Botswana’s New Qorokwe Camp in Pictures

We couldn’t be more excited to see this new Wilderness Safaris camp opening in one of the Delta’s most productive areas. New photos by Dana Allen have just been released, and we’re happy to share them below. Not only is it a stunning new camp, it offers both water and land-based safaris as well as the rare opportunity to track black rhino on foot.

More from Wilderness Safaris:

The exclusive Qorokwe Concession encompasses over 26 180 hectares (64 692 acres) in a high-density game area of the south-eastern Okavango, bordering the renowned Moremi Game Reserve, which has been unutilised for more than four years. Exploring Qorokwe reveals a world of diverse Delta habitats supporting a wealth of wildlife, earning the area’s well-deserved reputation as a top Botswana safari destination.

Qorokwe Camp has eight elegant tented suites plus one very spacious family unit with its own splash pool. En-suite facilities feature an indoor/outdoor shower. The magnificent main area is the focal point of the camp and overlooks a lagoon.  The dining area, lounge, library and bar are built on raised wooden platforms, all connected by walkways.

Highlights

  • The Qorokwe Concession has permanent water all year round, allowing for outstanding game viewing during every season
  • Seasonal palm-dotted and wooded islands, tranquil waterways and dry woodland ensure a year-round variety of game and birds
  • Concentrations of all the larger predators are seen in the area

Schoenfeld

Jane & Alan’s First Safari

When I was a kid I read things about Daniel Boone and the Native American explorers and scouts. They had lore like “they could tell from a broken twig that an animal had passed this way…” I didn’t make much of it at the time. It was an abstract idea, filtered through the experience of a city kid, but what we experienced in Africa was amazing. — Alan S., Berkeley, CA


When travelers return home from an African wildlife safari, they often describe the experience as being “beyond words.” Luckily, our recent clients Jane & Alan found the words to describe what it was like to be out on a game drives while visiting Khwai Tented Camp & Linyanti Bush Camp. Enjoy their photos below along with their excellent description of a classic african game drive!


First, the guides knew their miles-wide terrain as well as I know my back yard. There aren’t very many roads – what passes for roads are basically dirt or sand paths, with non-stop bone-jarring ups and downs. Anything else looked like a track that had been run over by a jeep (more likely, a Land Cruiser) a few times – top speed 20 MPH, with curves and ruts all over the place. We also learned what “all-terrain vehicle” meant – deep sand, thigh-high water, marsh (in search of buffalo), etc. (The cars were modified so that their air intake valves were at shoulder height, allowing the vehicle to go through deep water without compromising engine intake.)

What you have to imagine is bouncing around at 10 or 15 mph, the guide alternating between driving and looking down his side at the road. He stops, backs up, and goes “these are fresh leopard tracks. There’s a large female leopard who has a den not far from here, and it looks like she was heading that way.” He the turns off-road (or follows a slightly worn trail in that direction) and we spot the leopard. Or, he follows signs of a hyena, which spots us and heads into the bush. The guide backs up, heads in another direction, then parks. Two minutes later the hyena trots into view.

The guides can tell the age of an elephant from the footprints – not just the size, but how well defined the back of the prints are – the older feet are more worn down. They know the animals’ habits well enough to find them, and they’re so sharp-eyed that they see animals (or tracks) when all we see is empty terrain. They stop, point, and wait patiently, until we see the kudu, or owl, or leopard they’ve pointed to. On our walking safaris, what they read in the tracks was beyond belief.

They navigate at night by the stars, and when there are no stars because of cloud cover, by landmarks – a bent tree here, etc. That may not sound like much, but it’s a wilderness; locally, everything pretty much looks like everything else, and because the roads resemble curvy snake trails more than straight lines, it’s nearly impossible to get oriented. Combine this with deep knowledge of the animals’ habits and an encyclopedic knowledge of their traits, and what you get is nothing short of astounding. I can’t put it in words, you have to go there yourself…


To bookend the safari, they started with a few days touring Cape Town from the exquisite Kensington Place, and they ended with Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls, where they had the best breakfast EVER!

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Khwai Tented Camp


Linyanti Bush Camp

Kili & The Snoring Rhinoceros

In the quiet pre-dawn, our small group huddled together around the tea and coffee that the camp staff had so beautifully laid out. There was a ripple of excitement among my colleagues and fellow members of Safari Professionals–we were seeing a rhino receive a veterinary field check-up and be fitted with an electronic tracking device today! For some of us, this was a first time close encounter with the ‘nitty gritty’ of conservation work. We were thrilled to see conservation efforts we’re so passionate about in action! All of us support the incredible work being done by Map Ives and Rhino Conservation Botswana, and we couldn’t have been more grateful to the entire team from Wilderness Safaris for facilitating this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

When the time came, like the quiet creatures we were setting out to see, our group slowly moved toward our waiting helicopters. As the helis zipped us along to the rendezvous point, I marveled at how anyone could find a rhino in the vast landscape that is the Okavango Delta. Waves of hope and undercurrents of despair washed over me–hope that conservation efforts like these were having a positive impact for rhinos and despair that the situation is so dire that these operations are essential to the survival of this extraordinary species.  

