By Camilla Campbell
If anyone ever tells you not to visit Africa during the low season, don’t listen to them.
I recently returned from an eight day trip to Botswana, with my time spent primarily in the Okavango Delta. It was low season and it was dry but the wildlife was abundant and the scenery was stunning. To be honest, before this trip I wasn’t an animal person, at all, but I can honestly say that since my safari experience; my thoughts and feelings towards them (the creatures) has entirely changed. I LOVE ANIMALS!
I spent 5 days of my trip travelling around the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti checking out some of the most spectacular lodges imaginable and of course since first seeing an impala run along side us on route to our first camp; seeking out some of the wildlife which Africa is famous for.
My journey began in Johannesburg from where I jumped on a flight to Maun, the safari capital of Botswana. If you’re thinking about going on a safari in Botswana, you are pretty much guaranteed to go to Maun. After passing through immigration in Maun I was met by my safari company in the Arrivals Hall and presented with a cool towel which was really appreciated (it was about 40-degrees outside). About as soon as we were off the plane from Johannesburg, we were heading back out on another, this time it was a small 12-seater charter plane which would take us to our first camp, just a 20-minute flight away.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by our first guide and an esky full of cold drinks – you seriously don’t appreciate refrigerated beverages until you go to Africa – and headed off in our safari truck towards the lodge which was about a 20-minute drive. Some of the lodges I stayed at were about a 1-hour drive from the airstrip so I highly recommend going to the bathroom before you leave Maun, I would know. As we got closer to the lodge I began to hear this strange sound, a sort of chanting/singing and as we got closer I saw the most beautiful thing – the staff had come out to the front of the lodge and we singing for us. I couldn’t believe it! It was so mesmerising and beautiful to listen to.
This was my first true African cultural experience and this was the moment I knew that the next 4 days were going to be something really special. Out of the truck, another cold hand towel (seriously, the amount of cold hand towels I went through in 4 days was outrageous, my mother would have had a heart attack at the amount of washing that had to be done) then we headed to the main area of the lodge where we were given some snacks and drinks, briefed about what to expect over the next 24-hours, shown to our rooms briefly then we headed out on our first game drive. Over the next 5 days, I stayed at 4 different lodges and the process was more or less the same every time, except for the day where we decided not to head out on an afternoon drive, instead staying at our lodge and having a bit of relaxing alone time by our private pool. That afternoon was a tough one. I can’t recommend doing a flying safari enough. I took our small charter plane from and to each lodge and it really gave me the opportunity to see the scenery from a different perspective. It also meant that I had more time to enjoy the lodges and their facilities, which were second to none.
The guides and staff spoke about how the rainy season hadn’t started yet this year which was unusual but it did not stop the wildlife from making an appearance during game drives and hanging around the lodges – I saw four of the big five which was pretty special. Every day I saw something new and exciting, whether it was the pride of thirteen lions feasting on an impala (I hope it wasn’t the one I named Jeff,) just metres away from our safari truck, or the four metre tall elephant entering the boma (traditional outdoor campfire dinner area) and stopping just metres away from where I stood to have a drink from the lodge swimming pool, or the leopard slinking around the grasslands before climbing a tree and taking a nap in the midday heat, it was all so new, so engaging and so different. Botswana was the wildlife gift, that just kept on giving.
The guides were extremely knowledgable and you could tell that they had a genuine passion for wildlife and nature and took pride in their culture. The staff were beautiful, the food was delicious and did I mention the wildlife!? Don’t get me wrong, the wildlife isn’t guaranteed and can be unpredictable but the spectacular scenery, people and feeling will always be there. The sunrises were breath taking and the sunsets even more so. I would really love to go back there in the high season because the landscape is supposed to be completely different and even if I were to go to the exact same lodges and areas, I don’t think I would recognise them because of how different the landscape would be – I might have to have a word to my bosses about lining up a trip in the near future.
I could go on and on about how fantastic my trip was but I just wouldn’t do it justice (and I wouldn’t want to make you jealous) – you really have to see it for yourself. I couldn’t recommend a Botswana safari enough and I can guarantee that when you do go, it will be one of those true adventures of a lifetime.
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