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Selinda & Okavango Delta - Botswana’s Water Wonderland

OVERVIEW

There are few places left in this world where you can feel like the last person on earth, where a pristine wilderness extends to the horizon and where endangered species have found a last refuge. This is Botswana, a sparsely populated nation that remains relatively undiscovered, with less tourists per acre and smaller safari camps than any other big five safari destination on the continent. Botswana’s spectacular density of wildlife paired with its dynamic ecosystem, and the luxury of space, results in what is arguably the best safari experience in Africa. 

When a river that begins in Angola overflows with rainwater, deep ravines fill and pan out into the second largest inland delta in the world, where the rainwater has no outlet. Thus, even in Botswana’s dry season there are endless opportunities for exploring on water as well as over land. It’s here in the floodplains where the convergence of large numbers of herbivores like giraffe, elephant, and buffalo attract the predators like lion, leopard, and cheetah, putting you right in the middle of the action. Beyond the usual vehicle drives, guests at camps in Botswana can glide over the floodplains in a Mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe) or motorboat, go walking with the loin cloth-laden San Bushmen, ride quad bikes out into the magical salt flats, and really feel the power of one of the last truly wild places on earth. Camps here are intentionally more rugged but there is still a high level of luxury, comfort, and beauty in the design and details. 

WHAT WE LOVE

  • The incredible variety of ways to experience the watery world of the Okavango Delta. Whether by land, water, or air, you’ll get up close to Botswana’s animal inhabitants in ways you never knew were possible.
  • Experience the unpredictable Selinda Spillway, a unique seasonal waterway that links the Okavango Delta to the Zambezi River through the game-rich floodplains where thirsty elephants, hippos, giraffe and lion gather to drink. Explore on foot or glide peacefully around in a Mokoro - a traditional canoe -  and slowly take in your pristine surroundings.
  • For a faster tour of the surrounding wetlands, jump into a speedboat and coast through the interlaced waterways encountering hippos, buffalo, elephant and endless numbers of water birds.
  • The Makgadikgadi Salt Pan is one of the largest salt flats in the world. During the day the ground gleams white and at night the sky is full of infinite stars. Explore the dazzling and desolate pans with a walk alongside members of the San Bushmen tribe or a thrill ride on a quad bike.
  • Steer a 4x4 through terrain that varies from wet to dry as you seek out some of the world’s last free-ranging populations of predators. You’ll get a front row seat  to the famous lion-buffalo interaction which makes the Delta unlike any other place on earth.
  • Revel in the contradictions - as you find yourself in one of the most remote and untouched places left on earth, you’ll find an unparalleled level of luxury at many of our favorite camps, with world-class wine cellars, fine cuisine, superior hospitality and striking decor. Opt to stay in a few different camps to get the full range of experiences from the more rustic to the most elegant and refined.
  • Botswana is for elephant lovers. There is nowhere else on the African continent with an elephant interaction that compares to what you’ll experience in Botswana. You’ll fall in love as you walk and play alongside a habituated herd of these gentle giants.
  • A birder’s paradise with over 500 species of birds recorded, Botswana is home to larger species that are visible all over the floodplains in plain sight, as well as smaller breeds whose appearance are a delightful surprise for experienced birders, photographers, and casual enthusiasts alike.
  • Come face to face with an inquisitive meerkat and watch the amusing way these friendly but untamed creatures play and interact with each other, and with you! Botswana’s Kalahari Desert region is one of few places where these curious animals dwell.
  • Take a walk with members of the San Bushmen tribe for a day of authentic cultural immersion. Appreciate their unique interpretations and learn to take in your surroundings with all of your senses - you’ll see, touch, and taste the various offerings of the land and discover the surrounding ecosystem in a completely different way than you ever thought possible.
  • Enjoy a floating brunch as you coast along the Selinda Spillway in a 275-foot long pontoon boat, watching playful interactions between hippos and elephants in the waters below.

REST & REJUVENATE

REGION: OKAVANGO DELTA 

The floodplains of the Okavango Delta sit in the midst of the Kalahari Desert, creating an ecosystem with hugely diverse flora and fauna that attracts wildlife from the most iconic to the very exotic, both in stunning densities. 