We touched down, and our small group met with the team of veterinarians who had identified a large adult male White Rhino for darting. It was an individual who had been relocated to Botswana some 20 years ago. The vet expertly tranquilized the rhino so that he could be fitted for his electronic monitoring devices. The veterinary team would also measure and check his overall health to document his condition. As we approached by vehicle and then on foot, I had to gasp at the sheer size of the rhinoceros. He was massive and lying peacefully as the vets quickly got their samples and measurements.

In the awed silence while watching them work, I could hear the rhino’s slow rhythmic breathing and watch his chest expand with each inhale. We could examine his enormous horn closely–even seeing the tiny fibers which make up this valuable commodity. We were able to touch the soft skin of his underbelly and his coarse mud-covered back.

I was filled with hope and my eyes teared up as the vets efficiently set the tracking devices in place and revived the rhino. Within a minute, our rhino stood and carefully scanned the area before sauntering into the nearby bush.

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Magical Mashatu – Kelly’s Trip Report

We got to watch these elegant cheetah brothers move through the beautiful countryside, standing up on massive boulders for a better vantage point – every position was taken with great intention. I was humbled while observing their instincts at play, with all of them watching, always looking in separate directions to optimize hunting opportunities and to continually ensure the safety of their clan.

Kelly mountain biking in MashatuIn the last week of April, I traveled to the Northern Tuli Block in far eastern Botswana, which contains southern Africa’s largest private game area, the Mashatu Game Reserve. I had never been to this region of Botswana before and I was awed by the natural beauty and incredible wildlife that I discovered while staying at both Mashatu Tent Camp and Mashatu Main Lodge.

I flew into Johannesburg, South Africa and stayed overnight at the clean, comfortable, well-priced and conveniently located Citi Lodge business hotel, a short walk from the customs and baggage area at OR Tambo International airport.

After a hearty buffet breakfast at the hotel the next morning, I walked over to check-in for my Angel Gabriel charter flight to the Limpopo airstrip. The Angel Gabriel representative met me at an upright banner near gates 60-65, checked me in and a host escorted me, along with a few others on the flight, through to the boarding area. It was a quick and easy 1-hour flight to Limpopo and the plane buzzed with excitement of a group of women from the UK and France who were arriving to do an overland horseback riding safari.

Mashatu MapUpon landing at Limpopo, clearing customs into Botswana was about as easy as it gets – I simply walked up to the customs window for a stamp. My Mashatu driver, Spike, was waiting for me and within 10 minutes of landing, we were headed on a 45-minute drive towards my home for the night, Mashatu Tent Camp. It started to rain on the drive to camp, so I layered up in my gore-tex and Spike gave me a Mashatu poncho, which I layered on top. My turnaround time at camp was very fast, as afternoon tea was already under way when I arrived. I grabbed my camera gear, had a quick bite to eat and some tea before departing on my first game drive at Mashatu. It was quite wet out there, which is unusual for this area. We stopped to admire giraffe before driving on to a site where an python had been spotted earlier that day. The python had moved on already, so we drove on, taking in the stunning scenery while Marty, PJ and I started getting to know each other. By lucky coincidence, we happened to be staying at Mashatu at the same time, so I got to spend a bit of time in the bush with Next Adventure travelers! We found a huge male leopard just before sunset and got to spend time with him and enjoy a very close sighting before he started moving on. It was a beautiful sight to watch this leopard move through the bush, elegantly hidden by his mesmerizing spotted coat. A hot shower was very welcome before dinner – the canvas tents on raised platforms at Mashatu Tent Camp are cozy and comfortable and have a classic safari vibe, with an outdoor shower and separate bathroom attached to the back of each tent. This is an intimate camp with a welcoming atmosphere, as all guests gather for dinner around a common table for dinner and share stories from the day.

The next morning was cool and crisp – we huddled comfortably under wool blankets in the vehicle as we left camp before sunrise. Our morning was filled with incredible wildlife sightings, beginning with a young injured elephant whose trunk had been caught in a snare, most likely in Zimbabwe, and was now only about 3/4 of the length of a typical elephant trunk. The elephants in Mashatu often times drink water by placing their trunks down through the deep gravel sandbanks in order to filter river water through the earth to ensure greater purity. This poor injured elephant had to kneel down on her knees in order to access water. She was surviving, but clearly her life is far more difficult following this injury and one can only imagine would be shorter than it would have been without this devastating interference of man.

We left our highly adaptable elephant friend and rolled onward, encountering herds of wildebeest and marveling at the giant Mashatu trees, which are the namesake to the area. Mashatu is known as “The Land of the Giants,” which comes from this massive Nyala berry tree and also the many giants of the wildlife kingdom that call Mashatu home. We passed the gorgeous lilac breasted roller (Botswana’s national bird) and stopped to admire this colorful little beauty before driving on to an elusive sighting that our incredible tracker, Goms, was able to spot from a long distance away at the clearing or the edge of the forest – a bush pig! I’ve included a picture below… this was the first time I had ever seen one. Before long, we were treated to some time with a massive black-maned male lion, who is honestly one of the most gorgeous specimens I’ve ever seen. He is eight years old and does not have any notable scars on his body or his face, which is quite rare, as males must fight to defend their territory, sometimes to the death. This male shows such prowess that he has maintained this territory for many years. A hush fell over the safari vehicle while we all sat gazing upon this magnificent creature. He showed such a gentle command of the land, while at the same time exuding extraordinary power and grace.

