Africa specialist Krishnakoli Ghosh has just returned from exploring Botswana, and we asked her to share the highlights of her trip.
A busy overnight flight to South Africa's Johannesburg saw me arrive early in the morning. But, it makes all the difference to be met by a friendly face. After being picked up, I had some time to rest up in one of my favourite Jo’burg hotels – the Fairlawns Boutique. Here, you’ll be welcomed by rainfall showers, manicured lawns and a fireplace lounge. I can also highly recommend the restaurant, with exquisite menus served under candlelight and backdropped by soft music.
After plenty of pampering, it was time to start my safari proper. I flew to Maun, Botswana where a second flight hop brought us right into Makgadikgadi National Park. It’s the largest network of saltpans in the world, and is renowned for its massive herds of wildebeest and zebra along with its collection of predators. We quickly put its claims to the test with a game drive and I’m happy to report that the park exceeded all expectations; we spotted lions, hippos and crocodiles all in the same location, as well as plenty of birdlife.
After a long day of animal spotting, Leroo La Tau’s thatched luxury chalets were a treat to return to. I’ve happy memories of sitting by the fireplace and looking out over the river after supper, gazing at the starlit African sky. The next day we set out early – a 5:30 AM wake-up call – to catch the wildlife making the most of the cool mornings. It was well worth it, with great herds of antelope roaming over the park’s golden grasslands and colourful birds dotting the apricot oranges of its plains. We were also lucky enough to spot the same hippos and crocodiles as the day before, which gave us a privileged insight into their lives and patterns brought to life by our superb guides. While we only had one night here, I would recommend lingering longer to take advantage of the camp’s other activities. There’s everything from quad bike safaris over the pans and tours of a local Gweta village to fascinating safari walks to historic sites, led by experienced Bushmen trackers.
Our next stop was Botswana’s wild heart – the Okavango Delta. Here, twisting waterways weave among spectacularly dense verdure that’s truly teeming with wildlife. It’s all best explored by boat. And we did just that; flying into Xiguna Airstrip, we hopped onto a motor launch for a truly evocative experience. Our half-hour trip saw us meander through endless channels to reach Camp Okavango. Host to just 24 guests, it’s an intimate getaway, with each suite built on individual raised wooden platforms set right among that dense, delta-fed vegetation.
We then headed out on a mokoro trip. These dugout canoes are expertly punted by local guides, siting you right among the gorgeous scenery in a tradition that dates back centuries. Our destination? A deserted island where we were treated to a true highlight – a giant African sunset. And, after the light faded, we had some time to marvel at the huge blanket of stars above our head. It’s the chance to get a full appreciation of the region’s remote beauty, far from any light pollution. The sundowners didn’t hurt either.
Throughout my time in the Okavango I was treated to frequent sightings of lions, leopards and cheetahs. Bird life was equally prolific, with most of Botswana’s 550 species represented. After, a morning walking safari, we continued on to Camp Moremi. Set on its own private reserve, our 4WD safaris, both morning and late afternoon, brought us among its privileged position, even treating us to that checklist-favourite – the African wild dog. We returned to the thatched lounges, fire pits and swimming pool of our luxury tented camp to be welcomed by traditional songs and dances from the staff – a fascinating glimpse into local culture. I also spent a night at Savute Safari Lodge, staying in a stilted thatched suite with views over its homonymous river. I didn’t even have to leave my room to watch as elephants came down for a drink, while a pair of game drives showcased the local lions and leopards.
Early the next morning, I flew on to Chobe National Park where we stayed at the luxurious Chobe Safari Lodge. All graceful high arches, quarry tiled floors and barrel-vaulted ceilings, it was almost possible to be lured into staying in, especially with the large swimming pool terrace, riverside boma and cigar bar, complete with full-sized billiards table.
But, of course, the lure of Africa’s great outdoors won out. We took a long, lazy boat journey on the Chobe River, a trip that brought us views of hippos, herds of elephants, crocodiles, lions, antelopes and even flamingos. The giant water lilies were a sight to behold, cast in pretty hues as the sun set and the night sky lit up with stars once more.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat.
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