Botswana with Thompsons Africa and Desert & Delta Safaris

It was an early start for our team as we had to be at Durban airport by 5am for the flight to Johannesburg and then to Maun. Craig Drysdale, Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle Lazarus, Louise Kleyntjens, Andrew Camp and Graeme Watson were all participants on this fam, very kindly arranged with Desert & Delta with assistance from Air Botswana as well.

 

This was our plane. Air Botswana usually uses the ATR twin turboprops – a very comfortable aircraft and they have a full meal service and bar on board. The first thing that strikes you as you fly over Botswana is the vastness of the country, and how flat the landscape is.

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As we cleared customs, we met Stuart from Desert and Delta, who was to be our group leader for the next five days. The amazing staff at Desert and Delta should be very proud of themselves. Not only are they experts on Botswana in general, but have an amazing knowledge of the fauna and flora of the land. They are very passionate about their jobs and this does show.

 

All of us about the board the short hop to Leroo Le Tau from Maun (around 40 minutes). The plane was very comfortable although was quite a bumpy ride in places – mainly due to the very hot weather, which was in excess of 35 degrees celcius.

 

We then arrived at Leroo Le Tau airstrip where we were met and transferred to the lodge which was around 20 minutes away by safari vehicle.

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Text from the website of Leroo Le Tau:

‘Leroo La Tau is situated on the western bank of the Boteti River, northwest of Khumaga Village and about 140 kilometres southeast of Maun. The eastern bank of the Boteti forms the boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, which stretches away from the riverbank towards its interior of scrubland and mineral-rich grasslands.

THE LODGE & ACCOMMODATION

The lodge features twelve luxurious thatched and glass-fronted suites with en-suite bathrooms, each unit raised on a wooden platform. The main lounge and dining area, with its inviting wooden and thatch finish, allows you to relax at the bar while listening to the wide variety of night sounds so characteristic of the African bush. Alternatively you can lounge around the swimming pool or enjoy the panoramic river vista from the game-viewing hide built into the bank of the river.

ACTIVITIES & WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS

The lodge offers guided day and night game drives. Depending on the water level, boat activities are also provided. Optional cultural excursions can be arranged to Khumaga Village, as can guided nature walks in the area surrounding the lodge.

Leroo La Tau translates as ‘lion’s paw’ but, although the surrounding area features abundant Lion, Zebra and Wildebeest, it also boasts Chobe Bushbuck, Leopard, Cheetah, Brown and Spotted Hyena, Impala, Kudu, Jackal, Porcupine, Genet and Caracal, to name but a few.

Owing to their remote location within the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, the Makgadikgadi Pans themselves are not visited on daily scheduled activities from Leroo La Tau.’

We headed out on the game drive, and the drinks stop had one of the most amazing views any of us had seen. In fact all the drinks stops were perfect as they seem to know just where the most scenic spots are.

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Later that night we were very pleasantly surprised by a private bush dinner, where the staff amazed us with their group singing. In fact every night as a feature of all the camps, the staff perform songs for the guests, and we are told is there is even friendly rivalry as to who has the best choir!

 

After a fantastic evening at Leroo La Tau and morning game drive with our first sighing of lion, today we bid farewell and headed on to Camp Moremi.

 

Enroute to the Airport we left earlier to do an orientation tour of the nearby Village. The village was where our fantastic guide Calvin grew up. We visited the local medical centre where everyone receives free medical assistance and the traditional court Kgotla. Calvin gave us an in-depth insight to how the locals host meetings headed by the Chief/ Headman and how the crimes and anything regarding the community is handled between the Kgotla and High court. We saw how hands on the president of the country is and how he is involved with the locals and often visits the communities.

 

Leaving Leroo La Tau airstrip for the next 30 minute flying across to Camp Moremi. Situated on the edge of the Xakanaxa Lagoon in an area well known for its spectacular game-viewing opportunities. We were welcomed by our guides Stel and KT and headed off by road to Camp Moremi where once again we were welcomed by phenomenal lodge staff.

 

After been allocated to our rooms and a quick refreshment we headed out on our afternoon game drive and sundowners – to one of the most stunning sunsets we got to experience in Botswana.

Dinner was served on the lawn under the clear skies with plated started and buffet mains/desserts.   Ending with a relaxed evening around the Bon-fire area with great company.

