Totally Wild Botswana – The Ultimate Safari Destination

Years ago, while at Los Angeles International Airport waiting for my flight to London, which was scheduled to go on to Nairobi, Kenya, I noticed a huge guy all decked out in safari gear carrying a long narrow case. Very excited about departing on my own African safari, I asked this guy what he had in the case. He revealed to me that he was on his way to Botswana for a hunting safari, hunting rifle and all. I was taken aback, for I thought hunting desert safari deals had all but ceased in Africa.

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I was wrong! For a hefty sum, one can still hunt in Botswana for real African game. I didn’t like the idea, but I was nonetheless intrigued by that “bigger-than-life” African game hunter at the airport. I decided at that moment that real life adventure still does exist in this technology oriented world of ours. From that day on, I knew I had to go to Botswana.

Although I have had the good fortune of taking groups to East Africa numerous times, Botswana seemed to me to be the ultimate safari destination. The Okavango Delta, where many safari camps are situated, is rugged, pristine, remote, and totally wild. This safari was everything I had ever imagined a safari to be; a true real-life adventure in Africa.

As with all safaris, there is much preparation at home. Since our transportation between safari camps was to be by light aircraft, we were strictly limited on the amount of luggage we could take. This was a huge challenge for me for no matter how prepared I think I am before a safari, I always forget something, and if you forget something, you simply go without. There are no corner stores in Africa.

Our safari included two nights at Gorges Lodge near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, plus two and three night stays at three tented camps in the Delta – Pom Pom, Machaba, and Shinde. Each camp is situated in its own eco-system. Shinde, for example, is an island camp located on the edge of the Okavango lagoon, while Machaba is situated on the banks of the Khwai river adjacent to the Moremi National Park. At Pom Pom, hippos make their home in a pool right in front of camp. All camps are surrounded by an abundance of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see or hear lions, elephants, or hippos in your camp at night.

Before our safari in Botswana, our group was flown to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where we were driven to the very beautiful Victoria Falls Hotel. As we got off the aircraft, I instantly recognized that wonderful, intoxicating fresh air of Africa; there was no pollution and no smog. On our way to Gorges Lodge, which sits on the edge of a gorge over 800 feet deep, our driver pointed out to us in the distance what looked like a huge cloud of white smoke. In reality, it was the incredible sight of water spray from Victoria Falls.

I was at a loss for words when I first saw Gorges Lodge. With only ten individual stone and thatch cottages, the property is uniquely positioned atop the escarpment of the Zambezi River gorge, a few miles downstream from Victoria Falls. The sound of the river echoes in the canyon below. The views from the individual bungalows are absolutely breathtaking. Each bungalow has its own private veranda, and there is an open bar and dining area. The food and hospitality was excellent and it was fun listening to all the stories from the camp manager and staff as we sat down for dinner each night. One story, in particular, was about the leopard that lived on the cliffs directly below us. Needless to say, we elected not to leave our sliding doors open that night.

As beautiful as Zimbabwe is, I was very sad to see that carved ivory products were for sale in some of the gift shops in town. Also, quite by accident, I stumbled upon a shop full of exotic animal furs. Actually, it was a taxidermy shop, and there were game trophies all over the walls such as Cape buffalo, Kudu, and Sable Antelope. While there, a couple was in the process of purchasing a cheetah skin. Although I was aware that Botswana and Zimbabwe allowed game hunting, I was not prepared to see the results from this. I could hear the hum of sewing machines at work in the back rooms while I stood mortified at what I saw. Cheetahs already have their share of problems with the land they live on being constantly taken away, but to kill them for their skins when their numbers are dwindling as rapidly as they are is heartbreaking.

As our plane took off from Victoria Falls to Maun, Botswana, and I looked out of the window at the beautiful African landscape, I thought of Mark and Delia Owens who wrote the book Cry of the Kalahari. This husband and wife team lived in Botswana for seven years while they studied lion and brown hyena behavior out in the middle of one of the most extreme environments in the world – the Kalahari Desert. Even though they came near to disaster several times while living in a tent out in the middle of this vast and isolated desert, their dedication and perseverance brought about an excellent account of wildlife in the Kalahari. And here I was, on my way to Maun, where the two of them used to go to regroup when they simply needed to be around people.

