Ilona’s Botswana educational trip
It was a party of friendly faces waiting to welcome me at Maun Airport in Botswana after arriving from Johannesburg. With customs and immigration quickly taken care and my luggage collected, I met my hosts as well as Blessing and Tomas, my travelling companions and photographers for this adventure.
Then, we were off again! This time by charter flight, a 12-seater aeroplane, to the Savute Region of Botswana’s famous Chobe National Park, arriving at our lodge in time for the afternoon game drive. Our guide, and nature, did not disappoint: we were treated to a whole pride of lions, apparently awaiting our arrival! On our way back we watched a beautiful African sunset with giraffe and zebra in the background, and many elephants enjoying the waterhole in front of camp. What more can you ask for!
Well, more was to come. We were welcomed with warm face-cloths on our return from the drive and, when we sat down for dinner, the lodge staff sang local songs, saying goodbye to the guests who were spending their last night there and greeting those who had arrived. The menu was explained to us by the chef herself, as was the selection of South African wines served with dinner. This seems to be standard procedure at all the lodges we visited, as was the sumptuous meals we had everywhere.
Next, we were off on a 25-minute flight to the Moremi Game Reserve after an early drive that had included a leopard. Our new lodge was located in a famously rich wildlife area – the Xakanaxa and Khwai River region – with big herds of elephants as well as hippos and crocodiles in the waterways best seen on a boat safari, but the camp itself has resident antelope as well as warthogs who keep the lawns trim.
Now the scenery changed as we flew into the dry heart of Botswana and the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Our camp lay on the ephemeral Boteti River and our timing was perfect: we were travelling in the arid month of July and over five hundred zebras were in front of camp, seeking precious water from the river. Both day and night game drives are offered as well as guided nature walks but what we loved the most was the Makgadikgadi Pans Sleep-Out. This experience is one of a kind, with the cosmic vastness and starry skies as your only walls, and meals cooked on an open fire.
After such a dry landscape in Makgadikgadi, it was almost a relief to get back to water again. This time, Xugana Lagoon – a permanent water camp in the Okavango Delta. We were excited to explore by boat and on foot – the real Delta way – an experience rounded off one evening by a private alfresco dinner on a floating pontoon with the lights of camp in the background.
The water-theme continued to our last destination: the Chobe River, where Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia all meet. And once again, nature did not disappoint: huge numbers of elephants and hippos plus lions and large herds of buffalo, made especially interesting as I divided my time between two regions of the river to get different perspectives. My visit to Botswana was truly special, from the warm-hearted locals and amazing wildlife to conversations around the campfire and breath-taking sunsets – I cannot wait for my next adventure!