Anyone here been on safari in Botswana?

We’re looking at going to Botswana for a wildlife safari in the summer of 2012 and would appreciate any input from those that have been before. I’m particularly interested in hearing which camps you liked and why, what areas had the best and most diverse wildlife viewing as well as your overall impression of the safari booking agency you used.

I’ve done so much reading on the subject that I’m starting to get confused [help.gif] so now I’m looking for other folks experiences.

This is one of those bucket list trips for both my wife and I so we hope to do it right and without post trip regrets.

TIA,

David

I went on a safari in South Africa and one of our guides was absolutely psyched to be going on safari to the Okavango Delta for her honeymoon. I figure that is probably the best recommendation you can ask for in terms of areas. Sorry I can’t help on more of the details.

My only visit to Botswana was about 10 years ago, and we visited only Chobe. If you want to see tons of elephants, that is a great place. The lodge there is quite luxurious, if that is the sort of thing you want.

Botswana’s reputation is that it has made the unique decision to limit tourism to the higher end segment. This has both positive and negative ramifications. On the positive side, animal view and touring in general is far less crowded than other African nations. On the negative side, it is a lot more expensive than tourism in So. Africa, for example.

You have used the word “safari” to describe the trip you desire. I think there is a tendency in Africa to use “safari” to describe any vacation that involves viewing wildlife. To me, however, there are really two distinct kinds of experiences, only one of which I consider a “safari” in the classic sense. The most common type of vacation is staying at several game lodges, such as in Chobe. These involve game drives and are quite fun, often (but not always) luxurious. Personally, I don’t think of that as a “safari” but almost everyone else seems to.

The other kind of vacation is to stay in tent camps, whether of the permanent or movable variety. Again, these can be either high end or more affordable. This is what I have always thought of as a traditional “safari.”

I have done both types of African vacations to So. Africa, Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe. You will have a great time no matter what you do, I am sure. Africa, however you see it, is an amazing place. If possible, make time to see local culture, not merely the animals.

As our trip is tentatively laid out right now, our first 5 days in Botswana would be at two different camps in the Okavango Delta so I’m thrilled to hear that recommendation.

Good points Howard. Our desire is to stay in tented camps while there rather than lodges. As to the culture aspect, we’ve asked the agent that we’re working with to include time to visit villages, schools, markets, etc. More than likely that will happen at the end of our trip when we’re in Zambia since we plan to be in the middle of nowhere while in Botswana.

If anyone else has any suggestions or comments I’d love to hear them.

Howard, was there one that was the winner in terms of both wildlife and high end comfort? The initial research I’ve done is that cost is not only related to luxury, but how many people in the vehicle. It seemed like 6 people meant everyone had a window seat, whereas 9 people meant 3 middle seats.

I’m not that worried about fancy food or wine, but I do want electricity at night and a very good place to sleep. But I’d rather err on the expensive side.

Barry, most lodges do offer the sort of group game drives you mention. I think you are very wise to research exactly the kind of vehicle and number of passengers that you are going to be with. We did our own driving a bit in Kruger Park in So. Africa. If you do that, get a tall vehicle. We have also done the group game drives you mention. Those are my least favorite because the quality of the guides varies, as do the vehicles and the number of passengers. By far the best way to go on safari – but also the most expensive – is to hire someone to fly you from place to place and guide you as well. We did that with Mark Ross in Kenya. It was just our family of four in the plane and in the vehicles. The accommodations varied from a smallish luxury lodge (Lewa Downs) to temporary tent camps set up for us based on where the wildlife were at the time. The tent camps were not roughing it by any means; oriental rugs on the floors, showers, flush toilets, excellent food, etc. Judging by some online message board posts, Mark has some detractors, but our experience with him was excellent.

Went to Botswana a few years ago and stayed in two camps owned by Orient-Express. One in Chobe and one in Okavango Delta. Both were fantastic. Look them up on O-E website. You’ve got to take a helicopter ride over Okavango Delta - incredible experience. Try to include two days in Zambia to see Victoria Falls. Two hotels within walking distance of falls. Howard was right in his comments. Preferred Botswana to Kenya and Tanzania.

Thanks for the suggestions Jordan. If all goes as currently planned we will be spending two days in Zambia exploring Victoria Falls and visiting a local village. The helicopter ride sounds like a blast. Did you arrange that prior to going to Africa or did you do it when you arrived in Zambia?

David

We arranged the helicopter ride over Victoria Falls at the lodge/hotel when we got there. Perhaps email the lodge/hotel ahead of time to have them make you a reservation. Take along your videocam and digicam. I had one in each hand shooting away, figuring I’d edit later. As I recall, the ride is about 20 minutes in length. Try to sit up front next to the pilot. Our pilot was trained to fly when he was in the Zambian army.

Same with helicopter ride over Okavango Delta. That was easier to schedule since our lodge only had 12 people staying there. Not every lodge has a helicopter offering. Ours had one with a South African pilot trained in California. He took the doors off to give us a better view. Tighten your seat belt.

We stayed at Eagle Island Camp in the delta area and Savute Elephant Camp in Chobe.

Friend of mine was one of the photo instructors on this: http://www.mentorseries.com/treks/2011/botswana-photo-safari-2011

The link has a recap of some of the places they visited.

Could you provide the website where discuss guides? Looking into booking some for mid 2012.

Thanks for the link Leslie. Those images and the recap get me even more excited for our trip next summer. [thumbs-up.gif]