A Botswana safari is synonymous with the Okavango Delta but I think that so many people don’t know how diverse the country is. Botswana has such a variety of different animals and different eco-systems, just begging to be explored. Here is a list of Matthys' favourite three lodges in Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge, in my opinion, is a very nice entry-level luxury lodge and is situated inside the Chobe National park, many people believe that the Park is overcrowded but still would like to experience the magic of seeing the large elephants swim and play in the Chobe River. It is a sight that few places in the world could even dream to better the experience. The lodge is situated about 30 – 45 minutes drive inside the park with no other lodge in close proximity and also allows for game activities an early start and late return giving you the opportunity to avoid the bulk of the normal crowd as you can reach places in the park otherwise impossible for day visitors to reach and still make it back to the gate in time before the park closes.
I’ve been privileged enough to experience Chobe in all its glory, we went for an afternoon cruise on the river and encountered a massive number of elephants in the river and on both the Botswana and Namibia side of the river running towards a thunderstorm brewing in the background. There were elephants everywhere, probably over 300.
Besides the location of the lodge inside the National Park with no neighbours close by, it will be the fact that this lodge tries its best to stay as green as possible with a very small carbon footprint. The lodge’s 4×4 vehicles and boats are electric which gives a very unique game viewing experience and you get to hear the bush and the river with no to very little noise coming from the electric motors.
The easiest entry points would be Kasane Airport but also easily accessible from the Victory Falls. The drive from Kasane takes about 45 minutes in one of the lodge’s game-viewing vehicles. Should you decide to add Chobe to your Victoria Falls itinerary or visa-versa then you are looking at an approx. 2-hour road transfer depending on how busy it is at the Kazungula border post.
The Savute Safari Lodge is also a good entry-level luxury lodge with all the creature comforts that you would like. The lodge is located in the Savuti region of Botswana, next to the dry Savuti River canal. The lodge has a watering hole that caters to all the animals in the region. The waterhole is one of the biggest deciding factors for this camp but more about that later. The location is often overlooked by people going to Botswana as time is the crucial factor but I hope that you would consider this gem of a region after reading this article.
I am in love with this region because of the magical experience that I have had, there were so many unbelievable sightings that the entire stay was just fantastic. The Savuti region is famous for the Savuti Marsh Lion pride, which is around 22 lions strong the last I heard. We saw the pride feasting on a wildebeest that they took down just a couple of minutes before we got there. It was such a primal and exciting experience and was just amazing to see how the alpha male lion was so patient with the cubs, all trying to get their fill. This only lasted for a couple of minutes before the male lion removed the cubs from his piece of wildebeest. You can also expect to encounter wild-dogs and hyenas amongst the mix if you are interested in the predators.
As mentioned before about the watering hole, we could have sat there the entire day because of the vast amount of animals that came down for a drink and to cool down, at one stage there were about 80 – 100 elephants congregating around the waterhole with small baby elephants playing in the mud with no worries in the world, and there were quite a few elephants that stayed at the waterhole until late the evening. We also saw a leopard in the evening which probably caused some unrest. The few elephants that stayed until very late the evening were clearly unsettled because they kept on trumpeting until very late, I have never again experienced that until date.
I would highly recommend taking a small aircraft flight, there is an airstrip close to the lodge and the transfer is done in an open 4×4 game viewing vehicle, the drive itself can be considered as a game-drive. You can access the airstrip from Kasane Airport, Muan Airport, and even other Lodges as part of a larger itinerary.
Camp Okavango is a brilliant luxury lodge that is situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta. If you want the perfect spot then this is it! The lodge is perched on stilts and offers sweeping views of the flood plain. The wooden decks are in pristine condition and the rooms are next to heavenly, the decor style offers you understated bush luxury with all the comforts that you can think of such as double showers, etc.
The camp focus on water-based activities which include motorboat trips and “makoro” cruises. The makoros are “dug-out” canoes with a guide at the back with a long poll, pushing you along in the shallow waters of the delta canals. Experiencing no engine noise while slowly making your way along the water in the middle of the Delta is something that words can’t describe. You also get morning game walks on one of the closeby islands, this is done by 2 guides and you don’t have to worry too much about pace as this can be done at a pace that you are comfortable with, as long as you are comfortable walking around. This was where I’ve encountered my first experience in the wild on foot. You are so much more aware of what is happening around you and seeing elephants in relatively close proximity will give you such an adrenaline rush, I should add that the guides that do the walking safaris are extremely knowledgeable and knows how to read the animals and the situation. I never felt scared or unsafe. Game walks are only allowed for people over the age of 16 due to obvious safety reasons.
I think what made this Lodge unique for me was not just the location, or the magnificent decked boma dinner area overlooking the floodplains, the luxurious warm accommodation, the high standard of game viewing vehicles, the staff were extremely friendly and warm-hearted. The guides are fantastic and knowledgeable. Camp Okavango comes highly recommended and worth your time, perhaps even spend an extra day just to wake up a little bit later and enjoy the room and facilities.
Sure there are many other fantastic lodges that offer an incredible safari experience and caters to various budgets. Credit should also go to these camp’s staff members which had a huge influence on choosing these three lodges, the staff members were always happy and all always willing to make the experience memorable, from the general staff, the guides and the camp managers. The best would be to get out there and explore the natural wonders of Botswana has to offer.