A journey through Botswana

June 28th 2024  |   Botswana  |  by   Francis Naumann
A journey through Botswana

Botswana rediscovered

I’ve been to Africa countless times and probably spent years in the bush during the past five decades, but it never fails to affect and humble me. I can’t sensibly explain its massive impact, but it could be the heat, or the sounds of the bush, the raw power of nature, the thrill of seeing wildlife, or the continent’s sheer rampant fecundity – every form of life thrives in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and subtleties across Africa’s vast terrain.

Botswana is part of this fabulous cornucopia of natural history, and a recent trip allowed me to experience a wonderful variety of accommodation, habitats, scenery, and wildlife. It was great to see parts of the country that were new to me and to revisit old haunts, and to see different facets of regions I had been to before.

The Okavango Delta is a nuanced and amazingly diverse wilderness, which depends on more than local rainfall for its fertility – the Okavango River is the offspring of rain that falls 1,000 miles away in the highlands of Angola and flows down the Cubango and Cuito rivers, across the narrow finger of Namibia between Angola and Botswana, and southeast until it fans out into a maze of channels, marshes, floodplains, and islands. Where the water travels thereafter is subject to factors including seismic activity in and between the Gumare and Thamalakane faults which define the northwest and southeast boundaries of the Delta. Historically much of it flowed south of Chief’s Island through iconic areas such as the Abu, Jao, Xigera, and Kanana concessions, giving them an intoxicating mix of flooded plains, forested islands, water-filled channels, and scenic beauty beyond compare. Occasional twitches in the earth’s crust change the flow of water into each part of the Delta, as well as onwards to Maun and the Boteti River, and remind us that despite the flatness of Botswana this is an astonishingly dynamic region.

Okavango Delta

Exploring waterways of the Okavango Delta by mokoro

The Okavango Delta and its associated waterways, such as the Selinda Spillway, Khwai and Boteti Rivers, and the Kwando/Linyanti River offer visitors spectacular wildlife viewing in magnificently wild surroundings and in the company of fantastic guides. Among the best things about the region are the low visitor numbers and minimal hard infrastructure.

My favourite place

Beagle Expeditions – with close to 30,000 hectares of completely private wilderness on the western edge of the Delta, Beagle has two gorgeous simple camps in beautiful locations. Only one camp has guests at any time, and with one guide and vehicle it’s guaranteed that you’ll see nobody else. Walking, intense wildlife tracking, brilliant guiding, and a super team of fun and talented staff make this an outstanding offer for anyone who values an authentic and sociable experience.

Walking safari in Botswana

Walking safari at Beagle Expeditions

A fascinating part of the biosphere – the Selinda Spillway

The northern arm of the Okavango flows a little north of east from the base of the Panhandle, and gradually becomes the Selinda Spillway, an extraordinary waterway which links the Okavango to the Kwando and Linyanti River on the border with Namibia. It’s a unique feature, connecting the Okavango to the Zambezi ultimately. Travelling west to east the land changes from broad floodplains and marshes to open grassland and distant woodland and then to a narrow grass flanked channel threading its way through a huge expanse of deciduous woodland. The transition is fascinating to behold, and there is a lovely selection of superb safari camps dotted along the meandering course of this enigmatic seasonal channel.

Of these, Karangoma is a future classic; recently opened in a 50,000 hectare private concession, it has just six tents and is a joint venture with the local communities living in the woodlands to the north. Set on a wooded peninsula, the camp looks out over the plains, and has plenty of relaxed wildlife visiting it already. The team here are outstanding, whether highly experienced veterans of years in the industry or new recruits from the Hambukushu and Bukakhwe people living nearby, they are talented, engaging, knowledgeable and a joy. The camp is comfortable, well located, and offers walking, boat trips, mokoros, and day and night wildlife drives with seriously good guides and trackers.

Francis on a boat in Botswana

I also visited Duke’s Camp, Okavango Explorers and Selinda Explorers as part of this in-depth study – they are small, characterful, beautifully located and designed, each amazingly different to the others, and I loved them all too.

Elephant herd in Botswana

Elephant herd spotted in the Okavango Delta

The Kwando River and concession

Lagoon and Lebala Camps offer a superb pairing for an extended stay in the 230,000 hectare Kwando Concession, which has the Kwando River and Namibia as its eastern border. Both camps are so remote they feel like they could be at the end of the world, and cleverly sited close to water in wildlife hotspots. They focus on wildlife viewing and safari vehicles here have trackers as well as guides – there’s no such thing as ‘we can’t find it’ in the Kwando concession, even if it means being late for lunch or dinner or going out again the following day! A brilliant dedication to showing guests what they came to see. Authentic camps, everything needed and nothing superfluous, properly wild country, and superb guiding – I love it.


Lagoon Camp

Gomoti and Santantadibe Rivers

The habitat close to these nearby rivers is among the finest in the Delta – millennia of river sediment deposits have produced fertile soils which provides excellent grazing for big herds of buffalo and large numbers of lechwe, impala, zebra, hippo, elephant, and so much more. It’s a beautifully mixed habitat with waterways, woodland, open grassland, lagoons, and a bit of marshland, and the predator sightings here are reliably excellent. Chitabe Camp is a gem, beautifully designed and positioned on a forested island – it’s a well-loved classic. Qorokwe is an excellent camp for wildlife viewing and has a wonderful team recruited almost entirely from the local community. Gomoti Plains is brilliant, real safari tents, paths through the bush to the mess tent, fun and immensely talented staff, and superb food and service. The wildlife is tops too.


Photograph by Dana Allen

The Maunachira River and Shinde

This is another ludicrously beautiful part of the Delta, sitting on the margin between dry land and permanent swamp and with a decent expanse of each. Shinde’s main lodge is built in multiple sections linked by elevated walkways and all with views out over water and the lagoon – it’s absolutely magnificent. The camp is built into a forest on a small island, and the huge tents are all hidden away among the trees. With excellent food, great guides, friendly, helpful and very capable staff, and land and water activities year round, Shinde is a winner on every level. Boating, dinner by the lagoon, beautiful scenery, wonderful wildlife, great memories are made of this.

Shinde Botswana

Shinde Camp

It also has a little brother, Footsteps, which is a bit over an hour away via several entertaining waterway crossings and a large expanse of beautiful savannah. Shinde Footsteps is smaller with just four tents, and is a feet on the ground camp of the sort that I adore.

The Boteti River and Makgadikgadi National Park

If the Okavango receives a sufficient volume of water from Angola, several rivers can flow through the Delta to the Thamalakane fault and River close to Maun. From here, the water can make its way out into the edge of the Kalahari, where the deep channel of the Boteti River occasionally has flowing water, enough for a boat some years. The large population of elephant, wildebeest and zebra know there is water below the surface even if none is evident and will dig in the riverbed to find it. Moela Safari Lodge offers a spectacular front row seat for watching thousands of herbivores coming to the river for a drink – perched 15 metres or so above the action, it offers a widescreen view of a great bend in the river and a non-stop procession of wildlife. It’s a magical place, built, owned, staffed, and run by the local community, and all done with immense skill and charm.

Moela Safari Lodge Botswana

Moela Safari Lodge

Botswana captured my imagination more than ever before, thanks to the phenomenal amount of wildlife and birds, the varied and very beautiful landscapes, the breadth of style and character of the camps I stayed in, and the many wonderfully gifted, gentle, and friendly people who I met flying aircraft, running camps, guiding, and looking after their guests.

Francis' FAM trip

Farewell drinks at Moela Safari Lodge

Francis’ trip highlights

View all the incredible places Francis visited on his recent trip to Botswana here.

What Next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.


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