8 days of luxury adventures in Botswana

Flying over the Okavango Delta in a light aircraft made for fantastic aerial views of the vast connected waterways filled with shimmering clear water and the luscious shades of green. As we approached the Oddballs airstrip, we were bubbling with excitement to explore this beautiful wilderness.

Upon landing we were greeted by the manager in an old Land Cruiser and driven a short distance to the camp. In the winter months, when the water levels are highest, it is possible to be transferred to the camp in traditional dug-out canoes (mokoros).

 

view from room

view from room

Delta Camp is located on a small island in the heart of the Okavango Delta. The rooms are built from reeds and designed to take advantage of the many indigenous, old-growth trees of the island forest. Most rooms have trees growing through a roof or a floor, the windows have no glass, and rooms are elevated onto a deck, to minimize our disturbance of the earth and vegetation below. I loved

our room

our room

the feeling of staying in the forest, feeling as close to nature as possible. Because the rooms are open to the elements you can hear all the noises of the wild. Our room had a resident genet (small cat like mammal) living in the tree below and as they are nocturnal creatures we heard it scrabbling around, preparing to go and hunt as we went to bed each night.

 

inside our room

inside our room

Each room is en-suite with hot and cold running water, mosquito netting and solar-powered electric lighting. The rooms are spaced apart, so you have a great feeling of privacy. Staying at Delta Camp is a wonderful experience; the rooms feel luxurious whilst also blending in to the landscape and the staff are fabulous. Although the vibe at the lodge is relaxed, the staff work extremely hard to fulfil all your needs. As all food & drinks are included in the overnight rate there is a help yourself policy at the bar in the lodge – with a large chest fridge full of soft drinks, beers & white wine, a cabinet of premium spirits and a rack full of delicious red wines – all tastes are catered for.

our guide Vee

our guide Vee

We were introduced to our guide Vee, who would be our own personal guide for the duration of our stay. Each guide comes from the local village, meaning that they have grown up and spent the majority of their lives in the area, giving them excellent knowledge and skills to give you the best possible experience.

 

 

 

As the geography of the land makes it impossible to drive vehicles around the area, activities for guests are undertaken on foot andmokoro-view by mokoro. Early morning and late afternoon walks give a different experience to game drives in a vehicle and gives one an opportunity to take in the smaller details that you may not notices from being in a vehicle. It’s also a lot more peaceful.

There are obvious potential dangers of being on foot without the refuge of a vehicle, but I felt reassured that Vee has walked around this area his whole life and knew how to keep us safe. The guides don’t carry guns; and I felt happy about this, I hate the thought of any wildlife being shot because we want to take a walk through their habitat. I am not aware of any serious incidents occurring to tourists walking through the area.p1060416

Our afternoon activity began with a ride in the mokoro, which was very peaceful and taken at a leisurely pace. The waterways are shallow and so the mokoro is propelled by a long pole, pushing along the bottom, requiring good balance. Sitting so close to the water level offers an interesting perspective; I enjoyed being at the same level as the waterlily flowers and seeing the various creatures perched on them including colourful frogs, butterflies and dragonflies.

p1060431We took a short walk around to see if we were able to spot any wildlife. We saw a few impala in the distance and we spotted the largest termite mound I have ever seen!

Our excursion lasted around 2 hours and we returned in time to have a shower before going to the main deck for sunset. Having a drink, watching the stunning view of the sun go down over this beautiful wilderness, we heard some splashing and suddenly the silhouette of an elephant came into view. He walked past nonchalantly, keeping his distance. It was the perfect end to the day.

Dinner is served at a large dining table, where guests can swap stories of what they have seen during the day. All dietary needs can be catered for with advance notice; dinner is served as three set courses. On our first evening we enjoyed crepes with ricotta and spinach, wonderful Botswana beef with potatoes, vegetables and gravy and a fantastic chocolate mousse. The food would not have been out of place in a top London restaurant; considering that all ingredients have to be flown in and the lodge does not have mains electricity, the dishes that we were presented were absolutely astonishing.

When it was time for bed we were escorted back to our room by the staff, as there could be wild animals around such as hippos or elephants – quite a thrilling feeling!

