Botswana is an immense country with a surfeit of magnificent wilderness. From the Kalahari desert with its rolling grassy dunes and famed black-mane lions; to the impossible vastness of the Makgadikgadi salt pans; to Chobe in the east where the verdant river cuts a swathe through the arid land supporting enormous herds of game and the predators that follow them; to the Okavango Delta, Linyanti and Selinda where the Kalahari sands become an patchwork of crystal channels and emerald islands that support the most astonishing array of iconic African wildlife in a world of refreshed and pristine beauty.
History, landscape and people
Much of Botswana is flat to rolling hills with 70% being made up of the Kalahari Desert – a true living desert of surprising diversity and splendour. The Makgadikgadi is an eerie expanse of salt pans the size of Switzerland.
In the north of the Kalahari, the Okavango River dissipates into one of planet earth’s largest inland deltas – a verdant mosaic of islands and pristine waterways where more than 400 species of bird and all of Africa’s great game species occur in bewildering profusion.
Northeast of the Okavango lies the Selinda Game Reserve 320 000acres of private wilderness centred on the waters of the Selinda Spillway and the magnificent Zibadianja lagoon.
The friendly people of Botswana are mostly Tswana speaking Batswana. The next most numerous group is the Kalanga or San, some of whom still live the traditional life of the Kalahari hunter-gatherers of old.
Iconic Africa recommends
Iconic Africa has developed relationships with the destinations which we believe showcase the best of Botswana’s wilderness splendour, wildlife and uncomplicated luxury while demonstrating a genuine commitment to conservation.
In the Okavango, Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp embody the pinnacle of safari excellence. They offer exclusive privacy, capacious luxury and some of the best game viewing in Africa. At Mombo, Wilderness Safaris demonstrate their exceptional conservation ethic with state-of-the-art solar energy and water treatment. This is true luxury green ecotourism.
Vumbura Plains is an earthy, colourful and elegant water-based camp in the north east of the Okavango Delta. You will stay in a swanky African, double-level, gauze-walled suite that affords endless views of the floodplains. If you are not unwinding in your magnificent suite you will be out exploring the islands on game drive or the channels in a dugout mokoro. You may even watch a herd of elephants drinking from the immersive comfort of a delta boat.
Little Vumbura Plains is an exclusive six tent camp surrounded by ephemeral waters and shaded by an ancient Okavango forest. The main area is a delightful, open-sided affair appointed with the blues, greens and earthy tones of the delta. Sipping a night cap on the star deck suspended out over the channel is a sublime experience. Game drives, mokoro trips, boat rides, birding and cultural visits or all ways to enjoy this exceptional concession.
Jao Camp, in the heart of the Okavango, is the essence of luxury, water-based delta living. You will find ultimate repose in one of the six secluded and generous suites. You might luxuriate with a massage in the seclusion of your private sala and then recover in the huge bedroom or lounge. Wines from the outstanding cellar are best enjoyed on the delightful fire deck. Away from the camp, the delights of the Jao concession will enchant you by boat, mokoro or full days out on game drive with picnics.
Great Plains Conservation
Great Plains Conservation was co-founded by Dereck and Beverly Joubert – world-famous wildlife filmmakers and conservation pioneers. They have created “simplistic” luxury destinations for the discerning traveller looking for complete immersion in the wilderness.
Duba Plains is a remote gem in the northern most reaches of the Okavango – only accessible by light aircraft. It is here that you will experience the continuous ancient battle between the enormous Duba lions and their buffalo prey – a conflict immortalised in the Joubert’s award-winning film Relentless Enemies.
Selinda Camp, in the Selinda Game Reserve rests on the banks of the Selinda spillway. Be it from the privacy of one of the nine secluded tented villas or one of the sumptuous yet cosy spaces on the main deck, the excitement of this ancient waterway and the wildlife it supports are always close by.
Selinda Explorers Camp offers ultimate wilderness immersion in the luxury of the famous 19th century explorers. There are just four generous tents set on the banks of the spillway –right on the Kalahari sands. They are exquisitely appointed with Arabian rugs and vintage pioneer’s furniture. From this camp you will explore the wonders of Selinda on foot and in canoes on the spillway.
Zarafa Camp is Relais & Chateaux luxury set on the banks of the awe-inspiring Zibadianja lagoon – a source of the Selinda Spillway. The four splendid suites – decorated with more than a hint of Zanzibar – boast private plunge pools and endless panoramas. This opulence is also green as Zarafa uses innovative solar power and biogas. You will discover the magnificence of Selinda with an experienced guide on foot, on game drive or, especially in the evening, on the waters of the lagoon.
Zarafa Dhow Suites host just four guests in two spacious suites separated by a gorgeously appointed lounge and dining area. The whole affair is under one giant canvas roof and all rooms lead out onto an expansive deck with a private pool and endless vistas of the Zibadianja lagoon and the array of wildlife thriving on the lush green banks. Zarafa Dhow Suites are ideal for discerning families and small groups of friends.
Chief’s Camp in the middle of the Moremi Game Reserve is a seasonally inundated camp of airy opulence and light. The 12 exclusive pavilions are cool thatched, gauze-sided havens that offer sumptuous comfort and sprawling views of the flood plain. The main deck’s pool is the perfect way to unwind after a mokoro expedition or a game drive. After a day of excitement, there is nothing more satisfying than a drink around the fire in the boma, which extends into the floodplain (inundated May – August and richly populated with large herds when dry).
Travelling to Botswana
Maun, serviced daily from Johannesburg, Windhoek and Kasane, is the gateway to the Okavango Delta and Selinda Game Reserves. From this little town you will experience the excitement and wonder of a low-level flight over the emerald delta in a light aircraft which will land you on your destination’s private airstrip. From there it is a game drive or boat trip to the magnificent camps that Iconic Africa recommends.
When to go to Botswana
There is no best time to go to Botswana – anytime is excellent. That said, there are a number of factors to consider when you visit the Botswana camps that Iconic Africa has selected.
The annual flood waters of the Okavango Delta begin to rise in May (the beginning of winter), peaking in early July and the receding again until the end of August. The weather is cooler during this period with night time temperatures sometimes dropping below freezing but the midday is generally balmy. This is the best time of the year for water-based activities – riding mokoros and boating through the endless channels. Game drives can be limited in the water-based camps but this is more than made up for by the water activities.
The summer months (November to April) constitute the rainy season and temperatures can reach peaks of 35 degrees Celsius. Rain is delivered in spectacular afternoon thunderstorms. This is the time when the migrant birds are resident and extensive game drives are possible. Some camps have limited water activities at this time of year.
- The Okavango Delta – a verdant emerald in the Kalahari
- Selinda Game Reserve – isolation, luxury, wilderness
- Spectacular variety of wildlife
- Water and land based safaris
Botswana, despite its incredible reputation as a premier wildlife destination, remains an untouched wilderness of unbelievable diversity. The camps that Iconic Africa recommends represent the epitome of discerning luxury eco-tourism and authentic conservation.