Selinda Reserve, Botswana
Set on lush Zibadianja Lagoon, source of the Savute Channel, a vital migration path for animals to and froing from the nearby Okanvango Delta to the wetlands to the east, Zarafa is the inspired creation of old Africa hands Beverly and Dereck Joubert, co-founders of Great Plains Conservation.
A gorgeous example of expert eco-sensitivity combined with thoughtful luxury, Zarafa is “the culmination,” as the Jouberts say, “of a lifetime’s experience, built with grace and love in honour of an incredible wilderness.” Located in the private, 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve, the Camp has only four tented villas, each a commodious 1,000 square feet in exquisitely decorated size (as we often say, African tents are to normal tents as St. Peter’s is to a humble country church). Game viewing from Zarafa is exceptionally varied and enriching, with plains animals like lion and giraffe and wetland antelopes and African fish eagles abounding.
Perhaps Africa’s, and maybe the world’s only luxury camp powered exclusively by state-of-the-art, around-the-clock solar power, Zarafa is a model of sustainable respect for its wonderful location. Each raised villa is decorated sumptuously with canopied beds, leather sofas in the sitting room, an old-fashioned safari writing desk, and en suite bathroom (a number of Micato guests report taking a secluded outdoor shower while watching an insouciant elephant or two munching on trees a few yards away). Each villa’s broad deck is equipped with expansive views, Swarovski binoculars, a powerful star scope, and a Canon 5D camera…along with a sweet dipping pool from which to loll while we watch animals as they gather around the lagoon.
Meals are taken in our villa, or in the main dining tent, on its deck, or inside, with a comfortable lounge to spend some lively social time after meals.
“There is something about safari life,” Isak Dinesen once wrote to her mother, “that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne—bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.” Game viewing, of course, is central to that fizzy safari life, and at Zarafa the empire of animals is particularly populous, diverse, and rich.
John Berger once wrote that zoos “radically distort our understanding of animals because you are looking at something that has been rendered absolutely marginal.” but here we see animals in their ancestral homeland, at their free, vibrant, most natural best. Near the waterways we see stupendous hippos snorting, playing, disputing; fish eagles soaring, crocodiles cannily pretending to be logs; herds of zebras splashing through a marsh. And out on the plains we’re on the lookout for elephants walking like “black stone sculptures of the four major prophets,” as Isak Dinesen wrote. Lions by the pridefull, heirs to “thousands of years of unrestricted supreme authority,” as Ms. Dinesen said. Rare wild dogs, giraffes wafting on golden savannah; leopards lounging in trees; and a hundred other species brought gloriously stage centre.