Botswana’s Okavango Delta has to be Africa’s most incredible wildlife and wilderness sanctuary. What makes the Okavango most remarkable is that it is a wetland paradise located within the arid Kalahari Desert. The Okavango rests between shallow fault lines at the end of the Great African Rift Valley. Deserts are low on annual rainfall and the Okavango Delta is no exception. However, each year floodwater flows into the Okavango from its source in the moist central African highlands over 1000km away. These floodwaters flow from their catchment southwards and into the Kalahari Desert to create a unique wetland that supports and sustains a huge diversity of wildlife. Apart from the beauty of the wetland habitat, game viewing is excellent right through the year.
The heart of the Okavango is the Moremi Wildlife Game Reserve. All the major habitats and ecotones of the Okavango are preserved here. Around the Moremi Game Reserve are large private reserves (locally known as concessions) that are leased out to safari companies under strict guidlines and carrying capacities. These private reserves offer the very best safari experiences with massive tracks of pristine parkland and privacy encountered in very few other places in Africa these days. One can go out all day in some areas and not see another soul besides the animals on the savanna. We operate several private concessions where out guests are able to have exclusive experiences in the Okavango. To make the experience even more enjoyable many varied activities are available. Safaris by boat and dugout canoe (mokoro) are the best way to see the water areas, while games drives and night drives by vehicle are best for tracking the animals. Walks (at the discretion of the camp manager) give the best feel for being in touch with nature. Wildlife “hides” offer a great way to enjoy game viewing and birding, especially during those midday siesta hours.
Linyanti and Savuti
To the northeast of the Okavango Delta are the Chobe National Park and the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve. These areas are renowned for their predators and large concentrations of game, particularly Elephant. Dereck and Beverly Joubert made the region famous in their National Geographic films. “Eternal Enemies” is a classic and chronicles in detail the interaction between Lion and Hyena. There are many varied habitats within the Chobe and Linyanti parks, marshes, waterways, riverine forests, dry woodlands and the world famous Savuti Channel. The Savuti Channel is a “waterway” that connects the Linyanti River from Zarafa Lagoon, with the interior of the Chobe National Park at the Savuti Marsh. The Savuti has only ever flowed intermittently and dried up for the last time in 1980. Today the Savuti Channel is an open grassland and home to a variety of different animals.
The Linyanti Reserve is a 275,000 acre private reserve on Chobe’s Western boundary. This area is very different from the Okavango Delta and should be included in every Botswana itinerary so that travellers have a more varied and balanced experience of the country. This private reserve is an enormous area shared between a few small camps: DumaTau Camp, Kings Pool Camp, Linyanti Tented Camp and Savuti Camp. There are three main features of the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve: the Linyanti River, Savuti Channel and the woodlands of the interior. Two thirds of the famous Savuti Channel is in the private reserve and guests are able to view abundant wildlife privately and exclusively. The last stretches of Africa’s Great Rift Valley divide the forests of the interior with the rivers and floodplains of the Linyanti and it is along this ridge (and along the Savuti Channel) that one sees the best wildlife.
There are few places left on Earth where you can be free, truly free, where your soul can see open spaces and hear each and every sound of nature. The Selinda Spillway is one of those places.
At Selinda there are places so wild that no man has ever walked there. It is a place where elephants roam free and huge herds of buffalo wander without boundaries. Birds abound here and against this backdrop of wilderness, all kinds of animals from silent stalking leopards to aardwolves play out their lives This is the place where wildlife can breathe freely, unmolested and unrestrained. So can you.
The Selinda Reserve is one of Botswana’s most famous private reserves that offers all the intimacy and exclusive, eco-friendly tourism experiences that Botswana has becomeÝknown for. It is a 300,000 acre private wildlife sanctuary in the Northern part of Botswana, and what makes it unique is that it is shared by a maximum of 28 guests at any time.
Accommodation is in a selection of intimately sized camps.
The area is centred around the famous Selinda Spillway which snakes its way through the reserve, linking the outer reaches of the Okavango Delta in the west with the Linyanti Swamps in the east – a truly spectacular and unique landscape.
