Category Archives: Luxury

Captivated by Kruger: review of MalaMala Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sands, South Africa

The Greater Kruger is an unfenced wilderness in South Africa , stretching over 400km from north to south. It combines private reserves and the national park and is known for high densities of lion, leopard and elephant. There are many ways to explore this wonderful and very accessible region which is at its peak between May and October during the long cool winter months. A safari in Kruger lends itself perfectly to being incorporated into a longer holiday in Southern Africa. 

Here, we review our recent stay at MalaMala as well as giving general information about the Kruger and how to combine it in your holiday.

Location

Three distinct camps (Main Camp, Sable Camp, Rattray’s Camp) stretch out along the Sand River in the vast MalaMala Private Game Reserve. The reserve is sandwiched between the famous Sabi Sands region of Greater Kruger and Kruger National Park itself -it  is the largest private Big Five game reserve in South Africa, comprising 13 300 ha (33 000 acres). The borders are unfenced allowing wildlife to migrate unhindered. The size of the reserve ensures guests enjoy an exclusive safari experience – you’ll see other MalaMala vehicles and anti-poaching teams going about their work but very little other traffic.

This area is known to be one of the best in Africa for seeing leopard. Guests have a good chance of seeing the MalaMala Big Seven (Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Wild Dog).

The setting is very beautiful with the Sand River in front of camp. The reserve has lots of contrasting scenery with dramatic granite kopjes (punctuated with klipspringer), mud holes perfect for white rhino and buffalo wallowing,  the river for crocodile, hippo and elephant, open plains, forest, huge sausage trees and statuesque euphorbia candelabrum.

Access

MMDSC_1771The camp can be accessed via fly-in from Johannesburg (and Cape Town), either fly and transfer via Skukuza (about an hour’s drive away) or Nelspruit KMIA (2 hour road transfer) or a private charter to the airstrip moments from camp.

We hired an SUV in Johannesburg and stopped off in Hazyview for a night (staying at Rissington Inn – an easy 4 hour drive mostly on the N12, from OR Tambo) which then made MalaMala a simple 2 hour drive the following morning. The first hour or so is on tarred road, we then registered at Shaws Gate, paying our park fees, to enter the reserve area. There is an undulating  dirt track which is well sign -posted with plenty of passing places. We came across this beautiful male leopard within moments of starting our 20km journey to MalaMala. We also saw elephant and white rhino along with many antelope and zebra.MMIMG_4930

view IMG_4971Accommodation and style

MalaMala Camp Bar3MalaMala Camp Rooms5.6_2We stayed at Main Camp, the largest of the three camps, which consists of 19 luxury air-conditioned thatched rooms and suites. The lodge has been on this spot since the 1930s, originally a hunting lodge and converting to conservation and photography in the 60s – the first to do so. The camp was completely refurbished in 2018 and transformed from the old-school and old-fashioned hunting lodge style,  to a beautiful far more contemporary property – the refurb has been sensitive with the historic exterior, boma, where Nelson Mandela has dined and various artworks all preserved.

MMDSC_1786Travelling as a family we stayed in one of the Waterhole Suites. Other rooms/suites face the other direction towards the Sand River. The children had their own twin room and bathroom which led to a huge double bedroom, bathroom with bath and shower and wonderful outdoor shower.

Along the front of the room and accessed from both bedrooms by sliding glass doors was a wooden deck looking over the waterhole where we had hippo, nyala, kudu and mongoose as visitors. Rooms are extremely comfortable and stylish, retaining an African flavour with a natural colour palate, porqupine quill  lamp and wildlife artworks. There are many thoughtful touches, for instance umbrellas in the hall, USB ports, extensive mini bar and fresh ice, a sweetie jar for the children. Closets had lighting, towels were fluffy and complimentary bath products smelt divine.

Sable and Rattray’s camp are smaller and quieter. No children under 12 are permitted at Sable Camp and no children under 16 at Rattray’s Camp.

Seasonality

MMDSC_1736MalaMala is open year-round. Visiting in April we knew it was the end of the rainy season and the bush would be very lush. As expected the weather was rather unpredictable. One day we had blue skies and temperatures of 38 degrees and the next it was 22 degrees cloudy and raining – we quite enjoyed the contrast – we still saw amazing wildlife, the landscape was beautiful,  and even when we got soaked on the morning drive we knew we were returning to lovely hot showers, coffee and breakfast!

May to October (the cool dry winter) is considered the peak time for this area – the bush starts to dry out and die back, and weather is more  consistent and reliable. Wildlife is easier to see as it gathers around the water sources and is not so easily concealed by the bush.  If you are keen to combine a safari in Greater Kruger with a stay in Cape Town then April/May and September/October are the best months.

The safari day

MMDSC_1734The daily schedule changes with the seasons – for our stay we would be woken at 515am, for tea/coffee and a light snack on the deck at 545am with other guests,  before departing at 6am. We would usually be back at camp for a hearty breakfast by about 9am.

