The Ultimate Botswana Family Safari

Long-time friend of Iconic Africa, Lorin Burgoyne, recently travelled to Botswana with her husband Paul and their kids to take advantage of some of the amazing specials Iconic Africa are currently running.
Any uncertainty they may have had about taking young children with them on safari was quickly dispelled.

Read Lorin’s account of their trip here:

We had an absolutely brilliant Family Safari in Botswana. I must admit that we had our reservations about whether it would be worth it for a 11 and 8 year old but we were blown away by the experience. It was our first trip to Botswana and have a much better idea of what it is all about and how it works in terms of tourism and accessibility. We cannot wait to go back and explore more.

We caught a super easy Airlink flight from Johannesburg to Maun and transferred (via Mack Air) to Little Sable Camp in the Khwai Private Reserve on the Delta. Flying in was fascinating – seeing the rivers bleed and flood plains swell in the desert landscape is incredible.

Our days at Little Sable were busy – we saw the sunrise every morning and had fabulous activities every afternoon – a boat cruise up the Khwai river, a mokoro ride down a tributary and the kids favourite – a helicopter flip over the Okavango!

The camp staff and our guide were wonderful – very friendly – and had little surprises up their sleeves to enhance our experience. Our guide was superb at balancing twitcher parents (overly keen bird watchers) with big 5 children – never easy.
The camp itself was lovely – authentic and beautifully positioned in the environment. Nothing was fussy or overdone – just comfortable luxury. The rooms were tents (always my favourite) on stilts over the edge of a flood plan so the frogs and hippos sing you to sleep at night – we also had a resident Barred Owl that fascinated the children. The tents were luxurious– outdoor showers with a view over the marsh and hot water for days (critical for mums!)!

The game viewing was different compared to South African bush – lots of water meant the game was quite spread out so we had to work hard for sightings, but the landscape was by far the champion. The boat cruise and helicopter flip were definitely the highlights for us – it reinforced how water is the artery of life there.

We then transferred to Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi pans via Maun – again flying over the salt pans was awesome – mind blowing landscapes! The pilot let Tom my son sit in the co-pilot seat on the way there – is there anything more exciting for a 10 year old? He says he is now totally comfortable with how small planes work and can probably fly one…

Chemical (our guide; what a legend!) was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us in-depth understanding of how the plains developed geologically – and don’t think there is a bird on the planet he doesn’t know! As seasoned bush goers, we loved that he could paint the full picture of ecology, plant, animal and bird life as well as the history of the area. We felt an incredible sense of belonging at Jack’s Camp – not something I am prone to acknowledging. I always believe this is down to people – everyone was wonderful there! They have built a family and you really feel welcomed into it – what a privilege.

The camp itself is one of the best places I have ever had the opportunity of seeing – let alone staying. There are treasures all over – my son said he felt like he was in the Natural history Museum in London! He was not far off – I could have spent another week there just looking through the artefacts and books – I’m clearly a nerd at heart. As an Architect I am obsessed with place making and how and why spaces work and Jack’s was really is special in this regard – I don’t think there are many places in the world where you will get this treat!

Our days were packed at Jack’s. We visited the habituated Meerkats – I thought Catie was going to faint with excitement. It was amazing – even as an adult. We loved the experience – pups crawling all over us to play, and we loved that they almost command you to assist them with their lookout patrols to become the tallest sentinels in the landscape!

The vistas over the Makgadikgadi pans are some of the most beautiful we have ever seen– peaceful and quiet and calming.  Paul and I were totally entranced by the landscape – we could have spent a month there happily. We can’t wait to go back to this region to explore, the kids can’t wait to go back and ride fat bikes, go on horse rides and drive across the salt plains on quads.

An unexpected highlight of our trip was meeting the local San Bushmen tribe. I believe they have a long relationship with the Bousfield family and visit the region annually. On the night of our arrival, the tribe did a trance dance – not something I believe they normally do for guests, who went to bed at 11pm and the San at 2am.  What a fascinating experience and a rare opportunity to get insight into a new culture. The Jack’s host was wonderfully discreet about an appropriate time for the children to leave. Hilarious – no hallucinogens on family tour! The next afternoon, we were invited to do a walk with the San. Tom had been studying the Khoi San at school and was completely entranced with the walk which was literally about 300 metres! In that time we dug up root bulbs for water, caught a scorpion, made a bird trap, started a fire and learnt how to play their version of rock-paper-scissors. The best 2 hours of our kids’ lives! All in all it was an incredible experience and opportunity, and let’s just say that rock-paper-scissors will never exist in its original form in our household again, and nor should it!

From a game perspective, we caught the end of the zebra and wildebeest migration (also visible on the flight in) which was surreal, but more up or street was the bird migration. Flamingos, pelicans, terns and according to our kids every unidentifiable little brown bird on the planet. I think we were lucky in our timing but birding mecca it was!

Unchartered Africa know how to safari – every moment from arrival to departure was next level! I cannot recommend it enough – one of the best camps I have ever been to and one I will happily return to.

As a last note, it has become rather unfashionable to bucket list travel with children (if not expensive) but I was reminded about why we choose to take ours along on our adventures. Every single experience on this trip was enhanced because of them and not because the experiences were tailored to them. Authentic places, characters and experiences, and that is what builds true memories.

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