I’ve been impatiently waiting to get this feature live. Even though it now feels like our safari was a lifetime ago, the unforgettable memories made, are as fresh as though we had just got back yesterday.
I think it’s safe to say that experiencing a safari is on most people’s bucket lists, and for me, it’s been a personal dream come true to be able to witness such magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, in the wild. I am still in awe of being in the presence of wild elephants, lions, leopards and zebras. Our safari, which took us all over Botswana was probably one of the most fulfilling and enriching travel adventures I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
What made it even more special was the fact that for the entire trip, Natalya and I were completely unplugged, disconnected and off the grid. No tweets, Instagram uploads, emails or phone calls, not even a text to our mum to say we’d landed safely. This disconnection from the online world, only added to our connection to the nature that we found ourselves in and I don’t think our experience would have been as raw and full, had we been able to slip into our daily habits of scrolling through Instagram or getting carried away and working until the early hours of the morning.
Our journey starts in Kasane and ends in Moremi, we spent six nights and seven days on the andBeyond Classic Explorer Safari, which took us all over Botswana. We slept in tents, had our own private guide and experienced the safari with just two other people. It was truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and I’m pretty sure the same goes for my sister.
With thanks to andBeyond for the most wonderful experience.
CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
The Land of Abundance
Day One: When Natalya and I landed in Kasane, we were met by ‘Easy’ our guide. He remained our private guide for the entire trip and we absolutely fell in love with him, he was so knowledgeable, had answers to every one of our questions and his efforts in helping us see everything we wanted to were so appreciated.
We had no idea that immediately after pulling out of the airport, meant that we were on a game drive. Five minutes into being in the car, we saw wild baboons crossing the street. Chobe National Park is so rich in life, it has the largest concentration of wildlife in Africa and this becomes very clear, very quickly. We spotted elephants, giraffes, hippos, antelope and a leopard, all before even making it to the camp.
Day Two: The plan for day two was to experience Chobe by water. We jumped aboard an andBeyond boat and got so close to elephants feeding in the islands that you could hear them chewing on the grass, it was incredible. We also got to witness herds of elephants crossing the river, a sight so surreal we just couldn’t look away, and of course, Natalya and I lost our minds when we spotted all of the baby elephants hanging around by their mamas and playing in the water.
Chobe ticked off all of the typical safari expectations, an abundance of wildlife, scenes of the whitest of birds landing on the blackest of Buffalo to offer up that perfect shot, beautiful weather, lots of other safari adventurers eagerly staring out of their windowless cars to see the animals. It fulfilled all of our expectations and more.
At the end of day two in Chobe, Easy made it is his mission to find a herd of lions, and thanks to his tenacity, we found them. That sight remains to be one of the most memorable moments of the trip for me. The herd of lions were out in the middle of the Savannah grasslands, under the setting sun and it was like a scene straight out of Planet Earth.
The Dry Land
Day Three: Driving to Savute was the plan for day three. We set off after breakfast on our six-hour journey with a stop at the Chobe Craft Centre for our daily tea/coffee and fresh muffin stop. Every day the camp chefs would bake fresh muffins, and every day they were a different flavour (!).
En route to Savute, we noticed the vast difference in the landscape to Chobe. The terrain in Savute is extremely dry and when you marry this with golden sunsets, a waterhole with an elephant and giraffe drinking from it at the same time, it’s a recipe for pure visual bliss. There’s just so much land here it’s crazy, It was like being in a dream seeing a tower of giraffes amongst an array of wildebeest feeding as the sun set behind them.
Day Four: Our morning started off by visiting one of the oldest trees in Botswana, a thousand-year-old Baobab tree, which was as impressive in person as it sounds in writing. Afterwards, we headed off in search of lions and found a heard of lionesses relaxing after a recent meal. They are probably my new favourite animal. It’s always been the elephant, but the lioness has won me over after this trip. They’re so regal, so beautiful, so powerful and calm. I could watch them for hours. Later on that day, we ticked off another major sighting. We saw an ostrich. An animal I was desperate to see in the wild, and even though it was far out into the distance, it was the perfect sighting.
On our last night in Savute, we were treated to the most beautiful surprise imaginable. Easy made it seem as though we were headed back to camp to catch the last of the sunset, but instead, he drove us back to the Baobab tree where a table had been set up full of cheese, wine and champagne. We basked in the fiery sunset and devoured the delicious cheese board and red wine. I don’t think Natalya and I have ever been so impressed before. It was such a simple gesture but so full of thought, and spending time in front of that magnificent tree with the sun setting was the best way to end our time in Savute.
