We have just completed a fly-in safari to a private reserve on the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Our trip there has set the bar for safari trips so high, it will be difficult for any others to compare. The camp we stayed at sits on the edge of the delta and the Moremi National Park and there is no fencing around the property. There are only eight tents there for guests. From our luxury tent we would see and hear elephants, hippos, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, and numerous birds. In the distance we could occasionally hear hyenas and lions. Lions and Leopards have also been spotted in the camp and the people working there have some great stories.
We were driven in fully exposed URI vehicles for the safaris. These vehicles are like tanks. We could drive through soft sand, mud, lakes, rivers, and plough through small trees and bushes with little difficulty. It sounds terribly destructive but we would only knock down plants on rare occasions. It was frightening how close we would get to the animals as we felt exposed and vulnerable. We always had a guide who would drive and a tracker that would sit on a special seat at the front of the vehicle. The tracker scans for wildlife and identifies paw prints and droppings and also mans the spotlight on night drives. The benefit of being in a private reserve is the usual safari restrictions do not apply and you can drive anywhere while tracking animals and you can drive at any time. Some of our night sightings were our best.
Our schedule was to wake up at 6AM have a quick breakfast snack with tea or coffee before heading out on safari. We would stop in the wilderness to stretch and have more snacks before returning four or five hours later to have a big brunch. We would then have a siesta before having a late lunch at 3:30PM. This was followed by another outing stopping again in the wilderness to have drinks while watching the sun set. We would then have a long night drive back before having a late dinner followed by stories around a camp fire and retiring for the night.
Our highlights here included watching a pack of hyenas try to chase two young male lions away from an animal they had killed. Having a massive male lion pass on a hill beside me within petting distance. Tracking a leopard through bushes after it had killed a baboon and all the monkeys and baboons had climbed to the tops of the trees and were going crazy and yelling out warning calls. We could figure out where the leopard was by seeing where animals up the trees were all looking. We drove through bushes and happened upon it just meters ahead of us. This caught us both by surprise and it bolted away not to be seen by us again. We also saw a male lion devouring a Kudu one night and a hyena the next day chewing through the remainder of the skull with vultures waiting for anything that would be left. One evening we took a motorized boat through canals around the delta. The boat was two levels and I was sitting on the top with another fellow taking photos when we came across a couple of elephants and the guide turned off the engine. The boat drifted to shore at the same edge the elephant had walked to. I was eye level with it only a few meters away and it stood there with one leg half raised. The guides below were whisper yelling, “don’t move a muscle” and it was the only time we saw them genuinely worried. They used a pole to edge the boat away from the land. Shorty after that the elephant walked right into the water and crossed to an island on the other side. The smaller one followed and had to swim to get there. It was about 8PM when we returned and we were going to sit down for dinner when we were told another vehicle had found a group of seven male lions that hunt together. We were asked if we wanted to see them and we said yes. We got into the vehicle and were told to buckle-up as we rushed to drive the hour or so to their location. We arrived and had plenty of time looking at them. Leanne and I were sitting in the last row of the vehicle and with the spotlight on two lions in front we could see one of the others approaching us directly from behind. We actually ducked as it got close only to pass a foot away from the vehicle to join his friends. While driving between the lions we drove over a tree stump that snapped the connection to the steering column. One of the nearby vehicles was filled with camp staff looking at the lions and they came to our rescue quickly switching out and letting us take their vehicle. They were all standing outside as two large male lions passed us by, but the lions were disinterested. We left them in the dark a long way from camp after their temporary fix of the vehicle failed. A rescue vehicle was then sent to get them.
On our last day we did a mokoro (a little flat canoe) trip past a group of hippos. Leanne was scared, but it was great fun. When we were returning we were radioed that others had found a female cheetah with four six-month old cubs. We drove out to admire them and track them for a while. We even saw the mother give chase to a group of impala and we thought she might have caught one so we sped after her to check, but the target had managed to escape and she went to a nearby mound to rest as her cubs followed.
The Okavango is very beautiful and this has certainly been another trip highlight. We loved the camp we stayed at and very much hope to come back one day to stay at the same camp or another one run by the same company in Botswana. Everything is included once you arrive including all premium drinks, all meals, snacks, activities and even laundry. They will bend over backward to make your trip incredible including sacrificing meals and sleep to give you the best viewings whenever they are found. The vehicles always start in different directions during the safaris so you only see other tourists when there is a great find and even then there are not more than two or three vehicles congregating in one spot. We have had an unbelievable experience in an incredible place.