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First safari impressions are always memorable. There's a sense of expectation that's combined with the feeling of not knowing exactly what you should be expecting. A micro flight across Botswana is a good start. You'll land in Maun and transfer to a light aircraft which cruises across the Okavango Delta. Scale imbues at every angle; rivers, desert, forests, grasslands, so many colors and not a single road in sight. You're introduced to just how broad and expansive Botswana can be. This is not going to be a safari into small game reserves; you're going to be exploring Africa's legendary scale.
Touch down on a remote airstrip and the safari begins. Elephants rumble past at remarkable intervals, every corner bringing another herd or another trunk-swinging mother and baby. Giraffe necks stand above the trees and an array of ungulates move beneath the branches. There are animals everywhere, from the rumbustious baboons to the diminutive antelopes hiding from view. But it's not the animals that you're likely to remember. On a first safari, it's the intimacy that defines the experience. Elephant tower above the vehicle, almost close enough to touch. Kudu horns are barely meters from your eyes. Sounds echo through the woodland, mystical insights into life behind the trees. The journey from the airstrip to the luxury camp is a safari. In fact, every moment is a safari. Because when you're lounging on the verandah, there's always wildlife nearby. Consider reading some of our travelers' travel reviews of Botswana luxury tours to learn more about this exhilarating experience.
Day 2 - 3
Sunrise. Curls of mist are quickly evaporating as orange bands rove across the horizon. Breakfast always comes with a view. An elephant herd on the march, chomping at the forest; wild buffalo roaming into the distance, and a hippo wading into the water to take his place for the day. Your luxury camp stands over the water, and there's often a procession of life coming for a drink. So as you're drinking coffee, the wildlife experience is well underway. Over these two days, the safari itinerary is fully flexible, enabling you to create your own program of game drives, walks, and nighttime drives. As it's your first safari stop, there's likely to be an eagerness to explore and see as many different species as possible, something that's best for game drives.
An array of habitats helps dictate what to find. Drive into the mopane woodland and thousands of elephants rule their kingdom, smashing pathways through the trees and trumpeting their movements into the green. Linyanti is part of the fabled Chobe ecosystem and the greatest collection of elephants anywhere on the planet. Giraffe feast around the woodland edges, and as you keep driving, a broad meandering river brings new views. Hippos lounge in large pods while crocodiles bathe on the banks. Antelope aren't alone in coming to drink; you'll always find tension and drama when driving alongside the river. Linyanti packs a remarkable diversity in a private concession, making it a premier first stop; you'll see dozens of different animals, watching how they interact with each other.
The Chobe woodland blurs into a sweep of open grasslands. This is where lions and cheetah roam. Stop beside a pride and the lionesses come to inspect, walking close before taking a snooze in the shadow of the back wheel. Across the grasslands come a myriad of ungulates, from zebra herds to the skipping antics of impala. In these dry season months, the low grass makes spotting everything wonderfully easy. There's food for many here and in the blink of an eye, a cheetah is on the run. Itineraries usually combine two daily game drives with a relaxed afternoon at the camp and an opportunity for a nighttime game drive, one that follow the sounds to discover packs of wild dogs and the unusual scurrying of a hyena.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4 - 5
On a micro flight, you soar across Chobe, gazing down on large elephant herds as they rumble through the woodland. The drenched landscape of the Okavango roams beneath the wingtips, flooded plains delivering great expanses of blue. You touch down in the northeast of the Delta, at the private game reserve of Selinda. Almost immediately, you're surrounded by bountiful rising grass. Visibility isn't as ongoing as the Linyanti grasslands and this adds to the mystique. You've entered a fertile land, a place where wildlife can hide, but a place that's revered by thirsty and hungry animals on the move. A resonant soundtrack accompanies every turn and there's never an interruption to the wilderness.