Mashatu Tent Camp

Very shortly afterwards, we encountered a beautiful, young female leopard. Our guide, Justice, drove expertly through challenging terrain so that we could follow her and watch her move through the wilderness. She walked immediately next to the vehicle and I found myself transfixed, marveling at her intricate coat. We drove through the stunning countryside spotted with acacia trees herds of zebra and black-backed jackals, running alongside their lifelong mate through the grasslands. We came upon a herd of elephant and were able to watch them feed and got to observe the adorable, tiny youngsters following their mothers. I have a soft spot in my heart for all wildlife but eles are one of my favorites. I always take time to study the texture of their skin and to gaze into those soft, gentle, intelligent eyes. Within the herd, there was a massive bull elephant in pursuit of a female – he wanted nothing to do with us and displayed his dominance with loud trumpeting and head swinging. We knowingly quietly drove away, out of respect for this massive and beautiful creature. Our morning drive came to a close and we headed back to Mashatu Tent Camp, where I quickly packed my things and met Justice for the 45-minute trip over to Mashatu Lodge.

I arrived at Mashatu Lodge in time for brunch and was well-fed before settling into my new, quite luxurious room for the afternoon. Mashatu Lodge has a different feel from the tented camp and is a good match for guests seeking more creature comforts and a larger private space to enjoy while at the lodge. The rooms are spacious and very well-appointed, with a sitting area, spa bathroom with double sinks, a soaking tub and a generous shower with waterfall showerhead, along with a full walk-in closet and dressing area. The lodge has a main covered patio overlooking a very active waterhole where breakfast and brunch are served. The food is fresh and delicious with an impressive amount of variety and many healthy choices. The lodge grounds feature a swimming pool, an internet lounge, a curio shop and my favorite – the Gin Trap – a festive gathering place where safari stories are shared over drinks prior to dinner, which is served under the stars, in the glow of torch light in the outdoor boma.

While at Mashatu Lodge, for the majority of the time, I was very lucky to have a private vehicle with Kaiser as my exceptional naturalist guide and Goms as our keenly aware tracker. We had an incredible time together and definitely became friends over the course of those three days…it’s hard not to bond while sharing in such magnificence. Our first sighting that evening was of the same giant male lion that I had seen earlier in the day. We encountered him walking down dirt tracks where safari vehicles had passed, so he was fully visible – it was a special sighting indeed, as he walked directly towards, adjacent to and beyond our vehicle. Our evening ended with a sighting that was particularly special to me – just before dark we got to spend time with a mother cheetah with three female cubs. I had not seen cheetah since my first safari in Kenya, 17 years earlier, so I was thrilled at the chance to spend time with these elegant cats once more. The four of them were lying flat in a clearing on the grasslands. We stayed with them until dark and then drove to enjoy sundowners and getting to know each other a bit more. On the drive home, due to the expertise of our spotter, I got to see a family of African Wildcat, which is quite a rare sighting. The kittens were tiny and peering out of the bush with innocent and curious eyes.

Checkout this 24/7 live feed video from Pete’s Pond on Mashatu

The following morning started with a long-distance sighting of a leopard crossing the massive, dry riverbed that we were driving through. As the sun continued to rise, we followed her on a seemingly impossible driving route up the very steep riverbank and into the heavily wooded terrain above. Kaiser thought that there was a possibility she might be moving her young cub, which would’ve been really exciting to see, but it turns out that she had apparently already moved the cub earlier in the day. We stayed with her for a while and drove a carefully executed route that our tracker recommended, in order to follow her through the bush. Our sighting culminated with the leopard starting to hunt an impala that was just off her track and out of sight. The leopard determined that the impala was too far away to be worth expending so much effort, but we did get to watch her position into a crouch and begin the process of what would have been a hunt, had the conditions been more favorable. Thrilling!

After this very exciting start to our morning, we continued through the beautiful landscape and came upon a mother cheetah with three sons. The young males were playing with each other and exploring the area for a bit before the mother got up and prompted them to follow her, at which point they all walked off through the bush. Almost as soon as we left this family of cheetah, we came upon another family. The Mashatu terrain of open grassland, dotted with acacia trees, which provide shade and excellent cover, is perfect hunting terrain for cheetah so they thrive in this area. We watched this family under a tree and I was just mesmerized by their markings and their affectionate behavior with each other. After a full morning of cats, we stopped in yet another beautiful spot for coffee and fresh baked goodies, surrounded by ostrich walking in the distance, paired off with their mates.

