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How to combine Botswana’s desert and delta areas

The excitement levels are always high in the office when one of the sales team has a work trip to Botswana – and I am no different. The Okavango manages to blow me away with every visit; when I envisage paradise, this is it!

I last travelled to Botswana in November 2019. It was the year southern Africa had a huge heat wave and temperatures were reaching 48 degrees Celsius in the Okavango. When the locals are complaining of the heat – you know it’s hot!

This time I was travelling in mid-May, a lovely time of year with warm days but chilly mornings and evenings. The rains generally end in late March/early April, so in May wildlife viewing gets better and, traditionally, the Okavango Delta starts to flood, resulting in a pristine wetland.

This year, however, was very different and a stark reminder that the climate is certainly changing. ‘Traditional’ weather patterns are not as easy to predict as they were 20 years ago. Having travelled to Botswana in May several times, I was looking forward to seeing the mass of water and beauty that comes with it, but when I arrived many parts of the Okavango had no water at all. The lack of rain in Angola, shifts in fault lines and low rainfall resulted in a very low flood this year. Although visually disappointing, the lack of water did result in superb wildlife sightings.

VARIETY OF WILDLIFE SPECIES IN THE CENTRAL KALAHARI

I spent eight nights in country starting in the Central Kalahari and working my way north through the Okavango and Linyanti regions and finally ending in Chobe. As with most Safari Consultants trips, I moved every night, covering as much ground and as many camps as I could, visiting some new areas and properties that I had not seen personally as well as checking up on ones we already know very well.

I spent a night at Dinaka Camp, located on a large private reserve on the border of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This area of the Kalahari is vegetated and, unlike the Okavango, is a much drier part of the country and thus home to different wildlife species including Oryx, brown hyena, springbok, and Kalahari lion. Aside from wildlife viewing there are opportunities to take an educational walk with San Bushmen learning about their bushcraft skills. A highlight at Dinaka is the photographic hides, one of which is ‘bunker’ style and has you at water level a few feet away from a small waterhole. With the Kalahari being so dry, the waterholes attract good concentrations of wildlife. I enjoyed my morning coffee and rusk (or two) watching numerous zebra, impala and giraffe.

MAGICAL BOAT CRUISE IN THE OKAVANGO

In the Okavango I spent time in the south-west as well as the north. The Okavango is so breathtaking with its diverse habitats from grasslands and savannahs to wetlands and floodplains. Although the flood was very late, some areas have year round permanent water in large lagoons and river systems so water-based activities are available if you stay at the right camp.

A boat cruise in the Okavango is always a highlight, and I had a magnificent sighting on a camp transfer where we slowly cruised past two elephants crossing a water channel. We stopped at a respectful distance and they were so relaxed as they chomped their way through the waterlilies peacefully.

BIG GAME ON THE SELINDA RESERVE

I spent a night on the Selinda Reserve, a vast and beautiful wilderness between the Okavango and Linyanti water systems in northern Botswana. Selinda has always been one of my favorite areas in Botswana with superb game viewing. We saw a rare sighting of a cheetah, lions with tiny cubs as well as wonderful elephant sightings, giraffe and zebra all in just one afternoon’s game drive. The reserve’s exclusive camps offer a variety of accommodation options. Selinda Explorers Camp is perfect if you are looking for an authentic tented camp with simple but comfortable tents and a wonderful bush feel. Selinda Camp and Zarafa Camp meanwhile offer high levels of luxury. All three camps have great guides and personal service.

The last leg of my trip was Chobe National Park. I visited a few lodges along the river and stayed at Muchenje Safari Lodge. We know and have used Muchenje for many years and it was great to be back to experience their warm hospitality and stunning views. Coming from the more exclusive areas in Botswana, it is noticeable that Chobe is busier, but it does have so much to offer with excellent wildlife sightings and a boat cruise on the Chobe River always proves a highlight, especially in the dry season.

All in all, it was another great return to Botswana, a reminder of just how pristine and beautiful the country is. This trip also demonstrated how the climate is changing and affecting weather patterns, altering watercourses and diluting seasonal variances.

Michele stayed at Dinaka, Kanana, Pom Pom, Wilderness Vumbura Plains, Okavango Explorers Camp, Wilderness DumaTau, Selinda Explorers Camp and Muchenje Safari Lodge.

Michele visited Shinde, Shinde Footsteps, Xigera, Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp, Wilderness Little Vumbura, Wilderness Savuti Camp, Wilderness Kings Pool, Selinda Camp, Zarafa Camp, Chobe Chilwero and Pangolin Chobe Hotel.