Botswana Safari by Caron Steele

Caron Steele

05 Nov 2014

botswana trip report

I had been yearning for a safari for years and although I have holidayed in both Kenya and South Africa have never been on a proper safari. I had heard that Botswana was amazing and I was also keen to visit Victoria Falls so I contacted Will Bolsover at Natural World Safaris and they put an itinerary together for me and my husband. Being a grumpy farmer, my husband restricted us to November, we went from 5th -17th and before I tell you anymore – it was the best holiday of my life!

We visited Shinde Camp, Kwando Lagoon and the Islands of Siankaba.

As the world’s largest inland delta, the Okavango covers over 15,000 square kms of lush verdant wetland. Shinde Camp is a beautiful tree top lodge, nestled on a palm island in the heart of the northern Okavango Delta.


arriving into botswana

The journey was fairly arduous: through Johannesburg (great airport) to Maun (glorified shed). Thankfully we were met by two great NWS reps at Maun who helped with our baggage put us at ease and got us on to our tiny 4 seater connecting flight to Shinde. I am not a great traveller - I get car sick easily, and so I recommend taking stugeron for these small aircrafts - but what a treat, the views were spectacular and a great way to see the lie of the land and larger wildlife. There were even lions by the runway as we landed at Shinde. 

It was so beautiful my heart skipped a beat.

We were greeted with friendly smiles and a cold drink and driven in an open safari vehicle to the lodge where the staff were all waiting to sing us in – surprisingly un-cheesy and moving. With the main part of the lodge being built up in the trees connected by walkways it is magical and beautiful. It was also very hot in November! But a dry heat and so even though it hit 40◦C + it wasn’t too uncomfortable and we are both fair-skinned wimps! And joy of joys no mosquitoes at that time of year! There was also a plunge pool overlooking the plains which was lovely to cool down in after lunch – in fact we thought an elephant was going to get in it on our last day – he was pretty keen!

After showing us our tents (lovely stilted canvas accommodation) and getting us some lunch, Adam our guide took us out on our first drive – we saw a troop of chacma baboons, elephants, giraffe, impala, reed buck, burchell’s zebra and tsessebe in the first afternoon. Game was abundant; Adam our guide was informative and enthusiastic. He got us really close to the wildlife, helped position the vehicle for great photos and was generally lovely. The following days revealed a great deal more wildlife some with young and no signs of any fences or other people, it was idyllic. We even tracked a leopard and watched her silently for about 15 minutes as she crept up on a sleeping impala in the long grass and made a kill. We saw lazy male lions attempt a kill and some amazing birdlife.

On our second morning we went out in a mokoro (dugout canoe) on the delta. It was a complete contrast to the adrenaline rush of tracking the leopard. Extremely tranquil and beautiful and a great way to see some of the smaller delta inhabitants – such as tiny little frogs(smaller than a finger nail- that collectively could eat up to 500 mosquitoes a night!) another afternoon we went out further into the lagoon via speed boat powering through the papyrus banked canals – a great day, we saw crocodiles, hippos and elephants in the water and colourful yellow-billed stalks nesting with their new born chicks and enjoyed a sundowner watching the changing sunset and evening sky reflected back up at us off the tranquil waters of the delta – heaven!

After Shinde we flew on to Kwando Lagoon perched on the banks of the Kwando River. Although I loved Shinde, Kwando Lagoon was my favourite camp. 

The two together are a perfect combo.

Our room at Kwando lagoon (the first tent near the dining area) was palatial. It had a large king-size bed, dressing area, lounge, marble bathroom(!) with a slipper bath looking out onto the river and an indoor and outdoor shower. The tent – if you can call it that - had a front of sheer mosquito netting and lay on the edge of the river so you could lie in bed with uninterrupted views of the river if you chose to. The safari vehicles were also superb.

Our first outing at Kwando was to see a pack of 19 wild dogs; adults and pups relaxing by the river. They were fascinating and our guide took a lot of trouble to identify different pack members and explain their hierarchy and habits, it was really interesting, and understanding the animals better made watching them interact even more enjoyable. The guides we had at Kwando really made the holiday, especially Dux who seemed to be the font of all knowledge. We saw lion kills and a leopard and cubs with their kill up in a tree and an amazing number of birds, including my favourite the lilac breasted roller.

The boat trip on the river was totally unforgettable and a must do at Kwando with plenty of hippos to watch and a heart stopping river crossing that took about 45 minutes by a large group of elephants, including a week old baby who nearly didn’t make it.

Often however it was the little creatures that enthralled us like the mongooses, and the ferocious honey badger and the varied and colourful birdlife. 

Dux told us so much about their habits and habitats that we were constantly transfixed. The staff were all charming and the setting superb, I had tears in my eyes as we flew out of Kwando Lagoon. I will definitely go back.

For the final leg of our trip we flew to Zimbabwe to visit the Victoria Falls. We stayed in the Islands of Siankaba – a unique retreat located on two private islands on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River, with rooms linked together by a series of rope bridges. 

Our room was again wonderful, overhanging the river with great views.

I loved messing about on the river, my disastrous attempts at fishing and the sundowners on Hippo Island, but the trip to Victoria Falls was the highlight of this leg.

Although the Falls were at relatively low flow they were still an awe-inspiring spectacle. In my opinion it was a very good time to visit as we could actually see the falls, in the areas where the water flow was strongest the spray was so great that it was like standing in a warm rain shower and it was difficult to see through the water haze. Being at half flow we could admire the whole thing, plus we were able to swim in Devil’s Pool – a must if you are slightly insane and not too worried about health & safety! You can only do this between the end of August & January when the Zambezi water levels are low. 

At full flow you’d definitely be swept over the 220 foot rock precepis!

It was a truly amazing holiday, and a wonderful combination of lodges so thanks to all at NWS. This year we are off to the Masai Mara with NWS hopefully in time to catch the end of the migration and I’ve already booked the Galapagos photography trip for next spring. 

I am now addicted!

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