Botswana - An Incredible Wilderness

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Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

After a short flight from Hoedspruit, my guests and I met up in Johannesburg. They had flown down from Heathrow overnight, and with only a small time difference and a good sleep on the flight, we were all in high spirits and very excited. We enjoyed a coffee together while catching up as we hadn’t seen each other for a few months. Shortly after, we boarded a plane and headed to Maun, Botswana.

Maun was bustling with tourists, all preparing to fly to various lodges across the country. Over the next nine nights, we had three lodges awaiting us. Sharing a plane with another family, we spotted elephants, hippos, giraffes, and buffalo from the air, giving everyone a taste of what lay ahead.

After dropping off the family, it was our turn to land at our first stop: Mombo Wilderness Camp on Chiefs Island in the famed Okavango Delta. As we disembarked the plane, the fragrance of wild sage enveloped us—a scent forever tied to Botswana in my mind. On the way to the lodge, a group of giraffes welcomed us, quenching their thirst at a nearby pan. The lodge boasted a stunning view of the floodplain, teeming with birds, buffalo, and red lechwe. Arriving just in time for a game drive, we hurriedly had high tea and ventured out, leaving our rooms for later.

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

It was a great decision. After spending some time with a breeding herd of elephants, we managed to relocate a pack of thirteen African wild dogs that the guys had seen on their morning safari. The pack was up and moving, and they were being trailed by nine hyenas. The pack spent some time smelling around scent marking, before finally bumping into a herd of impala. The hunt was on immediately, and after a crazy chase, six of the wild dogs managed to catch and kill an adult female impala.

Luckily for them, they all managed a good feed before the hyenas arrived at the scene, and after a good fight with dust and incredible audio, the hyenas stole the remains of the kill. The rest of the wild dog pack arrived, and we watched as the animals that had fed regurgitated meat for the ones that had missed out. All while this was happening, the hyenas were squabbling over the remains of the kill. What a first drive, and this set the tone for the rest of the trip.

We got back to camp and checked into our rooms. We were all mind-blown by the rooms, as they were incredibly spacious and beautiful—far more than we had bargained for. After a good, hearty boma dinner, we turned in for an early night.

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

Mombo didn’t disappoint in the following days. The wild dog pack and multiple lion sightings, including a pride devouring a warthog and two males feasting on a buffalo, kept us enthralled. Large buffalo and elephant herds, as well as abundant general game, delighted us. The birdwatching proved fruitful, with my guests spotting numerous new species. The remarkable number of giraffes, attracted by Candle-pod acacias, amazed us. In a single morning drive, we counted over two hundred giraffes, a new personal record.

During our final Mombo morning drive, we located a resident female leopard with an impala kill in a nearby tree. Though aware of her three-month-old cub’s presence, no one had seen it. Initially dozing, she soon woke up, yawning and stretching. Abruptly, she initiated contact calls, met with tiny squeaks. The cub, hidden in the canopy above us, responded! We watched as the cub nimbly descended the tree, joined its mother, played, and then tucked into the carcass for breakfast. A splendid end to our time at Mombo!

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

After greeting the staff and waving goodbye to our guide at the airstrip, we took the short fifteen-minute flight to Abu Wilderness Camp, to the south-west of Mombo but still in the Okavango Delta.

The heartwarming chorus of staff welcomed us, immediately making us feel at home. After settling into our rooms and enjoying a quick meal, we embarked on our afternoon safari.

A majestic scene awaited us— a massive resident crocodile sliding gracefully into the water as we approached. Later, we joined a sighting featuring a female leopard that had taken down a male vervet monkey, accompanied by her twelve-week-old cub. Witnessing two small leopard cubs in one day felt like a dream. Back at camp for dinner, we received delightful news: we would be the sole guests for the initial two nights, a wonderful unexpected bonus.