For the next two nights, you sleep in mobile camps, uniquely erected accommodation that allows you to travel into the often-unchartered land. There are few obvious trails here and very few other tourists. Start the journey via dugout canoe, paddling slowly along an Okavango waterway, roving past pods of hippos that wallow away from the sun. Zebras skip in the shallows, and the occasional antelope inspects the canoe. Your first camp is along an ancient waterway, a place where a diverse cast of antelopes comes to drink, then skip away once the elephants and giraffe arrive. The the safari continues by foot. Selinda is one of Botswana's premier walking destinations, each step taking you into a realm that can't be explored by vehicle. Wildlife appears much bigger when you're also on ground level. It's very safe; after all, your bushman guide has millennia of ancestral knowledge that teaches how to coexist with the big game.
Next, you continue the safari into the wilderness, this time traveling on horse back – note that this experience can be switched for a walking safari. On a horse, you become one of the animals, an unobtrusive way to get close to the curious wildlife of Selinda. Zebra are intrigued, a herd coming close as you canter along. Springbok and kudu stop their grazing, but don't run away. The full-day journey takes you winding through the reserve to a second mobile camp, another snippet of luxury where you are the only guests and the landscape provides an evocative nighttime lullaby.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6 - 8
Next, it's Moremi, the legendary destination in the heart of the Okavango. All waterways seem to lead here, the flooded landscape spilling out into islands and islets that appear doused in green. It feels like all wildlife is also on its way here, the migrants continually arriving to feast on the luscious bounty. Resident predators keep the ungulates on their toes, an astonishing abundance of lions and leopards found in close proximity. On a game drive, you spot a tail swishing in the trees; stop, wait, and the spotted cat reveals itself. A thundering lion call resonates across the camp and in the distance you spot two large males growling their intentions towards a female. Hyenas regularly fill the safari experience, and there's often a clash of teeth and bone along the river. For intimate predatory scenes, there are few better places in the whole of Africa.
After the micro flight, you check into a luxury camp on Chief's Island, overlooking the Okavango channels that have brought such life into the desert. A game drive introduces you to the island's abundance, the density of life intensified because many animals are now marooned on land. Traditional mokoro (dug-out canoe) safaris take you to small islets and channels filled with hippos. With every slow paddle, you don't interrupt the landscape, so all the wildlife just watches you on your way. A private guide creates daily itineraries, and the program is fully flexible. Choose to spend the whole day exploring the grasslands and woodlands, or combine the waterways with game drives and even some short walking safaris.
Moremi is a meeting point of landscapes, bringing a lot of everything into a remote piece of Africa. Of course, there are no roads; you can only reach the island by flight or via a long canoe journey. And like always in Botswana, the phenomenal scale helps make every safari experience private. You won't see dozens of vehicles crowded around a kill. Instead, the country effortlessly maintains an intimacy and exclusivity throughout. All meals are included, and they add charm, as dinner is served beside a crackling fire and silhouetted elephants wander past, or lunch overlooking temperamental hippos fighting for wading rights. Even when you're in bed, the experience continues, a flickering soundtrack ensuring that you can appreciate the wilderness location regardless of whether you can see it.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9 - 10
Flying over the Okavango is the stuff of legend, the landscape flickering through the colors as you cruise above the oasis. Behind you lie the forests and grasslands of Northern Botswana, great expanses of green tumbling away towards broad rivers. Beneath you is the Delta, a maze of channels dominating a landscape of fresh vibrancy. By gazing into the distance, you can sense the seasonality of it all, the edges of the Okavango blurring into the dust of the desert. As you fly south, the scorched tones become more prominent. The flooded land gives way, and you're soaring above mile after mile of rustically red land. Your destination in the Central Kalahari, one of Africa's great desert realms. Radiant hues are replaced by the subtle red tinges of a landscape that appear barren from the sky.
But land in the Central Kalahari and you find that the abundance remains, as long as you know where to look. A lone elephant marches across the horizon, small wisps of dust kicked up beneath his toes. A small springbok herd stops then skip onwards. Three giraffes wander elegantly past the camp. These are the clues. Follow their footsteps and you find water, the bounty that sustains life in the desert. Few waterholes remain at the height of the dry season, particularly towards August and September. So the game viewing experience is mostly centered around game drives that follow the wildlife patterns towards the liquid goodness that hasn't evaporated.
