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.

 

 

 

The Hunt

The new BBC1 series The Hunt, narrated by Sir David Attenborough looks at predation in the natural world.  Viewers are transported at 9pm on a Sunday evening to a range of wonderful locations around the world to witness real-life dramas unfolding before their eyes.

Credit: BBC/Silverback Films/Huw Cordey. Filming wild dogs in Zambia.

Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill writes on the BBC website, “the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey. This has never been looked at in detail, and that is the aim of The Hunt”.

At the Conde Nast Luxury Travel Fair, where we exhibited in November, we were lucky enough to enjoy a talk in the Expert Theatre and meet BBC wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, who worked on Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, also produced by Alastair Fothergill. Doug told us that it takes on average 450 days of filming to get enough footage for a one hour episode. Taking such stats into account the team here at Real Africa has even more reverence for the BBC’s latest sensational wildlife series.

The Hunt

Catch the next episode of The Hunt, Nowhere to Hide, on BBC 1 on Sunday at 9pm. The episode follows cheetahs, bald eagles and lions on their hunt for prey in the exposed plains landscape with much of the 60 minutes filmed in Africa.

So where are the best places in Africa to see some of The Hunt’s leading ladies?

Cheetahs are diurnal, hunting in the morning and afternoon, and can be seen perched on termite mounds, rock kopjes and even on safari vehicles on occasion in order to survey the horizon – they can see prey 5km away and accelerate from 0 to 64kmh in just three strides. The Hunt filmed cheetahs in Kenya’s Masai Mara – we would recommend the Mara or the Serengeti to see these beautiful cats in action.

Real Africa clients get closer than expected!

 

Leopards are more tricky to see being nocturnal and relying on ambush. They need to get within 4m of their prey to be successful. Leopards are most often spotted draped in umbrella acacias in East Africa or on night drives when their eyes shine brightly. Zambia’s South Luangwa is a fantastic place to see leopard as is Sabi Sands in South Africa’s Kruger.

Leopard siblings playing taken by guests Diana & Walt at Nkwali, Zambia.

 

Lionesses …well, put it this way, I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t seen a lion/lioness in the Masai Mara. The Marsh Pride were made famous by the BBC Big Cat Diary series and can still be observed hunting in the Mara along with many other prides. The Hunt filmed specific lion behaviour, as they stalked zebra in Namibia, in Etosha, another excellent place to see them, especially during the peak of the dry season in September and October when game congregates around waterholes. When it comes to lions, you have a great choice, from Kenya and Tanzania, or the lions of Duba Plains, Botswana to the prolific Luwi Lions of Zambia’s South Luangwa, or Cecil’s offspring in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  You can even see them in trees in Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park and Uganda’s QE National Park.

See Real Africa footage of lions hunting buffalo in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.

Lion cubs try out stalking – picture taken by our guide Gaudence.

 

Nile Crocs– Get to the Grumeti River in the Northern Serengeti between July and September and you will see plenty of giant Nile Crocodiles feasting on wildebeest as they make the crossing from one side to the other enroute to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Murchison Falls in Uganda is another great place to observe these beasts.

Credit: BBC / Silverback Films / Huw Cordey. Nile Crocodile taking wildebeest on the Grumeti River.

 

Ethiopian Wolves– With only around 500 of these long-legged fox-like creatures remaining in the highlands of Ethiopia, you have to be lucky to get a glimpse. Give yourself every chance by staying in the Bale Mountains at the wonderful Bale Mountain Lodge.

Elusive Ethiopian Wolf in the Bale Mountains.

