LEROO LA TAU – the hidden gem of the Makgadikgadi

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This weekend we were given the opportunity to spend a night at Leroo La Tau – a lodge situated overlooking the Boteti River in the game rich Makgadikgadi. As a lesser-known safari destination, I had no idea what to expect, but little did I know that I would have one of my most exhilarating safaris to date.

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Despite being only a 30 minutes light aircraft transfer from Maun, Leroo La Tau captures everything that is mesmerising and wild about Botswana. As you enter the lodge you walk out to the stunning swimming pool positioned with breath taking views of the river and wildlife below. The Boteti River was dry for decades, but recently began flowing again seasonally. With that, particularly during the dry season, Zebra and Wildebeest amongst other wildlife come in their thousands to quench their thirst.

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Leroo La Tau also offer boat cruises when water levels permit. A matter of seconds after departing on our cruise we encountered a blur of black and white galloping down the steep banks to the river. There is something heart clenching about watching animals in their masses rushing down the riverbanks to the water’s edge. The riverbanks are also a prime area for predators to lie in wake, waiting for the opportunity to arise as distracted wildlife take a drink. We witnessed this ourselves the following morning on a game drive, where we encountered 8 of the biggest lions I’d ever seen, who had made a kill that very morning.

Along with Zebra, Wildebeest, predators and a mind blowing amount of birdlife, we had the fortunate sighting of a herd of elephant crossing the river. Sitting quietly by the riverside, our hearts full and eyes wide, we watched them swim and splash and drink.

BlogQuoteLeroo La Tau is not only about game viewing, although that certainly is a big attraction. The staff are kind, helpful and always willing to please, and surprises are never far away. From our evening boat cruise we noticed the flicker of flames on the riverbank, and saw that our very own Bush Dinner had been set up. With the stars as our ceiling we dined to the soundtrack of roaring lions and snorting hippo.

To find out what Leroo La Tau has in store for you, make a visit! As a hidden gem, the Makgadikgadi National Park is home to some of Botswana’s best kept secrets.

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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


Cheetah at Chitabe!

Chitabe Camp is situated in a private concession in the Okavango Delta, and a short 15 minutes light aircraft transfer from Maun. In May, we had the pleasure of staying at this beautiful camp and experience all that it has to offer.

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Upon arrival at the camp we were greeted by singing and dancing, a very friendly welcome which immediately put us at ease. The manager, Thompson, greeted us and showed us through to the beautiful communal bar/lounge area which overlooked the vast expanse of the floodplains. Chitabe is built on raised wooden walkways creating the feeling of being up in the trees and really at one with nature!

P1050589After lunch, we retired to our rooms for a siesta. The rooms are simply beautiful, there are 8 in total which are all positioned apart ensuring total privacy. While the walls are certainly canvas, the rooms themselves are a million miles away from camping… Offering spacious en suite bathrooms with both an indoor and outdoor shower (I promise – this is a must to experience!), and a huge double bed positioned to capture the view of the Delta.

In the afternoon we headed out on a game drive to see what the area had to offer. Within the first hour we headed to an overgrown area where the guides had previously spotted leopard. We waited eagerly, looking this way and that way,straining our eyes to make out any signs of a predator… Finally, we found what we were looking for, a leopard cub positioned beautifully on a tree with the evening light reflecting to create the most breath-taking photographs.  We returned to camp feeling exhilarated.

P1050612Dinner was communal, a great way to interact with other guests and make new friends. The meal was 3 courses and absolutely delicious.

Retiring to our rooms we settled down to a night sleep, with the whooping of hyenas the chorus to our dreams.

We were woken at 5:30 am while it was still dark and very cold (bearing in mind this is mid winter). For a moment we questioned our sanity… why are we heading out on a game drive in this freezing cold weather?! As it turned out, we will never ever regret that decision! Within the first hour we came across a pride of 3 lion taking shelter under a tree. One lion was blind in one eye, a very unique thing to see. But the best part came after that, as we headed back to camp we were informed via radio that a cheetah had been spotted on a kill. When we found the cheetah, it was panting heavily with the Impala kill lying next to it. Cheetah sightings are rare and it was fantastic to see it with a kill.

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Returning to camp we packed our bags, and with heavy hearts we bid farewell to the fantastic staff and guiding team of Chitabe. A well run, beautifully located camp in a wildlife haven – we don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone!


Everything you need to know about self-driving in Botswana

Home to some of the last remaining unspoilt wilderness areas in the world, Botswana is a self-drivers haven. Whether you choose to camp in the unfenced, wildlife rich reserves, or drive from lodge to lodge, the experience of getting so close to nature at your own pace and leisure is like no other.