Lions lounge beside the water, a hungry pack waiting for dinner to come towards them. There's tension as ungulates arrive, animals waiting in a loose queue that's defined by size, yet betrayed by the cheekier members of the theatrical cast. Hyenas make their way forward for a quick drink while a giraffe decides for patience and perseverance. Drive across the Kalahari and the panoramas feel endless, hundreds of empty square miles stretching onto the horizon. While the wildlife abundance is lower than in the Okavango, these views make spotting everything much more straightforward. There are no trees or high grassland to conceal predators. Like always, these two days are spent on a flexible privately guided safari, with choices for full-day drives or returning to the camp for lunch. And just like the other safari destinations, you always have the surreal sounds and strange silhouettes that grace nighttime in the bush.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
A final morning, a last chance to lounge with nature and a steaming mug of coffee. Prints reveal what walked past in the night, and there's a serenity to watching the odd ungulate wander by. After breakfast, you'll fly to Maun by micro flight, a journey that offers fresh insight into the scale of the Kalahari. A representative assists in transferring you to the international airport and your return flight via Johannesburg.
Botswana doesn't have four seasons like North America. Instead, the landscape is defined by the rains. For months it's warm and dry, the waterways slowly evaporating as wildlife huddles around the last vestiges of liquid bounty. As the dry season rumbles on, those on four legs must travel increasing distances to find water, providing the easiest time to spot game. Lions wait at waterholes, herds face off beside a river, and there's a tension that elevates the natural drama. The period of June to September is Botswana's most scorched dry season months, a chance to discover the evocative colors of the desert and the intimacy of an African safari.
But just as the landscape seems to be withering into extremes, something truly remarkable occurs. The Okavango Delta floods. It hasn’t been raining in Botswana. The rain fell in the Angolan Highlands earlier in the year, embarking on a four-month journey to the Delta, where it spills onto floodplains and creates an inspiring network of channels and waterways that are visible from space. There's an oasis in the desert, and the wildlife is on the move to find it. This creates unique safari opportunities. Visit Botswana in the dry season from June to September and you can experience the classic dusty desert, where big cats and migratory herds huddle around waterholes. But you'll also be submerged in the lavish bounty of the Delta, an experience filled with wildlife abundance and color.
This luxury vacation has been handcrafted to incorporate the diversity of the Botswana dry season experience. You'll explore a myriad of habitats, each with its own specialist residents. Start in the mopane woodlands and roving grasslands of Linyanti Concession, a private reserve that borders Chobe National Park. Three nights here are all about vast elephant herds, thousands of giraffe, and some exceptional big cat viewing. Move on to Selinda Private Game Reserve and the experience focuses on a wilderness immersion. You'll be walking, kayaking and horse riding through the landscape, enjoying intimate encounters with ungulates and bathing river hippos. There's a surreal sense of how big and unbounded Botswana can be, an untamed land stretching in all directions.
Selinda is on the northeastern fringes of the Delta; you fly to the Okavango's heart. Water is everywhere now, bringing migrating herds from hundreds of miles around. Just sit back at your luxury camp and watch the show. Over the next few days, a diverse collection of activities helps you explore this great oasis, and it's hard to think of an iconic animal that's not in the vicinity. Throughout the itinerary, you connect the destinations by micro flight, a thrilling opportunity to grasp the scale of Botswana from the air, the wilderness unraveling in all directions.
The following day takes you to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, one of Africa's largest and most evocative desert expanses. You're now surrounded by dusty infertile plains, a challenging land that's imbued with drama. Game drives cover large areas, and almost every water hole presents nature's theater. Like many of the destinations, there's a range of activities, and you can also head out on foot. Throughout this exhilarating itinerary, it's rare to see other people. Botswana is remote. And the landscape is on such a scale that you'll always have your own piece of the wild. Expert guides are provided by your camps, and all the activities are private.
Consider browsing our Botswana safari tours page to gain further inspiration regarding your own dream Botswana safari tour.
$6595 per person (excluding international flights)