 

Wild Dogs-The formidable wild dog or painted dog thrives in packs of around 6 to 20 dogs, roaming open plains and woodland. Wild dogs are also endangered but the Linyanti region is Botswana has very  reliable sightings with several packs denning in the area. Another good place to try and see Wild Dogs is in Zambia’s South Luangwa – but, as I well know, the dogs move very quickly, with incredible stamina, and can be elusive so it doesn’t always work out. I spent a week trying to see them in Zambia – saw their prints, heard them, glimpsed them but never quite managed to catch up with them! The positive news is that in the last ten years the wild dog numbers in the valley have increased. By the way…I saw everything else when I was there, from lions chasing impala into jeeps and leopards sheltering from the rain in thorn bushes…

Wild Dog Pups taken from Kwando Lebala.

 

Watching wildlife is of course, unpredictable so although we can’t guarantee you’ll witness a sequence like the cheetah taking a wildebeest calf during your safari holiday,  we can ensure we use our expert knowledge, experience and wonderful guides to get you to the best places at the best times for what you want to experience.

Here are our Top Five recommendations for places to catch some serious safari action.

1.TANZANIA – THE SERENGETI

The Serengeti promises a special safari whenever you go, with the wildebeest migration making its circular journey year-round . However, the southern plains of the Serengeti play host to calving season during January and February and is said to be the best place in the world to observe cheetah hunting.

During a dramatic 3 week window, starting in late January depending on the arrival of the rains, the wildebeest have their calves with thousands being born daily, long legged and unsteady as they take their first steps on the short grassy plains of the Serengeti, their nursery.

During these key few months, this area of the southern Serengeti and western Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to Africa’s densest concentration of predators. The big cats patrol the  grassland waiting for an opportunity to strike. Cheetah sightings are especially good along with large prides of lion while other predators like hyena and caracal can also be seen.

If you are keen to witness stalking behaviours then heading to the area around Ndutu in February would be our number one recommendation – many would say that this is the absolute best time to be in the Serengeti.

Mobile camps come into their own, moving to be within reach of the migration and offering an authentic ‘Out of Africa’ safari experience. Our favourites include Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti South, Lemala Ndutu Tented Camp and &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas. Mobile camps are seasonal tented camps which move depending on the location of the herds.

If you prefer a permanent camp then we would recommend Ndutu Safari Lodge,  Lake Masek Camp and Sanctuary’s Kusini Camp but there are several lodges and camps in this area so do ask!

INSPIRATION

Lemala Migration Safari 

Wildlife Extra

Serengeti Under Canvas

Alex Walker’s Serian Camps

Lemala Ndutu

2.KENYA – THE MASAI MARA

The Masai Mara is synonymous with big cats. The Marsh Pride came to life on our screens during the BBC Big Cat Diaries – you can even stay, like the BBC film crew did, at Governors Camps in the Mara, well placed for visiting the Marsh Pride.  Several big cat projects are based in the Mara including the Mara Predator Project, the Mara-Meru Cheetah Project as well as a Spotted Hyena research centre so this is a indication that the area is rich with wildlife.

Research in the 1990s by Joseph Oguto showed that there were roughly 3 lions per 10 square kilometres in the Mara, the largest pride of 48 being the Talek Pride. It is true that lion numbers have dropped by around a third  in the last twenty years, as they have all over Africa but the Masai Mara is still one of the very best places to see these beautiful big cats.

Visit the Mara between July and October when the Great Wildebeest Migration is in the vicinity and chances are you may see something very special. We recommend staying in one of the private concessions as opposed to within the National Reserve itself. The main reserve has many lodges, often quite large ones, and as such can see high vehicle densities at peak times. In the private conessions which work in partnership with the local Maasai communities, visitor numbers are restricted to 1 guest to around 350 acres allowing for a more exclusive experience.

You’ll find lovely small lodges, classy mobile tented camps like Saruni Wild and Alex Walker’s Serian as well as affordable riverside camps like Karen Blixen Tented Camp on the Mara River, one of our favourite ‘good value’ tented camps in the Mara North concession, which bridges the gap between the tiny, top end  lodges/camps and the larger 3 star lodges/camps in the national park.

For  observing predators and their prey the Masai Mara is a fabulous place to safari.

See Real Africa footage of cheetah hunting.

