Category Archives: Botswana

The 2019 wish-list (continued): bedazzled by Botswana

Thinking of a holiday to Botswana? Here’s what you need to know!

Botswana, in a nutshell offers:

  • small camps, most often in private concessions
  • a range of activities  including 4×4 safaris, walking, horse riding, canoeing and boating, fishing, birding, mobile/fly camping
  • a fantastic array of wildlife, including the opportunity to see many rare and endangered species
  • diversity of landscape –  combine the arid salt pans of the Kalahari Desert with the islands and channels of the Okavango Delta

Five Rivers Bots NxaiPan2Also in Botswana’s favour is the negligible time change – it’s just GMT + 2 hours.

For those seeking some R&R pre or post Botswana safari we recommend the beautiful river lodges close to Victoria Falls but there are additional options, depending on budget, for example you can combine Botswana and South Africa very easily.

K&D Bots sundownersBotswana Okavango Delta smallThe question of budget

If you are looking for pristine wildlife areas to explore with very few other guests and vehicles, along with quality guiding and lodging then Botswana delivers. This is a destination which prides itself on low density, high quality eco-tourism.

Travelling out of high season (the dry winter months of July to September when wildlife densities are at a peak) will give you access to lower rates. Best rates and availability can be found during the Green Season (lush summer months of December to March), although not all camps are open throughout this period.

Safari packages are all-inclusive,  from food and drink, activities and guiding to your laundry so the cost of your holiday is all paid before you leave home.

You can see further sample safari itineraries and explore price guides here.

shutterstock_203430058Getting there

Botswana’s reputation for exclusivity comes largely down to accessibility – small luxury camps/lodges hide away in wonderfully remote locations and many are only accessible by light aircraft/helicopter, either from the main gateways of Maun and Kasane or as inter-camp transfers, which we arrange for you as part of a safari package.

There are currently no direct flights to Botswana – the vast majority of our clients fly direct to Johannesburg in South Africa, from where there are good reliable connections with SA Airlink on to Maun or Kasane. As a very rough guide, you should budget c£675-£1100 per person for economy flights via Johannesburg to Maun, depending on season, availability and special offers.

It is also possible to arrive into Victoria Falls with c3 hour road transfer to the Chobe lodges,  via Kasane. Because Chobe is accessible by road it is the most popular (and the most economical) of Botswana’s key attractions.

 

Zarafa_GuestTentExteriorSunset_May2009 XUDUMa-botswana-safari-at-andbeyond-xudum-okavango-delta-lodge-23.jpg.950x0 WEBshinde leopard cubs ker and downey mar 15Why Botswana excels as a safari destination

Private Concessions – low density, high quality safari experiences

Visitor numbers are strictly limited in private concessions. Individual camps normally have less than a dozen or so camps/rooms. This means very few vehicles, minimal erosion/vehicle tracks in the bush and little environmental impact. These factors all contribute to the quality of guest safari experience.

Conservation 

Botswana has enjoyed more than 50 years of independence and in this time it has stood out for its consistent commitment to conservation and eco-tourism, particularly in the last decade with the leadership of President Ian Khama.

Khama, a keen conservationist,  introduced a ban on sport hunting in 2014 to help safeguard large species, however the policy is being reviewed by the new President.

Botswana has shown that given space and safety, rare species thrive, including critically endangered black rhino, wild dog,  black maned Kalahari lion, lechwe, puku, sitatunga, pangolin and aardvark.

  • Spotlight on Black Rhino

The ambitious rhino relocation to the Okavango Delta is just one compelling reason to travel to Botswana. The Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern edge of the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta and the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site, is now a place that guests can see all the Big Five once again thanks to the efforts of conservation partners.

It’s a real privilege to be able to observe black rhino in the wild with only around 5,000 remaining in Africa. Guests can add a new dimension to their travels by enjoying a behind-the-scenes conservation experience – at certain camps it is possible to meet rhino monitoring teams to learn more about the rhino’s return to the Okavango.

Through our Explorers against Extinction charity campaign we have supported the work of Rhino Conservation Botswana, funding and equipping two rhino protection dogs, Primaa and Savas.

WWDumaTau_2014-06-99 GameDriveEles CGL 10134 MokoroGuests Xak 10392Activities

A fantastic diversity of activities from 4×4 game drives, by day and night, to walking and horseback safaris and boat excursions help guests get under the skin of Botswana.