After breakfast there is time to relax and enjoy the camp – for instance the swimming pool with its glorious views over the Sand River. It’s lovely to sit and read, or watch the wildlife come and go from the waterhole. We’d have lunch about 1pm – lunch is delicious!! Depending how much you indulge you may need a lie down afterwards…

Breakfast and lunch are both in a buffet format and very high quality with a good choice. Where possible we dined alfresco on the deck. Breakfast included fresh fruit, juice, a hot buffet including pancakes or waffles and fresh breads. Lunch  always included a lovely selection of salads plus cold meats, quiche and condiments as well as a hot option, for example, a curry. There was a choice of desert from fruit salad and ice-cream to lemon meringue.

In the afternoon we would meet at 3-315pm (more bite size treats on offer plus tea/coffee and cold drinks) and leave at 345pm, returning to camp at around 7pm. On one evening we did stop for sundowners out on the reserve but wildlife viewing certainly takes priority here. Pre dinner drinks and nibbles would be in the bar at around 745pm with dinner following. We enjoyed gathering in the bar and completing the ‘sightings board’ each evening with all the guests and rangers – a very communal activity.

Dinner is chosen from a set menu with Michael the barman suggesting suitable wine pairings from the delicious range of South African wines. We enjoyed a candle-lit dinner on the deck on our first evening and joined fellow guests around the camp fire in the ancient boma, beneath the jackalberry tree on the following evening. Members of staff presented a cake and sang traditional songs around the fire to help one couple celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Staff

MMDSC_1707The staff added greatly to our experience from the efficient management team of Nerine, Alex and Vusi to the waiting staff such as smiling Stephalina with 22 years service. Everyone gets to know Michael-the-barman, who is a joy.  Our guide was Thabisani from Richard’s Bay – he was a lovely chap, a skilful driver and very knowledgeable – we even learnt some Zulu and Shangaan in two days. We enjoyed talking to him about all manner of things from culture to wildlife. It is customary for rangers to join guests for breakfast and sometimes at other meals as well.

The folder in the room dodges the question of tipping and leaves it very much at the discretion of guests which we can understand as it is a tricky one. For many people, a safari holiday is the most expensive trip they will ever make but if you can tip then it is hugely appreciated by the staff.  As a very general budget we usually work on $10-$30 US per person per day.  You tip your guide/ranger directly with the ‘golden handshake’ at the end of the stay,  and place your contribution for behind the scenes staff into the tip box (usually at reception).

Vehicles

The vehicles are completely open allowing for unrivalled wildlife viewing. They have 3 rows of 2 seats meaning everyone had a great view. They are very comfortable and the camp has steps to help those with reduced mobility get in and out more easily. There is a central hatch between each pair of seats for putting your camera or binos. In here you’ll also find blankets and ponchos. There is also a place to put your water bottle (each guest is presented with a smart named metal water bottle on arrival and can refill this with still or sparkling water from the main deck water station as needed).

Wildlife

Leo DSC_1716webIMG_5003Sabi Sands is known to be one of the best places to see leopard in Africa but we really did not expect to come across one within 5 minutes of driving through Shaw’s Gate! This was one of three leopard sightings during our short 2 night stay. We also had the joy of observing a pack of 8 Cape Hunting Dogs (wild dogs) as they socialised and warmed up on the tarred airstrip as the sun came up. I was not expecting to see cheetah with the bush so dense but we were treated to a fascinating face off on the last morning between an injured male and a hyena.

MMDSC_1655We enjoyed numerous and incredibly rewarding white rhino sightings, seeing several young with their mothers and being able to watch really interesting behaviour.

MMDSC_1808We saw elephant on the way to MalaMala and caught up with a lovely big bull on one of the afternoon drives but we had to work hard to see any others which is unusual for this area. Rhino DSC_1699  We were rewarded for our patience in the end with one the most memorable elephant sightings I’ve ever had – a huge herd on the move surrounded our vehicle just before sundown – there must have been at least 80 elephants with lots of babies. It was incredibly special – you can see the short video clip on our social media feeds (Facebook; Instagram; Twitter).

MMDSC_1867Lion were equally elusive – one large pride had been feeding on a rhino carcass for a couple of days (died from natural causes) on the neighbouring conservancy of Londolozi and continued to feast there during our stay, not appearing until we left! (We managed to see fabulous lion feeding on a buffalo kill further south in Kruger National Park.)

Antelope, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, hippo and many different bird species were all easy to see. We even saw a crocodile in the river. The most unusual sighting had to be the honey badger as it raced across the track right in front of us.

Value for money

Make no mistake, MalaMala is at the top end of the safari spectrum. Rates included all meals, drinks, game activities and WiFi. Hospitality, food and drink, guiding and accommodation were all exceptional, generous and wildlife sightings were rich and varied.

South Africa is an excellent holiday choice currently – the South African Rand is about 18 to the Pound (April 2019) so you can enjoy a diverse holiday combining a few days on safari with time on the Cape coast for example, for really good value, in comparison to other destinations.

Staying in a private reserve permits off-roading and the chance to have very close wildlife encounters. You can also drive at night. If you are on safari in the national park you are limited to using the set road routes and you can only drive between sunrise and sunset. They each offer very different experiences.