Comments

– Camp Moremi and Xakanaxa Camp are both located near to each other, this could be an option for larger groups travelling that can be split between the two properties. Even though the lodges may be different in look and style they offer the same gaming experience.

– Camp Moremi and Xakanaxa Camp offer both Land / Water activities.

– Being a traveller with dietary requirements each of camps showed personal attention to this and ensuring that each of my meals were catered for.

– The phenomenal staff at all the camps stood out in their personalities, humbleness and their passion for their work really reflected in everything they do.

 

The Desert and Delta lodges are all beautifully maintained!  At Camp Moremi (as is the case in all of the camps we visited), the main lodge areas have a vast area of lawn, beautifully kept, which is in such contrast to the surrounding bush.  It makes for a peaceful “oasis” feeling and in the intense heat, adds to the allure of the swimming pool.

 

The water was very low everywhere, but, from the vantage point of the viewing deck you have an expansive view of the Xakanaxa Lagoon – a perfect spot for sundowners.

 

This morning up early in time for a light breakfast before departing on our early morning game drive.

 

It was interesting to learn and understand some of the unique aspects of safari in Botswana, and, what makes this such a desirable destination:

 

A massive 38% of Botswana’s total land area consists of national parks, reserves and wildlife management areas.  The government manages both the national parks as well as the community-owned reserves.  The Government protected wildlife reserves of the north are surrounded by a series of massive, unfenced, private community “concessions”.  The low density tourism policy restricts the numbers of visitors to each of these exclusive areas, meaning there are concessions of 2,300 square kilometres, with just, for example, 2 camps of 8 rooms each, allowing only a handful of visitors an exclusive safari experience.  This in line with the government’s policy of low impact high yield tourism.

 

The road infrastructure is unsophisticated – made up of sand and dirt tracks – it means that travelling in many parts of the country has the feeling of an immense untamed wilderness.

 

Natural riches (diamonds!), a low human population density, a visionary government and the highest GDP per capita on the African continent have combined to make Botswana one of the most rewarding country in Africa in which to experience a big game safari.

 

We proceeded to Camp Xakanaxa for Bruch and to do a site inspection:

 

Camp Xakanaxa is right next door to Camp Moremi, on the banks of the Khwai River on the Xakanaxa Lagoon, in the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve.  Although these lodges are neighbours, they are completely private from each other.  Xakanaxa (during this very dry time that we visited), is right on the water.  It is a combination camp offering year-round Okavango Delta land and water safari experiences.

 

ACCOMMODATION

The camp accommodates twenty-four guests in twelve spacious all-canvas, classic Meru-style luxury safari tents, with en suite showers, hand basins and toilet facilities. Situated around the fringe of the lagoon, every tent has a private viewing deck with comfortable loungers. Camp Xakanaxa is one of the few camps in Botswana which still offers the essence of a classic tented camp.

 

THE CAMP

In camp, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere together with personalised and caring service evokes a feeling of coming home.

The stylish main buildings extend over the Khwai River and are set on raised platforms to maximise the views over the surrounding lagoons and islands. The elegant lounge and dining rooms, built of local timber, reed and thatch, feature a small library, expansive sundeck, plunge pool and sala with day bed. The fire-deck extends over the Khwai River and creates an enchanting environment in which to relax after dinner. There is also a larger pool with elevated sun deck in the expansive grounds.

 

From our site inspection we returned to Camp Moremi for some “down time” – much needed in the unrelenting heat!

 

We departed on our afternoon / evening game drive, with a stop for sundowners overlooking a waterhole with hippo and a most spectacular sunset and view.  Desert and Delta went to so much trouble for the sundowner experience.  The location chosen was always perfect and we enjoyed a fantastic selection of drinks and snacks.

 

Back to the lodge in time for supper, then around the campfire and off to bed!

 

Thank you to D&D for hosting us – it has given me a fantastic insight and understanding of the logistics and joy of visiting Botswana.

 

Depart Camp Moremi for Camp Okavango

It was truly sad to leave Camp Moremi after a two night stay where we bid farewell to our hosts Eric the camp Manager and his amazing team who were amazing hosts.  We were truly spoilt to have had Walter Smith spend time with us at Camp Moremi.  Walter is passionate about his product and the knowledge he shared with the team left us with a better understanding of this amazing destination Botswana.