Float serenely by mokoro down the Okavango Delta’s maze of papyrus edged channels, safari in Chobe National Park, dubbed ‘Land of Giants’ where more than 120,000 elephants roam, canoe the remote Selinda Spillway, fly camping on deserted islands as you go, walk with San Bushmen in the desolate Kalahari, the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, marvel at magical starry southern skies, visit the mysterious Savute region or witness the zebra migrations from the Chobe River and the border with Namibia to Nxai and Makgadikgadi pans,  the longest-known terrestrial wildlife migration in Africa.

Desert or Delta?

The ideal safari combines both desert and delta experiences.

The vast Kalahari Salt Pans include Tau Pan, Nxai Pan, Makgadikgadi and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. As a general rule these areas start to blossom following the summer rains which tend to arrive in November/December time and last until March.

The Delta encompasses the Okavango, Chobe and Moremi and can be visited year-round although wildlife densities peak in the winter months of July-September as the water sources dry up. Most of our guests travel between April and October.

Chobe is split into three main areas (Riverfront; Savuti and Linyanti). The Riverfront and Forest Reserve (above the river) can be accessed very economically by road from Kasane (as noted above). Most other destinations are accessed by light aircraft transfer.

Safari inspiration

To explore a whole range of different safari holidays in Botswana, as well as those combining Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia with Bostwana please click here.

Camps/Lodges

There are many different camps/lodges – you can stay in seasonal mobile camps with a real stripped back ‘explorer’ feel, permanent tented camps or more traditional lodge style accommodation with thatched/reed roofs, doors and windows – some of these will also offer air-conditioning.

Combining the camps/lodges of one ‘brand’ into a circuit tends to offer best value – these include but are not limited to Ker & Downey, Kwando, Desert & Delta, Wilderness, Great Plains, Under One Sky, African Bush Camps, Machaba.

Splash-Camp_Pool kadizoraballoon_crop600x400 Cheetah Moremi K&D IMG-20170129-WA0028-800x533What’s new in Botswana going into 2019?

Splash Camp opened in 2018 and is the newest addition to the Kwando family of camps (Lagoon, Lebala, Kwara, Little Kwara).

Ker & Downey’s Kanana Camp will re-open in April 2019 with a brand new look. The camp is currently enjoying a refurbishment. Dinaka opened in 2018 giving guests the option of combining properties in the Okavango (Okuti, Kanana, Shinde) with the Kalahari (Dinaka).

Wilderness has been busy expanding and enhancing its portfolio in Bostwana, particularly its Premier Camps. Jao Camp is the latest to receive a makeover and will be upgraded complete with new Jao Villas, opening in June 2019.  Mombo/Little Mombo  unveiled its brand new look last year in addition to luxurious King’s Pool, Linyanti. At last count there were over 20 Wilderness camps in Bostwana giving incredible choice at this luxury level.

Machaba Safaris are a new addition with Machaba, Gomoti Plains and Sable Alley.

Hot air ballooning is brand new for the Okavango, from Kadizora Camp.

We also have some fantastic new family safari options including a trip with Kwando, staying in family configured tents. Other family options include Desert and Delta and Ker & Downey (both offer 2 bedroom tents/units). These are great for families with children over 7 years old.

Explore Botswana in more detail using our information pages here.

Speak to someone with first-hand experience and in depth knowledge – call 01603 964 730 or email paul@realafrica.co.uk

To see our excellent client reviews please click here.

Coming next…Zambia.

 

The joy of Private Conservancy Safaris

 

DSC_6229Mara DSC_6236

There are so many safari options, it can be tricky working out what’s best for you. Here we look at the joy of private conservancies and how they differ from a national park/reserve experience.

Mara DSC_6446Private Conservancies vs National Park Private conservancies are privately owned and run conservancies or reserves which tend to be located just outside the main national park or reserve. To maintain migration corridors national parks (like Kruger in South Africa or the Masai Mara in Kenya) are unfenced wilderness areas allowing for the free movement of wildlife.

National parks are managed by local councils and government bodies who are responsible for monitoring wildlife, anti-poaching, security and maintaining roads and facilities. Lodges are usually quite large to accommodate demand and visitor numbers are not usually limited. In peak seasons there can be a high density of vehicles. There are strict rules in the national parks – drivers must keep to designated trails and safaris can only be enjoyed between sunrise and sunset.

Private conservancies in contrast,  work in partnership with the local community landowners. Because they are owned and managed privately, visitor numbers are strictly controlled. In Mara North in the Masai Mara for instance there is one guest on average to every 350 acres.  Camps and lodges tend to be small so guests see very few other vehicles compared to the national park.

