Ask any serious traveling animal enthusiast to name his/her top 5 destinations in the world and the Okavango Delta in Botswana must be on the list. Although Botswana is much more than the Okavango Delta, it is the Delta that inevitably attracts the traveler and I was no different. Botswana is a country almost the size of Texas with over 40 percent of its land protected in some form or another. The country has a strong tradition of a representative democracy and is one of the safest, most stable countries in all of Africa. For me, Botswana was high up on my personal checklist of places to see at least once and I am happy to say there is one more box checked on my infinite list.
Upon arriving in Maun, the Delta’s gateway city, I was met by a representative from Wilderness Safaris and assisted every step of the way from the international terminal through the domestic terminal and onto my light aircraft flight to the Okavango. There are a number of operators that work in Botswana but I chose Wilderness Safaris because they have a wonderful reputation as being a leader in sustainable eco-tourism and conservation. They truly strive to deliver the once-in-a-lifetime experience for each individual but not at the expense of the environment or the local people. Building mutually beneficial relationships with many of the local tribes is critical to the success of Wilderness Safaris not only in Botswana but also throughout southern Africa.
The first camp I visited, Kwetsani, was in the Jao Concession. As we drove into the camp a herd of elephants were grazing and a troop of baboons greeted us. What struck me most was neither of the groups appeared at all interested in us. They just went about their business. When I got to my stilted tent, I heard the loud noises of what seemed to be large tree branches being broken. The camp director casually pointed to an elephant that was directly below where I was going to be laying my head for the next 2 nights. Looking out from my tent I had 180-degree views of the grasslands that at the moment were partially submerged in water but scattered with lechwe, waterbuck and zebra. It was at this moment that I felt the rush that one gets when they are about to embark on an epic journey because I felt at any moment I might witness and photograph a “kill.”
The next seven days were filled with experiences that could have been documented in nature program like Planet Earth. On my first game drive I watched an adolescent leopard unsuccessfully stalk a herd of zebra even attempting to get his paws on one! We continued to watch the leopard as he feigned interest walking away into the brush only to appear a short time later to try his luck again. On another drive I was lucky to come across a pack of wild dogs, one of the world’s most endangered species. By some estimates there are less than 5000 left in the world. They were relaxing after the previous night’s successful hunt. The pièce de résistance was an eagle suffocating a crane to death by standing with one claw on the crane’s neck as it gasped for air. Then after the crane had taken its last breath, the eagle took flight barely able to fly with the weight of the crane. Sure it might not have been the kill of a lion of a zebra but it was my first kill and an occurrence that is rarely seen. It felt like an initiation.
These were just a handful of the interactions I witnessed on my African Safari in Botswana. While I was able to cross this destination off my list, I now see why my clients return to Africa again and again.
Cliff Comfort is a Travel Consultant for Reef & Rainforest. Cliff takes full advantage of being able to work remotely by splitting up his year between New York, Florida and Brazil. Thanks to technology, he can be reached by phone or email just like all our other agents. Please reach out to him to learn more about his African travels.
P.S. Cliff is also an expert on scuba diving travel to destinations such as the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Palau and Yap.