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Botswana is one of Africa’s greatest untouched wildernesses with unparalleled game viewing opportunities. We sent Becky Souissi to experience a...

Mokoro Okavango Delta

Botswana is one of Africa’s greatest untouched wildernesses with unparalleled game viewing opportunities. We sent Becky Souissi to experience a fly-in safari to Grasslands Bushman’s Lodge in the Central Kalahari and Oddballs Camp in the depths of the Okavango Delta. We asked Becky for her favourite experiences and she couldn’t wait to share them with us all.

“Travelling through Botswana is an experience I shall never forget. Everything about it, from the plane transfers to meeting the locals and of course the amazing game viewing; I doubt you’ll get a more hand’s on safari anywhere in Africa.

Once you arrive at Maun International Airport in Northern Botswana, all you’ll see are light aircraft everywhere, waiting to take you on the next stage of your thrilling adventure. Remarkably, considering the size of the country, most journeys only take between 25-45 minutes.

I have to say that the best 25 minutes of my life was sitting in a light aircraft next to the pilot flying over the wilderness, spotting elephants and giraffes and lions below. Also flying into camp was another adventure I’ll never forget. The pilot had to circle the airstrip while the ground crew below drove a jeep onto the runway to scare the animals away, particularly lions, who like to laze around in the short grass. That’s how close you are to the animals in Botswana.

Grassland Bushman’s Lodge – Central Kalahari 

This is a fascinating lodge to stay at in the heart of the Kalahari. They do their bit for the environment while visitors are encouraged to enjoy the experience at their own pace.

There are many activities to take part in too, including game drives on horseback, a beautifully natural way to discover the wildlife and such good fun. The Lodge also has a special relationship with the San, the local bush tribe that call the Kalahari their home. 

Almost immediately I was introduced to the local tribe and was soon invited to forage in the wild with the entire clan. They each take you through their tasks, from hunting, making fires, and preparing their nomadic homes, showing you how their roles vary. I learnt what plants are edible and how to find water in this semi-desert environment.

I watched as they demonstrated how they hunt wild animals for survival by using their body strength and tools, made solely from materials from the vegetation around them. They were very welcoming and encouraged me to get involved. I must confess I found it a lot of fun.

Grassland Bushman’s Lodge is renowned for its work capturing animals that local farmers would otherwise shoot, including lions and wild dogs. The animals are taken to their 10 acre enclosure next to the lodge where they feed them and then release them back into the wild, in places such as the Moremi Game Reserve. The enclosure offers the opportunity for visitors to see the predators in their natural habitat on a daily basis, and even to feed them, but this is certainly not for the squeamish.

Oddball’s Camp – Okavango Delta

My second adventure in Botswana took me to the Okavango Delta and Oddballs Camp. Bordering on the Moremi Game Reserve, the camp is only accessible by light aircraft. In fact car travel is so limited in the Okavango that your light aircraft will land only a few metres from where you’ll be sleeping that night. Solid earth is a rare commodity in this part of Botswana, it seems.

In the Okavango if you want to get around, you can either walk – or mokoro. A mokoro is a narrow dugout canoe that the locals use to traverse the wetlands, poling through the waterways much like we would punt a boat. We used them for everything on my safari; in fact access to our camp was only by mokoro.

The game viewing here is astounding. In the camp you’re alone with a few other guests and your guides. You sleep in raised luxury tents equipped with flushing toilets and showers. We had elephants quite literally parading past our doorstep.

From my perch at the camp bar I saw more elephants, hippos and even crocodiles splashing about than I had on any other safari I’ve been on. That’s probably my finest G&T moment ever.

I’ve experienced a few safaris in my time, but Botswana stands head and shoulders above the rest, particularly the ‘hand’s on’ nature of the encampments. I felt that my adventure was more than merely seeing the ‘Big Five’. Here I was introduced to the local community, and saw how they lived, I fed predators, got around in a mokoro and enjoyed amazing flights over the incredible landscape.

Also you’re not restricted to seeing the animals from the back of a jeep. They wander right past your tent. I didn’t feel like I was on safari – I felt I was part of the environment.

If I have one tip, I’d suggest you take comfortable footwear. You’re not just sitting in a 4 X 4 getting driven around; you’re walking through the undergrowth, tracking animals or stepping through water to get into your canoe. Also the mosquitos can be a problem too, so take long trousers and long sleeved shirts to keep the critters at bay.

But this is real, wild Africa. It’s a safari experience that is up close and personal – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Would you like to know more about our amazing fly-in safaris? Visit our Botswana pages for more inspiration and information on our safaris or talk to us to so we can help you arrange your next big adventure.

 

 

 

 

Written by: Becky Souissi
Posted in: Animal encounters

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