Kelly Mountain Biking SafariDuring my stay, I had a unique treat in store – I got to mountain bike with my guide Mario, riding on the ancient elephant trails that cross the reserve! This was such an exciting adventure and a beautiful way to experience the area. In some ways, it was even more intimate being on a bike, as we peddled across the landscape with herds of impala running through the bush, crossing in front of us and running alongside as we peddled. On our ride, we encountered a herd of elephant almost immediately, so Mario and I stopped and admired them from afar (with my heart pounding), making sure that we weren’t causing them any distress before turning to ride the other direction. One of the unique qualities of staying at Mashatu and being on the private reserve, is that you do have the option to ride mountain bikes and also to choose walking safaris, providing a huge amount of flexibility and variety to your experience. Mashatu is an excellent option for travelers who are interested in being more active while being on safari. At the end of my mountain bike adventure, Mario and I met up with Kaiser and Goms and the vehicle. I said goodbye to Mario and my bike and drove off to end the evening enjoying sundowners and listening to the call to the calling lions. We followed the calls of three females and spent sunset and the transition to complete darkness next to the pride listening to this beautiful, resonant and utterly primal sound.

One of my most memorable sightings at Mashatu was following a coalition of three mail cheetahs who have been together since their birth and are now 15 years old. They look very healthy and are obviously so bonded to each other, it was really heartwarming to see. I’m sure this brotherly bond is one of the reasons for their success as a coalition of hunters and for their long, successful life together. We got to watch these elegant cheetah brothers move through the beautiful countryside, standing up on massive boulders for a better vantage point – every position was taken with great intention. I was humbled while observing their instincts at play, with all of them watching, always looking in separate directions to optimize hunting opportunities and to continually ensure the safety of their clan.

Mashatu Main Lodge

My final wildlife sighting at Mashatu was extremely special, especially for me, because it was the first time I have seen a pack of wild dogs. I am a self-professed “dog freak,” and it was such a joy to see this newly introduced pack of seven wild dogs, who appeared to be thriving after just two months on the reserve. Mother nature seemed to be celebrating with me, Kaiser and Goms when she delivered an absolutely stunning sunset to close our days together on safari at Mashatu. A magical time, indeed!

Tree-scratching Lion

Bee & Chaz Capture Rare Safari Moments

On the way to the airstrip at Mara Plains we watched this baby gazelle being born on New Year’s Day. This is how this safari trip has gone. Every day something absolutely remarkable. — Bee & Chaz

As an old saying goes: The only way to have great ideas is to have a lot of ideas. We think the same applies to safaris and wildlife photography. The more time you spend in the bush, and the more photos you take, the better chance you’ll have of getting great shots.

Bee wanted to make sure she had the perfect camera for her safari, and she couldn’t have been happier with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Olympus customer service went out of their way to make sure she had the newest technology without it being too heavy or unwieldy. We hesitate to guess how many photos Bee & Chaz took to narrow it down to these wonderful photos, but we can tell you where they were and a bit about their two most recent safaris.

White Browed Coucal vs Chameleon, Mara

White Browed Coucal vs Chameleon in the Mara

Our guide Duncan at Mara Plains saw the White Browed Coucal attacking this chameleon. We watched in wonder as he systematically tried to pull the chameleon off the bush by trying to unwrap its tail then pulling on the chameleon’s limbs. After some time in the epic struggle for life vs lunch, the coucal gave up and the chameleon survived…for the moment. — Bee & Chaz

Let Wild Dogs Lie, Botswana

Let Wild Dogs Lie, Botswana

In May, they began with a true Botswanan safari that took them through the Jao Concession and the Selinda and Kwedi Reserves with stops at Little Tubu, Selinda Camp, Duba Expedition and Jacana Camp. From the Okavango Delta’s flooded waterways and seasonal islands, Bee & Chaz then journeyed over Namibia’s vast deserts to experience the remote Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp and then to Little Kulala to face Sossusvlei’s massive dunes and unique wildlife.

For the Festive Season around the holidays, they spent extensive time in the Singita Grumeti Reservein the northern Serengeti at Faru Faru and Sabora followed by one of our perennial favorites, Mara Plains, in the Olare Motorogi conservancy adjacent to the Masai Mara. They then moved south to Singita Boulders in South Africa’s Sabi Sands before finishing their epic safari with a stop at Tswalu Kalahari.

Cheetah Cub in the Mara

Cheetah Cub in the Mara

Driving between Faru Faru and Sabora, our guide Anthony stopped for this ‘joyful little cheetah cub’ playing with his mama, and we watched them for as long as we wanted, despite arriving late to lunch at Sabora. At Singita, the wildlife experience always takes priority over being on time!

Cape Fox: This little critter popped up right in front of our room at Tswalu, and we think there was a den nearby…you just see so much from your room during the downtime!

Starling: Spotted from the room at Tswalu–he grabbed a bite to eat just as I snapped his portrait!

Hyena: The heartbreaking side of safaris is watching a kill where the mother gazelle was hopelessly standing by while the hyena ran off with her baby, at Mara Plains.

Oryx: At Hoanib, it was a marvel these large mammals could survive in the desert so well. Their adaptations are mind blowing!

Bee Eater: Taken from the room at Tswalu

African Wild Cat: We sat with her for 45 minutes at Tswalu while she observed and stalked dozens of mice that were scampering in front of her. The cool animals come out at night, so we started our ‘afternoon’ game drives about 8 PM to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and to see some of the nocturnal species. Some other guests we spoke with were out until 4 AM…talk about flexible schedules!

