Category Archives: Travel Tips

“A young explorer” – Would you take your ‘little ones’ on safari?

On many occasion I get asked “Would you take young children on a safari to Botswana?” and In one simple word and with no hesitation, I would always say “Yes!”

Having lived my own childhood between Maun (a one horse town at the time) and the bush, I had a childhood only many would dream of. Most school holidays were spent on safari – either in camps, out on a mobile safari or a weekend away with Dad camping… being on “safari” was the norm. Today, my own kids are certainly as much a “bush baby” as I was.  Although we don’t spend enough time in the bush as I would like because of so much more to do in town these days, we still pack up the tents and fuel the vehicle or hop on a charter flight going into one of the camps and head off every opportunity we do get. Every trip to the bush for our kids is an adventure full of experiences that differ every time.. creating lasting memories!

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Now I am not saying “Camping” with small children is an easy task.. but the excitement of putting up tents, building a campfire and chasing monkeys from your cooler box is always a fun experience! Most Campsites within the parks are not fenced as many will know so wildlife does and will roam through the campsite day and night.. it does get the heart racing at times so for the slightly less bush experienced mum, I would always recommend considering a mobile safari or possibly better still – a lodge to lodge safari with the little ones!

Most of the lodges within Botswana are now considered “child friendly,” with Botswana offering some of the best guides in the safari industry and the Batswana culture being very family orientated – being on safari with your professional guide will give yourselves and your little ones experiences and memories never to be forgotten! Folklore tales, Wildlife sightings big and small, bush skills, games and so much more.. escaping the world of modern technology and kids being kids all barefoot and dirty – makes for one of the best family holiday options out there!

Contact us to find out more about the many family friendly options available within Botswana and using our first hand experience as “bush parents” to tailor make your Child friendly safari plans.

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How to plan the ULTIMATE Botswana self-drive safari

Botswana has increasingly become a favourite destination for self-drive fanatics, eager to explore the untouched wilderness, prime camping spots and incredible game viewing that the country has to offer.

But, where do you start? How do you choose your route? Which are the places not to be missed?

As an on the ground tour operator based in Maun we can assist with campsite bookings, DWNP permits and route recommendations, as well as up to date road and weather conditions.

WHEN TO GO:

  • November – March: if you are brave enough to travel during rainy season you should prepare for water crossings, some wet tents and mud. However, you can also prepare yourself for Botswana’s best kept secret…our spectacular GREEN SEASON! Watch the environment come to life with the much needed rainfall and the influx of migratory birds. You should be confident with 4×4 driving and expect challenging conditions.
  • April – June: a lovely time of year to see the Central Kalahari, as many migratory animals are still present. The rains have usually stopped and the temperatures pleasant, by June the nights will be very cold. Road conditions generally normal.
  • July – August: an incredibly popular time to travel so advance bookings are vital. Wildlife are much more easily visible and game viewing impressive. It is still Winter, so temperatures are cold at night and early in the morning.
  • September – October: the end of the dry season and arguably the best time for game viewing in Northern Botswana. The Kalahari is extremely hot during this time so we recommend avoiding this area unless highly desired. Due to the heat, expect thick sandy roads which can make for slow drives.

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WHERE TO GO:

  • Moremi Game Reserve: this vibrant reserve lies on the Eastern tongue of the Okavango Delta and generally offers great game viewing all year round. South Gate is the campsite located at the entrance to the park – ideal for those only spending a couple of nights in the reserve. 3rd Bridge and Xakanaxa are located deep inside the reserve and offer thrilling game viewing in a beautiful area. If you’re looking for a bit more comfort, 3rd Bridge also hosts a tented camp where you can enjoy self-catering in en suite meru tents.
  • Khwai Concession: Khwai is located on the border of Moremi. It’s location outside the park does not hinder the game viewing and allows for more flexibility for activities – there are no restrictions in place regarding driving at night or walking.
  • Savuti: an incredibly popular campsite during dry season due to it’s position close to the channel. Savuti is widely known for it’s famous predator sightings and high concentration of wildlife in the area.
  • Linyanti: a beautiful area home to abundant elephant populations. It can offer extremely challenging road conditions during the rainy season and it slightly off the beaten track, so recommended for confident 4×4’ers.
  • Chobe Riverfront: whether you stay at Ihaha Campsite or within Kasane itself, this area is a beautiful inclusion. The riverfront boasts beautiful views and great game sightings.
  • Central Kalahari: best viewed just after the rainy season in April/May – it offers much wilder camping experiences. The Kalahari experiences extremes in temperatures and can get incredibly hot in October, and incredibly cold in July.
  • Makgadikgadi National Park: for a Salt Pans experience, visit during dry season when activities are fully operating. For travel between May – October, also witness the incredible Zebra/Wildebeest migration.