INSPIRATION

Karen Blixen Fly-in Safari

Masai Mara Fly-in & Lake Malawi

Saruni Wild

Little Governors

Kicheche Mara

3.NAMIBIA – ETOSHA

The best time to be in Etosha for wildlife is in the peak of the dry season when vast numbers migrate to waterholes (August – October). As the dry season progresses the landscape becomes increasingly arid and by October, the hottest month, can be quite dusty. It is at this time that the BBC film crew captured the incredible footage of lions hunting – with the swirling dust storm confusing their prey and masking their scent.

Many of our clients choose to explore Namibia on a self-drive itinerary over 16 or so days with a 4×4. You can also explore with a flying safari.

You may be interested in our blog, Namibia – In the Driving Seat.

INSPIRATION

Self Drive of Namibia

Namibia Fly-in Safari

Ongava Lodge, Etosha

Onguma Tented Camp, Etosha

4.BOTSWANA – DUBA PLAINS

Duba Plains in Botswana is famous for its clashes between lions and buffalo in particular. The special thing about the Duba lions is that they hunt during the day allowing visitors to witness them at work rather than simply lazing in the shade. Many will remember the film made by the Jouberts about the lions of Duba and it is a stay at the Joubert’s camp, Duba Plains, with just six ensuite tents that will get you close to the lions here.

When the film was made there was one big pride, the Tsaro pride but in the last few years this pride has split into two so interactions in the area are transforming all the time and are rather unpredictable. However Duba Plains is still rated one of the best places to see lions hunting.

Safari elsewhere in Botswana and I don’t think you will be disappointed. Linyanti is a good choice for seeing predators with the guiding teams focused on finding lion, leopard and cheetah – night drives are possible from Lebala Camp which sits in a private concession and wild dogs den in the area. Lebala is on the plains/marsh and combines well with sister camp, Lagoon, which sits on the banks of the Kwando river.

If Botswana is of interest to you, you may enjoy our country guide called Botswana – Wilderness & Wildlife. 

INSPIRATION

Duba Plains Camp

Ultimate Botswana

Kwando Lebala Camp, Linyanti

Botswana Explorer

5.ZAMBIA – SOUTH LUANGWA

South Luangwa is a fantastic place to see predators. The Luwi Sand River, close to Nsolo Bush Camp  is where several lion pride territories overlap, while leopard use the dry river bed a bit like a super highway. South Luangwa is one of the few National Park’s allowing night drives with trackers and spot lights which gives you a good chance to see leopards actively hunting.

This area is very unspoilt with few vehicle tracks in the area and much of the exploration done on foot with guided walking safaris. Accommodation is in seasonal bush camps which are erected for the duration of the dry season between May and October time. This means minimal disturbance to the environment and as a result wildlife is prolific. For lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dog (if you are lucky!) this area is truly fabulous.

DID YOU KNOW? BBC wildlife cameraman, Simon King, and crew stayed at Robin Pope’s Nsefu Camp in the Luangwa’s Nsefu sector when filming lion hunting buffalo.

INSPIRATION

Zambia Walking Safari

Nsolo Camp

Classic Zambia

Luwi Camp

 

Tailor-made Safaris with Real Africa

Tell us what you are keen to try and see and we will be able to give you independent advice on the best time of year, the best guides and the best lodges/camps to visit in order to realise your specific ambition. You can call us on 01603 283 517.

 

 

 

 

Wildlife and Wilderness in Botswana

Botswana will celebrate 50 years of independence in 2016 and in that 50 years has  grown to be one of the most exclusive safari destinations in Africa.  

Lovely small camps and lodges, often in private concessions where visitor numbers are restricted, result in a high quality safari experience.

17% of Botswana’s land is given over to conservation while the jewel in Botswana’s crown, the Okavango Delta was last year declared the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site.

