A Private Guided safari in the Okavango Delta and MalaMala is right up there with some of the best experiences that can possibly be combined, especially from a game viewing and photographic perspective.
Recently, a guest and myself embarked on this epic 12 day journey to explore these two incredible destinations.
The Okavango Delta was our first stop on this Private Guided Safari where we spent 3 nights at Mombo Camp, followed by another 3 nights at Chitabe Lediba.
Both of these properties are situated in perfect locations in the Okavango Delta, and both are rich in wildlife, especially big cats.
During our 3 nights at Mombo it really did live up to it's reputation of being the place of plenty.
We had several lion and leopard sightings and although there are too many highlights to even mention, one of the standout mornings was spent with a female leopard and her two cubs.
Arriving mid morning, we found two leopard cubs joyfully playing in an apple-leaf tree, showing off their acrobatic skills as they jumped from one branch to the next, all whilst mom was not present. We decided to dedicate the morning, and how ever long we wanted to, to spend with these cubs and maximize our photographic opportunities. One of the massive advantages of being on a private guided safari is that you have the entire vehicle to yourself, allowing you the freedom of doing pretty much whatever you wanted.
All the other guests had returned to camp for breakfast, whilst we decided to sit it out and wait for mom to return so that we can capture the interaction. Our patience well and truly paid off, as the cubs eventually descended from the tree following the calls of mom close by. The interaction was fascinating to watch, with mom clearly on a mission to move the cubs to a different area to avoid being detected by other predators, briefly stopping to nurse the cubs from time to time.
From Mombo we transferred in a private helicopter to Chitabe Lediba, a wonderful 30 minute flights over the Okavango Delta.
Chitabe is situated right on the southern part of the Delta and has over the years also earned the reputation of producing some phenomenal game viewing.
Our 3 nights at Chitabe Lediba once again produced amazing sightings! We were spoilt to have a pride of lions with four cubs not too far from camp for almost the entire time that we were there, and witnessed the pride feeding on a zebra kill they had made the night before.
Another highlight was finding a female leopard before first light, resting in a tree. We patiently sat with her as the golden light started lighting up the side of her face. After several hours we moved to see what the lions were up to and returned to her later in the morning. What happened next, was a first for me in my guiding career...
The female leopard still comfortably resting in the same tree, noticed a herd of impala grazing and slowly moving in her direction. It was highly unlikely I thought that anything might happen, but we decided to move away from the tree that she was in to give the impala's space to move wherever they wanted to, which in this particular case was straight towards where the leopard was resting. Slowly but surely they kept coming closer and closer and by this time had the leopards undivided attention.
One young male impala was grazing literally right below her, and as soon as the young male turned his back the female leopard leaped out of the tree in the blink of an eye, right on top of the impala. I could not believe what we were seeing!! The coffee that was freshly brewed and poured in our stainless steel mugs went flying out the vehicle as we quickly rushed to get a closer look at this once in a lifetime scene.
Witnessing a kill in the wild is never easy, however the skill at which this leopard took down the impala left us in awe, and made us sit in pure disbelief at how agile, skilled and incredibly powerful this female leopard was.
After an amazing 6 nights in the Okavango Delta we stopped over in Victoria Falls for a couple of nights before flying to South Africa for our final stop - MalaMala.
MalaMala as a destination needs very little introduction to the avid safari goer and wildlife photographer. This prime location in the Greater Kruger region with access to kilometers of river frontage, makes it the perfect environment for all wildlife.
It was leopard galore at Mala Mala! In fact after our 4 nights we had seen no fewer than 11 individual leopards!!
The amazing thing at MalaMala is not only the amount of predators that are in the area, but more often than not you have different predator species interacting. On most occasions Leopard and even Wild Dogs will be trailed by a clan of spotted hyaena, who are never shy to stick around in search of some left overs.
On one particular morning we had a female leopard and her two sub adult cubs all in the same tree feeding on an impala kill, with a spotted hyena right below them picking up the pieces as they were falling from the tree.
Another highlight during our time at MalaMala was seeing two new leopard cubs that had only been found a few weeks prior. It is literally impossible to plan a safari based on leopard or lion cubs so when this opportunity arises, the excitement is next level. We had several sightings of these two cubs and although photographic opportunities can often be tricky with them hiding in dense vegetation, the experience is one that I know my guest and I will never forget.
It is hard to think of the last safari I hosted that offered this many high quality sightings, if any.
Maybe we were lucky on this particular occasion? Maybe it was because we were patient and waited it out more often than not? Or maybe it was my guest deciding to travel, even though the trip had been postponed twice and she had to travel more that 30 hours each way, that nature decided to reward her with an experience that has literally been life changing!
Maybe that life changing experience is waiting for you? There's only one way to find out...
Private Okavango Delta Experience
While large mammals – and there are plenty of these – can steal the show on a Botswana safari, there are many other creatures to be seen, from brightly-coloured birds to secretive antelope, and from frogs to fish. It’s often the pristine beauty of the landscapes and the sense of being in a remote wilderness that have the most lasting impact on visitors to Botswana.
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