Sunbird: Reminded me of a rainbow and showed the Kalahari in bloom. No one expects to see such lovely delicate flowers in the desert

‘Tree Climbing’ lion: At Boulders, we came upon a pride with 16 cubs in the midst of a play session. This lion was stretching and playing with the tree–not actually trying to climb it!

Horned Adder: Our guide at Tswalu had seen a large tortoise in the bush and pointed it out, then saw the Adder just next to it. We crept carefully out of the vehicle on foot but kept a respectful distance so we didn’t disturb the snake.

Leopard Baby: This was taken in the first hour of our first trip to Botswana while at Little Tubu Tree. Our tracker found the mama lying near the tree and we were privileged to hear her start calling to her cub shortly after we arrived. I got very emotional as they played and she nursed the cub while the sun was setting. It was a truly thrilling experience and we could have gone home right then satisfied with our safari!

Grasshopper: I called this one coffee stop camouflage. On a morning coffee break at Boulders, we noticed dozens of different colored grasshoppers blended into the ground around where they stopped.

Pangolin:  At Tswalu, this pangolin is actually tagged as part of a research project, and we got to watch him dig around for food while discussing the species with the researcher.


While we hesitate to guarantee how good your photos turn out, but we can guarantee a thoughtful and carefully arranged itinerary. Get in touch to start planning your ideal safari.

Wildebeast ,Tubu Tree, Botswana

Mike & Trina’s Sensational Anniversary Safari

It was clear to us as our safari unfolded, that Kili listened carefully to us and, through a couple of phone conversations, teased out nuanced information that ultimately translated into specific experiences designed to delight us. Next Adventure nailed it. –Mike R., Fresno, CA

Mike & Trina wanted to celebrate their 30th Wedding Anniversary with a memorable trip to Africa, and Kili connected with them to craft just the right combination of experiences to suit their interests and style. Read their trip report below to see just how Mike & Trina felt about their Next Adventure anniversary safari! All photos are courtesy of Mike and Trina.


Mosi Oa Tunya Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia

Mosi Oa Tunya Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia

Our anniversary safari began after a restful night in Johannesburg and a morning flight to Livingstone, Zambia. Toka Leya Camp, on the shore of the Zambezi River, is a perfect starting point for a safari. We had the chance to walk with Zambian Rangers to locate and observe a rare White Rhino in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park and stand in the soaking spray of the stunningly beautiful and powerful flood-stage Victoria Falls. Meeting families in a local village and spotting birds and wildlife from a sunset cruise on the Zambezi were auspicious signs for the rest of our safari. To set the tone for our entire trip, we received extraordinary, friendly and personal attention at every moment while at Toka Leya.

Botswana

From Livingstone, we flew across the Okavango Delta to our first bush camp, Tubu Tree Camp, and we were awestruck by the landscape and the unique ecosystem: the termite mounds, the “islands”, the seasonal changes, the long journey of the water from Angola into the Kalahari sands, the tree and plant species, and the medicinal and functional plants. The region captured our interest and our hearts forever.

To land at Tubu Tree’s airstrip, our pilot actually had to ‘fly by’ an elephant to move him off the airstrip. As if that wasn’t enough of an amazing welcome, we were greeted by the singing staff of Tubu Tree when we arrived at camp. It was the best greeting throughout our trip. The staff shared their happiness and excitement with us over the arrival of the ‘pushing’ water into the Delta. Our view from our tent was remarkable: each day we watched five or more species play, fight, court, chase, eat and relax in the flood plain in front of our room. We actually wish we could have spent more time in the room.

Perhaps one of the highlights within a trip of many was the expert guiding of Seretse ‘The General’ while at Tubu Tree. He immediately figured out how much we enjoyed learning, and he entertained and educated us for three days and nights. Seretse was committed fully to making sure we were having the best experience possible, and it was very special to be the only couple in the Land Rover for so many outings. We saw our first leopard, our first lion, a rambunctious baby elephant mock charging us, and the spectacular sight of a herd of buffalo racing through the water.

Across the Delta we flew–in a helicopter this time–arranged as a surprise by Next Adventure! During this short low-flying flight we spotted massive elephant herds (100+ elephants), a large cape buffalo herd and beautiful running giraffes.

Chitabe Lediba’s setting, being mostly dry in comparison to Tubu Tree, gave us an important, differentiated experience, sandwiched between Tubu Tree and Little Mombo. The camp was delightfully small, simple and humble when compared to the others. We had fun, memorable communal meals at Chitabe Lediba. At the table were people from Massachusetts, California, South Africa, Kenya and London. It was a great two nights of fun, food, drink, stargazing and conversation.

At the suggestion of another couple, campmates from Durban, South Africa, we joined them in a full-day drive instead of splitting the day into two drives. The camp staff enthusiastically agreed to an all-day drive including an amazing campfire-cooked lunch on the bank of the Gomoti River. We spent a memorable 13-hours with our guide, OD, and our two campmates.