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WHAT TO PACK:

  • A 4×4 vehicle equipped with spare tyres, long range fuel tank, camping equipment if required and breakdown items.
  • Map of Botswana or Satellite Navigation system with “Tracks For Africa” loaded
  • Satellite Phone (no cell signal in the parks!)
  • All food, drinks and supplies for your time in the reserves.

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WHEN TO BOOK:

  • Well in advance! It’s no exaggeration to say that National Park campsite bookings get booked up early, often as much as 1 year in advance for travel during peak season. We recommend at least 8 – 12 months to pre-book to avoid disappointment.

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A Typical Day On Safari

Your safari activities are often geared around dawn and dusk, the optimum time of  day for game sightings and also the coolest time. This means that the heat of the day is usually at your leisure to relax and siesta back in camp.

Of course every lodge has a slightly different routine best suited to its activities on offer and whether it is located inside a National Park, but the below timeline can be used as a guideline on the type of routine to expect while on safari in Botswana.

05:00 – 6:30 am

Dependent on the time of year (determining sunrise and the weather/temperature) your wake up time will vary but usually takes place between 5:00 am and 06:30 am. Many camps and lodges offer hot tea and coffee in your room to help start your day. This early wake up might not feel like your idea of a holiday at the time…but trust us that these early morning activities are often the setting for your most thrilling wildlife sightings!

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30 minutes later

Meet in the communal area with other guests for a light breakfast, usually consisting of cereals, yoghurts and rusks before heading out on safari.

07:00 am – 10:30 am

Morning safari activity, and the perfect time of day for game viewing as predators are active and it is not yet too hot. The light at this time of day is also beautiful, making for some perfect photograph opportunities.

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10:30 am

Return to camp and have some time at leisure, perhaps freshen up or have a cold drink while excitedly remembering the morning’s adventures.

10:30 – 11:00 am

Brunch / Lunch is served, often consisting of either a full cooked breakfast or a cold lunch with side salads and bread.

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12:00 – 15:30

Siesta. During the heat of the day, this is the perfect time to unwind, catch up on sleep, read a book or just take in the beautiful vistas.

15:30

Afternoon tea is a safari tradition in Botswana! Enjoy hot chocolate, tea and coffee or a cold drink alternative, with delicious cake. Some lodges put on an extravagant selection of both savoury and sweet options.

16:00 – 18:30/19:00

Head out on your afternoon activity. Again this is the perfect time of the day to see wildlife as the temperature has now cooled so the wildlife are more active.

If the lodge you are staying at is in a National Park then you will return to camp before sunset due to the restrictions in place. But if you are staying in a private concession then you can enjoy bush sundowners before night driving back to camp with a spotlight, on the lookout for nocturnal species.

19:00/19:30

Dinner is served back at camp after a busy day on safari. Finally, retire to your room before a restful sleep and a new day begins with new memories to be made.

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Our Top 5 Romantic Lodges – Valentines Special

It’s Valentine’s weekend and a time to celebrate all things about love! Botswana does romance like no other…we are talking private candlelit dinners, bubble baths under the stars and champagne bush breakfasts to name but a few. To celebrate this weekend, we’re highlighting our top 5 romantic lodges which push out all the stops to celebrate romance. If you’re lucky enough to be on safari this weekend, we hope you are thoroughly spoilt!

