private verandas with plunge pools, for starters.

The camp’s location among floodplains, woodland, and palm-sprinkled islands also gives you a wide mix of activities (some water-level dependent). You can take day- and night-time game drives to increase the variety of wildlife you can see, head out by motorboat to encounter the kaleidoscopic birdlife that flits, dives, and wades among the waterways, or glide through the channels by mokoro to fully absorb the sounds of the delta without engine noise.

There’s also the option to venture out on foot, led by a guide who’ll interpret the land and its many inhabitants. They’ll help identify smaller species you’d otherwise miss, from lizards to dung beetles. And, in-between the action, you can spend time relaxing in the camp’s communal areas, including a lounge, wine cellar, library, and a deck overlooking huge ebony trees. There’s also the option to enjoy an interactive wine-paired meal, with the chefs preparing each course in front of you while explaining the ingredients and cooking process.

Sandibe Okavango Delta Safari Lodge

Sandibe Lodge
Sandibe Lodge
Sandibe Camp, Chitabe Concession
Relaxation area at Sandibe

Sleek, contemporary, and designed to look like a curled up pangolin, Sandibe offers a luxurious stay with a playful twist. The use of local wood and traditional decor — like woven baskets and sculpted wooden tables —reminds you where you are.

Each of the 12 suites is designed to look like a golden weaver’s nest. All are en suite with air conditioning, and there’s a family suite welcoming children of any age — the lodge also offers a child-minding service and ‘WILDchild’ kids’ club to keep younger guests entertained.

When not enjoying the luxuries of your lodge (an interactive kitchen where you can get hands on with pizza making, a private massage sala, your own plunge pool…), you’ll have many opportunities to immerse yourself in the natural world as you explore with guides who know the delta like the back of their hands.

The lodge is situated in the private Chitabe Concession, bordering Moremi Game Reserve, where you can spot big cats, elephant, giraffe, and many other species on morning, afternoon, and after-dark game drives. The open 4x4 vehicles are designed around your needs, be it camera bean bags to aid photography or adjustable seat configurations to accommodate your group.

You can also seek out smaller species and learn about the intricacies of the bush on guided walking safaris, following in the tracks of wildlife big and small while soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the delta from the ground.

Zarafa Camp: for indulging your passions

Aerial view of Zarafa Camp
Aerial view of Zarafa Camp
Zarafa Camp suite
Zarafa Camp suite

Exceptionally private and exclusive even by Botswana’s standards, Zarafa Camp has just four sprawling en-suite tents — each with a plunge pool and fully stocked bar — to welcome up to eight guests at any one time. It means it’s hard to find a more personal stay, and your days can be shaped around what you want to see and do.

If you’re into photography, look no further — you’ll be provided with a professional-standard camera and lenses, and staff will download your images for you before you leave. Your tent also comes with a pair of Swarovski binoculars — I loved using these while sitting out on my deck, focusing in on the wildlife in and around the nearby Zibadianja Lagoon, from hippo to elephant to African skimmers.

If wine’s more your thing, you might like to venture to Zarafa’s wine cellar to sample their premium range of wines, or book a private dinner complete with wine pairings.

Then there’s the wildlife. Your location in the private Selinda Reserve means you could spot wild dog, elephant, big cats, giraffe, buffalo, red lechwe… the list is almost endless. Choose to explore on day- and night-time game drives or get a different perspective on walking safaris.

What I also like about Zarafa are its eco credentials. It’s made entirely from recycled wood and canvas, electricity is powered by its solar farm, and its biogas system converts vegetable scraps into cooking gas. It also runs the Great Plains Academy to support people in the local area in gaining vocational training, education, and conservation-focused scholarships.

Best luxury camps in the Central Kalahari

Jack’s Camp: for originality & old-world luxury

Jack’s Camp – Guest Tent Sitting Area
Jack's Camp
Ostriches in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana
Ostriches in the Kalahari Desert

Entering Jack’s Camp is like stumbling upon a natural history museum in a remote corner of the Kalahari Desert. Styled around a 1940s explorer camp, it’s bursting with trinkets, artworks, furniture, fabrics, and one-of-a-kind items, each with a story to tell, sourced from Botswana and further afield by the owners. I stayed for several nights and was still discovering new things to admire right up to my last morning.

