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Tucked into the bank of Botswana’s Selinda Spillway, a crucial element in the ever-active movement of water to and from the nearby Okavango Delta, Selinda makes as rewarding a safari camp as we know. A magnificent place for game-viewing—on the neighboring plains, and in the marshes and lagoons that nurture a host of Africa’s star species—this private 130,000-hectare reserve boasts large elephant herds, regular sightings of the Selinda pack of African wild dogs, and the famous Selinda lion pride recently featured in the National Geographic film “Birth of a Pride” by the filmmaking-conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Selinda’s beloved creator-caretakers.
One Selinda hallmark among many: its state-of-the-art commitment to sustainability and harmony with its much-beloved environment. This isn’t just press-agent praise; Great Plains Conservation, founded by the Jouberts, have devoted their lives to Africa, its people and animals, and Great Plains’ sun-powered Selinda Camp is built and operated “so that if we packed up the camp there would be no evidence of its existence within six months.” The kind of camp Micato recommends with gusto.
Recently the recipient of a total refurb, Selinda is now, rather incredibly, a haven of even greater luxe and privacy. A mere three exclusive, unabashedly expansive suites form the camp. In addition to the three suites, offering the ultimate in privacy, the magnificent two-bedroomed Selinda Suite is a world unto itself: an entire villa for sole use, guests enjoy their own private vehicle, safari guide, chef, butler, and entrance. All these suites are ringed with space, glorious space. (Though suite scarcely does it: villa, maison, perfectly rendered residence is more like it. Its Relais et Chateaux status helps us imagine the charm, character, and calm, that exude from each nook and cranny.)
However you name it, Selinda’s Robinson-Crusoe chic is a winner: raised villas are furnished with artifacts from all over the continent. Softly billowing curtains, leather sofas, old-fashioned writing desks, large canopied beds, en suite baths, private verandas and swimming pool, all contribute to a splendid mix of modernity with an inspired old-time safari feel. Masterfully moulded in and around the surrounding trees, indoor-outdoor Selinda lives and breathes the five essential elements of earth, wind, water, fire, and metal.
In the main lounge and dining area, a series of expansive decks encourage game watching and vitalizing repose—one of safari’s sometimes overlooked charms. Artfully prepared meals, accompanied with wines from the Camp’s well-curated cellar, can be taken al fresco, in the main tent, or on Selinda’s magnificent star deck, from which we revel at “the Milky Way, arch[ing] the heavens like a vast and incandescent plume of smoke,” as Elspeth Huxley saw it. Post game-drive dips in the pool, a visit to the photo and art gallery and the Camp’s sweet little shop, and perhaps a massage by one of Selinda’s talented therapists round out an active yet serene safari day.
The marshes, lagoons, and plains of the vast and private Selinda Reserve are, even for Africa, a rarely equalled natural wonderland, and our game drives are marvellously lonely, with only eight vehicles meandering through the Reserve’s 300,000 acres at a time. Giraffes float across the plain, lions exult in their entitled supremacy, herds of sedan-sized Cape buffalo trundle through marshes. Leopards and cheetahs lounge sveltely. One of Africa’s largest population of wild dogs roams with clever purpose. And hippos, a lovely beast that is—for us, at least— a leading example of how these ultra-familiar animals (we knew many of them in the crib) are suddenly revealed as the almost extraterrestrial beings they are when we see them personally, up close, in a secluded lagoon, harrumphing gigantically.
And elephants, of course. Selinda’s contingent is large and healthy and as we watch them in many settings, many moods, on many errands, enjoying moments of frolic, socializing, and mating, we may end up agreeing with the great Carl Safina, who wrote in Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, that:
“Many people fantasize that if they won the lottery, they would quit their job and immerse themselves in leisure, play, family, parenthood, occasional thrilling sex; they’d eat when they were hungry and sleep whenever they felt sleepy. Many people, if they won the lottery and got rich quick, would want to live like elephants.”