1. XUDUM OKAVANGO DELTA LODGE (OKAVANGO DELTA)

Xudum is a small, intimate lodge in the Okavango Delta which offers absolute luxury in the bush. Each suite is complete with a private plunge pool and elaborate en suite bathroom. It also has its own upstairs lounge, perfect for relaxing afternoon siestas or to sip a glass of wine, cuddle up and take in the beautiful views. Returning to your room after dinner you might find the bubble bath freshly run, or your bed turned down with a bottle of sparkling wine waiting for you. We won’t ruin the surprises too much, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

Photo: &Beyond Xudum

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2. PELO CAMP (OKAVANGO DELTA)

What could be more romantic than spending your holiday on a heart shaped island?! The word ‘Pelo’ means ‘Heart’, and so everything about this lodge is themed around that. As an entirely water based camp, activities are focused on Mokoro Trails, Boating and Walking safaris. This allows you to get extremely close to nature and will surely give you and your loved one an exclusive safari experience. With only 5 safari tents Pelo is able to offer lots of personal touches and is the ideal destination for those looking to escape the rush of everyday life.

Photo: Wilderness Safaris, Pelo Camp

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3. SAN CAMP (MAKGADIKGADI SALT PANS)

Located on the incredible moon-like environment of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, San Camp offers breath taking luxury accommodation in idyllic white tents. With nothing to see but miles and miles of salt flats, this is the perfect destination to spend some quality time with your loved one. Whether its candlelit dinners under one of the most incredible star spangled ceilings of all time, or perhaps enjoying some fun photo opportunities with the semi-habituated Meerkats, San Camp go the extra mile to offer special experiences for guests.

Photo: Uncharted Africa, San Camp

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4. BAINES CAMP (OKAVANGO DELTA)

Baines Camp prides itself on attention to detail and exclusive, romantic experiences for guests. A popular activity is the “star bed” where you can sleep under the stars on your deck, with only a mosquito net between you and the wild. If you’re celebrating your honeymoon or a special occasion, open air bubble baths can be arranged. Baines Camp is also able to offer the incredible and unique experience of walking with elephants which is something that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Marvel at these majestic animals as you walk alongside them and interact with them.

Photo: Sanctuary Retreats, Baines Camp

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5. ZARAFA CAMP (SELINDA)

Zarafa oozes luxury and style, offering a high end service to guests. The camp is located in the Selinda Reserve, just North East of the Okavango Delta and a unique wildlife area. With décor in earthy tones, inviting private plunge pools and decadent lounges, the suites offer comfort like no other. Due to the small size of the lodge, personal touches are a frequent feature. Enjoy private bush dinners under the stars with the whoop of hyena as your soundtrack, or perhaps a glass of wine overlooking the sunset on your private deck. There are more surprises too, but we won’t give those away just yet…

Photo: Great Plains, Zarafa Camp

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SPECIALISED SAFARIS- there’s more to safaris than game drives!

There is no denying that game drives and boat cruises are a spectacular way to get up close to wildlife and enjoy great game viewing. However, as safari travel destinations have expanded over the years, there are now more and more specialised safaris which provide an equally unique experience!

WALKING SAFARIS

Without a doubt there is little that beats a walking safari, to feel the crunch of the ground beneath your feet without the rumble of a vehicle in the background. Many lodges in private concessions within Botswana are able to offer specialised walking safaris with experienced, qualified walking guides. Walking safaris allow you to get close to wildlife in a way that a game drive just can’t compete with, and it also allows you to see the smaller things that are so often missed. Whether it is the lion tracks in the sand, a unique plant that has medicinal purposes or the tiny ants which build giant termite mounds, the smaller things on safari are sometimes some of the most fascinating. Ultimately, on a walk every single one of your senses are heightened, and the thrill of being so close to wildlife is heart pumping.

Photo: Desert & Delta Safaris, Xugana Island Lodge

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HORSE RIDING SAFARIS

Most horse riding safaris within Botswana, especially within the Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Salt pans, are aimed at experienced riders who can ride at all paces. The thrill of riding so close to wildlife is incredible as most plains game (such as antelope and giraffe) are incredibly relaxed and see you as another animal. Many horse riders will delight in the vast open spaces which are ideal for long canters. To graze alongside Kudu, stand within metres of a curious Giraffe or silently wait as a herd of elephant cross the water in front of you will leave even the most seasoned safari travellers speechless.

