Moremi Reserve, Botswana
Nature created a unique masterwork when it forbid the Okavango River from reaching the sea and instead forced it with cosmic gentleness to give its waters to the Kalahari Desert, creating a vast and exquisite Delta, rich in flora and fascinating fauna.
Mombo Camp takes enthusiastic advantage of Nature’s decision with one of the continent’s premier camps. Game viewing here is as rewarding as game viewing gets. More on that just downscreen, but here let’s praise the Camp itself. Mombo’s nine spacious and airy tents are modernly equipped and artistically decorated, and its common areas are similarly softly luxe. And its location on the northern tip of Chief’s Island, with views of floodplains, giving way to the golden, animal-thronged plains beyond, is superb. We not only feel in the presence of Africa’s charismatic wild beings, we feel positively amongst them (especially since they feel free to wander on the ground beneath the camp’s raised tents; we see and hear them in utter, enthralled safety).
Mombo’s tents, built under tall, beneficent trees, are extraordinarily spacious, with a living room-sized lounge area, en suite, view-rich bathroom (with indoor and outdoor showers), and a private sala—a winsome thatched gazebo for early morning coffee, snacks, meals, relaxation, and contemplation of the free-spirited animals a scone’s throw away. (Because most of us think of tents as emblems of roughing it, we’re always at pains to point out that Mombo’s tents, like all of Micato’s tented camps’ tents, resemble those old tents as the Venus de Milo resembles a bobblehead doll.)
We’re forewarned not to be surprised by elephants quietly munching on trees just outside Mombo’s thatched, open-air, and expertly equipped gym or its cooly tempting pool. And the same goes for seeing daintily lumbering hippos right in front of the main dining area or the fire-lit, al fresco boma as we indulge in Mombo’s first-rate cuisine.
Wildlife documentarians flock to the Mombo area for excellent reason. The Big Five are plentifully at home here: National Geographic’s The Eye of the Leopard was filmed nearby, and many viral videos depict the dramatic interaction between the area’s large lion population and its many not-to-be-trifled-with Cape buffalos. Both white and black rhinos have been reintroduced, and thrive, on Chief’s Island. And elephants aplenty browse and play majestically.
Game drives are a constant revelation. Despite a lifetime of vicarious exposure to these animals, we find to our delight that we don’t really know them, not until we’ve gotten personal with them, up close, close enough to hear a lion’s “ominous, compacted grunt,” as Elspeth Huxley wrote, and sense with awe its “arrogant authority unique among animals.”