Best of Okavango & Southern Africa Safari by Private Plane

A 12 day trip to Botswana & Zambia 
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The natural wonders of Southern Africa come alive when seen from the air as the beautiful expressions of the wild blur into each other with a primitive charm. Private air charters showcase the region's wonders from an inspiring angle, and when you touch down, the thrills of the Big Five ensure an exciting safari adventure. This 12-day aerial safari will connect Southern Africa's highlights, from the Kruger savannah to the Kalahari desert and the sublime Okavango Delta to Victoria Falls. 

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Johannesburg, Mala Mala Game Reserve, Mashatu Game Reserve, Moremi Game Reserve, Kalahari Desert, Okavango Delta, Duba Plains, Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Livingstone, Victoria Falls

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Johannesburg to Mala Mala Game Reserve – Scenic Flight Over the Kruger

The Greater Kruger defies the imagination with a rustic expanse of savannah that covers the northeast of South Africa. The region is larger than most U. S. states and at times it seems it will feel as though there is no end to the evocative bushland and roaming herds. You will land at O. R. Tambo International and transfer into your private aircraft, a small plane that can easily land on Southern Africa's remote airstrips. Customized viewing windows will ensure that you can fully take in the elephant bulls and the marauding buffalo herds that grace the Greater Kruger.

Your private plane will offer expedited travel to each of your destinations, but the great highlight of traveling this way is the aerial safari. Every flight will allow you to see the land from an exclusive perspective, one that exquisitely portrays just how vast and untouched Africa can be. This afternoon you will fly to the north of the Kruger to cruise the length of the national park from north to south and admire the scorched colors that stretch out below. Your final destination is Mala Mala, a luxurious private game reserve that has an unfenced border with Kruger National Park. As you land, the animals that you saw from the air will be seen on your late-afternoon game drive to bring an intimacy that compliments the scale discovered from the air.

What's Included: accommodation at Mala Mala Main Camp, safari, dinner

Day 2: Mala Mala Game Reserve – Spectacular Game Drives in Mala Mala

Mala Mala's savannah will quickly immerse you in the rhythm of the wild. Boisterous shouts will guide you into the trees to see a baboon troop banging on the branches, alerting everyone to a leopard high in the tree. Admire the baboon’s blue eyes and then continue beneath the canopy to find a large herd of elephants bulldozing a pathway. Out on the open savannah, you will spot the manes of lion pride fluttering beautifully in the morning light. White rhinos provide another inspiring highlight, especially when a mother and a calf roam past the open-sided safari vehicle. Mala Mala is home to the full Big Five, and you usually will not have to wait long to enjoy encounters with them all. You will go on an early morning safari and then return to your luxurious camp for some quiet time overlooking the river. Hippos may wake you from your siesta before a late afternoon game drive will further your exploration. As dusk closes in, this will be a prime time to spot lions and leopards on their evening prowl.

What's Included: accommodation at Mala Mala Main Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Mashatu Game Reserve – Soaring Across the Evocative Plains of Northern South Africa

Your private aircraft will bring you north, skirting the boundaries of the Kruger before crossing the pristine Waterberg Mountains. Dramatic ravines stretch out beneath your window, and unusual colors mark the rock, especially when you descend in altitude and fly across the northern slopes. Your destination is Mashatu, an enormous private reserve in the far southeastern corner of Botswana. After touching down for lunch and rest, your pilot will take you on a low-altitude aerial safari. Admire sandstone outcrops that hang above dusty plains and then cross riverine forests that blur into marshlands to get a sense of how the animals are congregating around the permanent water sources. Exploring from the air will give you a great appreciation of how the animals move and where each species likes to live. After your aerial safari, you will enjoy an afternoon game drive in Mashatu.

What's Included: accommodation at Mashatu Main Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Mashatu Game Reserve – Bush Walks and Mountain Bike Safari

Mashatu's varied habitats maintain a healthy population of different animals, including lion, elephant, and leopard. But the real highlight is the different ways that you can explore beginning with a morning walking safari. Follow a San bushman tracker and creep up to a zebra herd, and then skirt the trees to stand close to a tower of giraffe. Occasionally you will stop in special hides close to waterholes, hiding away to get a very personal look at an array of antelope. In the afternoon, you will get into the saddle and follow the elephant trails, either on horseback or on a mountain bike. Without the noise of an engine, you can really get close to the wildlife which all seems bigger and brighter when you are just another mammal on the savannah.

What's Included: accommodation at Mashatu Main Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Moremi Game Reserve (Okavango) – Kalahari Air Safari and Immersed in the Beautiful Wetlands of the Delta

Take off and cruise across the Kalahari to marvel at the subtle color changes that the desert can bring. Large swaths of land are a soft yellow hue with pockets of bright orange glimmering in the sun.  Suddenly, the blinding white of the Makgadikgadi Pans will come into your view to provide a baffling sight from the air. Once Africa's largest lake and now the world's largest salt pan, the Makgadikgadi Pans stretch across an area larger than Switzerland. The pans are not on route to the Delta, but a private air safari is all about the scenic detours that take in the beautiful and bizarre of Southern Africa.

Fly off again and you will back in the desert when a new tone emerges, the first sprinkling of green indicating that the Okavango Delta is getting near. At first, it will be just a few wisps, but then the landscape explodes with vibrancy and you will be gazing down on the enormity of the world's greatest oasis. Your destination is Moremi Game Reserve, where islands are marooned on the floodplains and the Xakanaxa Camp is spectacularly surrounded by water. Hippos will greet you with their iconic yawns, and after a day of adventurous flying, you will easily settle into the serenity of your luxurious suite.

