Botswana: The heart of Wild Africa

Katie Li

22 Jun 2018

NWS client Katie travels to Botswana: The heart of Wild Africa

Experience the harmony and connection between the People, the Animal Kingdom and Mother Nature.

I’ve always dreamt of going to Africa since childhood - from a young age I’ve spent many hours watching Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries that have inspired and educated the world about the animal kingdom.

After losing my mum last year in 2017 from bowel cancer, it’s taken a while to truly reflect on her words that you only have one life - enjoy and embrace it!

So, this year in March 2018 I finally took the plunge! It was somewhat a spur of the moment decision and having spoken to many tour operators, none were as personalised as Natural World Safari (NWS). I felt they really understood their customers' needs.

Before I continue I want to say thank you to Oliver Greenfield for creating a wonderful tailor-made itinerary with great recommendations, and to the NWS team for keeping us informed at every step of our journey and helping with enquires.

When my sister Amy heard of my travel plans, she wanted to join this adventure; so we finally decided book with NWS to travel in June 2018. Our mum would have loved this trip – after all, she was a huge natural-world lover.

In summary, this blog will cover our adventures in:

  • Victoria Falls
  • Chobe National Park
  • Khwai Concession
  • Okavango Delta
  • and our safari family highlights.


Journey began at Victoria Falls

Our journey began with two nights at Bayete Guest Lodge, in order to ease into our safari trip and give us time to relax.

We visited Victoria Falls National Park, Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River on both the Zimbabwe and Zambia side. It was a phenomenal opportunity to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world!

With June being the beginning of their dry season (winter), the River was full from all the rainfall. As we walked from points 1 to 16 in the National Park, we were surround by beautiful wildlife; from butterflies and birds to warthogs, baboons and more, we could also hear and feel the sheer force of the misty water.

Our Wild Horizon transfer driver did say, “Ladies, be prepared to be baptised by Mother Nature.” I do love the local sense of humour and optimism. He was right – we were completely soaked from top to bottom! This feeling brought back childhood memories of the fun we had when playing outside in the rain, except the water deposited here probably equated to an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Then there was the sound of the falls, which was out of this world! If you have not been yet, I recommend going to experience this up close and embrace every moment. Victoria Falls is known to the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, "The Smoke that Thunders" – she definitely lives up to expectation.

My nature highlight here has to be the vervet monkey in the national park, they are adorable to observe. Each and every one of these vervet monkeys has their own characteristics and personalities. And, yet this was only a taster of what was to follow, even so I was still very impressed.

Wild Africa adventure: A day in the life of a safari guide

Chobe National Park and Chobe Elephant Camp

My first ever safari began in Chobe National Park and it was Amy’s second safari – she previously visited Tanzania and Zanzibar in 2008.

We were transferred from Victoria Falls to Kasane and then to Chobe Elephant Camp along with a solo traveller called Pat (she was so lovely). The camp and rooms overlooked the scenic Chobe River and the landscape was jaw-droppingly breathtaking!

Our guide Gabriel was considerate, enthusiastic and truly connected us with nature. We learnt so much about the natural world, animal behaviours and characteristics from him and about him. I’ve always felt and thought the best experience comes from embedding yourself into someone else’s lifestyle, so we were experiencing just that from our guide. As Pat said, “Gabriel was truly an exceptional guide”, and we also thought he was absolutely amazing.

We joked and laughed as we tracked all different species. Even though we were asked what we would like to see (the elusive leopard) we knew that every day would be different. Yet, it would seem as if the animals were out here waiting for us – we joked with Gabriel that he must have emailed and called them the night before as we saw so much.

Together we thoroughly enjoyed the sightings of an elderly male leopard (“Nkwe” in Setswana), lion (Tau) cubs, lionesses hunting, buffalo (Kubu), hyenas (Piri) in broad daylight – very rare sighting; many species of birds from martial eagle, African fishing eagle to lilac-breasted rollers.