The next two days followed the same pattern, we were woken at around 6:30am and p1060465given a quick breakfast snack and tea and coffee. Vee then took us out for a morning walk, starting with a short mokoro ride. After a 2 hour walk, before the sun gets overbearingly hot we were welcomed back to the lodge with a delicious cooked breakfast. The rest of the day was our own to relax. Lunch was served in the main lodge and included an elaborate cheese board with delightful imported cheeses. Around 3:30pm afternoon tea was served and then we went out for our afternoon walk, returning in time to freshen up and be ready for sundowner drinks.

p1060487During our walks around the delta we saw lots of different wildlife including large herds of impala, kudu, elephants, zebra, wildebeest, tsessebe, warthogs and hippos.

We also visited the local village where the guides from Delta Camp live. Being guided by Vee around his village, seeing his house and meeting his friends and family was wonderful.  The majority of the residents of the village have lived there their entire lives and pretty much all of them have never left the Okavango Delta. Many of thevillage houses are built with mud and using empty aluminium drinks cans as supporting bricks – absolutely ingenious! The roofs are thatched from dried grass. We were welcomed with friendly smiles and the children were eager to show us around.

mokoro-1We also came across the work in progress of a traditional mokoro hand carved from a whole sausage tree trunk. It takes over a full week to carve one of these dug-out canoes from scratch. Additionally we saw an old carcass of an impala high up in a tree, where a leopard had taken it to feast on.

We could have happily stayed longer at Delta Camp, it was such a relaxing and beautiful lodge and I absolutely loved being there. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. But alas, we had onward plans, so we went to the air strip and boarded our small plane to Savuti Airstrip. The flight took around an hour and 15 mins, and upon landing we could see that the terrain was different from the Delta; large sprawling plains where the land was drier and the ground more sandy.p1060599

We were met at the airstrip and taken in an open sided land cruiser to Camp Savuti. On the way we encountered a large herd of elephants, some zebra & wildebeest and then our driver was informed that some lionesses had taken down a zebra so we zebra-kill-1took a detour to go and see. The pride of lionesses were resting in the shade keeping a beady eye on their kill. We agreed to return to the spot later on our afternoon game drive. We arrived at the lodge to find that we were the only guests staying for the next 4 days; what a treat to have the entire place to ourselves! We were given a warm welcome by the staff singing a greeting song to us along with cold towels and a refreshing juice.

 

outside-tentThe camp consists of 5 meru style tents on raised platforms and a main lodge building with a bar, lounge area and dining area. The tents are fitted out with carpet, a king size bed or twin beds, an en-suite bathroom with hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, a bath and an outdoor, open air shower. A real plus is that the tents also have full air camp-savuti-roomconditioning, which in the scorching summer months is an absolute blessing.  The lodge is adorned with African-inspired woodwork, cattle skin rugs and arts & crafts.

The tents are arranged to overlook the Savuti Channel, which began flowing again in 2005 after being dry for a period of 28 years.

elephantOn our first afternoon game drive we set off to go back to the pride with their zebra kill. On the way we encountered more elephants, lilac breasted rollers, guinea fowl, giraffe, zebra and a recent arrival to the area – a coalition of 5 male lions who are interlopers to the area and attempting to take over the territory. The lionesses were still resting in the shade near their zebra kill, so we left them to it and after seeing some more giraffe we stopped for a sundowner – some beers and snacks and watched the gorgeous sunset before heading back to the lodge for dinner.

As we went to bed that evening we heard lions roaring and hyenas whooping; it was very exciting to hear these iconic sounds whilst inside our tent.

main-campEach day we rose early for a morning game drive, returning for a delicious cooked breakfast and then some time to rest in the hottest part of the day. A light lunch was served around 1pm and then an afternoon tea before the evening game drive. There was then time to freshen up before drinks and dinner. We found the food to be excellent, with three courses prepared for each dinner served with wine.

hyena-zebraThe game drives were the real highlight of our time at Camp Savuti with a large variety of game in abundance. It was fascinating to visit the site of the zebra kill day after day. On our second morning the pride had evidently gorged overnight and were nowhere to be seen, but whilst we were looking a nervous hyena arrived and began to eat from the carcass right in front of us, soon a second hyena arrived and they took turns keeping watch for the lions. Once they had had their fill they went into the channel to bathe, it was lovely to watch; they did not seem to be bothered by our presence. The following day we saw that the carcass had been picked clean vulture-carcassby vultures leaving only the bones and on our final day we saw that the majority of the bones had been eaten by hyenas and only a few pieces remained. It was absolutely fascinating to see all of the stages in person instead of on the TV.