The nine tents are generously sized, featuring Persian and North African rugs, brass fittings, and mahogany furniture, as well as plunge pools, bed-cooling systems, and en suites with indoor and outdoor showers. Elsewhere, there’s a swimming pool, a Persian tea tent where you can enjoy sweet treats, and a well-stocked library.

What the camp lacks in sleek, contemporary style it more than makes up for in character, and staying here opens your eyes to a different form of luxury — the luxury of enjoying new experiences. You can take day- and night-time game drives in search of rare desert-adapted wildlife like brown hyena and black-maned Kalahari lion, visit a mob of habituated meerkats, or learn generations-old survival skills on a walk with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen.

My highlight, though, was going quad-biking across the salt pans before lying out in the open to watch the setting sun make way for the countless stars.

Best luxury camps near Chobe National Park

Ngoma Safari Lodge: for privacy & sweeping views

Ngoma Safari Lodge, Chobe National Park
Ngoma Safari Lodge
Ngoma Safari Lodge, Chobe National Park
View from Ngoma

Set high on an escarpment, Ngoma Safari Lodge has wow-factor views over the Chobe River and its floodplains stretching to the horizon. And, its location in a quieter corner of the Chobe region, the Chobe Forest Reserve, means it feels more wild and private than lodges closer to Kasane town.

The eight thatched suites are built from local volcanic rock and set apart from each other to give you your own sense of seclusion. Each has a stone patio area with a plunge pool from where you can soak in the views and look out for passing wildlife. They also boast huge floor-to-ceiling windows, en suites, and an outdoor shower.

Walking safaris and day- and night-time game drives are options during your stay, but I think the real standout experience is taking boat safaris along the Chobe River, where you can see elephant in their hundreds. I saw masses of them lining the banks, rolling in mud, and swimming while holding their trucks aloft like a snorkel.

The birdlife is also plentiful — look out for red cardinals, giant kingfishers, and fish eagles. Rare antelope like red lechwe and waterbuck quench their thirst, and this is one of the only places you’ll see hippo grazing out of the water during the day.

Most of the lodge team are from the local area, and in addition to safari activities you can visit some of the nearby villages for an insight into daily life here. Your stay at the lodge helps to support these communities, including health and educational facilities.

Luxury experiences to add to your Botswana safari

Depending on where you stay, you might have the option to further enrich your safari with extra-special experiences in addition to your included safari activities.

Helicopter flights in the Okavango Delta

Elephant in the Okavango Delta
Elephant in the Okavango Delta

Regardless of which camp or lodge you choose for your safari, you might like to elevate your trip and explore by helicopter. While you’ll likely see the delta’s glittering waterways from the air when you arrive by light aircraft (the only way to access many camps), a privately guided helicopter ride lets you focus more on tracking and spotting wildlife from above with the help of a pilot-guide. You can opt for a helicopter ride when hopping between your camps, or swap a game drive for unrestricted views on a doors-off scenic flight.

Without disturbing the animals below, you’ll chopper over waterholes where elephant, hippo, and giraffe gather, see the network of ‘hippo highways’ that criss-cross the reedbeds — formed when the animals move between areas to graze at night, and could watch herds of zebra, buffalo, and impala move across the land, perhaps fleeing from a predator. It gives you a wider perspective on the ecosystem, its scale, and its natural beauty.

Luxury sleepouts

A magical experience to sleep under the stars, Skybeds
Skybeds in Khwai Private Reserve

Another option is to spend a night outside, drifting into sleep with nothing but a mosquito net separating you and the star-spangled sky. You’ll hear the different layers of animals calls, from hyena woops to owl twoots, and feel like you’re truly part of the bush.

Some camps set up temporary sleep-outs to let you experience this, but I like the permanent Skybeds — four wooden platforms set deep in the Khwai Private Reserve, each with an en suite bathroom and topped with a bedroom that’s open to the skies.

Start planning your luxury Botswana safari

Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They're just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

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