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

In the mornings, we met nice and early for breakfast, sitting around the fire and watching the sunrise over the Delta in front of us. More wild dogs were found, and hippo and elephants were plentiful. Some great birds were found, including the rare Pel’s fishing owl, with a pair roosting in the large ebony trees just outside camp. We had great luck with two large male leopards, both territorial and in their prime, while we saw two different young and upcoming coalitions of male lions, a group of four and then a group of five, both showing potential for the future.

We also enjoyed a makoro (hollowed-out canoe) ride here. It is one of the most peaceful ways to enjoy the Delta; there are no noises as you slowly drift along, taking in the birds, frogs, and water plants. We saw a herd of elephants doing this as well, and afterwards we enjoyed an incredible sunset and sundowners together. There really is something special about watching the sunset over the floodplains, with the water, reflections, flocks of water birds, and massive palms all adding to the ambiance.

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

Another three nights had gone by so quickly, and we were off to our final destination, Zarafa Great Plains. You find Zarafa in the Selinda Reserve to the north-east of the Okavango Delta. We said goodbye to the water of the Delta, but hello to the Selina spillway, which was just as impressive.

The expansive floodplains held a surprising sight: vast grasslands that had formed.

Enveloped by mopane woodland, these grasslands nurtured a rich ecosystem of diverse mammals and birds.

The area’s reputation for abundant lion and elephant populations held true. During the first afternoon, while returning from the airstrip to the lodge, we stumbled upon two magnificent lionesses preparing for their evening activities. A red lechwe grabbed their attention, initiating a stealthy stalking attempt. With a prime vantage point, we observed for nearly twenty minutes as they closed in, only to be foiled by concealed common reedbuck. Although our hopes of witnessing a kill waned, the lionesses’ return journey became heartwarming. Initiating contact calls, they summoned their five cubs from the tall grass. We watched as the family reunited, played, and the cubs nursed. Near the camp, we encountered two more lionesses and a massive elephant bull in the parking area.

Similar to the other lodges, Zarafa left us awestruck with its stunning panoramas, lavish accommodations, and an extraordinary chef named Babe—truly exceptional! Our three-day stay resulted in some extra pounds gained due to the incredible cuisine.

The ensuing days delivered a profusion of wildlife wonders. We witnessed more lion cubs, spent time with different prides, and even encountered one of the formidable male lions. The area is ruled by a coalition of six males, reminiscent of the Mapogos.  These lions didn’t inflict the same havoc and exhibited nurturing fatherly qualities. Elephants graced our view at every turn, with herds sighted everywhere—drinking, traversing deep channels, and foraging in reed beds far from typical hippo habitat. Our luck continued with two separate sightings of the rare Roan antelope, an exhilarating accomplishment for us all.

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru

On our last afternoon, we had a delightful lunch on a pontoon. While savoring our meal, we marveled at the sight of hippos, elephants, and countless water birds. Feeling playful, we organized a fishing competition: Botswana vs. South Africa vs. England. The African countries showcased their angling skills, reeling in gorgeous bream and a sizable tiger fish. We were anxious, but in the end, England clinched the final catch of the day, leaving us with a bunch of ecstatic anglers. What a fantastic experience it turned out to be!

We had an early flight back to Maun on our last morning. As we said our goodbyes to the camp staff and our final lodge, we embarked on a brief morning drive. We located the five lion cubs from our initial afternoon sighting. Left hidden by their mothers for safety, we didn’t linger as the lionesses had set off hunting once again. A swift breakfast at a waterhole allowed us some final moments of birdwatching. Feeling a bit sad to be leaving, we made our way to the airstrip.

While approaching the waiting plane, a remarkable encounter awaited us—a female leopard advancing directly towards us. Initially, we thought she held a small mongoose in her mouth. As as she drew nearer, we realized it was a tiny cub! The cub couldn’t have been more than two weeks old. We watched in awe as she passed by us and vanished behind a termite mound. This incredible encounter served as the perfect conclusion to an enchanting journey, like a grand cherry on top.

To secure your best African Safari, contact Wandering Thru without delay. 

Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
Botswana African Safari with Wandering Thru
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