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Mokoro
Photo courtesy of Baine’s Camp by Mark Williams

Unspoiled. Uncrowded. Unbelievably diverse. Unparalleled adventures. Unlimited access to Africa’s unique wildlife.

Welcome to Botswana.

 

Rothschild Safaris can bring you much closer to this wealth of natural attractions with our top 5 experiences in Botswana.

  1. Helicopter flight over the Okavango Delta

VISITORS will find the Okavango Delta enchanting at any time of year. This ecological marvel and UNESCO World Heritage Site – totally cut off from the ocean – is a labyrinth of lagoons, lakes and hidden channels covering 17,000 square kilometers within the Kalahari Desert.

Each year, about 11 cubic kilometers of water from summer rains and seasonal floods flows down from the Okavango River’s main catchment area – the Angolan highlands – and spreads over an area ranging from about the size of Delaware to Connecticut (6000–15,000sq km). It makes up the largest inland swampy grassland in the world.

Water is life and means survival for the wildlife and native plants which have synchronized their biological cycles to this phenomenon.

Mother Nature this year has excelled herself and brought an awesome amount of flooding and corresponding new life to the entire delta.

Over such a huge area, Rothschild Safaris believes the best way to see all the colors of life is from the air in a scenic helicopter flight lasting 30, 45 or 60-minutes.

A helicopter flight will take you into areas of the permanent delta unreachable by vehicle or boat.

The view from above will bring out the amateur photographer in you. You’ll want to show everyone back home the twists and turns of water channels snaking their way through lagoons, the lush greens of the flood plains and marshlands and, of course, the wildlife on the move.

Imagine spotting a partly submerged hippo making its way down a crystal-clear watercourse or hundreds of antelope on the run.

Zebra, giraffes, buffaloes and elephants also thrive here, but black and white rhinoceros and rare predators including cheetahs, lions, leopards, and African wild dogs may be spotted as well.

The option of having the doors removed for the flight will give you unrestricted photographic opportunities.

Rothschild tip: Just before sunset is the best time to take a helicopter flight, “doors off,” over the Okavango Delta for capturing one of the world’s most important wetland ecosystems in stunning light.

 

  1. Walking with elephants

Walking with Elephants
Photo courtesy of Abu Camp

BOTSWANA has the largest population of elephants in the world and is home to a migrant population of more than 120,000 of these massive creatures.

To walk with the elephants is to walk with giants.

Interacting with elephants in activities such as mud bathing, observing their social structure and behavior, and warming to their gentle nature can be transformational.

We love the simple pleasures traditional tented camps can offer in bringing our clients closer to nature and especially our largest land animal.

Of course, these camps range in style and comfort, from rugged pop-up tents for the camping purists to more traditional classical-style canvas abodes or luxury safari camps.

This good mix of accommodation and areas allows our clients to best experience the “wild side” of Botswana, its animals and bird life, as well as once-in-a-lifetime experiences the way they choose.

To experience the elephants, we recommend, Sanctuary Baines’ Camp: a small complex of only six luxurious suites that ooze romance with star baths and sky beds on your private deck.

The camp is built on raised platforms high above the Boro River and set in a picturesque grove of trees surrounded by papyrus beds within a private concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve.

Much of the camp structures have been built from recycled cans collected by the local community in Maun, with a fee paid for every can.

Sanctuary Baines’ Camp allows small numbers of guests to meet Jabu and Morula: two rescued elephants currently under the care of the Living with Elephants Foundation.

The Foundation rescues African elephants and gives them a second chance at life by providing a safe home in the wilderness of the Okavango Delta.

During an educational walk, guests will get up close with Jabu and Morula for “a day in the life of the African Elephant,” witnessing what elephants do best: foraging, wallowing in the mud and simply ambling their huge frames through the bush.

Meanwhile, at Abu Camp – another unique accommodation experience Rothschild Safaris highly recommends – guests can walk and interact with the Abu herd elephants, observe or take part in mud bathing, training and veterinary care, and learn more about elephant conservation, behavior and care.

But more than that, you will develop a much deeper connection – becoming a member of the Abu herd (all rescued or saved from harm). You’ll quickly get to know the personalities and antics of youngsters, teenagers and their doting moms and dads while seeing the Okavango through their eyes.

Abu is a 180,000ha (445,000 acre) private concession – one of the largest and most diverse in the Okavango –and a natural habitat that is home to this pioneering elephant conservation project.

Abu 2017 11 34e
Photo courtesy of Abu Camp

Guests will find peace and tranquillity also lives within the luxury safari accommodation. Endless lagoon views lay beyond the six luxury canvas guest rooms that blend seamlessly with the surroundings. But you may never want to leave your deck and its secluded outdoor copper bathtub and private plunge pool.

