Secluded Botswana Photo Itinerary
Day 1: Livingstone, Zambia—Zambezi River Cruise
Our Botswana photo safari begins just over the border in Livingstone, Zambia, where you're met on arrival and transferred to Toka Leya to spend the night. This luxury camp sits in a prime location overlooking the mighty Zambezi River upriver from Victoria Falls, surrounded by Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park’s name means “The Smoke that Thunders,” and it’s an apt moniker, as we see mist clouds rising off the falls from miles away. Great photo opportunities are on offer right away during a classic sunset cruise, as we look for hippos and crocodiles on the riverbanks. Afterward, join our Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner.
Day 2: Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park—Rhino Walk / Village Visit / Victoria Falls
Our day begins with a visit to Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, where a wildlife drive offers our first sampler of the species diversity we want to capture images of during our safari, plus our best chance to see and photograph a white rhinoceros. Accompanied by a local guide and park rangers tasked with guarding the park's rhinos around the clock, we'll get out of the vehicle for more intimate encounters and closer photo ops, learning how to read signs of the rhinos' presence and follow their movements. With no predators in the park, we can also walk safely in search of zebra, giraffe, warthog, various antelope species, and other smaller mammals and birds. Elephants regularly cross the river, too, and we often see them wandering throughout the park. Later this morning we visit a nearby village to learn about the traditions and daily life of the local people. Then, it’s off to Victoria Falls, the world’s most astounding cataract, for a guided walking tour. The profuse spray has created a rain forest on the rim, and a network of walkways offers varying photo viewpoints over falls, which span more than a mile and plummet 350 feet into the Zambezi Gorge.
Days 3–5: Chobe National Park, Botswana / Linyanti Private Reserve
Traveling by road and ferry, we cross the Chobe River into Botswana’s Chobe National Park, famed for its vast elephant herds—a population that exceeds 70,000. On a private boat cruise down the river and its myriad channels, we sometimes see several hundred elephants in a single day, with excellent chances for close-up photos. Waterbirds abound, including herons and storks, and hippos and crocodiles are on display along the muddy banks. Keep an eye out for egrets perched on the backs of elephants cooling off in the water—they make entertaining subjects.
This afternoon, fly to the private Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, some of Africa's most dramatic big-game country. Its tree-dotted plains are home to lion, leopard, spotted hyena and African wild dog, as well as enormous elephant herds. We'll expect to encounter wildlife in amazing proximity along the Linyanti River and surrounding environs. Spend time capturing thrilling close-ups in a newly built hide that faces the Linyanti Channel, elevating us in exciting proximity to elephants, hippos and numerous birds. In the evenings, relax at our secluded camp, where well-appointed walk-in tents evoke an earlier romantic era of safari travel. Through the thorny acacia branches we see more stars than we ever dreamed of, scattered across an impossibly black sky.
Days 6–8: Linyanti / Okavango Delta—Exploring the Marsh
After a final wildlife drive in the wilds of Linyanti, transfer by light aircraft to the Okavango Delta. Earth’s largest inland water system, the delta’s headwaters lie in the western highlands of Angola. They join with other rivers in Namibia and Botswana to meet the Kalahari Desert, creating a green oasis that sprawls amid the sands and dry savanna. When rains are typical and floodwaters are able to rise, it is a vast network of waterways and wetlands, and the Okavango is home to a profuse collection of wildlife and lush vegetation.
Jacana Camp is a dream base for wildlife photographers. Located in the heart of the delta, it's surrounded by a maze of canals and lagoons that sustain a profusion of wildlife. The wetlands and islands are home to many rare birds, and we may see wattled cranes, Pel’s fishing owls, jacanas, rails, crakes and moorhens. Following the reed-fringed channels, we may also capture shots of water-adapted antelope such as red lechwe browsing in the grasses. Depending upon water levels and wildlife movement, explore the constantly shifting marsh by mokoro, a traditional poled dugout canoe, offering a chance to photograph wildlife at eye level in complete quiet. We also hope to do a guided walk during our time at Jacana Camp, for an intimate perspective on the small wonders that also surround us. (Please note that water levels and activities may vary based on actual amounts of anticipated annual rainfall.)
Days 9–11: Southeast Okavango—Santawani Private Concession—Predator Researcher Visit
This morning we fly by light aircraft to Gomoti Tented Camp in the heart of the Santawani Concession, a private reserve encompassing nearly 15,000 acres in the southeast corner of the Okavango Delta. The aerial transfer offers exhilarating photo opportunities of the landscape below. While some areas of the delta are permanently flooded, other habitats create a mosaic of varied landscapes, including drier regions like the area that surrounds our camp. A mix of dense riverine woodland, open savanna and acacia scrub provide ample food for a large array of browsers and grazing species, as well as predators including cheetah, leopard, lion and rare wild dog.
The Gomoti River is a year-round lifeline for animals, while inland waterholes also sustain them during the dry season. The diverse range of habitats makes the Gomoti region ideal for all-day photography excursions, including traditional 4x4 wildlife drives, picnic lunches and night drives in search of nocturnal species. During our stay in Santawani, we're joined by a local researcher to learn about studies on the wide range of predators in the area, including research projects on wild dog, cheetah and leopard. A special highlight is a doors-off helicopter flight over the Gomoti River and Okavango Delta, with a chance to get aerial photos of the richest wildlife enclaves in all of Africa. After each exhilarating day, our intimate private camp offers a tremendous sense of seclusion in the wilderness.
Day 12: Maun / Depart
Our Botswana photo safari comes to a close when we depart by air for Maun, where we connect with homeward flights or continue with onward extensions.
Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate
To participate in this trip, you must be able to walk unassisted at a steady pace for at least one mile over uneven terrain, climb steps to get into and out of our raised safari vehicles, and be able to tolerate daily outdoor excursions that may last 4-5 hours or even a full day at a time, sometimes in hot, windy and/or dusty conditions. Wildlife drives pose a particular type of physical demand on the body, as they require long hours of sitting and take place over terrain that is often very rough and bumpy, including dirt roads with many ruts and potholes. Travelers with back or neck problems, or other health issues that could be exacerbated by such conditions, should take this into consideration. While any walking safaris are considered optional, travelers must be able to walk unassisted to and from the vehicle to our camp accommodations, sometimes walking over uneven ground or on boardwalks. Days spent on safari are often long, as mornings typically start before daybreak and evening meals are served after sundown. Safari accommodations and vehicles are not climate-controlled and, depending on the season, temperatures can range from quite cold to extremely hot, so it is critical that travelers come prepared.
Click here to view the seasonal variations of weather and wildlife viewing in Botswana.
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