Selinda Reserve, Botswana
Selinda’s nine elegant tented villas are individually decorated with an aquatic theme, befitting its location on the banks of the Selinda Spillway, a crucial element in the ever-active movement of water to and from the nearby Okavango Delta. Movement of water means movement of animals, and Selinda is 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.
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 filmmaking conservationists Beverly and Dereck Joubert, 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 no evidence of its existence within six months.” This is the kind of camp Micato recommends with gusto.
The Camp’s nine unabashedly luxurious tented villas nestle under breeze-inviting hatch canopies, with soul-stirring views across the seemingly endless floodplain (a stern word, floodplain; what it means for us is animals in activity, going about their natural, fascinating business).
Each raised villa is furnished with artifacts from all over the continent. Softly billowing curtains, leather sofas, old-fashioned writing desks, large canopied beds, en suite baths, and private verandas, all contribute to a masterful mix of modernity with an inspired old-time safari feel.
The main lounge and dining area is graced with a series of expansive decks for game watching and vitalizing repose—one of safari’s sometimes overlooked charms. Three course meals, accompanied by 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 Selinda’s therapist 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 quite 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.