Botswana: Conservation in Luxury
A 360,000 square mile landlocked country, with a population of 2 million people, has 17% of its territory given to parks and reserves, with a further 20% allocated to wildlife management areas. Only in the last 20 years has it become a focus for tourism: once one of the poorest nations in Africa, it is now one of the richest, thanks to the discovery of vast diamond deposits. The country side, though mostly flat, at an altitude of about 3,000ft is dramatically beautiful.
Much attention focuses on the Okavango Delta, the worlds largest inland delta, the size of Massachusetts, in the Northwest of the country. This unique ecosystem annually receives water from the Angolan highlands, gently flowing onto the sands of the Kalahari desert, covering the sands to a depth of about 18 inches. This creates superb bird and wildlife viewing, particularly from June through to October.
There are many excellent small camps and a well developed air transport system to get to them. Boating, mokoro rides, walking and land game viewing feature at most of them. Also not to be forgotten in the North of the country is the Chobe game area, Savuti and the Linyanti swamps. Access to these areas is through Maun and or Kasane. South of Maun lie the unique Makgadikgadi pans, ancient dried up lakes, and I have seldom visited a more tranquil and wild area. Access into them is by quad bikes from the excellent Jack’s and San camps.
A safari to Botswana can also conveniently link to include extension safaris in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia.
Well known lodges there include Khwai River Lodge, or Kwai River Lodge, Mombo, Kings Pool, Selinda, Kwando Lagoon Camp and Chiefs Camp and Stanleys Camp to name but a few.
There are direct flights on Delta / SAA from Atlanta and New York, to Johannesburg, or one can transit through Europe , connecting on through to Maun in Northern Botswana.
Cessna 206 over the Okavango Delta: Access to the delta camps virtually has to be by light aircraft, which provide excellent gameviewing at the same time. There are many excellent small camps, some of which offer both land and water gameviewing. From the water camps you can take mokoro rides: sitting in flat bottomed hollowed out tree trunks, you are poled along through the reeds and papyrus enjoying true tranquility, never knowing what you will come across as you round the next bend.
Jack’s camp – Makgadikgadi Pans: Heading south into the seemingly endless Kalahari, you come across a small palm treed oasis wherein nestles Jacks Camp, and nearby San camp. These luxury camps, appointed in the style of days gone by, are overseen by the late Jack Bousfield’s charismatic son Ralph.
Situated near the edge of these 4,000 sq mile pans, you will head out into these fragile pans on quad bikes- cars would sink through the crust- for a truly wild and emotional experience. In the surrounding areas a remarkable amount of game exists, especially during January through March which is the migration and flamingo season, a spectacular sight, even in the rainy season. From here you will walk out with Bushmen and share a glipse of their vanishing world, while all around you lie artefacts from prehistory; or sit under the 2,000 year old Chapmans Baoabab tree, 26 yards in girth, just as Livingstone did before you, marvelling at the vastness and timelessness of Africa.
Hippo threat display in the Okavango Delta: Hippo’s are in fact the most dangerous animal in Africa, killing more local people than any other. This is because they go inland during the night to feed on grass, returning to the water in the morning along their narrow paths.Very often they will encounter villagers returning from collecting water and firewood, and in the ensuing melee, as the hippos run for their safe haven – deep water – the villagers meet disaster. In addition to the excellent hippo and crocodile sightings, you will find vast herds of elephant, buffalo, lechwe, tsessebe and impala, as well as excellent lion, leopard and cheetah.
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