Out of the bird kingdom those that stuck in my memory were the Cape Turtle Dove as their sound makes a song – “Drink lager, Botswana, Work harder, Botswana” – and the Helmeted Guineafowl, nicknamed the “Chubby Chicken” as taught by the very funny and light-humoured Gabriel.

Overall, we had a fantastic time here and even had the opportunity and pleasure to befriend the founders of Bush Ways after I initially thought they were on safari like us. We’ve really enjoyed talking to them.

One lasting memory I would take away from here would be the reception of the team and dynamics at Chobe Elephant Camp, especially Gabriel. Being able to see that he was enjoying every moment with us certainly made our time here enjoyable – Amy and I were even invited to join the team at the front to dance and sing (pretty sure they were better at this but we sure had fun). I have to say we were sad to leave on the day, especially our small game drive family unit with Pat and Gabriel.

Great memories, with love and best wishes to everyone at Chobe.

Khwai Concession and Machaba Camp

To reach our second destination, we flew in a light aircraft from Kasane International Airport – a first time for us, and what a view from above. The scenery differs to that of Chobe National Park in the sense that we were surrounded by narrower river channels, more trees clustered together and denser vegetation.

Here, our guide B.D. (short for Budisa) picked us up from the airstrip, and while driving to Machaba Camp he asked what we saw and what we would like to see. We were still feeling the adrenaline rush from Chobe and were super excited to tell him what we saw. No pressure for him at all!

B.D. is a very cool, calm, responsible and fun person to be around – a very talented person, he is able to mimic the sound of the great eagle owl. The best part was when the owl responded to his calls, it was amazing!

Amy and I joined Roger, Arlene and Jill – from our first drive together we all connected so well that we’ve labelled ourselves as “Team B.D.”, creating a little bit of competition amongst the rest of the guides (Albert, Leopard and Kitso) for the best and number one guide in Khwai. They had great personalities, but our loyalty remains with the one and only best guide in Khwai, B.D.

During our 3-night stay here we saw many species, but we seemed to have subconsciously gravitated towards tracking a young female leopard cub around 13 months of age who resided in this area. Without fail we saw her every day. the guides would share her story with us and we really felt connected to this leopard.

On our last day we had out last sighting of her, and I will never forget this: we saw her looking up at us as she walked past our 4WD vehicle during the final minutes of sunset, the complete silence around us making those few minutes feel like a lifetime. When she disappeared into the bush, the daylight diminished and her shadow grew faint; we all turned to look at one another, including B.D., and synchronised with a huge, “WOW!”

No one took a picture, it was one of those moments during this adventure where you were so mesmerised by her presence that you simply had to put your camera away and just feel and enjoy the time with nature and this beautiful feline. I would say this was the top highlight of our adventure, I hope the young leopard succeeds in everything she does – such an incredible encounter.

Jill had expressed that “Mother Nature thought we’ve done something right in life and heard our calling.” On our last evening game drive we saw an aardwolf. Some of the guides and staff at Machaba have never seen it in their lives, and this was only B.D.’s second sighting – the research of this hyena family species is very limited, and little is known about these nocturnal animals, so to see one being so relaxed around us was incredible.

Again, the people here in Machaba, both visitors and staff, made our experience. It’s certainly nice to connect with people on a personal level. We’ve really enjoyed sharing stories, especially about Rodney the hippo. I will leave this as a surprise for future travellers but will say that I recommend the mokoro activity.

Thank you and big hugs again to everyone at Machaba.

Okavango Delta and Gomoti Plains Camp

Our last and final destination before home time – the Okavango Delta! I have lost count of the amount of times that I’ve said the these words – “WOW”, “Amazing”, “Incredible”, “Beautiful” – on this trip.

