An Intimate Botswana Bushmen Experience Tour & Safari

A 8 day trip to Botswana 
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Botswana’s ancestral gathering lands are packed with mystique. Narratives are written in desolate landscapes, near extinct traditions survive in the bush, and 30,000 years of history await your arrival. This very rare experience offers a genuine and non-obtrusive immersion into the life of Zu/‘Hoasi Bushmen. Be welcomed by the elders and spend four intimate days in a fascinating traditional community. Then complete the trip with three days of spectacular big cat safari.  

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General Information

Photos
Mokoro canoes in shallow water on the Okavango Delta at sunrise | Botswana, Africa
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Maun, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Western Kalahari

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Meeting the Elders

Most western cultures have fully acclimatized to the idea of strangers. You see them in your home town every day, on the commute, in the shop and beside the road. But imagine living in a place where spotting another person came as a surprise. You will fly into a remote airstrip then drive along rugged dusty trails to a tiny campsite that’s deep in traditional Zu/‘hoasi Bushmen territory. These people have a 30,000 year old history and their ancestral lands are rarely visited by foreigners. This itinerary is designed to offer non-intrusive and authentic interaction. So you can’t just wander into the settlement waving hello and shaking hands with everyone. It’s up to the elders to invite you and greet you in the traditional manner.

Your campsite is located adjacent to the settlement, close enough to be immersed in their culture, yet far enough away to be discreet. Inviting a non-tribe member to actually sleep in their huts would have huge significance, hence the need to keep a respectful distance. And settlement is perhaps an overstatement of its size. This is just a cluster of family huts. Your camp is comfortable and traditional, with proper beds, private bucket showers, and bush toilets. A thatched shelter of wild grass arches over the tent, providing both shade and a cooling breeze. 

As a fire crackles the barefooted elders come to greet you. They walk slowly and elegantly, animal skin wrapped around their shoulders and fur covering their loins. As you sit around the flames the elders narrate an evocative history lesson, tracing the origins and challenges of one of the world’s oldest ethnic groups. Don’t just listen. Ask questions, tell your story, and slowly build a bond with the elders. Certain Bushmen traditions can seem bizarre when viewed from a Western perspective. Yet as you begin to appreciate their lifestyle a lot of things begin to make sense. Some of their ways of living seem like an idyllic ideology for your own culture. These tribes must be some of the only people in the world that follow a true democracy. However, tonight you’ll also learn about the complex political challenges Bushmen tribes are facing in modern Botswana.

Day 2: Spending Time with the Women of the Tribe

As the sun makes its unstoppable rise you will be walking through the Kalahari bush, immersing yourself in the landscape from which the Zu/‘hoasi live. They’re entirely self-sufficient, and this morning will provide an introduction to how they survive. Intrigued locals walk alongside you and spontaneous discussions break out as different plants are examined. Many have profound medicinal value, others help season meat, and very few have no use. An experienced guide accompanies you throughout this four day experience, and his appointment has been approved by the elders. Bushmen are naturally laconic, and different tribes across Botswana could have very dissimilar languages. They’re used to communicating without speech. An adolescent Bushman girl uses perceptible gestures to tell a story, a teenage boy extravagantly demonstrates the use for an herb, and the language barrier is negated by their wonderful ability to show and tell.

If you’re going to be spending time with the Bushmen you’ll need the proper tools. Inspect the rhygozum plants and select the best one to make your digging stick, as essential an item as a pair of shoes would be to a Westerner. Back at the settlement you’ll need to follow local instruction to prepare your tool. Return to your camp for lunch and take a siesta through the hottest part of the day. These scorched lands can really bake in the mid-afternoon, so nobody wants to waste any precious energy.

Return for an intimate cooking lesson with the most rudimentary of materials. Beetles are roasted on an open fire, wild spinach is washed and steamed, and ostrich egg omelettes can feed a whole family. Decorative ware is an essential part of culture and you’ll see everyone adorned with a collection of porcupine quills, ostrich egg beads, and dazzling jewelry. Some women will demonstrate how it’s made and you can also request that they perform the melon dance. Grown women unselfconsciously spin around the fire, rejoicing and celebrating a successful harvest. These ceremonies have thousands of years of history and are only performed a couple of times a year. So, this isn’t going to be a quick five minute boogie. Settle down beside the fire and allow a long night of festivity to unfold.

Day 3: Immersed in the Life of the Bushmen

Wake in the bush and listen to the sounds of the wild before meeting the tribe’s men. They’re preparing for a hunt. Search through the bush for poison grub beetle, select roots and branches to make bows and arrows, and gather all the necessities for a day out in the bush. This isn’t trophy hunting. These hunter-gatherers have survived off the land for many millennia, only killing what they need and ensuring nothing goes to waste. There are no guns or vehicles. Yet a Bushman poetically sidesteps through the landscape, nimbly changing direction and following the infinitesimal clues left by small antelope. It’s a skill that’s passed down and learnt over generations. Spend the evening preparing bows and quivers before joining the men in traditional games that improve hand-eye coordination. Like every evening, expect the fire to crackle and your integration into tribal life become more pronounced.

