Botswana's Timeless Wilderness
DestinationSouth Africa: Johannesburg.
Botswana: Okavango Delta, Gomoti Plains, Moremi Zambia: Victoria Falls
Big Game, Splendid Isolation
If we had to pick the most miraculous African place of all, it might well be the Okavango Delta, where the 1,000-milelong Okavango River gives up on its search for an outlet to the sea and seeps lifegivingly into the sands of one of the world’s most uncompromising deserts, creating a vast and mesmerizing oasis. As Frans Lanting wrote in his elegiac book Okavango: Africa’s Last Eden, “The [Delta’s] very existence in the middle of the Kalahari Desert is nothing short of miraculous . . . like a dream.”
Botswana’s wilderness is expansive and—to our scurrying senses—timeless, and the Okavango isn’t its only dreamy place. Our under-two-week safari takes us to three others, right up near the top of African marvels: the lush and pacific Gomoti Plains Camp, the exemplary Moremi Game Reserve, quite close to another phenomenon of miraculous rarity, Victoria Falls.
The word wonderful does not fit into science, for from one point of view every natural occurrence is as wonderful as another. But we are justified in using the term when we meet a phenomenon which is such an exception to the ordinary rules of nature that it appears to be a miracle.The Soul of the Ape
- Wending the animal-rich waterways and plains of the world-unique Okavango Delta by motorcraft, comfy dugout canoes, and well-provisioned 4-Wheel drive vehicles.
- Private, festive welcoming dinner with Felix and Jane Pinto’s dear Johannesburg friends.
- Expertly guided nature walks and interactive discovery sessions geared toward the Okavango’s marvelously adapted wildlife, its fascinating ecology, and sheer wilderness wonder.
- Beginning-to-trip’s-end services of expert guides and facilitators and our ceaselessly alert Concierge Service.
We begin our adventure as we wing to South Africa.
After arriving at O. R. Tambo International, we’ll be escorted to the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Johannesburg’s tree-lined suburb of Sandhurst. This luxury hotel has much to be proud of but says, touchingly, that its greatest “boast” is that the late Nelson Mandela chose the Saxon as his sanctuary at which to complete his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Tonight, we’ll also enjoy dinner at the home of Micato family friends.
Our base in the miraculous Delta is beautifully shaded Camp Okavango, tucked away in serene isolation on lush Nxaragha Island. Intimate, recently and lovingly rebuilt, the camp has many charms: unflashy luxury, great dining, and extraordinarily well-designed tents—including a two-bedroom family tent—each raised on a platform with a private deck overlooking the hippo-thronged Delta waters.
Camp Okavango is notable for its variety of game-viewing experiences, from canoeing and motorboating in the Delta’s waterways, to guided bush walks on neighbouring islands. All the classic African headliners are to be seen, sometimes unexpectedly. “One of the Okavango’s delights,” Frans Lanting writes, “is the sheer surprise of seeing an elephant emerge from underwater.”
A quick flight takes us southeastward to Gomoti Plains Camp, where the river of that name, a thick tendril of Okavango lushness, is bounded by savannah giving way to desert, offering us another exceptionally varied look at intertwined ecosystems and the charismatic animals that call them home. Because of Gomoti’s untroubled remoteness, much wildlife filming and research has been done here, of lions, elephants, buffalo, and especially of the area’s large coterie of African wild dogs, sometimes called painted wolves.
Gomoti Plains Camp, set pacifically along the banks of the Gomoti River, accommodates us with tents set on raised wooden decks and decorated to mirror the water and land themes that define the exquisite and heart-liftingly rare Okavango.
Another short flight takes us north to the Khwai River and Machaba Camp, designed in classic 1950s safari style, so well suited to its surroundings that animals wander down to the river insouciantly, delighting us as we watch, sundowner in hand, from our tents. And, among Moremi’s myriad charms, it gives us the chance to see the huge African night sky that ever captivated Elspeth Huxley, a sky “bristling with innumerable stars, as close-packed as the quills on a porcupine.”
Victoria Falls draws nearly universal praise, so here we’ll repeat something a good friend of ours once said: “Victoria Falls is billed as one of the world’s greatest waterfalls, but, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the world’s greatest anythings.” In other good news, we’ll be staying at the grand, colonial-era Victoria Falls Hotel, within walking distance of the incredible cataract.
We fly from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg, and on to a day room in the InterContinental at Johannesburg’s airport, and connect with our inter national flight home, arriving on Day 12.
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