Exhilarating Adventures from Desert to Delta in Some of the Wildest Places Left on Earth
Days 1–2: Maun, Botswana / Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Our Botswana family safari begins in Maun, where our Expedition Leader meets us on arrival at the airport. We depart together for Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, a 360,000 square-mile of sandy, semi-arid savanna. Our first two days reveal the western reaches of the park, as we observe a multitude of wildlife that ranges across this landscape of scrub, palms, riverine trees and grassy plains. Our classic tented safari camp overlooks the Boteti River, a lifeline flowing through these parched environs. Africa’s second-largest zebra and wildebeest migration converges
at the river during the dry season, and we often see the animals stop for a drink in front of camp. Other species we see frequently include the Kalahari lion, cheetah, hyena, oryx, springbok, ostrich, jackal
Varied activities offer something to delight family members of all ages, including a 4x4 game drive with a picnic lunch in the bush, a private boat cruise on the Boteti, and a rare opportunity for a safari on foot with local bushmen, revealing as much about their indigenous culture as the native plants and wildlife we observe. As the sun sets, enjoy sundowners from a floating hide where we often view scores of elephants at close range. It's also common to see lounging crocodiles, for which our camp is named. At the end of each full and gratifying day, return to camp to dine under the twinkling stars.
Days 3–5: Eastern Kalahari—Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
Transfer by private helicopter to the eastern side of the Kalahari this morning, enjoying a thrilling aerial vantage on the stark landscape and roaming wildlife below. Our tented camp rests at the edge of the world’s largest salt pans—an oasis of comfort in the desert shaded by acacias and palms. The Makgadikgadi pans formed when an ancient lake evaporated thousands of years ago, and these shallow depressions are all that remain of the once-enormous Lake Makgadikgadi. Today, this vast expanse of salt glitters in the intense dry-season
sun, evoking a moonscape. The only visible plantlife
is a thin layer of blue-green algae, but seasonal rains will later turn the pans into an important habitat for migrating animals, including wildebeest and one of Africa’s largest zebra populations, along with the big predators that pursue them.
During our visit, we'll look for unusual desert-adapted creatures, heading out on private game drives in search of gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest, steenbok, and many small mammals, birds
and reptiles. We'll also spend time at close range with a friendly habituated colony of meerkats. Quad bikes offer an exciting way to explore the lunar-like surface of the pans. Back at camp each night, enjoy stories around the campfire and some of the best stargazing on the planet.
Days 6–8: Okavango Delta—Khwai Private Wildlife Reserve
We fly by light aircraft this morning into the very different environment of the Okavango Delta. Here in northwest Botswana, the Okavango River fans out over the Kalahari sands to create the world's largest inland delta, covering some 5,800 square miles of swampy marsh, clear channels, lagoons and islands that provide a diverse mosaic of habitats for wildlife. In 2014, the Okavango Delta became the 1000th site to be officially inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Our destination is the massive Khwai wildlife reserve, a community concession encompassing riverine woodlands, floodplains, mopane forest and open grasslands. Bordering the famous Moremi Game Reserve, the private Khwai reserve offers serenity along the Khwai River that meanders through the region. Elephants abound, and year-round wildlife includes waterbuck, reedbuck and many antelope species, including red lechwe, along with frequent sightings of lion, leopard and spotted hyena. Khwai's
varied habitats also support rhino, wild dog and the majestic sable antelope for which our camp, Sable Alley, is named. In addition, more than 450 bird species have been recorded. We explore on wildlife drives, walking safaris led by local guides, and by mokoro, the traditional poled canoe of the delta, giving local polers
a chance to share their deep knowledge of this ecosystem and how it has sustained their people for generations.
Our eco-conscious camp on the banks of a peaceful lagoon is part of a community-based partnership that bridges safari tourism with Khwai village life, enhancing economic stability for the local people. The camp enjoys uninterrupted views over the lagoon, and wildlife literally comes to us as elephant, buffalo and herds of plains game arrive to drink. An especially memorable element of our stay is a night spent sleeping under the stars in Skybeds. These rustic raised platforms, illuminated by lanterns, overlook a waterhole that attracts elephant, lion, hyena, eland, zebra and kudu, plus an assortment of smaller nocturnal species such as porcupine, genet, jackal and honey badger.
Day 9: Khwai Private Reserve / Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
After a last morning wildlife activity on the Khwai reserve, depart by light aircraft for Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. This afternoon, we visit a nearby village where kids will delight in a chance to meet African children. Just outside the hustle and bustle of the Victoria Falls tourist zone, we'll get to interact with locals tending their fields or going about their chores, enjoying a glimpse into daily rural life. This evening, our Expedition Leader hosts a festive farewell dinner on the banks of the Zambezi River.
Day 10: Victoria Falls Tour / Depart
Though today is the last day of our safari, our adventures continue with gusto on a privately guided tour of Victoria Falls. The massive cataract is located inside Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, whose name in the local language means "the smoke that thunders," referring to the mighty falls and its pervasive spray. The falls and park together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans both sides of the Zambezi River, encompassing terrain in both Zimbabwe and Zambia. We follow a network of trails along the rim to various vantage points over the falls, which span more than a mile and plummet 350 feet into the tumultuous Zambezi Gorge below. It's a fitting finale to our Botswana family safari, which comes to a close as we transfer to the Victoria Falls airport to meet departing flights.
Physical Rating: Easy
Click here to view the seasonal variations of weather and wildlife viewing in Botswana.