Selinda is upstream of the old Savuti system and west of the Chobe, so it has all the advantages of both of those famous areas but with the tremendous advantage of exclusivity.
You will be able to venture out on safari and see anything from lions, or elephants, cheetah and wild dogs to the smaller animals that are typical of the wild in Botswana. You will drive in the bush, dine under the stars and sleep under canvas, but you may also want to walk, watch birds or learn about plants. This is what you always dreamed a safari experience might be.
The Chobe National Park, which is the second largest national park in Botswana and covers 10,566 square kilometres, has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent. Its uniqueness in the abundance of wildlife and the true African nature of the region, offers a safari experience of a lifetime.
The park is divided into four distinctly different eco systems: Serondela with its lush plains and dense forests in the Chobe River area in the extreme north-east; the Savuti Marsh in the west about fifty kilometres north of Mababe gate; the Linyanti Swamps in the north-west and the hot dry hinterland in between.
The original inhabitants of what is now the park were the San people, otherwise known in Botswana as the Basarwa. They were hunter-gatherers who lived by moving from one area to another in search of water, wild fruits and wild animals. The San were later joined by groups of the Basubiya people and later still, around 1911, by a group of Batawana led by Sekgoma. When the country was divided into various land tenure systems, late last century and early this century, the larger part of the area that is now the national park was classified as crown land. In 1931 the idea of creating a national park in the area was first mooted, in order to protect the wildlife from extinction and to attract visitors. In 1932, an area of some 24,000 square kilometres in the Chobe district was declared a non-hunting area and the following year, the protected area was increased to 31,600 square kilometres. However, heavy tsetse fly infestations resulted in the whole idea lapsing in 1943. In 1957, the idea of a national park was raised again when an area of about 21,000 square kilometres was proposed as a game reserve and eventually a reduced area was gazetted in 1960 as Chobe Game Reserve. Later, in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park – the first national park in Botswana. There was a large settlement, based on the timber industry, at Serondela, some remains of which can still be seen today. This settlement was gradually moved out and the Chobe National Park was finally empty of human occupation in 1975. In 1980 and again in 1987, the boundaries were altered, increasing the park to its present size.
A major feature is its elephant population. First of all, the Chobe elephant comprise part of what is probably the largest surviving continuous elephant population. This population covers most of northern Botswana plus northwestern Zimbabwe. The Botswana’s elephant population is currently estimated at around 120,000. This elephant population has built up steadily from a few thousand since the early 1900s and has escaped the massive illegal offtake that has decimated other populations in the 1970s and 1980s. The Chobe elephant are migratory, making seasonal movements of up to 200 kilometres from the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, where they concentrate in the dry season, to the pans in the southeast of the park, to which they disperse in the rains. The elephants, in this area have the distinction of being the largest in body size of all living elephants though the ivory is brittle and you will not see many huge tuskers among these rangy monsters.
The grasslands of the Kalahari Desert together with the lunar expanse of the Makgadikgadi salt pans complete out footprint in Botswana. They are in total contrast to the verdant, game-rich Okavango and Linyanti regions and are a must see for all visitors to Botswana who are interested in this country’s diversity. The desert experience focuses on species unique to the area such as Brown Hyena, Meerkats (Suricate), Gemsbok (Oryx), Springbok and the great black-maned Kalahari Lion; as well as the geology, archaeology and anthropology of the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi.
The Makgadikgadi is a relic of an ancient superlake that covered much of southern Africa, which dried up thousands of years ago. For a few months each year, the Makgadikgadi transforms into one of the most important wetland sites in Africa. When the rains come, the pans fill with water and they become a breeding ground for huge flocks of flamingo and other migratory birds.
The rains also regenerate the grasses which attract the last surviving migration of Zebra and Wildebeest in southern Africa. Our Kalahari focus is on Kalahari Plains Camp, the best Makgadikgadi experience. Here we offer our guests the oppurtunity to explore and understand the Kalahari. A visit to the area is essential for anyone interested in evolution, the origins and explanation of the Okavango Delta and Botswana’s big picture. For those who are prepared to travel off the beaten track and take a step back in time, a wealth of sensory experiences awaits you – from 1940’s safari style luxury to giant, ancient baobabs and pre-historic beaches.