Other notable highlights for us included spotting a leopard, an elephant walking through the camp and splashing through the channel whilst we lionwere sitting out on our veranda, visiting giant baobab trees, ancient rock carvings and a very long encounter with the 5 male lions who having evidently just gorged themselves were laying on the track and allowed us to photograph and watch them for over 90 minutes. During most of our game drives we didn’t encounter any other vehicles and it truly felt like we had the whole National Park to ourselves! We were joined on one drive by some guests who were camping at the campsite owned by the lodge, they were fun and friendly and it was nice sharing our experience with them. Our guide Gabana was absolutely brilliant and as we were the only guests it was a pleasure having him as our own personal guide!

zebrasList of wildlife seen whilst at Camp Savuti – elephant, zebra, giraffe, lion, leopard, banded mongoose, black backed jackal, spotted hyena, wildebeest, impala, kori bustard, lilac breasted roller, guinea fowl, red and yellow billed hornbills, oxpeckers, cape glossy starling, vultures, hyenasouthern carmine bee-eaters, ground hornbill, cape buffalo, kudu, warthog, boomslang, brown snake eagle, waterbuck, comb duck, ostrich, steenbok and francolin.

I was genuinely very sad when it was time to leave Camp Savuti; our stay had been fabulous – the staff were gracious, friendly and conscientious, the food was delicious and the game viewing had been outstanding. I could have spent another week there, it was a wonderful routine of game drives, eating, afternoon naps and sundowner drinks – I was in African heaven.

 

OTHER INFORMATION

Weather

July to October – dry season – Winter

It can be cold at night and in the mornings – average 6˚C in mornings and evenings and average 28˚C daytime temperatures.

There is less vegetation and animals concentrate around waterholes and rivers, making wildlife easier to spot. The skies are clear, rain is rare and there are fewer mosquitoes.

April to June – mid season

Short afternoon rain showers are likely. Temperatures between 20˚C and 28˚C.

November to February – wet season – Summer

Very hot and rain can be frequent. Average temperatures of 20˚C minimum and 33˚C maximum.

The scenery is greener and wildlife can be harder to spot although you are still likely to see plenty.

Mosquitoes are prevalent.

 

Delta Campdelta-room

  • Hosts a maximum of 16 guests in 7 chalets
  • One chalet is a ‘treehouse’
  • Serviced by Delta Camp Airstrip – a 20 minute flight from Maun, 50 minutes from Kasane, and 15-30 minutes from most other camps
  • Activities include walks and mokoro rides (no game drives in vehicles)
  • No electricity in rooms – batteries can be charged in main lodge only

 

Rates

All food & drinks included as well as your own personal guide

  • Green (off peak) season from Dec to Mar – rooms from US $495 per person sharing
  • Shoulder season from Apr to Jun & Nov – rooms from US $730 per person sharing
  • High (peak) season from July to Oct – rooms from US $885 per person sharing

 

What to pack

Comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, light cotton shirts, long trousers & shorts (neutral colours), pack warm clothing during June, July and August for the cold morning game drives, torch, camera, binoculars.

 

Camp Savutbathroom-savuti

  • Hosts a maximum of 10 guests in 5 tents
  • Camp Savuti is accessed via light air transfer, 40 mins from Maun or Kasane. The camp is also accessible by road.
  • Activities take place in 4×4 safari vehicles and on foot (optional)

Rates

All food & drinks included as well as your own personal guide

  • Green (off peak) season from Dec to Mar – rooms from US $420 per person sharing
  • Shoulder season from Apr to Jun & Nov – rooms from US $535 per person sharing
  • High (peak) season from July to Oct – rooms from US $635 per person sharing

 

What to pack

Sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, light cotton shirts, light comfortable clothing in neutral colours, pack warm clothing during June, July and August for the cold morning game drives, torch, camera, binoculars.

 

INFORMATION ABOUT BOTSWANA

  • Population of approx. 2 million
  • Official language is English but Setswana is widely spoken
  • Currency is the Pula – at the time of writing ex rate is approx. 13 Pula to £1 and 10.5 to US $1
  • It is advised that you drink bottled water or filtered water provided by lodges
  • Vehicles drive on the left hand side of the road
  • There are 4 international airports in Botswana – Maun, Gaborone, Kasane and Francistown