Photo: African Horseback Safaris, Okavango Delta

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CANOEING SAFARIS

Canoeing within Botswana has become widely popular for adventure enthusiasts, although many lodges stress that while a level of fitness is required it is not extremely physically demanding. One of the most common places to canoe is the Selinda Spillway which lies just North East of the Okavango Delta. In terms of your safari experience, wildlife viewing is spectacular as the riverbanks attract a variety of species. The tranquillity of the waterways, not to mention the vast array of birdlife, will connect you to nature like no other.

Photo: Great Plains, Selinda Canoe Trail

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While the usual safari activities are certainly a highlight and not to be missed, if you have a particular interest or hobby then perhaps look at some specialised safaris, it might just give you the trip of a lifetime!


Why Botswana should be your travel destination of choice in 2016

Botswana was recently named by the Lonely Planet as the number one place to visit in 2016 and we couldn’t agree more! Blessed with some of the last remaining unspoilt wildernesses in the world, culturally rich and home to contrasting ecosystems, Botswana has endless reasons to be your number one holiday destination in 2016.

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  1. DIVERSE LANDSCAPES

Home to one of the largest inland Delta’s in the world, the vast expanse of the Kalahari Desert, the phenomenal moon-like environment of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and an abundance of spectacular river systems, you don’t get more diverse than Botswana. Whatever time of year you visit there is always something magical to see. The lush, influx of life to the Kalahari during rainy season, the myriad of waterways in the Okavango Delta when the floods arrive or the overwhelming sight of Elephants in their thousands drinking from the Chobe River during dry season, there are very few countries which can offer this incredible variety of destinations.

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2. CULTURE

Culture has increasingly become an important part of a tourist’s wish list and Botswana does not disappoint. An educational walk with the local Bushmen in the Kalahari is a popular option, allowing guests to learn about traditional hunter/gatherer methods as well as local practices including natural medicines. Many lodges or safari companies also offer local home, school or village visits to see how the people of Botswana really live. While Botswana can take great pride in it’s abundance of wildlife and spectacular scenery, at the end of the day the local people are at the very core of what makes this country special.

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3. COMMITMENT TO CONSERVATION

Botswana has shown an impressive commitment to preserving it’s natural habitats. Focussing on high value / low impact tourism, the attraction of remote, exclusive and luxury safari camps is symbiotic with the promise to preserve these landscapes. Coupled with a strict ‘no tolerance’ for poaching and hunting, the desire to protect the country’s natural environments is commendable.

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For more reasons as to what makes Botswana so special, visit it for yourself, you will not be disappointed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


3 of Botswana’s lesser-known destinations and why you should be visiting them!

1.Tuli Block 

The Tuli Block is situated on the Eastern side Botswana, bordering Zimbabwe and South Africa. The landscape is unique, characterised by spectacular rocky outcrops, red sand and riverine forests.

The reserve is mostly home to private game farms and a section of 72’000 hectares has been preserved as the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. A variety of lodges offer diverse game viewing activities including guided bush walks, cycling safaris and game drives – with the prime lodges to visit being Mashatu Game Reserve and Tuli Safari Lodge. Access is by self drive or road transfer and there is also a Limpopo Valley Airfield which enables access for fly in safaris. A unique area which contrasts beautifully with northern Botswana, the Tuli Block is a lovely inclusion to your itinerary.

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2. Okavango Panhandle & Tsodilo Hills

The Okavango Panhandle is the stretch of river that enters Botswana from Namibia until it splays out in to the floodplains of the major part of the Delta. It is a beautiful, mesmerising area, home to some of the country’s best fishing and birdlife. The Tiger Fish can be caught here, along with Bream, Pike and a number of other species. A visit to the Okavango Panhandle is also not complete without visiting the Tsodilo Hills, a World Heritage Site and home to over 4500 ancient San rock paintings, some thought to be tens of thousands of years old. Some of the paintings date back several thousand years and (despite Botswana being landlocked) there are even paintings of aquatic species such as whales! The Panhandle captures the history and natural beauty of Botswana, and is one of our best kept secrets.