Rothschild tip: Spend time with the elephants and we’re confident you’ll want to do all you can to champion their survival in the wild.

  1. Sleeping in a sky bed

THE best way to be dazzled by this African “universe” is being surrounded by the pinks and blues of sunset before sleeping under the 100 billion stars of the Milky Way.

Imagine lying outstretched with only a mosquito net separating you and the jewelled night sky, atop a 5m high, three-story timber platform. Safe, luxurious and comfortable.

Rothschild Safaris can’t think of a better place to experience this unique African offering than at sustainably sophisticated Sable Alley.

Located on the banks of a lily-covered lagoon in Khwai Private Reserve, Sable Alley is a slice of luxury amid the game-rich floodplains.

Day and evening game drives, dugout canoe excursions when water levels permit, game walks and viewing hides are among the activities available.

But Sable Alley camp’s greatest appeal lies in the world-class game viewing without leaving your private enclave.

Sweeping views of the lagoon – a favorite drinking hole of hippos, elephant and buffalo, eland and zebra as well as an array of bird life – brings the wildlife to you at a safe distance.

While your platform oozes rustic charm, it has plenty of creature comforts: a bathroom with flushing toilet on the first floor, a dressing area, and the top-floor double bed, draped in white linens and a feather duvet that will really put stars in your eyes.

Sable Alley Lagoon At Sunset.
Photo courtesy of Sable Alley

Rothschild tip: We recommend booking Sable Alley in conjunction with at least one other region in Botswana for the diversity of landscapes.

 

  1. Wild camping

TAKE a step back in time and discover Africa the way it was experienced in the colonial era.

No traditional lodges – just you, the African soil and Botswana’s most pristine and game-rich wilderness.

This is wild camping in unreal style in its purist form and on the move – and Rothschild Safaris has found this popular with families and small groups wanting to be romanced by the Okavango Delta in all its glory.

In an itinerary that can be customized to suit, guests can combine a mix of  game-viewing activities – perhaps exploring the bush on a walking safari, doing a spot of bird watching, taking a boat or mokoro (dugout canoe) safari on the look-out for hippos, or tracking lion, leopards, cheetah and wild dogs.

You can even channel your inner explorer and spend a night fly-camping on a remote, lantern-lit island.

Rothschild tip: Combine wild camping with stays in permanent camps to have the best of both worlds in Botswana.

 

  1. Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Meerkats
Photo courtesy of Jack’s Camp by David Crookes

AND now for something completely different … the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans of Botswana are the remnants of an enormous super-lake that once covered most of Southern Africa.

They form the largest inland evaporitic basin in the world and are in stark contrast to the Okavango Delta and the Khwai Private Reserve.

But the allure lies in the area’s desert-adapted animals and split personality (according to which season you visit).

The dry season, from April to October, is a flat, desolate nothingness you’ll find exhilarating.

This is the time for quad biking across the salt-crusted pans, sleeping under the stars, and enjoying the veil of shimmering whiteness floating over the scorched landscape where you’ll swear you see nomadic herds in the distance – mirage or not.

November rains completely transform this desert into watery grasslands, bringing an abundance of color and food riches for animals on migration.

A new green oasis forms, heralding the arrival of pink clouds of flamingo and flocks of migratory birds.

And so begins the second-largest annual migration of zebra and wildebeest in Africa, feasting on the summer grasses.

Rothschild Safaris recommends Jack’s Camp for making the most of these salt pans in any season.

Named in honor of Jack Bousfield, the camp is open year-round but in the green season, you will be able to see some of the wild visitors on their migrations straight from your veranda.

In the dry season, explore the pans on foot with knowledgeable Zu/’hoasi bushmen, choose the buzz of quad bikes on a two-night expedition to Kubu Island or opt for the more traditional game drives in custom-built 4x4s.

You may spot the brown hyena (only 8000 of these remain in the wild), aardwolves, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, the regal black-maned Kalahari lion, aardvark, gemsbok, springbok, black-backed jackals and possibly elephants.

Embark on an adventurous horseback safari that’s available for all levels of riders.

Make friends with the local meerkats as part of the Jack’s Camp habituation project with some of the world’s pre-eminent researchers.

And you’ve never seen majestic sunrises and sunsets quite like here, or experienced stargazing on the flat of your back on the pans.

The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are truly out of this world.

Jacks Camp Quad Biking Arial Quads And Dust
Photo courtesy of Jack’s Camp

Rothschild tip: Jack’s Camp has been undergoing a full rebuild and renovation that is nearing completion (May 2020). You’ll want to be among the first to see this transformation.