27 June 2017

Three thrilling days in the Okavango

I recently set off on a whirlwind escape to Botswana's Okavango Delta.

By whirlwind I mean three carefully calibrated days of authentic and high-luxe safari; which with direct SA Airlink flights from Cape Town to Maun is easy enough.

One of my most favoured safari escapes on the African continent, the Okavangos' seasons are all rather unique, making it an all year round destination, depending on what it is you're after. 

This year saw the highest water levels in the Delta, a stark contrast to the drought we are experiencing in the Cape.

After their November to March rains which bring on the new birth of antelope and a wide variety of summer migrant birds, the dry season from April to October is a good time for game viewing. On this particular trip we covered three nights at three of the &Beyond properties in the Delta, which work well conjunction.

Our first stop being Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp, a water based camp surrounded papyrus mosaics, reed beds and sweeping views of the seasonal lagoon. The focus here being serenity, isolation and unwinding into the bush; soaking up the sights and sounds before the promised sightings that lie ahead. An intimate camp with nine air-conditioned tents where, depending on the season, you can float gently along the clear, intricate channels and myriad of islands by motorized boat or mokoro (African dug-out canoe). We also enjoyed a fishing excursion which I'd recommend. In addition, game drives are offered at certain times of year (although big game viewing should not be the focus here) as well as bush walks. The bird watching is remarkable here with approximately 450 bird species, including Pel’s Fishing Owl if you are lucky.

Next we flew on to Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, a land based safari experience where the game viewing exceeded expectations. In fact it was here that we were met by a herd of elephant on arrival and that evening sighted a leopard devouring an impala which we witnessed her dragging up a tree. Set in a cool forest canopy of wild palms and gnarled fig trees, this lodge is set in one of Africa’s most breath-taking landscapes. Behind the lodge, golden-grassed floodplains inhabited by a staggering variety of wildlife stretch into the distance, framed by lush palm islands and spires of giant termite mounds. A channel of clear, cool water runs directly in front of the elevated guest suites, offering unrestricted views over the shimmering Delta. With an edgy design themed on swallows nests, it felt to me like our own little luxury hideout - one of my highlights being a daily dip in the pool following my gym sessions.

Lastly we stayed at the newly refurbished Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp; and in my opinion, their flagship property - not only due to its clever design, but because it offers the best of both worlds. With permanent deep water channels conducive to all year boating activities, as well as excellent land based game viewing either by vehicle or seasonal walking safaris the area and the camp has it all. We had an exceptional evening river cruise and night drive followed by a successful morning drive; topped off with a pack of wild dog run through the camp and a leopard kill before we set off to Maun. Undoutedly the pièce de résistance of the portfolio.


A few extra tips you should know about:

- Special rates apply when combining the camps for longer stays

- I would suggest a minimum stay of 2 to 3 nights at each

- Easy flight access from Maun, each hop was between 15 and 25 minutes

- Don’t forget restrictions of 20kg per person in a soft sided bag

- Add an hour's helicopter flip with champagne stop to your stay in the Delta

- Xaranna & Sandibe have air-con and private pools - ideal for hot months 

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