Discover Botswana: Mobile Safaris
Throughout 2022, I spent nearly 3 moths travelling across Botswana’s vast Kalahari and Okavango Delta regions in an attempt to discover the best locations for both wildlife and raw, exciting African adventure! The quest took me across some of southern Africa’s most inspiring sceneries, deepest waters and driest landscapes in search of the continent’s iconic wildlife, and in essence; its soul.
Botswana is a smorgasbord of photographic potential, and one of the most sought-after safari destinations on the planet. A land of unfathomed beauty and abundance that can never be truly understood by someone who has not experienced it. There seems to be endless photographic opportunities around every corner, and it is easy to get lost in the natural artistry of décor and wildlife, filling up memory cards – or even worse – external hard drives with alarming rate.
However, it wasn’t only the photographic opportunities I was intrigued in, but also their ‘quality over quantity,’ system, providing the traveler with an exclusive experience like no other place in Africa. Botswana has a keen focus on providing a high quality, exclusive and wild experience for guests. Campsites are unfenced and we frequently had elephant, hyena, lion and leopard wonder through camp. On one occasion while making coffee, 2 male lions wondered into our camp, watching me with a confused interest.
While sitting outside reading one afternoon, a herd of elephant passed by, with one individual coming as close as 5m from my camping chair to investigate what I was up to. It truly is a wild Africa experience!
With every pro, there is always a con. Unfortunately for the budget traveler, Botswana is quite an expensive vacation and even a tented camp can bite deeply into one’s budget. It was because of this reason, that I went out to determine the best ‘value for money,’ experience that will truly provide the guest with a memorable, life-changing experience without digging too deeply into the savings account.
There are three main ways of travelling Botswana: lodging, mobile safaris and camping. Lodges and Tented Camps offer a magnificent luxury experience of the highest quality, with fine-dining, quality game viewing in an open 4×4 safari vehicle and luxury accommodation. This however comes at a price, with most lodges averaging approximately USD$ 750.00 – 1 000.00 per person per night.
Camping on the other hand is quite the opposite. Campsites in Botswana provide a unique raw experience, with unfenced campgrounds where travelers share a communal [and very modest] ablution block, usually a short walk or drive from camp. Most campgrounds require travelers to be self-sufficient, and it is essential to carry with your own fuel, water, and food as well as charging facilities (for phones, laptops etc.). The odd ‘tuck shop,’ provides basic supplies such as a can of coke or a packet of chips, however it is recommended to stock up before departure.
Self-driving always provides a degree of challenge in Botswana, and it is important to have the correct navigational tool (such as Tracks4Africa) installed, as well as a satellite phone in case of emergency. Ensure your 4×4 vehicle is also properly kitted out, fit with a snorkel, high lift jack and mud tracks in case of having to drive across deep water or muddy terrain. Beside these challenges, one can drive around for days without seeing much if you don’t know the wildlife movements in the area, and from personal experience it may take about a week to establish the rhythm of the place. For the traveler/ photographer who doesn’t have a great deal of time, this option may not be the best suited.
Then there are mobile safaris. Mobile safaris combine some of the comfort and luxuries of lodging with the wild experiences of camping to give the traveler a truly unique and exhilarating experience. With the tranquility of a private, wilderness campsite and exclusive usage for only your group there are few places in Africa that rival authenticity.
Accommodation is in the form of large meru-styled tents with en-suit bathrooms and bucket showers (warmed to your liking). Comfortable bedding and quality dining is offered to make the experience just that much more enjoyable.
An expert guide and private 4×4 safari vehicle is provided for your group and game drives are conducted based on your specific requirements. With radio assistance, it also increases your chances of quality game viewing, with your guide already well informed on the animal movements in the area.
Another factor that makes mobile safaris particularly enjoyable is the opportunity to explore diverse areas on the same safari. Combing iconic regions such as Khwai and Savuti or an Okavango and Kalahari combo of Khwai and Nxai Pans is a great way for photographers to get the very best out of their safari experience.
Friendly staff ensure that camp is set up on your arrival, with a warm shower, campfire and glass of wine or whiskey as the sun sets across the African horizon. It is this flexibility of travel, coupled with a unique rustic experience and a touch of luxury that made me choose mobile safaris as the best way to experience Botswana.
I was asked to describe Botswana to someone wanting to experience it for the first time, and after much thought I simply couldn’t. However, my simple response was, ‘I have great pity for the person who has lived a life without experiencing this modern day Eden.’
Article by Armand Grobler, Co-Owner and Operator of Rhulani African Tours and Safaris (Rhulani Safaris). For more about our upcoming photo safaris to Botswana’s Okavango and Kalahari regions please visit us at Rhulani Safaris.