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: 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 may see during our safari, plus our best chance to see 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, 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 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. 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 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 located in the heart of the delta, surrounded by a maze of wetlands 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 spy water-adapted antelope such as red lechwe browsing in the grasses. 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. Depending upon water levels and wildlife movement, explore the constantly shifting marsh by mokoro, a traditional poled dugout canoe, offering a chance to observe wildlife at eye-level in complete quiet. We also hope to do a guided walk during our time here, 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: 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.
Click here to view the seasonal variations of weather and wildlife viewing in Botswana.