Day 4: Traditional Hunter-Gathering with the Tribe

Anticipation is in the air as the men from the settlement head out into the bush. Every hunt is unpredictable and there is no guessing what might happen today. Elders piece together the clues. Footprints would be obvious, yet they’re rare and often fade away in the hard ground. Animal dung indicates how recently something passed by. Upturned stones or half-eaten trees are difficult to spot, for you. Yet the Bushmen can already pick a path by taking one glance towards the distance. Stop for lunch beneath shady trees and continue the adventure. Hopefully, you’re getting close, and tracking becomes stalking as the tribe looks for the perfect opportunity.

Stay silent and perhaps the tribe gets close enough to make a kill. However, not every hunt is successful. In fact, many don’t get close. This is not a staged hunting operation. This is true hunting in the raw Kalahari plains. So soak up the ancient atmosphere and relish this extremely unique experience. Even without a kill there’s something majestic and inspiring about following this ancient tradition. Return to the camp and prepare the meat that will be shared by the whole tribe. Or return to the camp and simply remember your experience out in the bush. It’s a long day so expect an early evening as everyone rests after the exertion.

Day 5: First Glimpses of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Some people have erroneous preconceptions about building strong relationships with members of a Bushmen tribe. These are very reserved people and friendship is something that’s cultivated over many, many years. However, as you bid farewell to the community there are plenty of signs that you’ve been accepted and warmly welcomed as a guest: the strong handshake from an elder, a tiny smile from a woman you roasted insects with, the bashful waves of the children, and the acknowledging interaction with a Bushman. You will have shared personal moments with many members of the tribe and will have developed a strong knowledge of their culture. Wave goodbye and drive to the airstrip for a light aircraft transfer into the heart of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

After four days of cultural interaction, you have three full days in one of Africa’s most abundant parks. Touch-down in lion country. These vast plains are patrolled by dozens of separate prides; majestic black-maned males roar through the night, graceful lionesses inspect the marauding dinner menu, while the abundance of cubs reveals the quality of the meals on offer. It’s dusty and desolate out in the Central Kalahari, your safari truck cruising through hundreds of miles of scorched, seemingly barren landscape. This is the world’s second largest game reserve and daily dramas play out before your eyes. On your first game drive many of Africa’s classic sights should be found: an elephant bull plodding along the horizon, big cats dozing beneath a lonely tree, wandering kudu searching for grazing land, and nomadic gemsbok herds trying to find a drink. Today is just the start. With three days to explore on this Botswana safari, you’ll soon be discovering a world that defies the imagination.

Days 6 - 7: Spectacular Safari in the Kalahari

Wake up and inspect the nearby footprints. They’re big yet close together. It seems that a red hartebeest or eland came through the camp last night. Gaze out across the flat landscape. A small herd of kudu are gently illuminated by the rising sun, while a couple of giraffe can be spotted on the horizon. Start exploring. Wildlife is active at this time of day and the cats are on the prowl. A leopard carefully makes its way across undulating bushland, using the tiny hills to stalk a herd of blue wildebeest. Follow the scene from a distance, your angle revealing the exact moment when the herd realizes something isn’t quite right. One jumps and runs. The others panic, most of them unaware of the threat and running towards the leopard. Hooves kick up dust as they escape, just.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is not a place where you’ll see many other tourists. Its vast size means that visitors are spread over large open areas, as opposed to crowding around the same waterhole. Mornings and late afternoons are the best times for game viewing, as the mid-afternoon sun leaves everything hiding in the shade. In a reserve that’s bigger that some US states there are no standard routes. Head out on long game drives and feast your eyes on the reserve’s endless bounty. Wild dog packs effortlessly roam, happy to track wildebeest over many miles. Gemsbok explore the shriveled waterholes, trying to dig deeper for a satisfying drink. Hyenas always seem to be on the move, so do you keep seeing the same one? Or are there just a lot of them here?

Like most safaris, it’s the predators that provide the most excitement. Lions are the easiest to spot, their actions dictated by sleep and food. Find them lounging beneath shade, or patrolling the land like unruly bullies. Cheetahs play second fiddle, but they have the perfect environment to hunt. Small sandbanks and raised platforms provide some cover, and then there are acres of space to accelerate into. At some times you cross the Central Kalahari and there doesn’t seem to be anything. But cross a hill, peer around the corner, and a whole animal party plays by the river. Then trust the lions to ruin it and spread the ungulates with their presence. Return to the camp and relax on a sumptuous luxury bed, keeping the curtains open to inspect any wildlife that wanders past.

Day 8: Fond Farewell to Botswana

After three days of safari action you’ll fly over the Central Kalahari in a light aircraft. Africa’s great mammals are likely to have one final hurrah. Spot them as you leave the camp, or in some cases, see them wandering besides the tiny airstrip. However, if you aren't ready for your adventure to end, check out the Botswana safari reviews for additional ideas on how to extend your trip. Otherwise, return to Maun and connect to your international flight. Scroll through your photos and recollect the experience. Bushmen and big cats: it can’t get much more African than that.

Price

Starting Price 

$4,795
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.