Botswana – the number one place to visit in 2016

As many will have read, the world’s second largest diamond has just been discovered in Botswana – a whopper – at 1,111 carats, but in our opinion nothing sparkles brighter than Botswana’s beautiful landscape, home to a plethora of wildlife.

It is for these reasons that The Lonely Planet team, who describe Botswana as ‘wild Africa at its best’, have rated the country the number one place to visit in 2016.

We couldn’t agree more! Here’s our guide to one of Africa’s most rewarding safari destinations.

Introducing Botswana

Botswana offers you:

  • small camps
  • a great range of activities to enjoy including 4×4 safaris, bush walking, horse riding, canoeing, fishing and boating
  • a fantastic array of wildlife to enjoy from the big cats of the Linyanti marshes and Chobe’s vast herds of elephants to the shy inhabitants of beautiful islands, channels and remote plains like the Sitatunga, Pel’s Fishing Owl and the rare Klipspringer antelope.
  • the chance to combine the arid salt pans of the Kalahari Desert with the watery scape of the Okavango Delta – you can even throw in a stay at Victoria Falls in nearby Zimbabwe, making for a superb safari holiday.

What’s more, you don’t have to wrestle with time change since Botswana is only 2 hours ahead of GMT and also has a reputation for being the ‘safest country’ in Africa with little poaching or corruption.

Did you know? Pula is the name of the national currency but also the Setswana word for rain.

WEATHER TRENDS

When to visit – in a nutshell

  • The peak season is between June and September, characterised by dry and warm days in the twenties with cold nights. Booking early is imperative as the small camps and lodges fill up quickly at this time of the year.
  • The low or green season is between November and  March, characterised by  hot steamy weather by day and night, and sudden afternoon downpours. This is the time to take advantage of great deals and special offers and is the best time to see the desert salt pans which spring into life as game tracks south from the Delta.
  • The shoulder months of October and April/May are transition months with the weather changeable. October is the hottest month, but you’ll be rewarded with vast herds gathering around the last bodies of water. April is generally quiet in the parks and reserves and can be stormy.

Season by season – in more detail

May to October (Dry winter months)

  •  The Okavango Delta starts to flood in May time,  allowing for mokoro journeys and boat safaris from many of the camps.
  • Temperatures by day in the Delta are moderate throughout May, June, July and August, hovering in the mid twenties but becoming increasingly hot as the months progress with daytime highs of 40 degrees by October, the hottest month
  • Night-time temperatures in May are around 10 degrees, becoming increasingly cold through June and July, before rising gradually again in August and September reaching the high teens by October. Temperatures can fall to freezing in the desert pan areas in July, the driest month
  • As the winter progresses,  there is less vegetation and less water, with September and October often hailed as the big herd months, when animals gather in great numbers around the remaining water sources. Water levels can become perilously low in October in some areas, with boat safari activities sometimes suspended in extreme cases like in 2015. This may impact on your choice of camps and may not be the best time of year to combine Botswana with Victoria Falls which can be reduced to a trickle by November. We try and recommend camps on deep water channels at this time of year subject to availability.
  • There are few mosquitoes during the dry season and you can expects beautiful, clear days.

November to April (Green or wet summer months)

  • The scenery is at its most lush and beautiful – great for photography.
  • This is the best time to see migrant birds and young animals are often born at this time of year.
  • It is the optimum time to visit the pans (the desert area) which springs into life with green shoots on the dunes, courting giraffe displays and zebra and antelope arriving followed by the big predators.
  • January and February tend to be the wettest months and October and November the hottest.
  • There are excellent offers and low season rates available throughout the Green season – look at for Kwando’s Five Rivers offer usually out in January time annually. Find out about Five Rivers here.
  • Daytime temperatures hover around the low twenties in the Delta –  most downpours arrive in the afternoon having little impact on your safari day with the exception of January and February when rain can be more persistent.

LOGISTICS

Getting there

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.

