Endless space, in the middle of wilderness, pure nature around you, special encounters, fascinating animal observations, stunning sunsets with a drink in your hand, relax, unwind, switch off and take a deep breath far away from everyday life: sounds like something from a kitschy advertising brochure for digital detoxification?
Most definitely! But the good news is: all this and much more can actually be experienced on a Mobile Camping Safari in Botswana. A travelogue by The Munich Eye.
Part I - Intro
In 2022 and just after the Covid19 restrictions haddropped to a level that made international travelling possible again, I wasoffered the opportunity to go on a once-in-a-lifetime mobile safari in the Botswana part of the Okavango Delta by Pierre Pitlo, owner of African Safari Experts.
After the initial enthusiasm at the thought of such a great trip and the first research about the destination, many questions arose very quickly. After all, I was a safari novicewith little idea of what to expect or how to prepare..
Luckily, Ihad a real safari expert by myside who patiently answered all my questions in advance, such as: whatto bring and what to wear (which is surprisingly more restricted that one may think)? What is the current pandemic situation on the ground? Who will Ibe travelling with? What options are there for accommodation right before the start of the safari and what would be good ideas for the remaining time afterwards? (See this article for ideas)
Additionally we checked our individuals needs for vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis with our local doctors (if you are interested in our personal recommendation list about those things, you can check it out here:
Many WhatsApp messages and chats later, our minds were at ease and we had put together our individual itinerary which looked like this:
Day 1: Flight from Europe via Johannesburg to Maun (using Lufthansa and AirLink), 2 nights at Sitatunga Camp to acclimatise and get to know the safari company (Semunyeni) and the group of people we would be doing the actual safari with
Day 2: Scenic Flight over the Okavango Delta operated by MackAir from Maun airport
Days 3 - 5: Mobile Camping Safari in Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai Conservancy, including a Mokoro excursion in the Delta
Days 6 - 7: Mobile Camping Safari in Savuti Game Reserve
Days 8 - 10: Mobile Camping Safari in Chobe National Park, including a river cruise on the Chobe River
Days 11 - 17: Victoria Falls, Zimbawe for nothing but fun
Day 18: Flight from Kasane via Johannesburg back to Europe (using AirLink and Lufthansa)
First of all it needs to be mentioned that the Okavango Delta is an ecosystem like no other, created as the Okavango River flows into the parched Kalahari Desert. With its size of 16,000 km² it is one of the largest inland deltas in the world. The area has a rich and unique biodiversity, almost the entire spectrum of southern Africa's wildlife is at home here and can be observed in a very short time.
It's difficult to describe a place as special as this. To get an idea of the size and richness of this area, we definitely recommend taking a scenic flight over the delta from Maun, which is the gateway to the delta. It left us hugely impressed by the landscape and the first sightings of animals from a bird's eye view and eager to finally being "in the thick of it".
Part II - Moremi/Khwai
Being driven the approx. 180 km from Maun to our first campsite directly in the Khwai/Moremi part of the Delta by our tour guides from Semunyeni Safaris in an open landcruiser, turned out to be a superb idea. This way we could see the landscape changing around us and we were surprised by how many animal sightings of elephants, zebras, buffalo, antelope and giraffes we already had before even entering the game reserve itself.
Arriving at the first camp held a few more pleasant surprises for us. In an incredibly green setting with nothing but untouched nature around us, all our tents, including the beds, ensuite bathrooms and our travel bags, were already set up and ready to use. Our tour guides and the rest of the staff awaited us in the large dining tent for a cool drink and a safety briefing about the procedures in the camp and on safari.
Heading out for our first game drive the same afternoon proved to be just as exciting as was expected after the scenic flight. Getting really close to the animals and watching them in their natural habitat doesn't only offer great photo opportunities, but leaves you completely overwhelmed and with the feeling that you will never want to visit a zoo again.
Ending the first day of our first safari with a relaxing sundowner in the middle of the Delta, the sound of hippos in the background, a breath-taking picture-book sunset and a 2-course meal for dinner left us with a lot of anticipation for the days to come.
And that's what a typical day on Safari looked like: each morning we were woken up at 5:30am by the staff with the gentle morning call ,,Koko - Good morning! Warm water is ready for you!", a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tea, some cereals and our guide Frank waiting for us to get ready and jump into the safari vehicle. The next 4 hours were filled with game viewing, tracking the animals before they seek shelter from the heat of the day.
Nobody stays hungry or thirsty on a mobile camping safari! So we felt a bit like the Hobbits, being served second breakfasts on the morning game drives and a proper warm breakfast back at the camp to keep us happy during our siestas in the shade.
On the afternoon game drives, second breakfast was replaced by a sundowner in a terrific landscape, which, bathed in warm sunlight, is perceived in a completely different way than in the mornings. Now imagine having your first lion encounter inscenery like that - simply magic!
After a warm shower and a freshly prepared dinner, everyone gathered around the campfire to talk about the day's experiences and learn more about the place and the people.
A special highlight (and a must-do when visiting the Moremi/Khwai part of the Okavango Delta) certainly was the Mokoro ride we went on. The Mokoro is a common type of canoe used to move around in the Okavango Delta's shallow waters. Oarsmen stand in the stern and push with a pole, proudly singing songs about ,,Beautiful Botswana" and ,,being from the Delta". Traditionally dug-out from tree trunks, the Mokoros are now more predominantly made from fibreglass for conservation reasons. This way of experiencing the delta at close range isn't so much about game viewing. It's more about enjoying the silence and surrounding wildlife while gliding among an abundance of water lilies. And with a bit of luck, you might even have the opportunity to dive into the delta yourself - like we did!
Read Part II of "On Mobile Safari in the Okavango Delta".
Photo copyright Alexandra Rau