16 August 2016 by Krishna Ghosh
Wexas Africa travel specialist Krishnakoli Ghosh recently spent time exploring Johannesburg and Botswana, and we asked her to share the highlights of her trip. To follow in her footsteps, we recommend taking a look at Deserts and Deltas of Botswana.
Rest and relaxation in Johannesburg
A busy overnight flight to Johannesburg got me in early in the morning, but it makes all the difference after a long flight to be met by a friendly face. After being picked up, I had some time to rest in some of our favourite Jo’burg hotels.
The Peech is a gorgeous boutique hotel with sixteen bedrooms spread across a lush garden. I’ve always loved this hotel, and find it best for guests who want a contemporary environment. Johannesburg as a whole is not lacking in style, and The Peech makes great use of that attitude with a restaurant where I enjoyed seasonal produce and a truly luxurious champagne bar in a bistro-inspired setting. Nothing revives a traveller after a long journey quite like a lovingly-prepared meal and a solid night’s sleep.
A bit removed from the bustle of the city, and exuding serenity and quiet, the Saxon has always been a favourite of our travellers
Lucky me, I also got to enjoy some time at another Johannesburg mainstay, the exclusive Saxon Hotel. A bit removed from the bustle of the city, and exuding serenity and quiet, the Saxon has always been a favourite of our travellers who want a bit of a retreat, often after a fairly energetic holiday like a safari; it’s an excellent spot to recover. While I didn’t make full use of the 24-hour butler on offer, the suites offered enough comforts (like a walk-in shower and pool terrace) that I hardly felt deprived!
Starting our safaris in Botswana
After plenty of pampering, I flew to Maun, Botswana, from which I headed to Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, to set out on a wildlife safari. A large park situated on a large salt pan called Nwetwe, Makgadikgadi is home to the safari camp Leroo La Tau, which was a great base for our adventures.
The area is renowned for its massive herds of wildebeest and zebra and a variety of predators like lions, cheetahs and hyenas. The claims are real—on our very first game drive we saw lions, hippos and crocodiles all in the same location, as well as plenty of bird life (the area is a bird watcher’s paradise). The camp offers other options for exploring the are besides a safari, such as exploring the salt pans on 4WD or quad bikes, tours of local Gweta village, and fascinating bush walks to historic sites guided by experienced Bushmen trackers.
Three zebra drinking from the Boteti River, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
After a long day of animal-spotting, Leroo La Tau’s thatched luxury chalets were a treat to return home to, and I enjoyed sitting by the fireplace overlooking the river after supper and gazing at the starlit African sky.
The next day we set out on another game drive—a 5:30am wake-up call, but well worth it. We saw beautiful birds and antelope, and said hello to the same hippos and crocodiles from the previous evening. It was a treat to see the same animals more than once, because we got to feel as though we knew them and their patterns better, and it provided us with a real sense of place.
Exploring the Okavango Delta
Next, it was off to the famous Okavango Delta, Botswana’s wild heart. On arrival at Xiguna airstrip we were transferred to small boats powered by motor and rode through one of the most unique and amazing inland deltas on earth. Okavango is best explored by boat, as the delta is more lush than many would imagine. A 35-minute ride took us to Camp Okavango, an intimate camp which accommodates only 24 guests. This exclusivity made it easier for us to feel immersed in our surroundings—and in such scenic surroundings, who wouldn’t want to be? Each of the guest suites have been built on individual raised wooden platforms and set beneath the thick Okavango Delta vegetation.
We had an afternoon mokoro ride, enjoying the rush of the water from a wooden canoe that is local to the Delta, before a walking safari. Then, we had a truly incredible experience, watching the sun go down from a destered island in the Delta. There is nothing like witnessing the huge blanket of stars above our heads, and taking in the quiet and complete lack of light pollution—this is the reason southern Africa captivates as a destination.
A mokoro, or hollowed wooden canoe local to the Okavango region, sailing through the Delta
While in Okavango we also visited Camp Moremi, in the Moremi Game Reserve, to enjoy more game drives. Since the animals are unpredictable and very much wild, any safari traveller will want to ensure multiple chances to get out in the bush and spot them. We went out in open 4x4 vehicles, both in the mornings and late afternoons, and enjoyed frequent sightings of lions, leopards and cheetahs as well as wild dogs. Bird life here is prolific and includes most of the 550 bird species recorded on the Botswana national bird list. When we returned to camp, the staff shared with us some of their favourite local songs and dances, which was a great opportunity to connect and get to know the staff better, as well as learn a bit more about regional culture.
Rich wildlife in Chobe National Park
Early the next morning, I flew on to Chobe National Park, where we stayed at the luxury Chobe Safari Lodge. A truly good-looking lodge (graceful high arches, quarry tiled floors and barrel vaulted ceilings… oh, and a large swimming pool with terrace, a riverside boma area and a cigar bar with a full sized billiard table), it was almost possible to be lured into remaining indoors instead of going on our game excursions!
Sunset on the River Chobe
But I was so glad to get outdoors. We took a three-hour boat journey on the Chobe River, and that ride alone brought us views of hippos, herds of elephants, crocodiles, lions, antelopes and loads of different birds, including flamingos. The water lilies were a sight to behold, and the whole experience was calming and magical as the sun set over the river, transforming the surroundings before it quickly turned dark and the night sky lit up with stars.
There is no better way to conclude a trip to Botswana than on a boat, the faces of your fellow travellers lit by moonlight. Would I go back? In a heartbeat.