 

Camp Okavango

Flying time from Camp Moremi to Camp OKavango is 5 minutes.  Camp O as it is fondly referred to is the ‘Flag Ship’ of the Desert and Delta portfolio.  The camp is currently closed, is a construction site and currently being rebuilt (due to re open in April 2016).

 

Camp Okavango is situated on the remote Nxaraga Island in the heart of the permanent Okavango Delta.  All game viewing activities offered at Camp Okavango are conducted by professional guides who will navigate guests through a variety on tranquil waterways while they have the opportunity to explore the Okavango by canoe (mokoro) and motorboat.  Guests will be able to explore the surrounding island where they can partake on guided nature walks.  Fishing for bream and tiger fishing is also offered (seasonal)

 

We were given the opportunity to walk around the site as well as view a mock up room the honeymoon suite.  The newly built accommodation offers each tent built on raised teak platform, ensuite facilities, sliding glass doors which open onto private viewing deck.  New to Camp O is a family suite.

 

A 5 minute walk from Camp Okavango to the airstrip for our 15 minute flight to Camp Xugana Island lodge.  Arrive Xugana Airstrip where we were once again warmly greeted and transferred by boat approximately 20 minutes from the airstrip to the camp.  Xugana is a ‘Little Jewel’ situated on the remote and enchanting Xugana Lagoon, the most spectacular permanent waterside in the entire Okavango Delta.

 

We were allocated our room keys and seated for midday brunch.  Today’s activity included a walking safari.  This activity is offered to guests at sunrise, and as we needed to experience this activity out hosts arranged a shortened version in order we could experience.

 

We were transferred to a neighboring Island ‘Palm Island’ by motorboat which was just so exciting traveling through the waterways of the Delta.  We arrived at Palm Island (in the midday heat) where the day unfolded into a true safari adventure.  We had walked about half an hour where our guide GB got us close and ‘personal’ with lions, about 200 meters distance from where we were standing. (unfortunately too close for my liking and became a bit nervous) the guiding throughout the camps at all times was exceptional and professional, most guides having been born and raised in the wilds of Botswana.

 

Head back to the lodge by motorboat where on arrival we were taken by complete surprise to be served sundowners on a private ‘raft, that was set up exclusively for the team in the middle of the lagoon.

 

Dinner was served in the al fresco dining area which overlooks the expanse of the pristine water that makes up the permanent Delta.

 

What a wonderful way to end this exciting safari adventure.

 

Xugana Lagoon is widely recognised as the most spectacular permanent water site in the entire Okavango Delta, which itself is Africa’s largest and most awe-inspiring oasis. The Okavango River rises in the highlands of Angola yet never reaches the sea; instead its immense waters empty over the sands of the Kalahari, where the great thirst of the desert is quenched in a wilderness of freshwater lagoons, channels and islands

 

Xugana Island Lodge is situated on a private concession and takes full advantage of this magnificent site. An expansive deck and al fresco dining area overlooks the vast, pristine body of water that makes up the permanent Okavango Delta. The lounge, bar and dining areas are set back under the Ebony and African Mangosteen tree canopy in open-sided thatched structures, and the swimming pool, located within the mature gardens in the centre of the island, is a perfect place to relax. The lodge accommodates only sixteen guests in large, raised, reed and thatch lagoon-facing chalets, with en-suite facilities and private viewing decks optimally placed on the shaded fringe of the island.

Xugana Island Lodge is a pure water paradise and gives you the chance to experience a true Okavango Delta safari. All activities are conducted by experienced professional guides. Explore the crystal-clear waterways by mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) or motorboat, and enjoy the magnificent variety of bird, plant and reptile species found in the area. Birding is absolutely spectacular, especially during the summer months when the migrant birds come to breed. Your experienced guide will also take you on a guided nature walk on surrounding islands in the concession, giving you the chance to experience nature up close and personal. Fishing for bream and tiger fish is also offered as an activity at the lodge. Xugana Island Lodge is a water-based camp and game drive activities, using safari vehicles, are not possible.

 

Diary for the day:

Wake up call at 6am, followed by breakfast at 6.30am on the lagoon facing deck under the large canopy of trees. Beautiful to watch the sunrise from this vantage point.
1hr boat cruise to Hippo Pools, very exciting winding through narrow channels and into large lagoons on the motorised boats and back into large lagoons with large pods of Hippos and a few large croc sightings. Amazing bird life. Then visited the Heronry where baby Herons wobble in their thick nests while a baby croc lies in wait , mouth agape. A monitor lizard slithers across the island looking for eggs.