There are significant benefits of the private conservancy model for both the visitor and the local community:

  • Environment Private conservancies protect important ecosystems, for example the Greater Mara Eco-System in Kenya and the Okavango in Botswana. They help to stop the degradation of these eco-systems, conserving wildlife and bio-diversity and allowing the habitat to recover.
  • WWDSC_5360Community Local people are able to earn an income from eco tourism and wildlife conservation. In Kenya, Maasai landowners are able to benefit directly from working in partnership with camps and lodges, being paid a ‘bed night’ fee for every guest staying.  In South Africa’s Greater Kruger the conservancies operate in the same way – collaborating with the local communities.
  • Eco-tourism Private conservancies champion low density responsible travel. In a nutshell this is the best way to safari without the crowds.

Serian Lion Cubs DSC_6888The exclusive private conservancy safari experience

Private conservancies are often accessed by light aircraft flight, served by their own airstrip. Flying-in helps to maximise your holiday time and gives you a wonderful bird’s eye view in the process.

Guests can enjoy a wide range of activities. These include 4×4 safari, night drives, walking, bush dining and sundowners on the plains. You don’t have to be back in camp by sundown so you can enjoy the conservancy to the full – stopping for a gin and tonic at sunset or heading out on a night drive with flashlights after supper.

Private conservancies offer a quality, low density experience.  Instead of large lodges you can stay in small tented camps/lodges. You’ll see fewer vehicles and enjoy better quality game viewing.

You can get closer to the action. It’s good safari etiquette for guides to stick to trails to prevent grass erosion, however in private conservancies should you come across something exciting, like these gorgeous lion cubs,  you can go off road to observe more closely – something you are prohibited to do in a national park.

You can safari in the knowledge that your stay will be benefiting the local community and contributing to wildlife conservation.

Mara DSC_6556Focus on Mara North, Kenya

The Mara North Conservancy offers 64,000 acres of prime wilderness situated immediately to the north-east of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and works in partnership with local Maasai landowners. In MNC, there are eleven member camps. Each is represented by a land management committee. The committee meets monthly with the Maasai Landowners Committee representing over 800 Maasai landowners, who have opted to lease their land for conservation. The MNC is one of the largest community and private sector owned conservancies in the world and this is the first time many Maasai have been able to receive a direct income from wildlife.

Crucially, all the camps in the private conservancies promote low density tourism. This ensures an exclusive safari experience and minimal impact to the environment and its wildlife. This is the same across Eastern and Southern Africa.

Take your pick from Olare Motorogi and Mara North to name just two of many fantastic conservancies in the Masai Mara, Chyulu Hills on the edge of Tsavo and Amboseli or undiscovered Kalama or Sera north of Samburu. Kenya has many wonderful conservancies to choose from.

Explore Kenya safaris

Tanzania also offers wonderful private conservancies including five star Singita. Further south you can enjoy legendary Selinda or Linyanti in Botswana’s Okavango among many other excellent choices, Linkwasha in Zimbabwe’s Hwange, Ongava in Namibia, or Sabi Sands and Timbavati in South Africa’s Kruger. Private conservancies offer guests the chance to get off the beaten track, for example Tswalu Kalahari also in South Africa, or Namunyak in the Mathews Range of northern Kenya.

 

 

 

St Valentine’s Day Ideas

It’s Valentine’s Day this week and we have some great ideas for those of you who are stumped for a good gift or looking for a truly romantic gesture.

Kenya is home to a truly Out of Africa experience and as this year sees the 30th anniversary of that wonderful film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford we think it’s perfect for a Valentine’s Day celebration. If you haven’t got time to get there this year then maybe you could book it now for a trip later in the year – after all who doesn’t like to receive a pair of tickets to a romantic destination as a surprise?

We recommend staying at many different romantic lodges and tented camps in Kenya.  One of the most romantic is the recently opened Angama Mara in a private conservancy on the edge of the world famous Masai Mara National Park.

Angama Mara

This is an incredibly romantic place because of the absolutely breath-taking views. These are so spectacular it’s almost impossible to drag yourself away from the camp to go on safari!  Each tented suite enjoys a 180° view over the beautiful Masai Mara stretching out far below. The Masai Mara is the best-known game reserve in the world, home to the Big Five and the world famous Migration which runs from July to October of each year and also the home to some truly stunning African scenery. The Out of Africa back-story adds romance and the tented suites are decorated in traditional romantic safari style with extra touches of luxury making it feel even more special. The staff at Angama Mara also go out of their way to make sure your stay is special and you will have some incredible memories to take home with you.

