Here at Original Travel, we're delighted to announce the arrival of Louise FitzGerald onto our amazing Africa team. Louise is a real specialist when it comes to Botswana and her first blog explores her unique insight into a safari holiday here.
Goodbye People, Hello Wildlife
For those of you who like to notch up your game sightings each day, I'd advise you to keep your list close to hand in every corner of Botswana. I'd already spotted elephant, hippo, giraffe and buffalo and I had yet to set foot in the real bush. The short flight from Maun into the Okavango Delta is utterly spellbinding, right from take-off every face was glued to the window soaking up the sheer beauty of the glistening delta and the wildlife scattered across it.
The one thing that will not be dominating your sightings list is people. We all know the image of the cheetah staring out at a traffic jam of tourists, somehow ignoring the flashing cameras like a seasoned celebrity. Exclusivity is why many people choose Botswana, whose many private concessions offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy the wildlife on their own, which is exactly what I was lucky enough to be doing.
I started in the North Eastern corner of the delta, in the game-lively Khwai concession where I spent hours watching a pride of lion size up their next meal. All to myself. In the beautiful floodplains of the Vumbra concession I spent a glorious hour watching six hyena cubs rolling about and driving their mothers mad, again all to myself.
Like most safaris, mine had so far centred on game drives, so a walking safari at Motswiri in the Linyanti region was a welcome change. Time to work off some of those glorious meals I had been guzzling! Or so I thought. It soon transpired that we could go no more than 30 feet without our excellent guide pointing out another fascinating fact; from seemingly nondescript bushes which instantly produced soap for us, to the medicinal uses of elephant dung, all of which somehow overshadowed the huge herd of buffalo that walked past us. It was fascinating. After hundreds of bush trips I have seen the big 5 x 50, now it is learning about the smaller things that keeps me going back.
No Need to Compromise on Luxury
As for the camps, there really is something for everyone. From the original mobile safari to specialist elephant and horse safaris right up to the utterly luxurious camps like Vumbura, which will have even the most hardened bush goers melting over the levels of comfort on offer, I certainly did.
For luxury safari camps my favourite this trip might have to be Selinda Camp, named after the spectacular spillway which it overlooks. The attention to detail was phenomenal; from spare reading glasses to watercolours for the inspired. But what really stole my heart was returning from a long game drive to the most luxurious bath I had ever seen; a fluffy mountain of bubbles, scattered with leaves and surrounded by twinkling candles. It was utterly glorious and from the sounds of all the sploshing coming from outside, my neighbour was enjoying the very same treat. It was only as I was leaving my room and saw the hippos wallowing in the water right below that I realised my neighbour was not in fact the noisy bather I had supposed him to be.
Batty About Botswana
The most striking thing about Botswana is how truly wild it is. Vast herds of game wander completely unrestricted across the country, from the lunar landscapes of the vast salt pans to the lush floodplains of the Okavango Delta.
And the selection of experiences on offer is remarkable. The salt pans could see you quad biking across the pans or tracking with the san bushmen by day and later that evening relaxing in colonial style luxury at the famous Jack's Camp or keeping it simple by camping on the pans under the stars. (Insider tip, if it's full moon, take an eye patch, the white pans glow so brightly you can read by them!).