  • Abu Camp: Explore the game-rich floodplains as you walk alongside a herd of elephants at Abu Camp, the preeminent place on the African Continent for elephant interactions, cultivated with an atmosphere of mutual love and respect. Guests here are encouraged to fully immerse themselves and see the surrounding bush through the eyes of these gentle giants. The camp itself is made up of luxurious canvas tents each with their own outdoor copper bathtub and private plunge pools built into teak decks. Open all your senses, sleep out under the stars in the camp’s elegant star bed, and fall to sleep to the sounds of elephant snores coming from the ground below. 
  • Duba Plains Camp: Duba Plains is one of Okavango Delta's most remote safari camps, nestled in a private concession just north of the Moremi Wildlife Reserve. The camp is built on an island shaded by large ebony, fig and magosteen trees and surrounded by expansive plains - the ideal location for game sighting and outdoor activities. The camp hosts 6 roomy tents with en-suite bathrooms, outside showers and private verandas. The thatch-roof lounge, dining room, swimming pool and bar areas are all raised on platforms, affording gorgeous panoramic views. 
  • Vumbura Plains: Vumbura Plains sits in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta. The lodge inconspicuously mimics the design of a contemporary beachside ranch getaway – a modern, airy design accentuated by light fabrics and pale wood. Each freestanding thatched villa features a large deck, a private plunge pool and an outdoor shower, all with spectacular views of the surrounding plains. Sit back and relax from your deck as elephants, hippo, leopard, lion and famed ‘Golden Pack’ of wild dog parade by. The land and water safaris will thrill you, the sumptuous outdoor lounges designed for stargazing and convivial camp fires will immobilize you, the entire experience will beg the simple yet dangerous question – “why leave?”, which is why so many return year after year.
  • Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge: Situated just adjacent to the famously wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve, Sandibe sits at the edge of more permanent waterways that allow access for day and night drives and walks independent of the level of flooding. The lodge has been artfully designed to mimic the look of a pangolin using natural materials and local wood that blend beautifully into the surrounding scenery. Sandibe makes sure you take advantage of every vantage point with multiple viewing decks and opportunities for everything from Bushwalks to private helicopter flights over the floodplains. 
  • Nxabega Camp: At the elegant yet authentically rustic tented Nxabega, guests sleep in one of just nine tented suites that sit below beautiful ebony trees. After the day’s immersive excursions, indulge in a massage or relax on loungers by the gorgeous pool, and then treat yourself to starlit dining out in the enclosed boma with views of the surrounding waterways and the animals who come to drink there.
  • Kwetsani Camp: On the western edge of the  Delta, Kwetsani’s tree house-style chalets are surrounded by palm and fig trees and have views of the surrounding floodplains stretching out to the horizon. This gorgeous camp has access to the game-rich Hunda Island as well as both dry and wet areas that make a safari to the Okavango Delta unique. . Embark on a daytime excursion in a boat or Mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) to see hippo, crocodiles and even the rare sitatunga. , and enjoy thrilling night drives where you’ll see nocturnal animals like porcupine and springhare.
  • Tubu Tree Camp: On  the famous Hunda Island in the Okavango Delta, Tubu Tree Camp is made up of traditional safari tents built on raised platforms, each with a private deck for gazing out into the wilderness. The remote island location allows visitors to get the full-picture Delta experience with myriad ways to view an abundance of wildlife both on land and on water. Tubu is known for its excellent density of wildlife, with unusually frequent leopard sightings, and other exotic wildlife congregating nearby like blue wildebeest, bushbuck and southern giraffe. This spot is especially good for bird enthusiasts. 
  • Chitabe Camp: Newly renovated  Chitabe Camp has eight spacious Meru-style tents, built on raised platforms that are tucked into the woodlands, maximizing views of the animals out in the surrounding waterways and marshlands. Set on an island in the southeast of the Okavango Delta floodplains, this is one of the best game viewing areas and an excellent spot for chance sightings of the endangered African wild dog. 

REGION: CHIEF’S ISLAND

The largest island in the Okavango Delta, Chief’s Island becomes a castaway refuge for wildlife during the annual inundation of the delta, offering a perfect environment for up close game encounters. This spot is renowned for having the densest concentration of predators and prey anywhere in Botswana. Coupled with its remote location and exclusivity this is one of our favorite places on earth. Price reflects how special the properties here are. 