Other than Kenya two of our other favourite places for romance are the intimate and luxurious tented safari camps of Botswana and the luxury hotels on the shores of the stunningly beautiful Lake Malawi. In both these places we can off the exceptionally romantic experience of sleeping under the African night sky in a star bed. You can’t get more romantic than that!

Kanana Camp, Botwana

This little camp is a hidden jewel on the Xudum River in the Okavango Delta. The area is home to a long line of little islands dotted with lush greenery and trees interspersed amongst the rivers and lagoons. As you would expect the Okavango is filled with wonderful wildlife and you can take the camp’s glass bottomed mokoro canoe to make the most of it. The camp is tiny with only seven spacious twin and double-bedded safari tents each with an en-suite bathroom.  The tents are well spaced apart which means they all feel very private without being too far from the main camp area. New for 2016 are the amazing Star Beds which allow you to sleep out under the Botswana stars. With no light pollution the star gazing here will blow you away and the star beds means you can do it in style!

Nkwichi, Lake Malawi

Nkwichi, is a really wonderful secret that we are not sure we want to share – but we will! It really is a wonderful paradise tucked away on the beautiful shores of Lake Malawi.  There are 8 secluded beaches set along a stretch of the beautiful Rift Valley coastline which are all around Nkwichi. Not only do you have easy access to stunning beaches and crystal clear warm waters along the lake but also to some untouched wildlife and inland scenery. The accommodation at Nkwichi is also very romantic as you stay in lovely chalets and house set around the resort. Tucked away in the treeline, each chalet is unique.  All individually are individually designed and built using local materials to blend in to their surroundings, they deliver absolute luxury in a natural setting. This means they are really private and romantic with 4 poster beds and rock-pool baths carved out of local boulders and all of them have mesmerizing vistas of the lake. Nkwichi is also home to a fabulous star bed which means you can also sleep out under the stars. If you don’t fancy that then you can still enjoy a private dinner on the beach. Lake Malawi is often called the Lake of Stars so it really doesn’t come more romantic than that!

 

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

Where should I go on safari?

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s dark. At this time of year, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to holidays! If you’re having a destination dilemma, and are tempted by a safari, read on – you’ll find the top ten questions we get asked at travel shows every year (with answers.) It might just help you narrow the selection down! 

In the entertainment world the New Year is punctuated by a series of glittering awards ceremonies – in January you have the Golden Globes, followed by the BAFTAs and then of course it’s the Oscars at the end of February.

In travel, it is our busiest time of year with wall to wall travel shows, brochure requests and enquiries galore  – so we are just as busy but possibly not quite as glamorous!

Travel Shows offer a great opportunity to find out everything you need to know about your destinations of interest. You can pick up brochures on a whole range of places and experiences, ask the experts your burning questions, and enjoy presentations on world food and travel in the celebrity and destination theatres.

Here are some of the most common questions fired at us during the travel shows (with abbreviated answers – if you want the ‘full’ answer , do give us a ring on 01603 283 517).


Where should I safari in 2016? Here goes with the top ten questions. 

Q.Where’s the best place to catch up with the migration?
 A.Kenya’s Masai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti (depending on time of year).
Take a look at this classic tented safari holiday, put together with the Migration in mind.

Q.We’re on a budget – where do you recommend? 
 A.South Africa and Kenya currently offer the best value in Africa. 
This 19 day trip to South Africa, including a stay in a tented camp in the Greater Kruger is fantastic value.

Q.We’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Where do you recommend?
A.It has to be Botswana…ideally combined with Victoria Falls (but the answer will vary depending on who you speak to!)
To be honest, if you go once, and do it right, we know you’ll be smitten and desperate to return to Africa!
Q.We’ve travelled lots in Africa and are after something completely different? 
A.Namibia or Ethiopia will make a big impression.

Q.Where can I see rhino?
 A.Your best chances are in Kenya (Lake Nakuru or Laikipia); South Africa (KwaZulu Natal); Namibia (Etosha, Damaraland)

Q.Where can we have an adventure? 
A.Take your pick: Zimbabwe (walk in Mana Pools, canoe the Zambezi, track rhino on foot in Matusadona); Botswana (horse ride, canoe, camp) Uganda & Rwanda (trek to see gorillas and chimps); Tanzania (climb Kilimanjaro, dive the Indian Ocean); South Africa (cage dive with a Great White); Zambia (incredible walking safaris)

Q.What do you recommend for a classic safari and beach holiday?
 A.Tanzania is wonderful – combine a classic Northern Circuit with the Spice Islands of Zanzibar or Pemba. Or get off the beaten track, and head to the vast southern parks of Selous and Ruaha, followed by the mainland coast or rustic Mafia Island with its marine reserve.  Alternatively combine a safari in South Africa’s Kruger with the beaches of Mozambique, or safari in Zambia before chilling on the shores of  Lake Malawi. Got more time and a bigger budget? Try Botswana and Mauritius, or Kenya and the Seychelles.

