I left my heart deep in the wilds of Africa while on Safari in Botswana. The beauty of this country is almost impossible to comprehend. I loved the stillness of the bush in the early morning and at sunset, the thrill of the chase as our safari vehicle roared over the plains in pursuit of finding a lion on its kill, and the incredible relationship african people have to the land.
We started our time in Botswana on the Zambezi Queen. Getting to this luxury floating hotel was quite an adventure; it took three different vehicles, three different boats, with three immigration stops along the way, but it was so worth it! As our small boat got closer, the soft beautiful melody of African song floated in the air. The crew greeted us with splendid chorus as we stepped aboard. We were immediately handed cold libations and given a tour of the splendid interior.
Deep brown heavily carved sculptures decorated the walls along with paintings of zebras that looked so real we thought we could reach out and touch them. We ascended the stairs to the main “living and dining” area. The decor was a perfect juxtaposition of modern luxury and safari chic design. Small intimate seating areas gazed out over floor-to-ceiling windows that open up to create an indoor-outdoor feeling.
Our suites boasted two walls with floor-to-ceiling windows that opened up onto our own private deck. Quickly we changed into our bathing suits and enjoyed the plunge pool located on the bow of the boat. We spent the afternoon sipping South African Pinotage and watching as elephants and hippos grazed lazily on the various islands along the river.
Each morning I would wake before sunrise and sit outside on our deck to enjoy a piping hot cup of coffee. I’d silently watch the last of the shooting stars and then watch as dawn broke the darkness of the sky and slowly painted it with tones of pink and red. The only sounds were the water lapping gently against the side of the boat and the constant hum of frogs; it was the perfect way to start the day!
Each day you could choose from a variety of activities which included fishing, visiting a local village, a game drive in Chobe National Park, and a river safari where you could get up close and personal to the countless game that was drinking at the river’s edge.
Of course, no day would be complete without a sundowner; each evening we would speed down the Chobe river in a small boat and find the most beautiful view before having hors d’oeuvres and wine as we sat back watching the sky darken as dusk approached.
Tip: ALWAYS do a sundowner no matter where you are in Africa or where you are staying. Every camp offers it. They find a stunning place to watch animals and the sunset. All you need to do is sit back and take it all in while enjoying your favorite cocktail!
The next stop for our journey through Botswana was the Selinda Spillway, north of the famous Okavango Delta. This region of Botswana is truly breathtaking! In order to get secluded camps in Africa, you must take small bush planes as roads are few and far between.
This area stole my heart; from the moment we stepped off the bush plane I was immediately greeted by the sweet aromatic scent of sage. The land was covered in a carpet of golden grass as far as the eye could see with lonely trees dotting the landscape.
We took a vehicle to a boat dock and were whisked away by speed boat towards Selinda Camp. We whirled past hippos and birds that took flight as we sped past; finally Selinda Camp came into view.
As we climbed the thick wooden steps to the lodge we were immediately greeted with cool refreshing towels and cocktails. The thatched roof was a welcome reprieve from the harsh mid day sun. The lack of walls in the main lodge brought the outdoors in and gave a light airy feeling to the camp. Ancient painted mokoro canoes acted as sculpture and created the perfect backdrop for the overstuffed leather couches and chairs.
Tip: If you visit Selinda Camp inquire about the private bush dinner or lunch (there is no extra cost). The incredible staff will have a feast awaiting you after your morning game drive on a private island, it is incredible! Or if you are looking for something a bit more romantic ask for a dinner for two on the island where you will be greeted by candlelight and lanterns as you watch the sunset over the spillway.
Tip: Even if you do not stay at Selinda Camp, most bush camps can set up a private romantic dinner just ask!
After an incredible lunch we were shown to our tents, a covered wooden deck looked out over the bush with plush chairs, perfect for gazing out over the water ways and watching as the elephants drank at the waters edge. Once inside our “tent” we were greeted by an “Out of Africa” appointed interior.
A writing desk with port and sherry was neatly tucked into the corner while two woven chairs sat at the foot of the bed that was overflowing with luxurious stark white bedding that was framed under a canopy of soft gauzy mosquito netting. In the back of the spacious tent was an outdoor copper rain shower and oversized deep soaking tub which was situated under a stunning handmade reed chandelier.
Each morning we would awake to a star filled sky, long before dawn began to paint the sky. We would gather around a roaring fire and enjoy breakfast before setting off in our safari vehicles, which were well stocked with blankets, coffee, snacks, and champagne of course!
Tip: Bring layers, early mornings in the bush are COLD! You will be peeling them off by 10 AM but will be grateful to have the added warmth before the sun rises!
I will never forget the first time I heard a lion’s roar cut through the silence of the bush; it sent chills down my spine! There is something so incredible about seeing the animals that as a child I saw behind metal bars in the zoo in their natural habitat.
Our days would consist of exploring the plains tracking prints in the soft sand. When we were closing in, our guide would speed off towards the predators. And when the tattle tail birds would sound their call that danger was near, zebras and impala would scatter in terror.
We would come back to the lodge by 11 am (the animals rest and are not active in the middle of the day because it is too hot). We were always welcomed back with cool refreshing towels to wipe the dust away and an incredible lunch spread. We would have 3-4 hours of “down time”. I would spend the time soaking in our luxurious bathtubs, reading, and enjoying a refreshing dip in the cool waters of our pool as elephants, hippos, and impala passed by.
In the afternoon, we would climb back into the safari vehicles ready to spot more animals. Each evening we found an incredible spot to enjoy a sundowner. As we sipped on champagne we would watch elephants bathing in the river as the sun slowly made its way below the horizon.
Once night fell we would head back to the lodge where again we were met with cool towels and drinks. Sitting still was a welcome feeling after bouncing around in the vehicle all day. The roaring fire sent sparks into the air as we enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails and recounted tales from our day. Then to our delight, the staff came out dancing and singing in their native tongue, allowing us just a glimpse into they culture. We proceeded to dance to the African beats all the way to dinner.
Dinner at the Selinda camp is at one large outdoor table, lit by lanterns and a giant bowl of stars above our heads. All the guests eat together with a wild-inspired cuisine. We enjoyed ostrich stew, crocodile, and kudu. One night we were even joined by a hippo who decided to have his grass dinner only 20 feet from our table.
I hope this inspires you to explore the great wilds of Africa. I promise you will be planning your next trip while you are still there; Africa will leave its mark on you!