You can also fly into Maun direct from Harare, Cape Town and Namibia. The national carrier Air Botswana runs scheduled flights. Many people choose to combine a safari in Chobe, Botswana with Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, only a few hour’s drive away – there is a fine tarred road from the Falls to Kasane, and then once over the border it generally takes around half an hour to the riverfront area making a drive of around 3  hours in all,  (depending where you are staying – the Chobe Forest Reserve is a bit further away). The opening of the new Victoria Falls airport in late 2015/early 2016 will no doubt open up many more opportunities for safari combinations in this region.

Getting around

All the major gateways are linked by air, while the private flight charter network is well developed. Because of Botswana’s geography it is usual to fly-in to your lodge/camp by light aircraft. Chobe is the exception. Luggage is restricted on light aircraft to a single piece of soft luggage weighing no more than 20kg. Camps include your laundry in their nightly rate so this is manageable for most but for those away for a long time, excess luggage can be left in Maun or Johannesburg.

ATTRACTIONS
Top Five Must-dos

A trip to Botswana is all about getting into the wilderness. This is a place where experiential travel excels. From canoeing the remote waters of the Selinda Spillway and camping on deserted islands, or paddling a traditional mokoro (dug out canoe) to staying in utter luxury and enjoying safari on foot, by boat and by 4WD (by day and night), Botswana really does have it all.

  • Float in a Mokoro
  • Enjoy a bird’s eye view with a flight over the Delta
  • Walk the wilds with a guide
  • Sip a sundowner
  • Camp – huddle round the camp fire, marvel at the southern sky and sleep under canvas

Where to visit

THE OKAVANGO DELTA (incorporating Moremi Game Reserve and the Zambezi Region)

Main gateway : Maun

The Okavango Delta is an iconic landscape, one of the world’s largest inland deltas, where the waters ebb and flow. Rain falling in the distant mountains of Angola, reach the Delta in May/June time, flooding it and changing the landscape,  only to be absorbed by the greedy salt pans further south. The Delta can be split into three key areas:  private concessions, the Moremi Game Reserve and the Zambezi Region.  This area is so special it was declared the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.

The Okavango Delta covers more than 15,000 square kilometres. Wonderful private concessions including Chitabe, Kwara, Shinde, Duba Plains and Jao help to protect wildlife and keep down visitor numbers,  while the eastern edge of the Delta is safe guarded by the Moremi Game Reserve (see below). The western side which flows to Namibia is known as the Panhandle, Caprivi Strip or Zambezi Region.

Experiences will be different in each area – we recommend six nights on safari in the Delta area itself,  allowing you to combine two or three  contrasting camps and locations.   While the camps in private concessions within the Okavango Delta offer incredibly high standards and low visitor numbers, their real calling card is that guests can enjoy a variety of activities including off road driving, night drives and walking – activities not offered by camps in the Moremi Game Reserve.  Land-based 4WD safaris will be largely  focussed on seeing the big predators like lions, wild dog, leopard and cheetah, while the water based safaris bring you up close to the magnificent bird life of the Delta and some of the rarer and shyer Delta dwellers.

You’ll find a range of habitats and  a network of channels interspersed with islands. Shallow reed beds, swamps, floodplains and forests are home to a huge variety of sepctacular wildlife, from the endangered red lechwe and wild dogs to elephant, lion and hippo. There are around 122 species of mammals, 71 species of fish, 444 species of birds, 64 species of reptiles and 1300 species of flowering plant in this region.

If you’re really lucky you may see all the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo are all present while  a rhino reintroduction programme in the Okavango now puts the population of White Rhino at approximately 35, and Black Rhino at 4 (and growing thanks to the Great Plains / AndBeyond Rhinos Without Borders relocation).