Self-driving in Botswana is, however, not for the faint hearted. To make sure you’re fully prepared, we’ve outlined everything YOU need to know to be prepared for the trip of a lifetime!

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  • You will need a 4×4 with good clearance if you plan to drive through the National Parks. We do recommend that guests are confident with 4×4 driving, as you will be driving through thick sand which many guests may not be used to.
  • Breakdown equipment such as spare tyres, a tow-rope, hi-lift jack, and a basic mechanical knowledge of your vehicle are essential. You will be driving in extremely remote areas.
  • A long range fuel tank is ideal, but if you do not have one of these then be sure to bring sufficient jerry cans of fuel with you. There are no fuel stations within the National Parks. Be sure to take game driving in to consideration when you plan your fuel consumption and remember – better to be safe than sorry!
  • All campsite fees and National Park permits must be booked and paid for in advance. You will not be allowed to enter the parks without your original campsite voucher and permit from DWNP. DWNP offices are located in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone.P1030095
  • Ensure to take sufficient food supplies for the duration of your stay in the National Parks. Please note that Botswana has a number of veterinary fences which restrict the movement of meat – please double check the location of these fences to avoid problems.
  • The majority of campsites in the National Parks are unfenced, allowing wildlife to roam freely and adding to the thrill of camping. Be sure to sleep only in designated campsites inside your closed tent, remain vigilant around the campsite and always keep children under supervision.
  • We recommend a satellite phone for emergencies as there is limited/no cell phone reception in the reserves.
  • Plan your route carefully… The time of year, weather conditions and wildlife sightings are all big influences on driving distances. Do not underestimate the time it can take to drive through the parks, and keep in mind that driving after dark is prohibited.
  • If you are driving outside the reserves on tar roads, be sure to take extra special care when driving at night due to the large number of cattle, donkeys and horses that can be on the road. We only recommend driving at night outside the reserves if it is absolutely essential.P1020622
  • Respect the wildlife and the wildlife will respect you! Always adhere to speed limits, do not drive off-road, and be sure to keep a safe distance from wildlife.
  • If you will cross a border with your vehicle, be sure to have all the relevant paperwork including the vehicle registration details and insurance details, as well as a sticker indicating the country of origin. Zimbabwe has particularly strict regulations in place for vehicle users, be sure to check the requirements in advance.

If you follow the guidelines in place and ensure you are prepared, then a self-driving safari will leave you with memories to last a lifetime!

Highlight destinations on a self-drive safari:

  • Savuti – the predator rich region of Chobe National Park. The Savuti Channel, which remained dry for over 30 years, is now flowing again and attracting an abundance of wildlife.
  • Chobe River – the concentration of elephants in and around the river during dry season is like no other sight to see.
  • Moremi Game Reserve – arguably one of the most beautiful reserves in Africa, lying on the Eastern tongue of the Okavango Delta. The highlights for self-drivers are the 3rd Bridge and Xakanaxa regions, located in one of the richest ecosystems in the country.
  • Central Kalahari Game Reserve – best enjoyed just after the rainy season when the migrant animals have come in search of the fresh grazing and the temperature has reduced.

Botswana Holidays assist with all National Park bookings, can advise on up to date road conditions and recommended routes. We gather all your park permits and can either courier them to you or allow you to collect them if you pass through Maun. Please contact us for further information on planning your self-drive safari! office@botswanaholidays.com


The TOP 10 things to do in Botswana

In case you had any doubts about the areas to visit or at what time of year, we’ve outlined (in our opinion) the TOP 10 things to do in Botswana…

1. Sleep out under the stars on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

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Whether you self drive or join a lodge tour, with nothing but the stars as your ceiling sleeping out on this moonlike environment is an experience like no other.

2. Take a boat cruise on the Chobe River

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Home to the highest concentration of elephants in Africa, the views from the Chobe River are magical.

3. A horse riding safari in the Okavango Delta

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Gallop alongside giraffe, splash through the floodplains of the Delta and graze within feet of wildlife.

4. Enjoy a cultural walk with the local Bushmen in the Kalahari

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Experience the culture of Botswana by walking with the local Bushmen and learn how they use the natural environment to live their lives.

5. Visit the predator rich region of Savuti

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A Leopard and Lion hotspot, if you visit in dry season the fight for survival is played out for all to see.

6. A Mokoro Trail in the Okavango Delta

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Nothing beats the tranquillity of the Delta waterways – the Mokoro is a traditional dugout canoe, ideal for experiencing the closeness and intimacy of the scenery and birdlife.

7. A scenic flight or transfer over the Okavango Delta

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A birds eye perspective allows for phenomenal photo opportunities… soar above giant herds of buffalo and admire the vast expanse of the Okavango.