We offer many different camps and lodges in the Greater Kruger covering a range of price points, from small tented camps such as Garonga and Honeyguide to luxury lodges including MalaMala, Arathusa and Motswari. Please speak to us for advice.

 

cropped-logo-1.pngWild weekend – how we like to incorporate a safari to Greater Kruger within a holiday

How long to safari? 2 nights is really too short – we prefer a minimum stay of 3 nights in any one camp so you can really have a chance to see as much as possible (Kruger is a vast area so it also works  well combining stays in different locations as we did).

Whether you fly-in or drive-in there are many ways to combine safari time in Greater Kruger within a longer holiday. Here are a few ideas:

CPTshutterstock_102271513Stay in the Cape – fly from Johannesburg or KMIA Nelspruit to/from Cape Town. Kruger and the Cape are best combined April/May or September/October.

Visit Victoria Falls – you can fly on to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg or to Livingstone (the Zambian side of the Falls) from KMIA Nelspruit making for a fabulous cross border holiday.

Zambia 1 Coral Lodge Kayaking on lagoonEscape to the beaches of Mozambique or Mauritius – there are many options here – you can travel by road from Southern Kruger across the border to Maputo in about 3 hours, for beaches in Southern Mozambique, or you can fly to Vilanculos for the Quirimbas. Alternatively you can overnight at Johannesburg airport and fly to the island of Mauritius.

Go golfing – wish list golf courses are within reach of Kruger including Leopard Creek on the southern edge. Sun City is also easily combined with a safari to Kruger.

Take the train –  two of the world’s most luxurious trains operate in southern Africa out of Pretoria including the Blue Train and Rovos Rail. The Blue Train has a special Kruger itinerary as well as a 2 night journey to Cape Town. Rovos operates to Cape Town as well as a special golf and safari itinerary.

Explore by car –  self-drive the stunning Panorama route in Mpumalanga or connect south to Durban to explore the battlefields of KwaZulu Natal. The Drakensberg Mountains are another option.

Looking for a malaria free safari option? South Africa has several malaria free Big Five reserves – speak to us about Madikwe or the Eastern Cape.

To find out more about holidays to South Africa please visit the dedicated country page on the Real Africa website or call us for a chat on 01603 964 730.

Summer Beach Holidays

As June approaches most people are busy dreaming about their big summer holiday. After a long cold winter and a lot of hard work, most of us sun-starved Brits are dreaming of some relaxation in the warm sunshine with a bit of a dip in the sea if we are lucky.

So where are you going this year? If you haven’t booked anywhere yet why not try something a little bit different this year – how about Mauritius or the Seychelles or Zanzibar?  We have some truly stunning 4 and 5 star beach resorts on offer for prices that are comparable to the Mediterranean but with better beaches, better weather, better sea temperatures, better food and better facilities and scenery. What’s not to like?

Mauritius

A large and lush green island that sits off the coast of  South Africa in the Indian Ocean, this is a great destination for those looking for large beach resorts with excellent facilities and great day trips. The beaches are soft white sand lined by palm trees and the stunning mountain ranges that are scattered around the island. The water is crystal clear and as warm as a bath and perfect for snorkelling or scuba diving. Mauritius has an interesting Creole culture and history which makes for some great excursions into the island to see the towns and villages. We have a wide range of accommodation from romantic getaways for honeymooners to fantastic family hotels with kids clubs and plenty of watersports. Why not take a look at Paradise Cove Boutique Hotel which is adult only and perfect for honeymooners or Long Beach Resort which is great for families?

Seychelles

Now if you fancy pushing the boat out and really revelling in a bit of luxury then an island in the Seychelles would probably suit you. There are many different islands and resorts to chose from including tiny little private islands to larger islands with bigger resorts boasting all sorts of facilities from spas and tennis to scuba diving and sailing. All are luxurious and surrounded by absolutely stunning scenery. The beaches of course are the main draw with the softest white sand imaginable and clear warm turquoise water surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful coral reefs.  Choosing which resort to pick can be tricky as they are all wonderful but if you really can’t make up your mind you could even do a couple of different islands and resorts on our island hopping option.

Zanzibar

The evocatively named Spice Island sits just off the coast of Tanzania and works very well as a beach extension to a safari in either Kenya or Tanzania. However Zanzibar also works very well as a stand-alone beach destination. There is wide range of accommodation on the island from historic hotels in the Unesco World Heritage Site of Stone Town to small boutique resorts tucked away in quiet locations to large modern beach resorts with the full range of watersports and all inclusive packages.  For honeymooners or those looking for a bit of privacy we can recommend a private villa such as those at Zanzibar White Sandy Luxury Villas and Spa which are truly stunning and even have outdoor bathrooms and hanging beds.

If you want some more information you can find all our beach options under the lodge library on our homepage or just follow the link. If you would simply like some advice or to book a great summer getaway with guaranteed sunshine and some of the world’s best beaches then give us a call!

Posted by Ruth

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

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