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Years ago, while at Los Angeles International Airport waiting for my flight to London, which was scheduled to go on to Nairobi, Kenya, I noticed a huge guy all decked out in safari gear carrying a long narrow case. Very excited about departing on my own African safari, I asked this guy what he had in the case. He revealed to me that he was on his way to Botswana for a hunting safari, hunting rifle and all. I was taken aback, for I thought hunting safaris had all but ceased in Africa.

I was wrong! For a hefty sum, one can still hunt in Botswana for real African game. I didn’t like the idea, but I was nonetheless intrigued by that “bigger-than-life” African game hunter at the airport. I decided at that moment that real life adventure still does exist in this technology oriented world of ours. From that day on, I knew I had to go to Botswana.

Although I have had the good fortune of taking groups to East Africa numerous times, Botswana seemed to me to be the ultimate safari destination. The Okavango Delta, where many safari camps are situated, is rugged, pristine, remote, and totally wild. This safari was everything I had ever imagined a safari to be; a true real-life adventure in Africa.

As with all safaris, there is much preparation at home. Since our transportation between safari camps was to be by light aircraft, we were strictly limited on the amount of luggage we could take. This was a huge challenge for me for no matter how prepared I think I am before a safari, I always forget something, and if you forget something, you simply go without. There are no corner stores in Africa.

Our safari included two nights at Gorges Lodge near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, plus two and three night stays at three tented camps in the Delta – Pom Pom, Machaba, and Shinde. Each camp is situated in its own eco-system. Shinde, for example, is an island camp located on the edge of the Okavango lagoon, while Machaba is situated on the banks of the Khwai river adjacent to the Moremi National Park. At Pom Pom, hippos make their home in a pool right in front of camp. All camps are surrounded by an abundance of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see or hear lions, elephants, or hippos in your camp at night.

Before our safari in Botswana, our group was flown to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where we were driven to the very beautiful Victoria Falls Hotel. As we got off the aircraft, I instantly recognized that wonderful, intoxicating fresh air of Africa; there was no pollution and no smog. On our way to Gorges Lodge, which sits on the edge of a gorge over 800 feet deep, our driver pointed out to us in the distance what looked like a huge cloud of white smoke. In reality, it was the incredible sight of water spray from Victoria Falls.

I was at a loss for words when I first saw Gorges Lodge. With only ten individual stone and thatch cottages, the property is uniquely positioned atop the escarpment of the Zambezi River gorge, a few miles downstream from Victoria Falls. The sound of the river echoes in the canyon below. The views from the individual bungalows are absolutely breathtaking. Each bungalow has its own private veranda, and there is an open bar and dining area. The food and hospitality was excellent and it was fun listening to all the stories from the camp manager and staff as we sat down for dinner each night. One story, in particular, was about the leopard that lived on the cliffs directly below us. Needless to say, we elected not to leave our sliding doors open that night.

As beautiful as Zimbabwe is, I was very sad to see that carved ivory products were for sale in some of the gift shops in town. Also, quite by accident, I stumbled upon a shop full of exotic animal furs. Actually, it was a taxidermy shop, and there were game trophies all over the walls such as Cape buffalo, Kudu, and Sable Antelope. While there, a couple was in the process of purchasing a cheetah skin. Although I was aware that Botswana and Zimbabwe allowed game hunting, I was not prepared to see the results from this. I could hear the hum of sewing machines at work in the back rooms while I stood mortified at what I saw. Cheetahs already have their share of problems with the land they live on being constantly taken away, but to kill them for their skins when their numbers are dwindling as rapidly as they are is heartbreaking.

As our plane took off from Victoria Falls to Maun, Botswana, and I looked out of the window at the beautiful African landscape, I thought of Mark and Delia Owens who wrote the book Cry of the Kalahari. This husband and wife team lived in Botswana for seven years while they studied lion and brown hyena behavior out in the middle of one of the most extreme environments in the world – the Kalahari Desert. Even though they came near to disaster several times while living in a tent out in the middle of this vast and isolated desert, their dedication and perseverance brought about an excellent account of wildlife in the Kalahari. And here I was, on my way to Maun, where the two of them used to go to regroup when they simply needed to be around people.