There has always been something aspirational about Botswana. Triumphing a pioneering tourism model of low density but high quality, it’s not exactly affordable to visit on safari and that’s kind of the point—Botswana is supposed to be more exclusive than its more-populated (but lower-costing) neighbors. Throughout the years, the country’s aspirational quality has hardly dimmed, and high-profile jaunts like the recent one by the Duke of Sussex during his overseas tour with the Duchess of Sussex and Baby Archie has only magnified its covetous appeal. (It’s rumored that this royal trio is even considering moving there). But a regal itinerary isn’t the only way to experience the best of what Botswana has to offer. Here’s how to break away from the pack on your next safari:
Safaris can be very sedentary, and while Land Cruisers make for an efficient mode of transportation in the bush, a guided nature walk is a different way to get up close and personal with the intricacies of a biome—especially its flora. At Wilderness Safaris’ recently overhauled Jao Camp in the lush fringes of the Okavango Delta, it’s possible to book a guided nature walk with indigenous Bushman, Jackson Ndara. The Bushmen, or San, are semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers mostly living in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia. On your guided walk to the nearby island of Tsetse, Jackson—traditionally dressed in steenbok skin and ostrich feathers—will show you how to set traps for animals, start a fire and hunt with a spear, while your dedicated local guide will focus on identifying the small insects and plant life that keep this delicate ecosystem in perfect balance. One such insect is the termite, which are almost exclusively responsible for the creation islands in this watery paradise.
Fed by the rains in Angola, the legendary Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland delta system and a World Heritage Site. With over 15,000 km2 of open water, seasonal floodplains, lagoons and flowing channels, the Delta is one of Africa’s most precious and diverse ecosystems. But to best appreciate it, water actives are practically mandatory. On a motorized boating excursion at Wilderness Safaris’ Jao Camp, its possible to reach some of the most remote channels of the Delta, whereas a trip in one of their two glass-bottomed mekoro (traditional dugout canoes with oarsmen on the stern) is a slower and more peaceful way to explore the shallow, wildlife-filled waterways. At Wilderness Safaris’ riverine King’s Pool camp in the big-game region of Linyanti on the border of Chobe National Park, there’s the elegant Queen Silvia barge, which offers romantic sunset river trips down the slow-moving Linyanti River filled with massive primordial hippos soaking up the last of the day’s heat.
For another new perspective, put your head in the clouds. At Wilderness Safaris’ King’s Pool, it’s possible to book a private scenic helicopter ride over the wetlands on the border of Namibia. (You can even request that the doors be removed for optimum views and crystal-clear photographs.) There’s something awe-inspiring about getting an aerial view of the two-meter-wide wingspan of an African fish eagle or watching from above as mystical shadows fall off a single-file parade of elephants. Seeing the topography by air also helps you understand Botswana’s unique combination ecotone, where the time of year dictates the ever-shifting ratio of land to water.
Safari True provides comprehensive safari planning services and thoughtfully crafts custom safaris across sub-Saharan Africa. A four-night safari including two nights at Wilderness Safaris’ King’s Pool and two nights at Wilderness Safaris’ Jao Camp with international flights from London through Johannesburg starts at £10,488 for two people traveling in 2020. (www.safaritrue.com, +1-650-759-5126, firstname.lastname@example.org)