Botswana is the secret safari Africa has tucked under her belt, a place where the delta yawns, the sky floods, and the wildlife is best seen on horseback or helicopter.
Many tourists flock to Tanzania to gaze in awe at the great migration, others grab their packs to climb snow dusted Kilimanjaro, and then there are the few who want to discover the last Eden of Africa. Botswana is nothing short of climatic with its deep-water deltas, palm-fringed islands, and graceful canoes gliding past weary-eyed elephants.
Unlike the swaying grasslands of other safari destinations, Botswana breaks the mould; offering a rich variety of landscapes – shimmering salt pans, golden sand dunes, and bushlands where wild dogs roam. The Kalahari Desert is a sight that will stay with you long after you leave, and the sparse and ethereal salt pans of Makgadikgadi make you feel as though you are walking on the moon.
Alongside, the Big Five that bloom in impressive numbers across the landscape, you also have the chance to form cultural connections with local tribes. Hunting and cooking with the indigenous San people allow you a glimpse into a soon to be lost world, and leaves another imprint of Africa in your soul.
Botswana knows how to serve up luxury on a silver platter. This is a land that has built their tourism industry upon the banks of sheer, unadulterated and exclusive luxury. Lavish lodges boast outdoor tubs and four-poster beds, beautiful houseboats glide down the Chobe River, and chefs whip up five-star suppers in the wild. There is something about blending well-tailored comforts and delightful decadence with the sheer isolation that brings out your spiritual side. Discover the finest experiences you can have in beautiful Botswana.
A HORSEBACK AND HELICOPTER SAFARI COMBINED WITH A STAY AT THE BELMOND EAGLE ISLAND LODGE
Take an open-sided helicopter flight above the expansive waterways to see the dazzling delta from a new height. As you soar through the air, you may spot herds of buffalo and zebra tearing up the tracks. After you touch down, saddle up your pony and prepare to gallop across watery plains in search of elephants and zebras. Crossing the bushes, islands and floodplains, you may find yourself cantering next to a pack of wild dogs, or moving slowly in pursuit of a leopard.
Back at the Belmond Eagle Lodge, you can catch your breath in your glorious grey and gold tent, cool off in your private plunge pool, and relax on your private terrace as you admire the changing colours of the wetlands. Afterwards, dine on tender meats and chilled wines beneath a blaze of stars or duck into the fabulous Fish-Eagle bar for a nightcap.
LUXURY CAMPING ON OKAVANGO ISLAND IN THE DELTA
The Okavango Delta is one of the most astonishing spots in Botswana. The waters flow from the mountains of Angola trying to reach the Indian Ocean before being fanned by the dense palms and papyrus groves of this wild delta. Hippos wade in the waters, hyenas slink in the shadows and buffalo and giraffe stop at the banks to drink.
Enjoy this untamed setting from the comfort of the remote Duba Plains Camp. Lacy beds, outdoor sitting rooms with crackling fires, and even a media room for editing your photographs – there’s no need for camping to be rough around the edges. The Duba Plains Camp played host to the team at National Geographic when they were shooting for their wildlife-rich film – Relentless Enemies. Boating excursions along the maze-like waterways and night drives are just a couple of thrilling adventures waiting to lift you out of that relaxed reverie that comes with staying at a stunning luxury camp.
JOINING THE ELEPHANT HERD OF THE RARE AND PRESTIGIOUS ABU CAMP
Walk with elephants on a rare and splendid journey from the stunning Abu Camp. Being invited into the herd is a true honour and few have the chance to become part of the matriarchal family. Stays at the Abu Camp go beyond the simple observational safari – from mud baths to bush walks, these physical interactions will form a bond between you and your new family of gentle giants. For over twenty years, visitors have been travelling to Abu Camp with a shared dream; to meet the elephants and become part of their world. When you aren’t wandering with the herd, you can take deep game drives into the bush, journeys down river on the traditional dugout canoe, and scenic helicopter flights to get a new impression of these wet and wondrous lands from the air.
Back at camp and it’s all elegant, airy suites and copper bathtubs on the terrace. Try your hand at meditation, pick up journaling from the peace of your own writing desk, or linger over a long and winding chess game with your elephant master. When evening falls, you can sip French champagne, feast on gourmet dinners, and digest from the bliss of the star beds as you count constellations in the sky.
SKY BEDS AND STAR BATHS AT THE TINY AND ROMANTIC SANCTUARY BAINES CAMP
Romancing beneath the stars is a safari tale as old as time, but nowhere does it better than the Sanctuary Baines Camp. Beautifully built on raised platforms above the ebb and flow of the Boro River and on the borderlands of the Moremi Game Reserve, you can take a star bath on your own private deck to the soundtrack of the call of the wild.
With only five suites, this tiny camp is a sanctuary away from the world. If you can’t bear to pull yourself away from the fury of stars across the sky, you can even have your four-poster bed wheeled out to snooze beneath the moonlight. When the sun rises, you can seek out big cats and a flurry of feathers with wildlife drives through the delta. For intrepid guests, there is also the chance to walk with elephants and take a helicopter tour above the blue, gold and green heights of Okavango.