Q.Where can we tick off the Big Five?
A.Kenya is your absolute best bet. We even have a sample holiday called The Big Five! Don’t forget the Big Seven – head to South Africa for that!

Q.We want to see leopard – where do you recommend?
 A.Our top picks would be Zambia (the South Luangwa offers night drives, ideal for catching up with these nocturnal beauties); South Africa (Greater Kruger – Sabi Sands area); Botswana (a private concession in the Okavango)
Q.What’s the best time to go?
A.Sub-saharan Africa covers a vast area so it depends where you are going and what you would like to see! As a very general rule the peak months for Botswana, Zimbabwe , Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa’s Greater Kruger  are May to October. For East Africa the peak months for safari and beach are December to February and  June to October while the weather in Ethiopia and South Africa’s Cape would be best November to March. The peak months for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda tend to be between June and September, the long dry season.

By Sara White.

 

Top 10 Wild Gifts for Christmas

There’re  just 10 days to go till Christmas Day. Are you stuck for gift ideas? Here’s our Top 10 Wild Christmas gifts for that ‘hard to buy for’ person in your life.

1.Spend time with the relations – Gorilla trekking permit, from US $600 (Uganda) to US $750 (Rwanda)

  • Find out more about gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda here.
  • See sample gorilla trekking safari holidays here.
  • Read Lily’s account of gorilla trekking here.

2.Mistletoe moment – fall in love with Africa and give a subscription to Travel Africa, the world’s only magazine dedicated to exploring Africa, from £15. Check out their subscription offers here.

3.Cloud Nine Experience – take to the skies at sunrise with a hot air balloon safari, complete with champagne breakfast from £325  (available in the Masai Mara, Serengeti and Tarangire)

  • Read about Robert’s experience in Tarangire here.
  • Find out more about hot air balloon safaris and other unforgettable safari experiences here.

4.Christmas Cracker – traditional cool, colourful cotton Kenyan Kikoys (try saving that after a few sherries) from £25. We love these ones from Blue Summer.

5.Flight of Angels – fly high over Victoria Falls, from £100 – £180 per person. A fabulous way to take in the full drama of this natural spectacle.

  • See a video of the Flight of Angels here.
  • There are many excursions from Victoria Falls – you can get some ideas here.
  • See sample safari itineraries in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

6.Trumpet Fanfare – adopt an elephant, from US $50 per year. Enjoy monthly emails updating you on your elephant with pictures and videos.

  • Find out more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fostering programme here.
  • Read about Kithaka and Arruba, the elephants fostered by the Real Africa Trust here.

7.Give a Great White Christmas – adventurous cage diving in South Africa from £120 per person. It  might not be the most obvious thing to give your loved one, but cage diving with  a Great White in South Africa’s glorious Cape is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Cage diving can be easily added to any tailormade safari in the Cape. Find out more about our safaris and holidays in South Africa here.
8.A Night with the Stars – sleep out under the great African night sky from US $625 per person per night. Romantic, wonderful, unforgettable – this is a real Christmas cracker. There are many lodges offering a star bed experience including Loisaba and Serian in Kenya, Little Kulala in Namibia, Tswalu in South Africa, Baines and Jao Camp in Botswana. We love Nkwichi on Lake Malawi and the Dove’s Nest at The Hide in Hwange. 

Read our blog about the best star beds in Africa here.

9.Jumbo Bells – Real Africa silver elephant pendant, from £140 each. These beautiful hand-finished eles, as worn by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, are made by jeweller, Penny Price and were specially commissioned by Real Africa for our 15th anniversary. 30% from each and every one (all the profit) is donated to conservation charity Save the Elephants.

To find out more or to order online please click here. Please note: due to overwhelming demand we are now looking at New Year deliveries!

10. Gold, Frankincence, Myrrh …and travel show tickets of course – let Brian Jackman, Monty Halls and other travel experts inspire you in the travel theatres and spend your day consulting the specialists about your future travels plans. Compliments of Real Africa.

Request your complimentary tickets to the new Telegraph Travel Show or Destinations Manchester or London here.