8. Camping in Moremi Game Reserve

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Campsites in Moremi are mostly unfenced, allowing wildlife to roam freely through the site. Wake in the morning to see the tracks of your visitors the night before!

9. The Selinda Canoe Trail

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Canoe the spectacular waterways of the Selinda Spillway, camping on islands in total wilderness.

10. Witness the Zebra and Wildebeest Migration of the Makgadikgadi

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Witness the spectacular sight of over 25,000 zebra and wildebeest migrating from the Boteti River to the Makgadikgadi Pans in green season, and returning at the start of the dry season.


Choosing which side! Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe or Zambia?

Victoria Falls is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, and at over 1700 m wide it is the largest cascade of water in the world! Visible from both Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe and from Livingstone, Zambia, choosing which side to visit can be a challenging decision for many visitors to this spectacular place.

Time of Year

One of the first things to consider when choosing which side to visit is the season you are travelling, as this determines the water level of the falls. The Zambezi’s annual flood season is between February and May, with the highest levels of water seen in April. During this time the spray from the falls can be visible from many miles away, and you can expect to get very wet during your walk along the fall side due to the constant mist and shower! Visibility during this time is challenging and you will be unlikely to see the entire cliff-face, but for the full, dramatic experience it is very impressive.

bl4After June, the dry season sets in and slowly the levels of water start to reduce. The lowest water levels will be seen around October and November – while still an impressive sight to see the water levels are only about a tenth of that in April.

The Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls has 75% more viewing points, and gives an overall better perspective of the falls. In all seasons it is a great view, but if you are travelling at the end of Dry season then the Zimbabwean side is the side to pick since Zambia’s views are particularly minimal.

The Zambian side of Victoria Falls has a dramatic knife edge which juts out in to the falls, allowing perspective of about 25% of the falls. While the overall view is much less than on the Zimbabwean side, the spectacular knife edge allows guests to get very close to the cascade of water. Of course the famous Devil’s Pool is also located on the Zambian side. The Zambian side of the falls is not worth viewing in dry season/ low flood season (most particularly in October and November) as you are likely to view very little water and not get the same dramatic experience as on the Zimbabwean side. But at other times of year it is a beautiful sight.

Accommodation

The Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe has fast become a bustling town and tourism hub following years of turmoil. Home to some iconic hotels including The Victoria Falls Hotel, the town offers guests a touristy experience in a busy town featured with curio markets, shopping malls and restaurants. For those looking to extend their bush experience, there are a variety of lodges located just outside of the town including the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and The Elephant Camp.

Livingstone, Zambia on the contrary, hosts a number of beautiful hotels situated along the riverfront of the Zambezi. When choosing which side to visit, this is often a deciding factor for many guests. Top end lodges such as Tongabezi and Islands Of Siankaba offer the falls experience, combined with panoramic views of the river and an overall more varied wildlife experience.

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Solo Travel – Botswana as the ideal destination!

Travelling alone can be a slightly daunting prospect, knowing that you are going all the way to a remote location on your own, with little knowledge of the people or country itself. Before I went on safari alone for the first time, my fear was “but who am I going to share those experiences with? Who will I turn and talk to about what fantastic things we just saw?” This is where Botswana comes in as the IDEAL destination for solo travellers.

Most of the lodges, especially in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Savuti and Kalahari, focus on high value, low impact tourism. This means that the lodges are all small, personal and intimate – offering from as little as only 3 rooms up to around 15 rooms. Meals and afternoon tea are a communal affair, ensuring that you will interact with other guests and never feel left at a table alone. Many lodges in Botswana ensure the guides are a constant feature during your stay, not just on activities. It is a wonderful experience to get to know the guides on a personal level, sitting around the campfire and talking about their home life and the local life in Botswana. Again, this includes you as a single traveller as part of the lodge family.

Unless booked as private, activities are also shared with other guests. This answered my initial fear of who there was to talk to – you will be sharing these experiences with other like-minded people. Most vehicles take a maximum of 6 – 9 guests, a small enough number so that you don’t feel swamped by other people.

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Solo travel has also become much more cost-friendly over recent years, with most lodges only charging a single supplement during peak season (July – October). Many light aircraft transfers have also lifted their single supplement, meaning that the cost is not dramatically higher to travel alone.

My joy at travelling alone in Botswana, is the fact that the people you meet are mostly nature enthusiasts and similar to you in terms of personality. We are all here for the same reason, to experience the absolute wilderness and beauty of Botswana, and that does take an adventurous soul. Often I find myself sat late up in to the night with new friends, discussing the wondrous sights of the day or our home lives which are just a distant memory.

If you were doubting a safari alone, think again! We can assist you with great itinerary ideas especially designed for solo travellers. Take the opportunity and visit Botswana alone, make lifelong friends and experience one of the most wildlife rich countries in the world.

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