Revitalise body and soul on a fully guided journey to visit one of Africa’s last pristine wildernesses, the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
This unique journey takes you to areas normally inaccessible to most visitors: our journey starts at the inner Delta which is limited to small, temporary tented camps. Our first and last days are concerned with getting to this remote location via small charter planes and 4x4s. In between, we’ll spend three nights at our low-impact camp on Chief’s Island in the middle of the Delta, travelling through the incredibly diverse wildlife by mokoro canoe or on foot across the island, at all times guided by experienced, professional, local rangers.
The second half of our journey takes us for another three nights at our second camp on the banks of the Khwai River, deep in central Botswana, this time for more land-based game and bird watching. Our choices of accommodation and guides are hand picked from several reconnaissance trips we have personally made to the area.
The whole experience is designed to have the maximum upliftment impact for local people but at the same time the minimum ecological impact. This trip is all about low volume, low impact, travel: you will be experiencing the natural wonders of this pristine wilderness, directly contributing to its conservation.
Arrival and Transit to the Okavango Delta
We’ll meet at O R Tambo International in Johannesburg for flight to Maun, Botswana. Once there, we’ll meet our smaller aircraft early afternoon and fly to the airstrip on Chief’s Island.
Our Okavango Delta journey is accommodated at two sites: the first at a camp on Chief’s Island, which is the largest island in the delta, covering nearly 1 000 square kilometres. In order to have as minimal impact as possible, our camp is built on wooden decks that hover over the waters of the Delta, using lightweight dome tents as bedrooms: the tents have proper single beds as well as private hot outdoor showers, basin and toilet, so whilst the accommodation is basic, it’s private, comfortable and secure.
Chief’s Island is so named as this used to be the traditional hunting ground of Chief Moremi of the BaTawana people. It’s on the eastern side of the Delta and as it different times of year wet and dry which makes for a startling diversity in the wildlife. We will be visiting at the time of ‘the rising waters’, which is when the annual alluvial flood occurs, bringing water down from the Angolan Highlands into the Delta. You will invited into the home of over 500 species of bird, large and rare mammals like the wild dog and red lechwe (an antelope) as well as black rhinoceros, cheetah, giraffe and buffalo.
The area in which Chief’s Island is located is a game reserve, but not a national park, meaning that it is still inhabited by the San people who live from the abundant natural resources and hunt in the reserve: however, no firearms of any type, even for rangers, are permitted. As such, the highly delicate balance of human sustenance and natural conservation is actively maintained.
Each day on the Delta itself will be similar in terms of organisation but of course very different of terms of experience. As a group, we’ll consult with our local guides as to where the best sightings are likely to be. Depending on the weather, we’ll either start the day with a mokoro (long low boats punted through the serpentine channels in the reeds by our guides) or taken on a guided bush walk around our and neighbouring islands. We’ll pay particular attention to the bird life on our morning trips. We’d expect to leave around dawn and be back mid-morning: you’ll be welcomed home with a hearty breakfast cooked in the camp’s kitchen.
The middle of the day isn’t the best time to see game as most predators tend to hunt early morning or early evening, so we’ll use this time to reflect on what we’ve seen, rest from the morning’s excursions and have a light lunch. It will also be a good time to learn more from your guides, all of whom are born and bred in the Delta and professionally trained as rangers by the Moremi Game Reserve.
By late afternoon we’ll be planning our next outing over a bush camp ‘high tea’. We’ll set off just before dusk to give us the best chance of seeing nocturnal animals- lion and leopard for example, and other game. We’ll arrive back at our camp in the early evening for our dinner which we’ll eat in the open air under a starlit canopy, enjoying more reflections on what we’ve seen that day as well as traditional story telling from our guides.
Today we board our charter flight again and fly from Chief’s Island to the Khwai River region. It’s short flight of less than an hour and will make a substantial contrast to what we will have seen and experienced over the previous three days in the Delta, as here, about 75% of the land is dry. We are however based on the Khwai River system and as such you’ll uncover hidden river lagoons and channels off the main river, bursting with wildlife.
The second camp on the banks of the Khwai River is similar in terms of being low impact and temporary. However here, we will have more space around us having exclusive use of the camp site. Additionally, our tents are on the ground and partially fenced at this location as there is larger, free-roaming game in the area.
As with the Chief’s Island camp, all electricity is supplied by solar panels and we use filtered and sterilised ground water for the camp. The camp is itself part of the journey: you’ll witness the lives of myriad animals, birds and insects constantly from all aspects of the camp, both the tents and the communal lounge and dining area. The sounds of the bush will lull you to sleep at night and wake you before dawn every day.
Set to the north east of the Okavango Delta, is on tribal territory adjoining the Moremi Game Reserve, meaning that the land is owned and managed by the local indigenous people in a formal state concession. As your travel planners, we apply for special permission to access this unique area, for which a fee is paid and these funds go directly to the local people who make use of them to preserve the local environment.
Wildlife is abundant; with the absence of the reeds and other vegetation that characterise the delta, you’ll get much more chance of seeing larger groups of the larger animals, particularly hippos, wild dogs and also many types of raptor. The most striking of these are the bataleurs, which are a typed of eagle and whose name means “acrobat” in French. These birds almost seem to dance through the air on their very long and narrow wings that they use to soar above the countryside. At times they appear almost stationary, mimicking the movement of a tightrope walker high above the plains.
We are lucky in that despite this being a tribal community concession, we can use a 4 x 4 for our early morning day and night drives: this will allow us a greater range than would otherwise be possible on foot. Our daily schedule will be similar to the first three days of the trip, only we’ll either be driven or walk instead of travelling by boat.
Departure and Transit to Johannesburg
On our last two days, we make sure that everything we have brought to this wilderness is removed, right down to apple cores and banana skins! Our goal is to have minimal environmental impact so even vegetable matter that isn’t indigenous to the area must be removed. When we leave the wilderness has to make as little effort as possible to re-establish itself after our visit. You will have been part of the environment - a primordial African wilderness - not apart! This will make for a meaningful, memorable journey- a journey that you will process and digest over time.
We return via 4 x 4 to Maun- where we catch our connecting flight to Johannesburg, arriving late afternoon.
All accommodation and transport is designed to have minimal impact on the natural environment: we walk rather than drive, camp rather than inhabit.