The Okavango Delta is a stunning natural wonder which attracts some of the best wildlife sightings to be had on safari to Africa. As such, it is a very popular safari destination and one can find it difficult to choose a safari to Botswana that keeps you off the trodden tourist route. However there are fantastic options, for those ‘in the know’ who wish to witness the glory of the Okavango Delta whilst immersed in the African bush on a private safari.
I have recently had the pleasure of staying in a delightful mobile tented camp in a private concession in the Okavango Delta, run by the same people who created the fantastic and well-known Jack’s Camp in the Kalahari region of Botswana. This concession has unsurpassed diversity of wildlife and provides the most magical and authentic safari experiences.
The luxury camp is set up along the riverside in the private concession which has only two other safari accommodations (small luxury lodges) so we didn’t see any tourists the entire time that we were there; blissful! The camp itself offers complete privacy as it is only taken on an exclusive-use basis so whether a couple, group of friends or family travelling together, it will be only the people that you choose to travel with that you will have in camp with you.
They can cater for up to 14 guests in total so extended families can also enjoy quality time together on safari doing exactly as you please! Children of any age are welcome and the guides always ensure that the children have a fantastic experience. They spend time teaching them lots of bush skills such as how to identify various plants and insects and how to identify wildlife from their tracks and their droppings!
The beauty of an exclusive-use mobile camp is that firstly, everything can be tailored to what most suits your interests, so if you would like to spend more time, for example, fishing or paddling on a mokoro, this can be taken into account, water levels permitting!
Secondly, (and for me, this is a huge advantage!) when you take the camp exclusively you have a private guide, private vehicle, private chef, all striving the make the experience the best it can possibly be, just for you! The camp can be set up in the best wildlife areas ensuring that you have the best chance of seeing all the wildlife that the Delta has to offer.
During my visit, daily activities were tailored with our guide each day, so if we wanted to see a particular species such as lion or elephant, then the guide took us to search for those and we were indeed delighted to see fantastic wildlife including elephant, zebra, hippo, lion, leopard and sitatunga. There is also a good wild dog and cheetah population here and many astounding species of birds.
One of the days we chose to take a mokoro safari along the shallow channels of the Delta. Whilst drifting silently along with only the gentle sounds of the paddles, we were able to see a plethora of wildlife that might otherwise have been scared away by the sounds of safari vehicles.
Elephant came down to the water to drink and bathe (it is possible to see large herds up to 500-strong in this part of the Delta) and we saw hippos bathing in the shallow channels.
We could hear all the noises of the wildlife and see details only visible from the waterways. This activity, along with fishing, is dependent on water levels so I recommend careful planning if either of these are of great interest to you. I also particularly enjoyed exploring the outer islands of the Delta on foot with our guide.
For those who wish to experience a totally wild and off-the-grid safari, I would recommend spending around three to six nights here, if time allows. However it is possible to stay for any length of time; if you aren’t sure whether you will enjoy the mobile-camp experience then it is possible to simply sample luxury mobile camping with a single-night stay. If you stay three nights or more, one of those nights will involve a fly camping adventure too!
We set off with our guide for a boat safari through the channels, spotting wildlife on the way before having a picnic under some trees. We arrived at our delightful fly camp before sunset, it had been set up ready for us on an island in the Delta.
After dinner by lantern-light we slept under the stars with nothing but the mosquito nets between us and the vast African skies. What a truly memorable experience, to hear the sounds of the African bush as we went to sleep and wake up to the dawn and hear the birdsong!
After a delicious breakfast with fruit, muffins, jams, breads and juices, we then set off in the boat to the tented camp which had been entirely taken down, moved to a new location and then set up again like magic, all ready for us when we arrived back to camp for our last night.
Do not fear, you don’t have to compromise on luxury when you take a ‘glamping’ safari in Africa! The mobile Meru-style tents are well equipped and luxurious with real beds, down pillows and cotton sheets.
Each tent has its own en suite with toilet and a bucket shower with a shower rose and hot water. There is a central ‘mess’ tent which has comfortable furniture and a day bed, Persian rugs, a small library with games for guests to play, and of course a well-stocked drinks cabinet!
Meals are freshly prepared by your personal chef and you sit together with your family or friends and talk about the day’s activities and sightings – you can even dip your toes in the Delta at the same time, if you wish! No internet connection or mobile signal means that there are no distractions and you can spend your time connecting with your family or friends, enjoying each other’s company.
Taking a mobile tented safari is one of the methods of travelling on safari with the lowest-footprints! Each site is left how it is found with minimal impact on the area after the camp has been removed. Additionally the owners of the mobile camp take conservation, community action and sustainability seriously and put a portion of each booking into their own Fund which supports a variety of conservation projects in Botswana.
These include initiatives to reduce human-wildlife conflict, conservation education classes in schools, anti-poaching support and community support such as providing teachers and meals for students at a playschool in a local village.
Images kindly supplied courtesy of Natural Selection and Uncharted Expeditions.