Botswana is a vast and varied country, full of beautiful wildlife and stunning landscapes. It’s easy to understand why it is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. From the vein-like waterways in the Okavango Delta to the arid and desolate Kalahari Desert, the variety within this landlocked country is second to none.
Whilst the delta receives the headlines for its wonderful wildlife, there are other areas that can offer the same exceptional safari experiences in private reserves like the Linyanti. National parks such as Chobe are great for day trips and those looking for a quick in and out family safari, but they do not offer the same privacy and intimacy of the camps located in the deeper areas of the reserves.
From May the floodwater from the Angolan Highlands arrives in the Delta. After falling months before, the water traverses its way down into Botswana, creating the world’s largest inland Delta. As the floodwater seeps through the land, a dry and beige landscape is transformed into a green and vibrant ecosystem where puku splash through the shallow lagoons and the hippos honk in happiness.
Jao epitomises an Okavango Delta safari. Based in the centre of the floods, the camp is set amongst islands bordered with riverine forests and papyrus trees. It is one of Wilderness Safaris newest projects; rebuilt in 2019 the camp is one of the most luxurious safari camps in Botswana, yet being sustainable and eco-friendly was the key in the restoration.
Whilst you can do game drives during your time at Jao, being here is all about the water activities. Nothing quite compares to silently gliding through the watery channels by mokoro or enjoying a slightly faster boat safari. Following the pathways through the reeds that have been created by elephants and hippos is definitely the best way to explore the Delta and for those who enjoy birding, mokoro is without doubt the best way to find and view birds. From the wading yellow billed stork to the very elusive Pel’s fishing owl, the mokoro offers the perfect opportunity to silently glide up to these birds and observe their behaviour without the distraction of a motor.
Possibly the most famous camp in Africa, Mombo Camp sits in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Refurbished in 2019, the camp has been improved with larger rooms and more lavish surroundings. More importantly for safari goers though, is the successful reintroduction of both black and white rhino, an excellent conservation success story that will hopefully help replenish a quickly dwindling population.
Strange as though it may seem, even in the height of the floods, Mombo is a completely dry camp. Its location means it is marooned on Chief’s Island in the Moremi Game Reserve and only offers land-based activities, like game drives and walking safaris. However the game viewing here is some of the best in Africa. From denning wild dogs to exceptionally relaxed leopards, Mombo is renowned for its game viewing all year round.
Whilst no safari in the Okavango Delta is cheap, Mombo carries a hefty price tag, but that is because it prides itself on being the flagship camp for Wilderness Safaris. With the highest standards in service and hospitality, your money will certainly not be wasted!
Whilst the Delta is known to most in the travel industry, Botswana hold some secret locations that are just as impressive from a landscape and wildlife point of view and also offer some amazing accommodation options. Duma Tau and its sister camp, Little Duma Tau sit in the Linyanti Game Reserve. Situated West of the famous Savute marsh area of Chobe National Park, the Linyanti offer the same landscape and wildlife as neighbouring Chobe but without the quantity of visitors.
Since the Linyanti is a private reserve, only those staying at the camps here have access to the area meaning whilst Chobe is a National Park and has strict rules and can become very busy with numerous camps and day visitors, the Linyanti offers a more private and intimate safari experience that include night drives.
The game viewing here can be quite seasonal, with the best time to visit being between April and October when the large buffalo and elephant herds congregate in the area, drawn by the waters of the Linyanti River and the Savuti Channel. The camp itself was also refurbished a year ago and has been upgraded to a premier camp. This means a stay here will provide you a luxurious and all-round excellent experience.
In contrast to the vast watery maze of the Okavango and the often lush and vibrant Linyanti, the Kalahari is an arid and, on the surface, a desolate landscape, however any time spent here will leave you wanting to discover more.
From January through to March, the herds venture down from Northern Botswana, spilling into the Kalahari in search of the rich and nutritious grass that has sprouted from any rain that may fall. This is the best time of year to see the recently-discovered zebra migration, that is second only to that of the wildebeest in the Serengeti. From June onwards, as the dry season takes its toll, there are small pockets of game, but it is the rarely seen creatures that take centre stage. The elusive and rare aardwolf, the charismatic brown hyena and the families of meerkats can all be found here and make for some incredible wildlife experiences.
Tau Pan camp is operated by Kwando safaris and offers incredible views across the landscape. The camp utilises solar power and a state-of-the-art water waste system allows the camp to return their wastewater to the soils of the Kalahari.
Situated in the Mashatu Game Reserve, on the boundaries of the Tuli Safari Area which stretches into neighbouring Zimbabwe and South Africa, the biodiversity in the area is incredible. With hundreds of bird, mammal and plant species you can be sure a game drive in the ‘Land of Giants’ will never be boring! Located on the eastern extremes of the Kalahari, the lush and verdant grasses of the New Year deplete throughout the year and make the dry season an incredible game viewing as the animals are drawn to the limited water sources.
Whether you choose the main camp, the tented camp or the latest addition villas, your time at Mashatu will be filled with warm hospitality and excellent game viewing. It combines very easily with a South African or Botswana itinerary with daily flights and easy access to the camps.
Activities here include horse riding safaris, cycling safaris and walking safaris, however what makes Mashatu such an asset to any itinerary is the photographic hide. Overlooking a permanent waterhole, time spent in the hide will guarantee some amazing photo eye-level opportunities with any animal that comes to drink. Whether it is an impala, lion or elephant, the opportunity to get photograph at this unique angle should not be missed!
Marc Harris is Managing Director of Africa Odyssey. Africa Oydssey is run by a team of award-winning experts offering tailor-made African safari holidays.