The Tuli Block is a long, thin fringe of land demarcating Botswana’s southeastern border. The Tuli consists mainly of privately owned game farms, offering spectacular safari tourism. The eastern section up to and including Redshield has been declared a game reserve, known as the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Tuli has a fascinating frontier history and is renowned for its curious geographical features — Solomon’s Wall and the Tswapong and Lepokole hills where the ancestors of the San people left traces of their rock paintings. The Tuli is readily accessible by road from South Africa and the all major cities in Botswana
The Tuli reaches from the Northeast corner of Botswana, where the Shashe and the Limpopo Rivers meet, down to the Notwane River north of Olifants Drift in the South West. The entire conservancy area, including the adjacent safari area bordering the Tuli Circle, comprises about 800,000 hectares. The Tuli Block is quite different from anywhere else in Botswana. It is referred to as the Hardveld because of the rocky outcrops and the abundance of stones and pebbles of all shapes and sizes. The red sand of the Tuli area is an unforgettable trait, as well as the massive trees that occur along the banks of the Limpopo.
Much of the area is unfenced allowing the animals to roam freely between the Motloutse and Limpopo rivers. The vegetation is spectacular, the scenery diverse. Gigantic Nyala trees and the yellow barked fever trees grow along the riverbanks. Gaunt sesame trees take root in rocky outcrops. Animals flourish in the wild terrain.
Wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and waterbuck migrate through the area. Lions (some of them black maned), leopard and cheetah follow the game and mingle with the large herds of elephants. Bird life proliferates in the diverse environment. Tuli is one of the best places in southern Africa for ornithologists. Over 350 species of birds have been identified in the area, including rock thrushes, boulder chats, shrikes and cormorants. Different kinds of kingfishers dart into the streams and rivers, while waders stand in the shallows.
In other parts of Botswana night drives are not permitted, but here, on private land, game drives are arranged where visitors can see the elusive nocturnal creatures that are seldom seen by day, like the leopard, caracul, aardwolf and aardvark. By day experienced trackers and spotters take visitors into the bush by four-wheel-drive or on foot, while mountain biking over organised tracks has become increasingly popular.
Solomon’s Wall is one of the most fascinating and dramatic geographical features. The sheer basalt cliffs, 30 metres high, once formed a natural dam across the Motloutse river. A huge lake filled up behind it, with a waterfall spilling over the dyke during the rains, leaving rich mineral deposits of quartz, agate and other semi-precious stones. It was in the sands higher up the Motloutse river that the first alluvial diamonds were found in Botswana, giving a hint of the wealth that was to come.
At Molalatu, just north of the Tuli Block, the descendants of the original inhabitants still live. The villagers belonging to the Zionist Christian Church community have devised an ingenious method of protecting their livestock against the wildlife in the area. They breed ‘goat dogs’. When the puppies are small they foster them out to lactating goats that treat them as their own children. The puppies grow up thinking of themselves as goats while preserving all their canine instincts. As they get older they accompany the goatherds into the bush, guarding them against predators. Though no match for larger wild animals their reactions create an element of surprise and often scare off potential attackers. Anyway the villagers consider them an effective deterrent and they charge visitors a small fee to see the ‘goat dogs’.
The Tuli area is also famous for its Tswapong and Lepokole hills. Tswapong is more accessible to the east of Palapye. Over the ages deep gorges have been carved into the ancient granite rocks by the seasonal rivers and springs. Waterfalls, rock pools and the exotic surrounding vegetation is unique in Botswana. A pile of granite blocks forms the Lepokole hills north of Bobonong. The last of the San in eastern Botswana lived in the hills and left more of their rock paintings in the caves and rocks. Stone Age tools and ancient pottery scattered around the hills are evidence of even earlier occupation.
Okavango Delta | Linyanti Wildlife Reserve | Savuti | Selinda Reserve | Chobe National Park | The Kalahari | The Tuli Block