Dispatch #5: From Botswana with Love

Fresh off a helicopter ride--and the Pinto action film begins!

We felt like cool characters in an action film as we jumped in and out of whirling helicopters, plied wide lagoons aboard swift speedboats, careened across the Kalahari on quad bikes with our heads turbaned like modern Laurence of Arabias, glided exotically along papyrus and water lily filled channels in dugout canoes, drove Land Rovers through large bodies of water in the Delta, and perched high atop elephant backs in search of lion on the savannah.  It seemed like only a matter of time before James Bond himself would appear.

Indeed, there are so many reasons to love Botswana and our days in the Okavango Delta hit every single one of them.

The Delta from above

Amazingly, the Delta is an immense wetland within a huge desert. And the Delta’s water is so clear that it’s possible to see all the way to the white Kalahari sands at the bottom. That is, if the view isn’t obscured by masses of pink water lily blossoms.

The trick to a fabulous Botswana safari is to include the right mix of water and land based camps, offering both seasonal and permanent water, plus activities by mokoros (dugout canoes), speedboats, land vehicles and even on foot. Helicopters and elephants, of course, push the experience over the top—we loved that!

Comfortably viewing Botswana from a new vantage point: Mokoros

Our stay at Vumbura Plains spoiled us from the start.  Seasonal high water made it virtually impossible to drive, necessitating most jaunts via helicopter.  Piloted, no less, by the beautiful Tilani…she of the long tanned limbs, sassy haircut and green eyes.  Before Vumbura, she flew choppers for the Johannesburg police, tracking car thieves from the air.  Wow.

Casting a shadow across the Okavango

Our first game drive was equally thrilling. We encountered a pack of three male lions “hunting” another group of lions encroaching on their territory—behavior so exceptional that even our guide was agog.  These were lions with a mission!

Lions busily sniffing out their competition

They paced swiftly and soundlessly with noses to the ground, stalking, sniffing, spraying and tasting the air through half-opened, bared-teeth grimaces.  We followed them for many miles before they disappeared into thick bush.  As far as we know, they never found the marauding newcomers. (And we were relieved!)

Safari by elephant back

A different kind of thrill?   Elephant-back safaris at Vumbura’s famous sister, Abu Camp, in the western Delta. Cruising comfortably atop the largest animal in Africa while exploring a pristine wilderness threaded by crystal waters is utterly indescribable.  Even more amazing is the chance to interact with the elephants. We learned their names, whispered in their ears as we walked and posed for photos with them at the end. Sasha and Tristan were in heaven, and we adults were mighty tickled too.

Our rides became our new-found friends

Yes, we’ve flown, driven, rode, helicoptered and speedboated.  But my favorite form of transportation, above all, has been the mokoro dugout canoe.  Being softly “poled” along papyrus and reed lined lagoons, channels, floodplains and waterways is absolutely dreamy.

Sasha and Tristan glide through lilypads and rushes

The tranquility and peacefulness of a mokoro is extraordinary and the perspective —sitting so low on the water—is dramatic.  Then there’s that wonderful watery scent that fills the senses and helps the eye take in the small details that often go unnoticed.  On some days, all we saw was water lilies and tiny painted reed frogs.  On other days, groups of red lechwe leaped through the shallow water, herds of elephants with baby calves waded along the shore, and raptors soared overhead.  Imagine!

The ideal ending to any good action film

Botswana is one of Africa’s greatest success stories.  It has exceptional wildlife conservation practices, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, an impressive track record of good governance, a stable middle class, high quality low volume tourism, and a forward thinking president.

And with that, we’ll sign off from Botswana where a Motswana citizen speaks the Setswana language to their fellow Batswana countrymen.  Got that?


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11 Responses to “Dispatch #5: From Botswana with Love”

  1. Paul and Elyse Chambers says:

    Your Bush Dispatches have brought back wonderful memories of the Safari that we took with you in 2006. It was a trip of a lifetime and there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t fondly remember our travels with your wonderful guides. We hope to join you again soon for another visit to your spectacular Africa!

    Paul and Elyse Chambers

  2. Vicky says:

    Hi, Joy — This is such an amazing photo journey and seeing your family is lovely. It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other–I cannot believe how old your children are! My girls are 20 and 22 now, one having graduated from college last year and is living in Phili!

    Someday we’d love to take a journey like yours. Love, Vicky

  3. Steven Ford says:

    Dennis, I hope your beautiful wife is as good with video as she is with a still camera. Your adventures will make excellent National Geography story soon, the writing is as good as the pictures. Let me know next time you are at DeerValley -Park City, I would love to take a couple runs with you and meet her.

    Warmest regards,

  4. Evelyn McCarty says:

    Have enjoyed watching your great vacation Pinto family!!! Went on your Stanley Wing safari 3 years ago with my best friend. Most life changing thing I have ever done! Hope to go on another trip of yours to South Africa in the near future. You are a wonderful family….and an amazing company! Thx for the fabulous memories!


  5. Alan Payne says:

    Being a South African who has been out of Africa for a number of years I have enjoyed your experiences immensely and makes me really homesick for Africa.

    Thank you.

  6. Nancy and Bill Ramsey says:

    We have thoroughly enjoyed our trips with you. We agree you are the BEST!!!!! Thanks for your emails on your present visits. Our Best to you, family, Felix and Jane!!!!

  7. Vince Latorre says:

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and experiences. I feel like I was right along with you. I went to Africa for the first time last year, and if I ever am able to go again, I want to go with you! I look forward to your next Bush Dispatch.

    Vince Latorre

  8. Ann Sager says:

    I have had the luxury of traveling with a group of my clients in the Okavango Delta. Your adventures and photos make me eager to return. Thanks for sharing your spectacular experiences in Southern Africa with us agents.

    It will be wonderful to see you and the Micato travel professionals at Travel Mart!

    Warmest regards,

    Provident Travel

  9. Sally Dziedzic says:

    Wonderful Bush Dispatch! You guys do the best job. Thank you for including me on your Emailing List.

  10. Gail Osborne says:

    I am definitely going with you next time. Oh! to have the wonderful opportunity to live in Africa. Thank you for being you. You are the best company in the world!

  11. Elaine Carey says:

    I love your colorful description of everything you see and experience. I think I actually got your last line! Amazing! It looks like you are all having a wonderful time over there.
    Take care and see you next week at Travel Mart.
    All the best,
    Travel Experts

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