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3. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was officially opened in 2002 and straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana. Situated in the very South-West of the country, the park is not as popular as the northern regions of Moremi and Chobe, but is home to some of the country’s most beautiful scenery and game viewing. It suits well to self-drivers, as campsites are positioned throughout the park including some wilderness sites. The park is committed to preserving its natural wilderness and as a result there are strict rules regarding the number of vehicles travelling on wilderness routes and the number of nights that can be spent there. Home to a variety of wildlife including the Kalahari Lion, Springbok, Gemsbok and Hyena to name but a few, the Kgalagadi is a secret world waiting to be discovered.

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5 Reasons to travel to Botswana during Green Season

Botswana’s green season, otherwise known as the ‘secret season’, runs from approximately the beginning of November to the end of March. Characterised by the much anticipated rainfall which transforms the dry and arid land in to a lush, green paradise – green season has its unique advantages to visitors.

1. Scenery –

Botswana’s rains usually arrive during November, and they transform a barren land which has dried out from a long, hot, dry season in to a spectacular, green environment. Expect lands full of leafy trees, sprouting flowers and vibrant colours.

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2. Migrations & Wildlife –

Green season is the setting for some of Botswana’s most spectacular migrations (who said game viewing was only good in dry season?!). When the rains arrive, many wildlife migrate towards the Kalahari Game Reserve in search of the fresh new grazing and plentiful waterholes, allowing for impressive sightings. Meanwhile, just before and just after rainy season you can expect to see the Zebra Migration where upwards of 20’000 zebra migrate from the Boteti River in the Makgadikgadi National Park to the Salt Pans for fresh grazing, and back again.

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3. Affordable Rates –

Summer specials are a common feature during green season, with guests being offered special discounts and packages over this time. This means value for your money is excellent.

4. Quiet Season –

Compared to the busy dry season, green season is often much quieter allowing guests a more personal safari experience. Enjoy game sightings all to yourself, without the convoys of vehicles so often a feature during the dry season.

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5. New-borns –

A lot of young are born during green season, due to the abundance of grazing, which makes for some unique wildlife sightings! With new-borns, predators are not far behind, allowing for some dramatic wildlife interactions.

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MAUN – Where to Stay and What to Do?

Maun… the gateway to the Okavango Delta and the first experience of Botswana for many international arrivals. Due to flight arrival times, or the fact that you might have just spent more than 24 hours travelling to get here, a night in Maun is often a preferred option for many guests prior to starting their safari.

To help you get the most out of your first night in Botswana we’ve outlined, in our opinion, the best places to stay and what to do to fill your time.

Where To Stay……………..27401_l

ROYAL TREE LODGE 

  • Royal Tree Lodge is located about 30 minutes outside of Maun, and immediately throws you in to the safari fun! Situated on a reserve which is home to giraffe, zebra, oryx and a number of other plains game, it is a great introduction to Botswana’s wildlife.

 

THAMALAKANE RIVER LODGE thamalakane_chalet

  • Thamalakane is a preferred option for many as it is one of the more comfortable accommodation choices in Maun. About 20 minutes from the airport, its position on the Thamalakane riverfront is its unique selling point. Expect breath-taking sunsets from the candlelit dining area.

AUDI CAMP

  • Audi Camp is a favourite for self-drivers coming through Maun due to its value for en suite tentmoney. Whether you choose to camp, or stay in the spacious en suite tents, Audi Camp is welcoming and hosts a great restaurant and pool area.

What To Do……………..

Scenic Flight  

  • If you won’t have the opportunity to fly in to one of the lodges, we always recommend to enjoy a scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. The unique bird’s eye view perspective allows for spectacular photo opportunities and sightings of huge herds of wildlife.

Boat Cruise on the Thamalakane River 

  • The majority of lodges in Maun offer afternoon boat cruises on the Thamalakane. While it is not a game viewing area, it allows you to experience great scenery, birdlife and sunsets.

Curio Shops and Craft Stalls

  • In the area surrounding the airport a number of curio shops can be found, selling souvenirs of Botswana. There are also stalls found along the side of the road, characterised by brightly coloured fabrics and cloths.