  • Moremi Game Reserve

Moremi Game Reserve is the protected eastern portion of the Okavango Delta. It has been a national reserve since 1963 and covers approximately one third of the Delta (around 5000 sq km). Moremi’s main landmark is  the 70km long Chief’s Island, historically the hunting ground for the local chief. Today, Chief’s Island is a wildlife haven with much of the Delta’s wildlife retreating here as the water level rises.  It’s prime Big Five territory once more following a successful rhino reintroduction programme. In addition, Moremi harbours the largest population of red lechwe, protects African wild dogs. and is the best place to see Pel’s Fishing Owl. Another place of note within Moremi is the Xakanaxa Lagoon, home to a heronry.

  • Okavango Panhandle or Zambezi Region

The Zambezi Region, once known as the Caprivi Strip, is a narrow strip of swamp that extends to the Namibian border. You’ll find permanent waterways, vast reed beds and calm lagoons perfect for fishing and bird watching. Big game is harder to see.

CHOBE NATIONAL PARK

Main gateway: Kasane

Chobe has been a National Park since 1968 covering 11,700 sq km. It can be split into three key areas: Savuti, Linyanti and the Chobe riverfront. 

Chobe comes into its own during the dry season when vast numbers of game congregate around the water sources – the Chobe River and the Linyanti River. Concentrations are truly spectacular as the dry season marches on. Wildlife to be encountered includes waterbuck, lechwe, puku (this is the only part of Botswana where they can be seen), giraffe, kudu, roan and sable, impala, warthog, bushbuck, monkeys and baboons, along with the accompanying predators of course from lion and leopard to hyena and jackal. Chobe also has the densest concentration of elephant in the world – some 120,000. A river cruise is a great way to appreciate the spectacle. In addition, over 460 bird species have been recorded in the park, making it one of Africa’s premier birding destinations. Seeing Pel’s Fishing Owl is a highlight, while most members of the kingfisher family, carmine bee eaters, rollers and raptors can all be admired.

  • Savuti/Savute

Savute is a region of Chobe. The Savuti channel is one of Africa’s great mysteries, a truly remote and wild place. The channel has a long history of drying up for many years and then miraculously flowing again – possibly due to tectonic activity in the region but largely unexplained! The word Savute means ‘unpredictable’ and refers to the region, while Savuti refers to the channel itself but it is common to see both spellings.

The channel itself stretches for 100km, leading from the Linyanti River to the Savute Marsh. Following a a period of heightened rains in 2008, the Savuti channel started to flow, deep and blue, once again, eventually flooding the Savute Marsh in 2010. Before that, the channel had not flowed since 1982!  In the past, the main features of the area were the ghostly dead camelthorn trees rising above th edry plains but now areas of  flat marsh and woodland habitat are home to herds of buffalo and elephant moving in from the south-west of Chobe, with wildlife concentrations improving year on year while the channel is flooded.  There are no rhino here yet but plenty of birdlife, plains game and the annual migration of zebra ensures a trail of lion, leopard and cheetah.

Zebra migrate  in December and  February time, depending on the rains. They move from the rivers in the north to the lush new grass in the south. The rare Klipspringer antelope can also be seen in this region, along with San Bushmen rock art in the 980 million year old Gubatsa Hills which rise 90m above the plains.

  • Linyanti

Linyanti is the region in the northwest of Chobe, home to the private Kwando/Linyanti and Selinda concessions. The area is game rich,  bordered by the Okavango Delta to the south.  The permanent waterway, the Kwando River, ensures that game is excellent throughout the dry season. Being private, activities sych as walking, night drives and off roading are possible.

Kwando Linyanti is home to five camps – Lagoon and Lebala camp in the Kwando portion and Duma Tau, Kings Pool and Savuti Camp in the Linyanti concession while the Selinda concession, which protects the famous Selinda Spillway is home to Zarafa, Selinda Camp and Motswiri Camp.

The area is a mix of lagoons and marshes along the Kwando-Linyanti Riverfront with drier mopane forest beyond. Lions are abundant and wild dogs den in the area.  For seeing the big predators this area is simply fabulous.

