Unique experience Under Canvas
I vividly remember my last visit to Botswana many years ago – the raw wilderness and feeling of being submerged in the bush (not being able to leave your tent at night for fear of opportune lions!). I’ve often joked since that I only camp in Botswana as here, certainly when looking to keep costs in check, ‘under canvas’ is often the only option. It was time to return and take to my tent.
I’d been invited to experience the Footsteps in Africa camps first hand, a journey that would take me from the predator rich Savuti in the North, through the heart of the Delta and down to the Kalahari to spend time with the Bushmen. Will, Arthur and Imy stayed home for this one – it being term-time and very hot in October, but they were on my mind constantly, thinking about what they would have loved and what might not have worked so well.
Having extensively explored South Africa, on this personal adventure it was my mission to understand how Botswana varied. It is a malarial area, so that is one obvious barrier to taking young children (I would recommend ideally from age 10 upwards) and the Lodges are very remote; a doctor is normally a flight away. The interior of the Delta is, by its very nature, inaccessible by vehicle when water levels are high and its beauty fully revealed (May – September), so consequently light aircraft are the Uber of Botswana, so you do need to be comfortable with small planes and one pilot!
South Africa is perfect for a first family safari and introducing children to the thrill of the Big Five, as you are often allowed to off-road in the private reserves. A Botswana safari is just different – you truly feel part of the experience, not just a voyeur of life in the bush, especially if you opt to stay at somewhere like Oddballs Camp where you sleep in comfortable dome tents with bucket showers, or Delta Camp with its open-sided reed chalets. Fall asleep to the sounds of hippo munching, elephants making their way to water and the hyenas calling. Wake to the sounds of the duet birds and Fish eagles. There are also some superb 5 star lodges that offer more luxurious surroundings and benefit from swimming pools and a/c, but this amazing environment is common to all. In green season all-inclusive rates are only £290 per person and at Delta Camp children under 16 can stay free of charge all year round.
In the Southern Moremi, in the heart of the Delta, rather than game drives intrepid travellers walk and mokoro (your guide doing the poling!), opening up your senses. It’s incredibly exhilarating walking close to a family of giraffe, or spotting a bull elephant above the reeds as you glide along the waterways. A great family safari might combine this more active element and submersion in the wilds with a traditional safari focused on predators viewed from the safety of a 4 x 4 vehicle. Choose Savuti for this or the Kalahari, perhaps even South Africa.
What really set my stay in Botswana apart was the warm and genuine welcome from the staff at Oddballs and Delta Camp, most of whom were born in the local village (which you are welcome to visit). This brings a very special calmness and charm to your experience which I haven’t felt in such an overwhelming capacity on my travels elsewhere in Africa. The fact that your guide has grown up with elephants wandering past their house (they know how to ‘read’ a herd blocking the path to your room) and you have the opportunity to meet the family of camp staff when on a village visit makes the experience more meaningful. The happy spirit must be due in part to knowing that loved ones are not far away. Delta and Oddballs really are outstanding examples of eco-tourism at its best and it feels wonderful to be part of that when you visit.
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