The Botswana Wilderness Safari

It took me a long time to craft the Botswana Wilderness Safari itinerary. I wanted to make sure that the itinerary was going to proivide guests who would possibly on ever epxlore this region once in their lifetime got a true sense of the diversity of the Okavanago Delta.

Eventually, I was able to find a combination of camps and regions to form a nine night journey through Okavango Delta. The Botswana wilderness safari combines three of Wilderness Safaris' camps in various parts of the Delta. In terms of the timing, we are right on the shoulder of high season in the delta and have been able to take advantage of the significantly discounted rates in April/May and November each year.

"I can assure you that if you were only to ever visit the Okavango Delta once in your lifetime that this itinerary will provide you with an incredible experience"

The first 3 nights of the Botswana Wilderness Safari will be in the southern regions at Chitabe Camp where the Kalahari meets the delta.

Chitabe Camp - 3 Nights

Although predominantly flat and comprised of Kalahari sand the area contains a variety of distinct environments due to local differences in both frequency and duration of inundation. These environments include the grassy floodplains separating the Gomoti Channel from the stunted mopane and acacia woodland in the eastern half to the permanent rivers, lagoons and swamps of the western Santantadibe half of the concession characterised by wooded islands and papyrus beds.

High concentrations of impala make this a good place to see leopard. Other frequently encountered species include buffalo, elephant and lion along with a good population of African wild dog. The concession is home to the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project. General game species include southern giraffe, warthog, Burchell’s zebra, tsessebe, steenbok and blue wildebeest.

This part of the delta provides excellent game viewing, especially for Leopard and Wild Dog. Our activities here are exclusively by game drive vehicles as this is a relatively dry part of the delta.

Chitabe camp itself features as one of the Places We Love and provides the ideal base from which to explore the region. Eight spacious tents with fine-art wildlife photographs are set on elevated wooden decks. The walkways and main area are was rebuilt, along with a new 12-metre lap pool and gym. In keeping with their light footprint, much of the decking and gumpoles will be reused and recycled in the new structure.

From here we fly north west to a tiny remote island in the middle of the floodwaters and the Pelo Camp in the Jao Concession.

Pelo Camp - 2 Nights

The next stop on our Botswana wilderness safari is the Jao Concession in the heart of the wetlands of the Okavango Delta. Here vegetation changes from permanent swamps to dry land and you will be immersed in the full variety of the mystery and magic of Botswana’s landscape.

The Jao Flats are situated in the east of the Jao Concession and boast water channels that navigate the attractive, untouched papyrus and reed beds: these provide the perfect environment for wildlife. You will also see many delightful lush palm islands which scatter the water.

As you travel west, the Jao Flats becomes dryer. Hunda Island is the tip of a large ‘sand tongue’ and during the inundation of July to September it forms the largest area of dry land in the Jao Concession. Hunda Island has sandveld vegetation supporting many species of nutritious acacia and grewia shrubs; wildlife is attracted to this excellent browsing.

Around the Jao Flats, spectacular herds of red lechwe are followed by their predators – lion and leopard. Hippo and Nile crocodile are regularly sighted. Other game includes blue wildebeest, impala, tsessebe, southern giraffe, elephant, hippo and crocodile, spotted-necked otter and even the occasional sitatunga. The drier west is home to similar species, but visitors are likely to view greater concentrations of Burchell’s zebra and blue wildebeest.

Literally surrounded by the floodwaters we will spend 2 nights here exploring the region on foot, by mekoro and by boat. The focus here will be on the experience, landscapes, water lilies, painted reed frogs, birdlife and any wildlife which we may be lucky enough to encounter – such as elephants, lechwe, sitatunga.

This intimate camp’s five spacious tents look out over the surrounding water. The main area comprises a tented dining area and lounge situated under impressive wild date palms, jackalberry and Natal mahogany trees. There is also a raised viewing platform built onto an old anthill.

Botswana wilderness safari

Another flight, this time to the north-east, takes us to one of the most productive concessions in the delta and the Little Vumbura Camp where we finish off our Botswana wilderness safari with a four night stay.

Little Vumbura Camp - 4 Nights

Vumbura Plains and Little Vumbura Camp are situated in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta in what is known locally as the Kwedi Concession, which comprises 90 000 hectares (220 000 acres). Here, the vegetation ranges from open floodplains to dense mopane bushveld – offering spectacular game viewing and birding opportunities all year round. The permanent swamp and island habitats abound with beautiful tree-islands of every size, surrounded in turn by permanent waterways created both by the summer rains and the annual winter floodwaters of the Okavango Delta.

Common trees found around these two camps are the jackalberry, African mangosteen and the ubiquitous sausage tree, which provide shade food and shelter to a fantastic range of wildlife.

Breeding herds and lone males of elephant often move through camp – particularly when the jackalberry trees are in fruit. Game drives in this region are incredibly productive, arriving guests often seeing a range of wildlife on their first game on the trip from airstrip to camp.

Botswana wilderness safari

The annually flooded grasslands of the Okavango Delta surrounding Little Vumbura and Vumbura Plains are locally referred to as ‘melapo’ and offer seasonal viewing of elephant, giraffe, impala, sable antelope (one of the best areas in the Okavango Delta for this species), greater kudu, Burchell’s zebra, common waterbuck and reedbuck, tsessebe, blue wildebeest and red lechwe. Sightings of hippo and crocodile are common in the waterways. Predators include the African wild dog, several resident prides of lion, leopard, cheetah and African wildcat. The resident wild dog Golden Pack often roam the area and are seen frequently on impala, common reedbuck and kudu kills. Large herds of Cape buffalo also move through the Concession.

Access to the camp, also situated on an island, is by boat and we will have the option of both water and land-based activities over the next 4 nights. This is undoubtedly one of the most scenic and pristine wilderness regions of the delta and provides excellent game viewing throughout the year. Little Vumbura has six beautiful tented rooms, each with views over the waving grasses of the surrounding floodplains. A pool and reading area overlook the floodplains and a star deck leads off the dining area.

botswana wilderness safari

Our Botswana Wilderness Safari ends on day 10 with a return flight to Maun from Little Vumbura.

We have included the cost of an additional freight seat which affords each of the 4 single guests (guaranteeing you a seat on one side of the vehicle for unobstructed views) with a total of 35kg’s for each flight in the itinerary (up from 20kg’s pp).

Bare in mind that laundry can be done at each of the camps so you can pack light and focus on your camera gear. If you need some tips on how and what to pack you can check out this post.

Optional Scenic Helicopter Flight

There is an optional activity during the Botswana Wilderness Safari to take a scenic helicopter flight specifically for photography on this trip. This would be done one morning during our stay at Little Vumbura and would see us taking off at sunrise for a flight directly form camp before meeting up with our guide and vehicle at a designated spot.

The doors will be removed allowing you to photograph without any restrictions. With two guests both seated on the left hand side of the chopper we will position ourselves and circle around scenic features and wildlife, giving you unobstructed views.

Botswana wilderness safari

Your Wild Eye guide will be seated in the back right (There is no cost associated with them joining the flight based on 2 guests flying) and will coach you through settings and opportunities whilst also communicating with the pilot.

You can get an idea of what to expect in this blog post which has a video and images from previous flights.

Andrew Beck

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