  • Chobe Riverfront

Easily accessible from Kasane by road, everybody wants to be on the northern boundary where the Chobe River flows and as such it attracts a high density of traffic from day trippers and self drivers to lodge vehicles.  The Chobe Game Lodge is just a half hour drive from Kasane, and with a plum location right on the river, is hard to beat for those wishing to stay in the heart of the action. The density of game during the dry season here, peaking September/October time, is impressive.  Small safari motor boats ply the river dodging hippos, while huge herds of elephant and buffalo gather on the banks. You also have a good chance of seeing lion and even leopard. Heading further west to the Forest Reserve, away from the bustle of Kasane, is a good alternative. Here, lodges like Muchenje, enjoy commanding views from an escarpment looking over the Chobe River beyond. Game densities may be lower beyond the riverfront but rarer species are evident such as Roan and Sable and there is considerably less bustle.

DESERT

Main gateway: Maun

The desert region is made up of Kgalagadi, for the Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi for the famous salt pans.

  • Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, and the second largest wildlife reserve in the world, encompassing 52 800 sq kms.

The CKGR was off limits to tourists for around three decades as the reserve was to be a place for the San Bushmen to live their traditional life. The government is now allowing restricted development for a few lodges in the hope of developing tourism in this fascinating area where you can see some of the world’s oldest rock art, witness the ancient migration path of thousands of wildebeest and zebra  and experience the true meaning of isolation.

Deception Valley is one of the highlights, coming to life after the rains with lush sweet grass shooting and grazers coming from miles around. There are only two permanent camps actually within the reserve – Kalahari Plains and Tau Pan.

  • Nxai Pan
Makgadikgadi covers an area of around 12 000 sq kms, and is part of the Kalahari Basin. It is one of the largest salt pans in the world. Actually the area comprises a whole series of salt pans – from Sowa, the largest, to Nxai Pan, the most accessible. The area has a stark beauty, which David Livingstone experienced during his explorations of the 19th century, guided by one special landmark: Chapman’s Baobab . The baobab tree is possibly 4000 years old and one of the only things to punctuate the endless blue horizon. The salt pans shimmer in this arid landscape, with clouds of dust blurring the horizon, before the landscape is entirely  transformed; the salt pans become  shallow powdery blue lakes during the summer rains, flamingos arrive, and  grass and other vegetation shoots,  attracting animals from miles around to feast on the lush new shoots.

Nxai Pan itself is a 2578 sq km national park with, as you may expect,  two distinct seasons – wet and dry. During the green summer season, large herds of animals track from the south followed by predators and flowers bloom on the dunes making this an exciting time to be in the area. If you visit is timed to perfection you may observe giraffes as they start courting. The males engage in a ferocious battle for dominance called ‘necking’ . During the summer, there are also good cheetah numbers.

Baines Baobabs are in the south . The scene is largely unchanged since the baobabs were painted by Thomas Baines in 1862.

  • Tsodilo Hills

The UNESCO World Heritage Tsodilo Hills are nicknamed the ‘Louvre of the Desert’ for good reason. Four hills, the highest at 1400m, have huge spiritual significance for the San Bushmen in north west Kalahari with stunning displays of ancient rock art.

DISCOVER MORE

Explore some sample itineraries with guide pricing here.

LODGE LIBRARY

Check out some of our favourite lodges in Botswana.

REQUEST A BROCHURE

We have a dedicated Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia brochure now out – request yours here. 

INSPIRATION

Classic Botswana – a safari holiday that gives you time to enjoy the iconic Victoria Falls as well as game drives in Chobe National Park, Botswana, famous for its elephants.

Into the Okavango – a private safari to 3 diverse habitats in the world-famous Okavango Delta. Staying at Ker & Downey Camps – Camp Okuti, Kanana Camp and Shinde.

Desert & Delta – a fabulous fly-in safari combining camps in three areas, including the famous Savute region.

Ultimate Botswana – the ultimate safari to Botswana; exploring the Okavango Delta and the Selinda Spillway and staying in some of the finest luxury camps in Africa.

 

By Sara White