What's Included: accommodation at Xakanaxa Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Moremi Game Reserve (Okavango) – Boat Safaris in the Wilderness

The iconic Okavango experience comes from the water. In the morning, you will be paddled out in a traditional mokoro canoe, moving silently down the reed-fringed channels. Elephants use their trunks as snorkels, disappearing beneath the surface with a playful grin. Hippos congregate in huge pods, dozens of them battling over the prime bathing spots. Along the banks, you will find breeding colonies of herons and egrets, storks and cormorants, just some of the exceptional bird sightings you found in the Okavango. Later in the day, you will explore in a motorboat to cruise around the edge of Chief's Island to seek out the clashes between predator and prey. Zebra and impala skip around, avoiding the high grass where lions and cheetahs lay their stealthy ambush. In a mokoro, you can get very close to wildlife to complement your wider exploration done via motorboat as you discover vast areas of the Okavengo Delta.

What's Included: accommodation at Xakanaxa Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Duba Plains (Okavango) – Exploring the Okavango From Air and Land

The Okavango Delta is one of the world's greatest aerial sights, stretching over such a distance that is visible from space. This morning's aerial safari will help you to understand the scale of it all, first taking you west to where the river meanders through the Kalahari Desert. You will see how it tumbles down and bursts onto the open floodplains to create thousands of tiny palm islands. Flying back to the west, you will see the water slowly rescind, the floodplains replaced by woodlands that are dissected by roving channels. Finally, you will cruise north, touching down on the Duba Plains to discover a new part of the Okavango experience.

Whereas Xakanaxa Camp was about the water, these plains showcase the drama of the drier Okavango areas. While it is the floods that attract the abundant wildlife, almost all of the mammals are land dwellers. So you do not need to wait long to see astonishing herds of buffalo and elephant on the plains. Sometimes there are thousands massed together, emitting strange calls and pungent smells. Often, you will not need to leave your camp to see it all as the battles between predator and prey are seen and heard from your verandah. There is a thrilling tension to it all and you will have the box seats.

What's Included: accommodation at Duba Plains Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Duba Plains (Okavango) – Thrilling Buffalo and Lion Battles on the Plains

Lionesses are circling the herd, snapping away as they look for a weak link. Large males patrol the outskirts, hiding young calves behind a mass of horns and bulk. When the buffalo charge the pride backs off, and when the lionesses come again, even more buffalos decide to chase them away which leaves an opening for two more lionesses to attempt to snatch a youngster away. They are not quick enough and one is down, trampled by the herd, bringing a death you were not expecting. Of course, on another game drive, you may have seen a different result, and been close enough to see the mane of the big male completing the hunt. Today is about morning and afternoon game drives, to seek out the theater found on the Okavango's drier land.

What's Included: accommodation at Duba Plains Camp, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Chobe National Park to Livingstone – The Elephants and Hippos of Chobe

On the day's first flight, you will savor the woodlands of northern Botswana as you follow the watery channels as they get tighter and tighter before disappearing beneath the canopy. Down below is the world's largest population of elephants and they are amazing to see from the air as large herds move in and out of the trees to gather on the rivers below. Touch down to explore the land, and a short game drive is likely to encounter thousands of elephants, along with hundreds of giraffe. After winding through the park, you will enjoy lunch with a view over the Chobe River before cruising along the ancient waterway to find hippos and elephants out along the banks. Return to the skies in the late afternoon and your sunset flight will follow the Chobe and Zambezi rivers to Livingston and your luxurious hotel that is close enough to hear the rumble of Victoria Falls.

What's Included: accommodation at Royal Livingstone Hotel, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Livingstone – Flightseeing Over Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is best seen from the air, and your pilot will ensure that you follow the journey of the water. The Zambezi River widens, moving straight and bulbous as it divides thick swaths of grassland. Tropical colors fill the landscape and islands are dotted in the water, and then the water disappears to drop into the mile-wide chasm, disappearing into the abyss and returning as wisps of fluttering spray. There is nothing quite like this aerial view of the world's most powerful waterfall standing at the divide between Zambia and Zimbabwe. After your aerial safari, you will explore on foot to take a number of narrow bridges to the cataracts in the river. The views are often concealed by the mist, but the roaring thunder of the falls is never forgotten.

What's Included: accommodation at Royal Livingstone Hotel, safari, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Livingstone – Relaxed Final Day Along the Zambezi River
Your final day is deliberately left free to give you a chance to relax and soak up the tranquility of the Zambezi River. With your room overlooking the water, it would be easy to spend the whole day sitting back and enjoying the scenic vistas. There are a number of optional extras, such as a kayaking tour on the Zambezi, tracking wild rhinos in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, or visiting a local village. In the evening, you can board the Royal Livingstone Express steam train and wind above the river as a sumptuous dinner is served.

What's Included: accommodation at Royal Livingstone Hotel, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Livingstone – Departure

Livingstone's rapidly expanding flight network offers a seamless departure from Africa. The airport is a short drive from your hotel and you will have full use of the facilities before departure. This time you will take to the skies and return home with hundreds of memories of Africa made from the air.

What's Included: transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$13,195
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.