Michele enjoys Botswana wilderness – November, 2014

Michele-Makgadikgadi-SunsetMy trip to Botswana included four different areas, landscapes and experiences. I started on a private concession in the exclusive Makgadikgadi Pans, followed by the vast central Kalahari. I then headed further north of the country to the great Linyanti and finally the famous Okavango Delta.

Having visited the country a few times I thought I knew what to expect and was surprised at how blown away I was and still am by the diversity of wildlife, habitat, scenery and not forgetting the wonderful people. I was amazed by the enormous saltpans of the Makgadikgadi, which are situated right in the middle of the dry savannah fringed with the odd array of palms trees. The sunrise, sunset, infinite sky, endless stars and brilliant sunlight are all so mesmerising. The meerkat excursion is a highlight. These affable creatures scuttle about their daily routine as you watch in awe. They are very Michele-Meerkat-Two-202relaxed, if given the correct approach and they are in the right mood, and they will happily sit on your leg or even head so they can scan the terrain for any danger from a welcoming height! Other activities include quad biking on the pans, which is incredible, and if you are adventurous you could consider doing a three-night quad bike trail, sleeping under the stars on the pan. The Bushmen experience is interesting and gives you a good insight to their culture and survival bush skills.

Michele-Makgadigadi-expanseSpending a couple of days in the Central Kalahari was a big eye opener at the immensity of Botswana. I had a full day and wanted to see as much of the area as I could. I discussed with my guide a route that would take us from our location at Tau Pan Lodge, heading south-east to Piper Pan, north-westwards through to Leatihau followed by Deception Valley, Sunday Pan, through Passarge Valley and back to the lodge. Well what a day. We set off early and travelled through such varying habitat that it felt like we had changed continents. From large open grassy pans, to wild coffee fields with their beautiful white flowers in bloom, lush vegetation to arid scrub, I lost count at how many times I said how the habitat had changed again! We drove through baking hot sun and then two heavy tMichele-Giraffe-with-storm-hunderstorms, managed to see giraffe, zebra, large herds of springbok and oryx before we eventually arrived back at the lodge some 12 hours later with a perfect post storm rainbow to greet us. Suffice to say I have a great respect for the vastness of the Central Kalahari and we all slept well that night! As well as the plains game we encountered, we also managed to see lions with tiny cubs (only a few weeks old) and three cheetah in the middle of the pan – a fortuitous couple of days.

In the Linyanti a highlight was returning to the Selinda Concession to experience their fairly new camp, Selinda Explorers. The concession is very pretty and the habitat of the area is an interesting contrast of open floodplains, thick salt bush, riverine forest, and the swampland created by the spillway itself. I loved the Selinda-Explorers-Bathroom-Explorers Camp with its gorgeous setting overlooking the river and with only four tents; it offers a wonderful exclusive bush experience. The tents décor evoke memories of pioneering explorers but with modern day comforts such as large comfortable bed and solar lighting and open air attached facilities comprising of traditional bucket shower and flush loo.

Expert professional guides host a variety of activities including game-drives, canoe trips and bush walks (seasonal). The resident game is superb and in an afternoon drive we caught up with lions and their playful cubs and spent the following morning tracking a pack of 24 wild dogs which we succeeded in finding!

In the Okavango I combined a night in the Khwai Community Area of the Eastern border of the Moremi Game Reserve and two nights on private concessions north and south of the Moremi Game Reserve. The Khwai area is breathtakingly beautiful.Michele-Rainbow-Tree-202

The narrow Khwai Channel with its crystal clear water is hugged by lush riverine woodland consisting of camelthorn, knobthorn, appleleaf and great stands of leadwood trees. The river is home to large animals such as hippo and crocodiles with elephant, buffalo, waterbuck and many more often seen along the banks. Away from the river there is a mix of acacia and mopane woodland. The predator sightings are known to be excellent particularly in the dry season and in addition to game-drives, night drives and bush walks are possible. The only unfortunate downside to the Khwai area is how busy it can get with other vehicles/tourists especially in peak season. It is such a shame as it really is a magical area. My advice to include this area would be to do a couple of nights mobile camping with your own private vehicle and an excellent guide. This will give you the flexibility to stay away from the busier areas of the concession but still enjoy the area and wildlife.

MIchele-Okavango-bream-202The private concessions in the Okavango offer much more exclusivity. The two areas I visited included two ‘water based activity’ camps with limited or no game-drives available. These camps really do give you a great insight to the Delta as you explore the channels by motorboat or serene mekoro (local dugout). Bush walks on the islands are exciting, and of course, it’s always fun to include a spot of fishing!

The trip has really given me a greater passion for the country. Including the Makgadikgadi and Central Kalahari highlights just how diverse Botswana is in terms of scenery, wildlife, habitat and culture.