1 hr boat ride back through the channels to the airstrip for our 30 minute charter flight to Savute Safari lodge but first a 20 minute Mokoro experience for those who are interested.


The accommodation was comfortable, spacious and all amenities in room, except air con, but they do have ceiling fans and standing fans in room. Excellent guiding, superb food and staff at Xugana Island Lodge. A refreshing water based camp and nice break from the bumpy land game drives. Highly recommended to end itineraries here so that guest can wind down from the busy, bumpy and hot game drives in Botswana.

 

Animals/Reptiles/Birds spotted while at Xugana….. Lion on the island walk, Lechwe, Sitatunga (only found in the Delta), Elephant, Zebra, Wildebeest, Baboon, Sable, Antelope, Hippo, Giraffe, Crocs, Mongoose, Monitor Lizard, Clawless Otter, Storks, Pied Kingfisher and other varieties, Grey Ibus, Fish Eagle, Carmine Bea Eaters, Cormorant, Crane.

Land at Suvute international airstrip. 25 mins drive to Savute Safari lodge (http://www.desertdelta.com/botswana-safari-lodges/savute-safari-lodge.html ) through Semi desert scrub and trees.

Stretching from the Linyanti River all the way to Savute Marsh, the winding waterways of the Savute Channel have pumped life into the western section of Chobe National Park for many thousands of generations. However, this fickle and unpredictable channel, which has a fascinating history of flooding and drying up, independently of good rainy seasons and flood levels elsewhere, has mystified local inhabitants, geologists and others for many years.


To ensure a private and relaxing environment, Savute Safari Lodge accommodates just twenty-four guests in twelve thatched chalets built of local timber. The chalets, which have been elegantly furnished in calm neutral tones to blend with the natural environment, feature expansive private decks, a combined bedroom and lounge area and en suite facilities. Sink into one of the numerous comfortable leather, wood or wicker sofas in the lounge – and library – or sip a cocktail in the stylish bar. All these facilities are situated in a beautiful two-storey thatch-and-timber main building. Savute Safari Lodge offers a shaded viewing deck, an al fresco dining area and swimming pool with spectacular pool loungers – ideal for watching the varied wildlife – including the resident Elephants – as they make their way to the Channel to drink, bathe and play.

 

Activities are organised around game drives throughout the Savute area in open 4×4 safari vehicles. Many trips will incorporate a visit to the Savute Marsh to give you a chance to see the historic presence of the Savute Channel at the marsh against a backdrop of teeming wildlife. Guests can also enjoy a visit to the ancient San rock paintings at Gubatsa Hills – a small hilly outcrop which forms a prominent landmark in the otherwise flat landscape. Savute boasts the second-largest summer Zebra migration in Africa; its timing is determined by the rains, but usually occurs between November and December and again between February and April, when the Zebras move from the rivers in the north in search of the rain-ripe grasslands and full waterholes in the southwest of the park. The migration is always followed by large numbers of predators – the Zebra migration is a must for visitors.

 

This lodge is within the Chobe National Park, in the Western section within a private concession. All 12 chalets overlook the Savute channel with permanent pumped waterholes in Summer.

 

Time to relax around the pool briefly with a beer while watching elephants come and go from the waterhole. 3pm is tea time just before the afternoon game drive leaving at 3.30pm. The game drive onto the Savute Marsh yields great game sightings. Our location for sundowner drinks is spectacular and provides a myriad of colours as the sun sets. We return to the lodge at 7pm for dinner on the deck overlooking the floodlit waterhole with elephants, Buffalo and Impala awaiting our arrival – amazing! Dinner is delicious and followed by the Savute choir/staff who are fantastic. Throughout the night we are woken up by elephants trumpeting which is just so incredible, you realise you are sharing their space in the wild.

 

5am wake up call for our final drive. We grab a quick coffee on the deck overlooking the waterhole and are gobsmacked to see a pack of wild dog challenging 4 elephants for a space at the waterhole in front of the lodge. Incredible.

Our game drive gives up the goods, amazing up close and personal time with a large Savute pride of lion, a mating couple and females on a Wildebeest hunt.

 

On our way back to the lodge we spot the elusive Leopard. A perfect way to end our trip.

Thanks Desert & Delta for showing us your incredible operation in Botswana!

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