We covered miles and miles of territory and saw lions, lions and more lions. We will forever remember Chitabe Lediba for its lions. There are three prides of Lions in the Chitabe concession. I believe we saw every member of every pride…including their cubs. We also experienced two days of leopard cub drama. Day one we spotted a lone cub in a thicket without its sibling and mother. Day two, much to everyone’s relief, we returned to see that the mother and the cub sibling had returned.

We went to Africa not thinking hyenas would be very interesting but we discovered them to be just the opposite. Their pups found us interesting and walked directly to us, curiously inspecting us and our vehicle, biting our tires and playing and fighting with one another as their nursing mothers carefully watched. Regarding bird watching, where Tubu Tree delivered us beautiful water bird sightings, Chitabe Lediba  showed us nearly every species of owl, eagle and vulture, which really rounded-out our bird sighting experience.

Our arrival at Little Mombo was preceded by an hour-long, breathtaking helicopter ride over Chief Island and the Moremi Game Reserve. The flight was highlighted by truly spectacular rhino sightings, including a black rhino and her baby and a white rhino and her baby. The wildlife around Mombo continued to deliver outstanding experiences like a rare sighting of a male cheetah, a leopard with an impala kill in a tree, and a running baby giraffe. Our guide, Sefo, took the time to show us how to track and often stopped to draw prints of different species.

The hospitality and special details at Little Mombo impressed us. On night one our bed featured a “Welcome to Little Mombo” message written on top of the comforter with beans. On night two there was a “Happy Anniversary” message written in English and Setswana…a classy detail that made us feel pretty special. We were treated to a luxurious private “bush picnic”. The picnic was near Mombo’s hide and adjacent to a main channel.

We never guessed we would be sitting in beanbag chairs eating fine cheese and drinking wine in the Okavango Delta! At one moment during the picnic we had six species in close range seeming to watch us as we relaxed, including a family of busy hippos, a small herd of Lechwe, a fish eagle, a bull elephant, baboons, vervet monkeys, and some cattle egrets. Finally, the sundowners beneath a Baobab tree – we met the other Little Mombo guests for cocktails at the base of an old Baobab tree. The staff brought not only the fixings for cocktails but also furniture and lighting. At that moment it could have been the world’s most exotic cocktail party.

Cape Town

From the plains of Botswana, we flew to the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. Four days in the Kensington Place Boutique Hotel was an outstanding hotel experience. The manager was a joy to talk to and a great source of information. We were upgraded to a room adjacent to the hotel that turned out to be a very large, luxuriously appointed five-star studio villa. We just loved it.

Once again, our guide, Lazarus, was exceptional. We spent four full days with him, so we got to know him relatively well. He was as much a part of our experience – and as enjoyable – as the activities and sightseeing. Like all of our guides on safari we most enjoyed getting to know their personal stories and sharing conversations with them throughout our stay. In Cape Town, the District Six Museum, as suggested by our guide, was fascinating and heartbreaking, and it gave us a proper contextual link between Cape Town’s apartheid-related troubles and the state of South African society today. This was a more powerful and intimate experience than we expected.

Cape Winelands

The unexpected raw beauty of the Cape Peninsula coastline made us feel like we wanted more time to walk the beaches and explore. Our visit to The Cape of Good Hope was a special moment in Mike’s family history, and the winelands were familiar (being from Northern California) and charming. Your dining recommendation of The Tasting Room was the most eclectic dining experience EVER. The entire experience was strange and surreal and unlike any high-end dining experience we’ve ever had. The menu and plated presentation was completely wacky and wonderful. Thank you!

Everything about our safari was perfectly planned. The personal, concierge-style of hospitality; the well-designed luxury tent palaces. Every camp had something unique and special about the tents/rooms; the self-sustaining operations in the middle of nowhere fascinated us, and each setting was a standout. 

To us, a safari is an invigorating, immersive, interactive, fun, mobile wilderness symposium, and it is an investment in your health and well-being. Africa settles emphatically in your soul, and, when you return home, it becomes clear that Africa will always be with you. The safari experience is so much more than wildlife and photography, it’s non-stop stimulation of the senses; the smell of sage on your clothes following a drive; dodging a thorny acacia branch as it slips through your Land Rover; the stench of a predator’s kill; the distant roar of a lion at dawn; the whoop of a hyena; the warning song of a francolin; the conversations with locals; the silhouettes of baobab trees at sunset; the unforgettable grunt of a hippo at night; finding the southern cross in the night sky; being awakened by a baboon fight beneath your tent and the exciting child-like feeling of anticipation around what tomorrow will bring. The total safari experience includes everything a camera can never record – those uniquely nuanced sensory experiences that are forever yours and yours alone.


