Trip Report: The Botswana Wilderness Safari | April 2021

After having spent last year seeing updates from Botswana on the spectacular recovery of the Okavango Delta from the grips of a drought in 2019, to say that I was excited to return to one of my favorite places in southern Africa would be an understatement.

Three intrepid guests from Switzerland, Japan and Germany got their PCR tests and travelled out to South Africa before flying into Maun. All of them agreed that getting to South Africa was pretty straight forward and easy.

On arrival in Maun we were all given complimentary Rapid Antigen Tests as part of the Botswana Governments measures to ensure that Covid cases are not imported into the country through travel - we couldn't have been safer when you think about it!

With our negative test results (both PCR and Rapid Antigen) we cleared customs and were ushered through to our light aircraft which would see us flying from Maun to the first of three camps during our 10 day long adventure through the Okavango Delta.

For this particular departure the camps had changed slightly given that not all of the camps in the Okavango Delta are open - low volumes of tourists has seen operators like Wilderness safaris consolidating bookings to just a handful of camps in an effort to make operations and logistics that much more viable and manageable.

Fortunately for us we were pretty much in the exact same areas that we usually visit and that is the most important thing for me, location, location, location.

Since Chitabe Camp was still closed we were moved to the next door neighbours and the recently built Qorokwe Camp. In the Jao Concession we were moved from Pelo to Jacana Camp whilst in the Vumbura/Kwedi Concession we were moved from Little Vumbura to Vumbura Plains South Camp.

I spent a long time combining research and first hand experience to build this itinerary with the specific combination of camps and areas with the aim of giving guests the best possible experience and photographic opportunities on offer in the Okavango Delta and, after yet another successful trip, I believe that if you were only to ever visit the Okavango Delta once in your lifetime, that the Botswana Wilderness Safari would see you ticking all the boxes from both an experience and photography perspective.

I hope that this trip report sharing some images and experiences from each of the three regions we visited will help you understand why I love this safari so much.

The Jao Concession & Jacana Camp

The focus on our time in the Jao concession and Jacana camp is on experiencing the flooded waterways and channels of the Okavango Delta by boat and Mokoro. Here vegetation changes from permanent swamps to dry land and our guests were immersed in the full variety of the mystery and magic of Botswana’s landscape.

Mokoro Excursions saw us glide seamlessly along the waterways in a traditional dugout canoe, stopping to photograph everything from Reed frogs to Day Lillies.

Boating trips in a 12-seater boat allowed us to explore a bit further afield and provided some excellent opportunities to photograph birds and explore some of the more abstract textures and patterns on offer in this diverse region.

Despite a waxing half moon we even ventured out on the island that Jacana Camp is built on and managed to squeeze in an evening of astrophotography. We really did make the most of every single opportunity here!

I find that 2 nights (4 activities) here is enough and, on this occasion, was the perfect start for our safari as I assisted guests in getting to grips with the camera gear after a long break away from photography.

Qorokwe

The exclusive Qorokwe Concession encompasses over 26 000 hectares (over 64 000 acres) in a high-density game area of the south-eastern Okavango, bordering the renowned Moremi Game Reserve. Exploring Qorokwe reveals a world of diverse Delta habitats supporting a wealth of wildlife - especially predators!

Having spent two days focussing on birds and the smaller details of the Okavango Delta, our focus during our time at Qorokwe was without a doubt on searching for predators.

We were not disappointed and saw no less than 24 different individual lions during our 3 night stay. Each of the sightings produced something different in terms of light and action and we spent time with lions hunting buffalo, playing in the last rays of light and of course, sleeping.

We also saw a cheetah and subadult youngster as well as African Wild Cat and a variety of general game including good numbers of zebra, giraffe, impala, red lechwe and buffalo.

Unfortunately, Leopard and Wild Dog managed to elude us this time around despite having found fresh tracks for both very close to camp.

Luckily for us this wasn't the end of our time on safari and we still had 4 more nights at Vumbura Plains Camp during which we could try and find these two illusive species.

Vumbura Plains Camp

The luxurious Vumbura Plains lies in an area that is a mix of water and dry land. The wildlife is diverse, so that both land and water activities on vehicles, mekoro and boats deliver an all-round African safari experience. Our focus here was primarily on game drives with the hopes of photographing wildlife in and around the water that dominates so much of this landscape.

This is also one of my personal favourite areas for scenic helicopter flights with a focus on photography. The doors of the helicopter are removed (don't worry, there are seatbelts) for an even better photographic experience while flying over some of the most remote, uninhabited and wild areas of the Okavango Delta.

Scenic helicopter flights are conducted any time of day, with keen photographers (such as ourselves) usually preferring the early morning - literally taking off 5 minutes after sunrise to make the most of the extraordinary long shadows that are cast across the landscape.

With two guests both seated on the lefthand-side of the chopper we position ourselves and circle around scenic features and wildlife, giving our guests unobstructed views. I am seated in the back right behind the pilot (There is no cost associated with me joining the flight based on 2 guests flying) and coach guests through settings and opportunities whilst also communicating with the pilot.

Fly Over The Okavanago Delta in November 2022

As part of our November 2022 Botswana Wilderness Safari we have opted to include a 45 minute, doors off scenic helicopter flight above the Okavango Delta for each guest that joins us. You'll take to the skies shortly after sunrise to make the most of the golden light and long shadows and will enjoy 45 minutes of aerial photography capturing rare species such as Sitatunga along with elephants, hippos and of courser the spectacular patterns and textures of the delta itself.

As you can see, we enjoyed a spectacular array of diversity during our 4 nights at Vumbura Plains Camp and even managed to enjoy two very special sightings of leopards. This meant that it was only the wild dogs that managed to elude us on this particular safari adventure.

As our safari drew to an end we had PCR testing conducted in camp the day before our departure - the nurse flew in by helicopter to take our samples before flying back to Maun to send them to the lab there.  On arrival in Maun the following day we were handed our results and were free to start our respective return journeys home.

I still believe that this combination of camps and regions in Botswana's Okavango Delta gives guests the absolute best combination of experience and photography. If you were to visit the Okavango Delta only once in your lifetime, this would be the trip for you!

Join our 2022 Botswana Wilderness Safari

The Okavango Delta, the Jewel of Africa. Can there be any place more unique than an oasis in the Kalahari Desert filled to the brim with wildlife? The Okavango Delta is a wildlife haven and combines incredible Big 5 game viewing with photogenic scenery and some of the best safari camps on the continent. This safari is about as good as it gets and should not be missed.

Plan Your Own Custom Tour to Botswana

Our Very Best of Botswana sample itinerary is a great foundation against which to start planning your custom tour to Botswana. Mirroring our Botswana Wilderness tour this 16 day itinerary has been extended to include a visit to the Savuti Channel and the Chobe National Park where you will spend 3 nights on board a houseboat. This truly is the very best of Botswana!

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