Secluded Botswana Rhino Discovery Itinerary
Our Botswana rhino adventure 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 watch mist clouds rising off the falls from miles away. On a classic sunset cruise, look for hippos and crocodiles on the riverbanks. Afterward, our Expedition Leader hosts a welcome dinner.
Day 2: Victoria Falls / Rhino Viewing in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park
This morning, take a guided walking tour of Victoria Falls, the world’s most astounding cataract. The profuse spray has created a rain forest on the gorge rim, and a network of paths offers varying vantage points over the falls, which span more than a mile. Then, it’s off for Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on a wildlife drive offering a sampler of the species we're likely to see on safari, and our best chance to encounter white rhinos. 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 frequently for more intimate encounters, learning how to read signs of the rhinos' presence and follow their movements, with plenty of time for interpretation and questions. 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 and wander through the park, too. Time permitting, we’ll visit a nearby village this afternoon to meet local people and learn about their daily lives.
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. 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.
This afternoon, we fly by light aircraft 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, and we expect plentiful close encounters along the Linyanti River and environs. From a newly built hide facing the Linyanti Channel, we're elevated in exciting proximity to elephants, hippos and numerous birds. Get another thrilling vantage on the region's waterways on a 45-minute helicopter flight along the Linyanti Channel to where it meets the Selinda Spillway—important water sources that sustain life in the area, especially during the dry season. 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—Rhino Talk
After a final wildlife drive in the Linyanti wilderness, 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, joining with other rivers in Namibia and Botswana to meet the Kalahari Desert where the Okavango River creates a green oasis sprawling over the sands and dry savanna. With its vast network of waterways and wetlands, the delta is home to a profuse collection of wildlife and vegetation. Located in the delta's watery heart, Jacana Camp is surrounded by a maze of canals and lagoons that sustain a profusion of wildlife.
Explore the constantly shifting marsh by mokoro, the traditional poled dugout canoe of the delta, offering a chance to view wildlife at eye level in complete quiet. These wetlands and islands are home to many rare birds, and we may see wattled crane, Pel’s fishing owl, jacana, moorhen, rails and crakes. Following the reed-fringed channels, we may also glimpse red lechwe—a water-adapted antelope—browsing in the grasses. Depending on water levels and wildlife movements, we hope to take a guided walk for an even more intimate encounter with our marshy environs. (Please note that water levels and activities may vary based on actual amounts of anticipated annual rainfall). While at Jacana we're joined by Sebastian "Baz" Sandenbergh, a pioneer in Botswana's Rhino Reintroduction Project. Baz will share details on the history of rhinos in Botswana and their successful reintroduction in recent years.
Days 9–11: Santawani Private Concession—Helicopter Rhino Search
This morning we fly by light aircraft to Gomoti Tented Camp in the Santawani Concession, a private reserve encompassing nearly 15,000 acres in the southeast corner of the Okavango Delta. Our aerial transfer offers exhilarating views 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, plus 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 extended 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 one-hour doors-off helicopter flight in search of rhino over the Gomoti River and Okavango Delta. We'll hope for a sighting of the elusive black rhino as we survey one of the richest wildlife enclaves in all of Africa. Rhinos have been spotted more regularly in recent years, and this helicopter adventure offers a chance to cover extensive terrain in hopes of identifying tracks and possibly rhinos as well.
Day 12: Santawani / Maun / Depart
Our rhino-focused Botswana wildlife adventure concludes as 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.
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