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What to expect on a Mobile Safari in Botswana

Fun, thrill and adventure are what lies in store for anybody heading out on a mobile safari in Botswana. Experience the intimacy of nature by staying in unfenced campsites in some of the last remaining unspoilt wilderness areas in the world.  From your tent listen to the heart stopping roar of lions in the distance, the splashing and trudging of a hippo on the waters edge or the humorous whooping of hyenas late in to the night, and you will feel a closeness to nature like never before.

Mobile safaris allow you to travel in a safari vehicle through the highlights of Botswna with a guide, camping in designated campsites en route. Escape the rush of everyday life and take some time to experience absolute wilderness, where emails and cell phones are just a distant memory. One of the biggest advantages of a mobile safari is that you will have the same professional guide throughout your trip, unlike when you fly from lodge to lodge and change guide each time. This allows him/her to learn your interests and what excites you, ensuring you get the absolute best out of a safari.

Fully Serviced or Participation?

Camping and ‘roughing it’ is certainly not for everyone, and if this is also you then a “Semi Luxury” mobile safari might be the best choice. Semi Luxury or Fully Serviced mobile safaris provide you with more spacious tents (usually 3m x 3m) each with a private en suite bush bathroom and comofrtable beds with full linen. mobile2A back up team will travel ahead and ensure everything is prepared for you, so when you arrive at camp after a thrilling day of game viewing, all that awaits you is a comfy chair around the campfire and a cold drink.

If you are an adventure enthusiast, and happy to experience more basic accommodation and service, then a “Participation” mobile safari is ideal. Participation safaris are exactly that – you will be asked to assist with basic camp duties such as helping to put up and take down your tent, collect firewood or help to tidy up after dinner. The tents are generally dome tents, and bush bathroom facilities are shared amongst the group.  This is the more affordable option, and also allows you a much more ‘hands on’ way of experiencing Botswana’s wildlife.

Scheduled Group safari or Private Tailor Made?

For solo travellers or couples, a scheduled group safari is a great way to meet new people and keep costs reasonable. Since like minded adventurers are usually on mobile safaris, you can often find yourself sat up long in to the night around the campfire sharing stories with newfound friends. The most enjoyable part about a group safari, in my opinion, is sharing memorable experiences with others! To witness a dramatic predator kill from your group safari vehicle bonds you all in a unique way like no other.

mobile1If you are travelling with family or a small group of friends, or perhaps you just prefer to avoid travelling with strangers, then a private safari is a great choice. Private tailor made safaris allow you to choose the trip you want, how many nights in each region, and the level of luxury preferred. The trip can be MUCH more flexible (ideal for those travelling with children) as everything is catered to your needs. If you want to do a longer game drive one day, or perhaps return early for a lazy afternoon, there is no compromise required like on a group safari.

What to pack?

Layers layers layers! On a mobile safari you are often out very early in the morning, returning late in the evening, and being exposed to the elements means that you need a variety of different clothings. All year round we advise packing shorts, t-shirts, long trousers, suncream, sunhat, good walking closed toe shoes, a torch and a warm fleeced sweater. In Winter it is very cold at night-time and in the early mornings, so good fleeces are required. In Summer, a good raincoat and some sealable plastic bags for keeping items dry is worth remembering.

mobile3Our suggestions:

6 nights Fully Serviced Safari –

2 nights Moremi Game Reserve, 2 night Savuti, 2 nights Chobe National Park. Includes a Chobe River boat cruise and a Mokoro Trail in Moremi

From USD 2 320.00 per person sharing

 

10 nights Fish Eagle Participation Safari –

2 nights Okavango Delta, 1 night Maun, 3 nights Moremi Game Reserve, 3 nights Savuti, 1 night Livingstone Zambia. Includes a boat cruise in the Okavango Delta & Mokoro Trail.

From USD 1 810.00 per person sharing

 

9 nights Northern Highlights Safari (Fully Serviced) –

3 nights Moremi Game Reserve, 3 nights Khwai Concession, 3 nights Savuti

Includes a scenic light aircraft transfer, Chobe River boat cruise and Mokoro Trail.

From USD 4 760.00 per person sharing