Mike & Trina’s Anniversary Safari
Victoria Falls, Botswana, and Cape Town

Itinerary in Brief:

Day 1: AM arrival in Livingstone, Zambia. Transfer to Toka Leya Camp (2 nts)

Day 2: Full day of exploration in Victoria Falls and Livingstone

Day 3: Light aircraft to the Okavango Delta, transfer to Tubu Tree Camp (3 nts)

Days 4-5: Wildlife viewing activities from your base at Tubu Tree Camp

Day 6: Liight aircraft transfer to Chitabe Lediba Camp (2 nts)

Day 7: Wildlife viewing activities from your base at Chitabe Lediba Camp

Day 8: Helicopter transfer to Little Mombo Camp (3 nts)

Days 9-10: Wildlife viewing activities in the Moremi Game Reserve from Little Mombo

Day 11: Flight to Maun, connect to Cape Town. Transfer to the Kensington Place Boutique Hotel (4 nts)

Day 12: Full day private tour of Cape Town, Table Mountain & Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Day 13: Full day private tour of the Cape Peninsula Cape of Good Hope & Boulders Beach

Day 14: Day at leisure to explore the other highlights of Cape Town

Day 15: Full day private tour of the Cape Winelands with drop-off at Le Quartier Francais (1 nt)

Day 16: Transfer to Cape Town International Airport for your international departure

Kudu in the Grass, Linyanti

A Spin Through Bots & Zim

In May, I had an opportunity to travel with African Bush Camps to experience their intimate safari camps in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and I also had a chance to visit a few other camps and lodges nearby. It was a great experience and a wonderful introduction to a safari company that is leading the industry in environmental design and sustainable community-supported conservation.

Explore a full interactive map of my itinerary below, and get in touch to learn more about safari options in Southern Africa.

Linyanti Bush Camp – Chobe – Botswana

My first stop was Linyanti Bush Camp on the Linyanti channel just outside of Chobe National Park. As we approached the camp after a game drive from the airstrip, we spotted our first cat, an adult female leopard coming out for the evening’s hunt. The camp is simple, classy and comfortable with a nice dining tent and a sitting area looking out over the marshes. The lack of water in the channel was the talk of the camp as the rains were late. News of the coming floods was traveling faster than the water itself. The staff was genuinely warm, they were wonderful storytellers, and they seemed to make an immediate connection with each guest.

In the evening, we had one of the most beautiful sundowner experiences I can remember on the edge of a perfectly still pond mirroring a huge sunset. A family of curious elephants cautiously approached for a drink while we clinked our glasses and snapped hundreds of photos.  

Khwai Tented Camp – Moremi – Botswana

We were welcomed to Khwai Tented Camp with traditional songs and a personal introduction by the whole team. The camp sits on a seasonal lagoon, the main area is comfy and rustic, and the staff really makes you feel at home. The guest tents can feel a little close together, but they are classic and well-appointed with bucket showers and a nice, spacious deck overlooking the lagoon.

The camp is on a community-run concession on the eastern border of the Moremi Game Reserve where we had a good sighting of an adolescent leopard posing and changing positions and soaking up the last of the day’s sunshine. After a fun sundowner with lots of elephants and hippo interactions, the night drive back to camp was very busy. We had a serval sighting, and we watched a baby hyena climbing all over it’s mother. With lots of time for photographs, and our guide was very good helping us with nighttime photo settings. Our group arrived just outside of camp for a lively bush dinner with singing and dancing amongst hundreds of lanterns and millions of stars.

The Khwai village visit was particularly meaningful. We met with an elderly San woman who talked about the relationship between her culture, the government of Botswana, the national park service and the wild game that regularly pass through the village of 200 people.

Victoria Falls Hotel – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

Stately, classic and a little aged around the edges is part of the charm of The Victoria Falls Hotel. The beautiful grounds are meticulously trimmed by resident warthogs, and mongoose families scurry about. A grand patio overlooks the Gorge with a huge column of mist rising over the falls.

The hotel is in a constant process of updates and reconfigurations to stay current. Some rooms have newer bigger bathrooms that are completely modern and chic, while other rooms are being combined to make for very large and luxurious suites. The common areas can feel a bit formal, and the dining room seems unchanged from the historic photos that line the halls.

The best aspect of the Vic Falls Hotel is its on-going commitment to providing a comprehensive array of services to hotel guests and visitors. The full-service salon and barbershop make for a nice stop in the middle of a long safari, and the famous high tea on the veranda is a great way to pause and relax in style during a busy day of activities.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has a wide range of accommodations from the newer, more exclusive Club, to the private stand-alone Suites to the Main Lodge. The Bar at the Main Lodge is busy and fun with a great view over a frequently visited waterhole below. The rooms have wonderful views with new bathrooms and all the amenities, and I found the staff to be particularly friendly and helpful. While the lodge is a little outside of town, the famous Boma restaurant is very close by. With nightly drummers, singing, dancing, fortune-tellers, The Boma serves an amazing buffet of traditional Zimbabwean dishes, a huge variety of grilled game meats and the must-try mopane worms (salty and crunchy). Sure, the dining experience is a little touristy, but it’s also great fun. There’s more than enough really good food, and you can’t help but enjoy the energy of the show.

Ilala Lodge – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

Ilala Lodge is another nice option right in town and one of the closest lodges to the Falls. The main dining and bar area is huge, opening up to a wide veranda with beautiful grounds right under the spray. It feels classy and relaxed, and the in-house restaurant, The Palm, is one of the best in town. The lodge is just around the corner from ATMs and shopping at the nearby Elephant Walk, famous for its persistent souvenir-selling entrepreneurs.