EXPLORING THE LUNAR LANDSCAPE OF THE MAKGADIKGADI SALT PANS AND A STAY AT SAN CAMP
Bolivia isn’t the only place on earth to boast the shimmering salt flats. Out in the Kalahari Desert, you will see a landscape that seems to belong to another world. The dreamy salt flats stretch for over ten thousand kilometres. Where much of Botswana is gold and green, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are sparse and harsh but not without a raw beauty. Endless horizons, epic sunsets, great migrations and stone-age sites all make for a fascinating place to experience another side of safari.
The San Camp certainly has the wow factor, making an idyllic retreat from the harsh outdoors. Expect chic tents with billowing fabrics, morning yoga in the pretty pavilion, and afternoon tea in the desert dessert tent.
WALKING SAFARI WITH THE LOCAL SAN BUSHMEN AND A STAY AT JACKS CAMP
See a different side to the scarce and sublime Kalahari Desert as you trek across the scrubland and salt pans with the local San bushmen. The San bushmen are truly fascinating figures who understand every inch of rough terrain beneath your feet. They can guide you to where the pink flamingos flock, to seek wild medicine from the parched trees, and to set traps to catch small creatures. The San people are proud of their rich heritage and won’t hesitate to show you their way of life. From visiting the grass huts and watching the women create beautiful beadwork to hunting with the tribe, this enigmatic cultural experience doesn’t come up short. Rest easy at Jacks Camp – this signature camp captures the bygone days of the safari experience. Beautiful tents beckon you in, with their cool cotton bedding, sink down soft Persian rugs, and stunning verandahs where you can sip scotch and gaze out across the pans.
TAKE A DESERT QUAD SAFARI AND STAY AT CAMP KALAHARI
Pick up the pace with an adrenaline-fueled adventure across the parched salt desert to the ancient fist of Kubi island. Scattered fossil beaches, skeletal-like baobab trees, and giant boulders surround you as you race on your quad bike across the mirage-like landscape. A team rush on ahead, ready to roll out plush beds beneath bright burning stars and cook a fabulous three-course feast to welcome you.
Combine a heart-racing quad safari with a stay at Camp Kalahari. The authentic bush camp comes with a divine dose of luxury, while still retaining a genuine, simple heart. Ten Meru tents, expertly placed across the space create an intimate environment for settling down in crisp sheets, lavishing in hot showers, and perusing the colourful well-stocked shelves of books on peaceful afternoons.
COCKTAILS ON MOMBO ISLAND
There are few finer moments in life than sipping a sundowner cocktail as a herd of zebra gallop past, leaving a plume of dust in their wake. The Mombo Camp makes the most of its divine location on Kwetsani Island – sitting in the heart of the flowing Okavango Delta and on the tip of Chiefs Island. Surrounded by stunning views of the floodplains, the camp beautifully conceptualises its surroundings – think coffee tables made from pygmy beds and porcupine lampshades.
Outside, the island is awash with wild dogs, umbrella thorns and sweet fig trees. When you aren’t sipping cocktails beneath a twinkling sky, you can plunge into the shimmering pool and take long game drives to look for sleeping lions, spotted cheetah and herds of trundling elephants. At Mombo you don’t feel as though you are part of the backdrop of Africa, you feel as though you are placed centre stage – especially when they wander through the lamplit camp, right beneath your feet.
WATCH ELEPHANTS FROM THE PLUNGE POOL
During the winter months, the Kings Pool Lagoon and Linyanti River bloom to life with the thunderous footsteps of elephants. Taking advantage of this nature-rich spot in Botswana, the Kings Pool Camp constructed a stunning space and elevated walkways, so their guests could stay safe and comfortable and well within sight of the herds. From the blue bliss of your own cooling plunge pool, you can witness elephant families passing, from rambunctious young ones to wise elders – watch the family sagas play out right in front of your eyes.
When you aren’t soaking in the pool, you can lap up the high luxury vibes of the rest of the camp. Sip wine around the elegant campfire, mingle with other guests in the well-appointed soft hued lounge or retreat to your private tent boasting its own alfresco bathroom space, and spectacular sights from the bliss of your bed.
DIVE WITH NILE CROCODILES
Those more interested in diving down into the depths of the delta for their safari experience can opt for an underwater crocodile safari. This is not a journey for newbies or the faint of heart. Experienced divers only are invited on this rare and risk-taking adventure. Available only in late May, when the Angola waters pour into the delta and flush away the tannins making for clear visibility and cooler temperatures can you dive with the Nile Crocodiles. These prehistoric beasts are far from tame, and for five days you will hunt the ragged tooth reptiles.
A medic and dive guide will accompany you on this arduous journey and there will be access to an air medevac in case of emergency. While swimming with crocs is a decision not to take lightly, the rewards are insurmountable. Few on earth will have the experience of swimming alongside these fearsome creatures in their natural habitat and few would dare. Afterwards, stay in the simple luxury of the Ikoga Island camp, with only three spacious and soft Meru tents you can rest easy in eco-friendly bliss, with thick linens, a hot shower and an evening fire – there is little more you could wish for.