  • Mombo Camp: On a private concession area within the Moremi Game Reserve, Mombo Camp’s location offers travelers what is arguably the best front row seat for big game viewing in the region. Each of the nine tented suites has a private pool deck with views out to the surrounding floodplains that are filled with game in stunning abundance. Mombo rises above the rest in many ways including accommodations, service and abundance of wildlife in and outside of camp. Be sure to book in advance to experience this exclusive piece of paradise as it is high in demand and also in price but you get what you pay for, with the absolute greatest density of wildlife year-round. 
  • Sanctuary Chief’s Camp: Sanctuary Chief’s Camp is known for its spacious suites, each with private dining areas and terrace pools. As you tuck into world-class food or enjoy a soak in your private pool, take in the expansive African skies and watch as elephants, buffalo and giraffe wander by. An extra large luxury suite that sleeps up to six has its own kitchen and secluded deck as well as a dedicated vehicle, guide, and personal chef. 

REGION: SELINDA SPILLWAY

A seasonal waterway with unpredictable currents that creates opportunities for water-based adventurous exploration.

  • Zarafa Lodge: If you’re wondering whether you’ll like it here or not, just ask National Geographic filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert who loved the region so much they were prompted to conceive this magical property (possibly the most extravagant disguised excuse to never leave the African continent). Their expertise and passion combined with dream-like surroundings and one of the greatest game viewings in the world has allowed for a truly extraordinary safari experience. The intimacy of this four-tent camp sweeps you off your feet with an unparalleled attention to detail: Swarovski binoculars, private plunge pools, romantic dining aboard a boat on the Zibadianja Lagoon teeming with hippo and elephants, outdoor beds for stargazing – it’s personal and intimate luxury at its best. 
  • Selinda Camp: Selinda is a luxurious, delightfully unpretentious and classically tasteful safari camp, composed of eight raised, elegant tents. Traditional artwork and decor can be found throughout the premise and bathrooms feature deep stone baths and antique showers. The main lodge boasts a wide open deck, perfect for watching animals graze as well as the breathtaking African sunset accompanied by dinner around a pitted campfire.

REGION: MAKGADIKGADI PANS  

The largest salt pan in the world, set over almost 10,000 square miles in Botswana’s northeast dry savannahs. During the dry season, explore by quad bike or ride a horse over the lunar-like landscape. 

  • Natural Selection operates two premier lodges in the Makgadikgadi Pans. At Jack’s Camp, stylish and spacious safari tents are decorated with furnishings reminiscent of 1940s colonial times, while San Camp is beautifully designed with classic white tents, has 360 degree views of the stunning salt pans, innovative dining options, and its own yoga and meditation pavilion. Discover remote archeological sites and enchanting 5000 year-old Baobab trees, breathe in the peaceful Kalahari while on guided bushmen walks or as you dine under the starry sky. The camps here invite guests to experience the Kalahari through the eyes of a meerkat through their Meerkat Adventure and habituation program, where these curious creatures are so used to human interaction that you might find one snuggling up next to you or even climbing atop your head! 

 

WHEN TO GO

Botswana is a year-round destination but idea times to visit depend on preferred activities:

  • JJune - October is the best time to visit the Okavango Delta, when the floodplains fill with water from the Okavango River, but it’s the dry season, without rains. ,However during this time visitors will get the peak of the inundation and be able to experience the Okavangoes unique water activities at their best d. This is also a good time to visit the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan to see it as a shimmering white desert, when you can bike, quad, and sleep out on the dry earth under the stars. September and October is the best time for dry season game viewing as animals are drawn to the last water reserves. It can also be extremely hot, but you’re rewarded by the absence of tourists as the height of the season has passed.
  • By contrast, the rains bring about a green season from November to April. This is the ideal time to visit the Makgadikgadi and the Kalahari region, when the flooded salt pans draw flocks of flamingos and other migratory species, and you can see the famous zebra migration from the outskirts. In the delta this time of year offers excellent birding with the return of the summer migrants, while mammals are giving birth and offering visitors a chance to be wowed by babies of all species This is also the low season, with even fewer visitors in an already less-discovered destination. Finally, the evening thunder clouds make this season the best for photography, offering moody skies and fresh bright days. 

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