We flew again from Machaba to Gomoti and seeing the Delta from above is a must, it’ll leave you speechless! I could only image what the landscape would look like during the wet season (their summer). Gomoti Plains is the sister camp of Machaba, we were picked up by Mott our guide here. One thing we instantly noticed was that it was much drier out here in the wilderness.

Mott had already heard a lot about us from Jill who had left the previous day and was staying at the same camp. We were reunited with her once again to form Team Mott!

Mott is enthusiastic, sociable, respectful and a highly talented person. His native heritage is from the bushman tribe and what was really interesting to see, experience and learn the techniques of how he tracked and engaged with the environment around him.

We all found this really fascinating and extremely impressive, he’s a very patient and a good communicator, teaching us and answering all our questions about language, culture, people, economy, the ecosystem of the Delta, animal behaviour, ecology and more.

He asked me what I wanted to see and I simply replied with, “Show me your world and I will embrace it.” What I have found is that every day is very different, and even if you have seen a thousand impalas, for me personally, every impala is different and every landscape is different, so I would be happy to see a thousand more.

Highlight has to be the African wild dogs here; the pack behaviour at sundown (sunset) was a unique encounter. The alpha male and female lead the pack. As soon as sunset begins, the pack wakes to a call that is projected around the landscape to reunite remaining members to go hunting. We witnessed this fascinating behaviour when observing the call from the alpha male, as he dipped his head while standing as close to the ground as possible, and at the top of his lungs called out.

This technique is known as the refraction of sound waves (brings me back to my physics lessons). The sound vibration strikes the surface of the ground and bounces back in some other direction, allowing the sound to travel across the landscape so that the call can be heard miles away. The herd started off with a dozen and before you know it, others join and there must have been about 20 or more. There’s so much that we have yet to learn about the animal kingdom. I definitely wasn’t ready to leave Africa.

One story I’ve been sharing from here was our outside communal dinner experience at night under the Milky Way, among the world’s most beautiful places for stargazing. One night we were interrupted by the sound of splashing water from the riverbank behind us. As we turned around, the staff had their torches out and we witnessed five kudus leaping very quickly across the riverbank. My initial thought was “What’s chasing them?” while the others got up to take a closer look near the fire.

Then less than 50 metres away, a lioness was indeed hunting them. It only lasted a matter of seconds, but to see her determination and focus in her eyes as she ran towards them was even better than documentaries. You could see her body and muscle movement that helps her take her prey, then she disappeared into the bushes - “WOW’.

Our stay here was pleasant and like all the other camps it’s been wonderful. We were fortunate to have had the pleasure to meet the Head of Operation Design of Machaba Safaris at Machaba Camp and he joked that we followed him to Gomoti Plains Camp. He gave us and a few others a behind-the-scenes tour of the camp. It makes you really appreciate and understand the environmental considerations when constructing and running a camp, the process they had to go through, and more importantly the staff that keeps the camp operating smoothly from front of house, house and laundry keepers, chefs, etc.

It was Mott’s experience as a guide that completed our adventure on a fantastic note. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning from one another. It was extremely sad to leave Africa; we’ve felt that we’ve made some lasting memories and made good friends with everyone. As Mott took us to the airstrip for our trip home, it was very sweet to see him and Lucky on the side of the airstrip running and waving us goodbye.

Thank you so much Gomoti and best wishes to you all.

Highlights from our safari family

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my journey and I wish you a great adventure with Natural World Safaris, when you'll form your own stories.

Someone asked me, “Why Botswana?”

My answer would be, Botswana is Africa in its wildest natural form. The people of Botswana work hard as a community to protect their natural habitat. Animals and people have learnt to live in harmony and there is a mutual respect for one another – a great example that this relationship can be successful. To truly embrace the wilderness in its natural form and visit the most fascinating people of Africa, then Botswana is your answer as it truly enriches your life.

Thank you for a great adventure. The connection with the people, the animal kingdom and Mother Nature truly captured my heart. Until next time, wishing you all the best Botswana.


With Love

Katie Li



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