Safari Locations: Botswana

Botswana is circumscribed by the limits of the Kalahari Desert – a vast area of sandy soils with mopane woodland, desert scrub, and expansive dry salt pans that fill with water only once in every ten years or so.

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So it is to water, a scarce and precious commodity, that herds of elephants and other game are drawn. Us too! Remote desert oasis deep in the Kalahari are magical places where animals congregate for water, and places of dramatic action as lion hunt springbok, kudu and buffalo.

The Jewel of the Kalahari is of course the magical Okavango Delta. The Okavango River has its source deep in the forested highlands of Angola and each year it delivers up to 11 billion cubic meters of water into an expansive inland delta – the largest inland delta in the world. The water drains away through a 17,000 square kilometer maze of lagoons, channels and islands before disappearing into the Kalahari sands. The floodwaters provide a bonanza of grazing for huge herds of buffalo and marsh specializing antelope – the abundant red lechwe and shy sitatunga. In the dry season from May to October huge herds of elephant enter the Delta. Today most of the Delta’s area is taken up by private concessions – my pick is the Vumbura Concession, where one gets the best of both the dry sandy edge of the Delta – with good lion vs. buffalo action at Duba Plains Camp, and the best of the delta’s waterways – from the island paradise of Little Vumbura. Of course, a charter of Little Mombo on Chief’s Island is also fantastic, and offers the best of both dry and wet, all in one place!

In northern Botswana, the broad sandy banks of the Linyanti and Chobe Rivers are the source of my earliest childhood memories – one day an angry bull hippo made a huge hole in the bottom of our father’s boat and he had to spend half a day searching for his rifle on the bottom of the river! Today the area is still home to numerous hippo – most of them quite friendly, and to literally 100s of 1000s of elephants – so many, that in the dry season one need only choose a shady place on the riverbank to watch elephant coming and going all day long. Amazingly the Savuti Channel is flowing again this year after three decades dry, and for the first time canoe trips are now possible on the Selinda Spillway that connects the Linyanti River with the Okavango Delta (see my special offers!).


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