Gorges Lodge – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

Imvelo’s Gorges Lodge has what no other lodge can offer: an absolutely breathtaking setting right on the edge of the sheer cliffs of the Batoka Gorge with an almost-nightly fly-by of black eagles and lanner falcons. Gorges is located a few miles outside of Vic Falls, and it’s nice to get out of the touristy center of town. The lodge is charming with a cozy little bar and open-air dining room. The staff is hired directly from the nearby village: warm, friendly and homespun. The chalets are comfy with recently refurbished bathrooms and showers and sliding glass doors that open up right over the gorge.  Little Gorges is a small tented camp next door, and the brand new tents are really well-designed to take full advantage of the awesome cliffside views.

Activities in Vic Falls

Vic Falls has become a destination for a wide variety of wildlife and adrenaline activities. Within an hour of crossing the border, I was leaping off the Vic Falls Bridge for an exhilarating Gorge Swing. I found it to be much more pleasant than the traditional bunjee jump which leaves you yo-yoing upside down for a few minutes after the jump. The gorge swing attaches at the torso which means that after the jump, while they reel you in, you can comfortably look around at the mossy, rain-forested walls of the Batoka Gorge from a completely unique perspective.

I also had an opportunity to experience the Falls from above on a short helicopter flip. It’s amazing to see the mighty Zambezi River spill over the shelf of the Falls with the gorge cutting it’s way East to the horizon. While the helicopter was fun, the microlight flight I did in 2014 is my favorite. With just you and a pilot puttering 1000 feet over the Falls on a moped with wings, you can feel the cool air from the Falls as it updrafts and jostles the tiny aircraft.

Somalisa Camp – Hwange – Zimbabwe

Somalisa Camp was the talk of the safari industry. It had just won a design award at We Are Africa as well as the first Gold certification in Zimbabwe from Green Tourism. While my expectations were high, Somalisa delivered. It is an oasis of a camp. As we approached, a small family of elephants was stopping by for a drink from the plunge pool right in front of the camp. On our orientation, a half-dozen elephants wandered between the tents and welcomed us by shaking the camelthron trees for a tasty little snack. The guest tents are incredibly well-designed with lots of character and thoughtful features: perfectly positioned charging points and light switches, a cozy wood burning stove, luxurious cowhide carpets and a spacious bathroom with a giant copper and porcelain tub and indoor/outdoor showers.

We had a lively dinner with other guests from all over the world, and the staff was exceptional. The host, the servers, the manager, the chefs and the guide all made an impression with their enthusiasm, warmth and professionalism. On our game drives, we spent time with a small pride of lions, relatives of Cecil, a cheetah posed for us on a fallen tree, and giraffes wandered through the Ngweshla Pan under one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Bumi Hills – Lake Kariba – Zimbabwe

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge has been a staple on the shores of Lake Kariba since the 80s, and it was a pleasure to experience it for myself. Bumi is perched high on a hill with a spectacular view of the lake, and the game drives around the lodge offered lots of elephants, zebras and two lionesses on the prowl. On our sundowner cruise, the lake was perfectly flat, while the shore was crowded with thirsty elephants. While in some ways Bumi is showing it’s age, the recent renovation and relaxing resort feel offer a much-needed pit stop during a safari.

Kanga Camp – Mana Pools – Zimbabwe

Kanga Camp is easily one of the more unique and interesting camps in the Mana Pools area. It is set a little more than an hour from the Zambezi River around a very productive waterhole which is frequently visited by bathing elephants and thirsty leopard. It feels like a rustic, remote outpost, but the guests tents and main areas are homey and comfortable. Like all of the African Bush Camps properties, they seem to have thought of everything from the guest’s perspective while keeping a truly classic safari feel with big roomy tents, thoughtful amenities, a big outdoor shower area, and a secluded deck right on the edge of the waterhole. From Kanga, the game drives can include a visit to Mana’s Long Pool or a trip out to the Zambezi Expeditions camp for a paddle down the river. However, the more popular activity is to choose a comfortable armchair and watch the parade of game come visit the only reliable waterhole for miles.

Perhaps the best experience of my trip was the Kanga Under the Stars sleepout. We dined in a dry river bed, with our barefeet buried in a foot of sand, and we sat up late around the bonfire listening to hyenas calling all around us. With a bright full moon, we barely needed a flashlight to climb up onto the rustic lofted sleeping platforms draped only in mosquito netting. It was the best sleep of the trip!

Ruckomechi Camp – Mana Pools – Zimbabwe

Since I was in the neighborhood, I also had an opportunity to visit Wilderness Safaris’ Ruckomechi Camp which was just recently refurbished. The result is truly breathtaking. The centerpiece is an expansive deck that stretches along the Zambezi with stunning views of the hills just across the river in Zambia. The two main common areas, a bar tent and dining tent, are light and airy and luxurious, and the guest tents are simple and chic. As striking as the accommodations are, the best part of Ruckomechi is the friendly staff, the excellent guiding and the variety of ecosystems you can explore.

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