What to expect
So, I’ll admit, I’m a little fussy when it comes to accommodation on trips, so when I heard we’d be camping and sleeping in a tent, I had to get over my initial snobbiness and tell myself that this was going to enrich our safari experience and add to the rugged, raw reality of being in the wild. I was absolutely right. Besides seeing the animals up close and personal, camping became one of the most engaging experiences during the whole trip. andBeyond’s camps during the Classic Safari Experience are set up the day you arrive. Everything is in the wild. There are no gates, fences or borders, so animals are and can be as close to you as they’d like to be.
The camp is a large area, the safari experience we were on accommodates six people, but during our trip, there were only four of us in total, so there were two guest tents as well as the tents for the andBeyond staff and a marquee with a dining table where we would eat our meals.
I keep saying camping but this was most certainly glamping. Our tents were huge. They boasted beds, a rail for a wardrobe and side tables with solar powered lamps. Attached to the tent where we slept, there was a separate roofless tent which housed our bucket shower, a deck with a metal bowl and jug for washing our hands and face and then attached to this section was another tent where our flushable toilet was.
The beds were comfortable, there was a turndown each evening and after dinner, we’d return to find hot water bottles placed in between the sheets. It was beyond cosy. Electricity wasn’t available in our tents, but we could charge whatever we needed (camera batteries etc) in the car which was always parked at camp.
A TYPICAL DAY AT CAMP
6 am- This was my favourite time. It was the time we’d wake up every single morning courtesy of a wake-up call by one of the guys putting a jug of fresh hot water on our deck. It was freezing at this time, the sun still wasn’t up so it was dark and there was just this sense of complete and utter peace surrounding you. I absolutely loved the mornings in the camp.
6:30 am- Breakfast is served. every day something different was served, eggs (any way you like them) cooked over the fire, porridge, fresh bread with jams and honey or just plain old cereal. After breakfast, we’d head out on a game drive for a few hours and return for lunch. Temperatures would be really low at this time of day so we’d layer up with scarves, hats and hoodies (gloves might have also been a good idea) and we had blankets over us in the car. However, during the time you’re out, it gets a little hot, so we’d de-layer throughout the day.
12 pm- Lunch time at the camp. Every meal seriously exceeded expectations, everything was freshly cooked on the day and we were never served the same thing twice. Lunch was either an array of salads, fresh hummus, freshly baked bread, even home baked pizzas(!) I honestly ate my weight at every meal.
Siesta- After lunch, it was a good idea to take a shower during our siesta time and whilst the weather was still warm. Our showers were taken outdoors through a bucket shower, and let me tell you, outdoor showers are some of the best you’ll ever have. After our showers, Natalya and I would either hang out on our little patio reading and be soaking up the sun or taking advantage of doing absolutely nothing. During one of our siesta’s, a couple of bull elephants walked straight through the camp, and it was the most surreal experience just standing by as they munched on some branches and came and went as they pleased.
4 pm- Afternoon Tea. Yes, even in the middle of the African bush, andBeyond still manage to provide you with afternoon tea. Every day a freshly baked cake would be served alongside home made iced tea or coffee. Every day it was a different flavoured cake and every day I’d say, I can’t have another slice of cake, but of course, every day I devoured at least two slices. It was so delicious. After afternoon tea, we’d head back out for a few hours on another game drive. The weather would be warmer at this time, so there wasn’t a need for as many layers as the morning.
7 pm- Back at the camp and time for pre-dinner drinks by the fire. The red wine was a firm favourite and hanging out by the fire, under the millions of visible stars with not a spec of makeup on and roasted cashews being passed around will forever be one of the best wind-down experiences ever. I just can’t remember the last time I really soaked in nature like this, and even though it was a little scary being in the pitch black in an open area in the bush with sounds all around you, it was also very liberating. There was always a member of staff present with us, so we were never alone and we were given our own flash lights in case we needed to walk to and from the tent in the dark.
7:30 pm- Dinner. Natalya and I honestly had no idea what to expect when it came to food on this trip, but we were completely blown away by how delicious everything was. Dinner was always a three-course meal and started off with a soup. As Natalya and I are both pescatarian, a different type of fish was served each evening with an array of sides. Dessert was always yummy too. We’d enjoy each meal alongside the other campers as well as our lovely guide, Easy.
9 pm- After a little reading and prepping for the following morning, by the time it was nine o’clock, Natalya and I would be in bed and completely passed out. We’d get over eight hours sleep every night and the surrounding noises and sounds which initially scared us became therapeutic. We’ve never been so well-rested.
MOREMI GAME RESERVE
Day Five –Day five started off with another road trip. This time a seven-hour drive to Moremi. Mine and Natalya’s final stop in our little tour of Botswana. I know it sounds like a long time to be in a car, and it is, but trust me, these drives were so relaxing, we basically spent the majority of our time zoning in and out of naps, only waking up to spot a rare wild dog or an elephant skull on the side of the road. It was so peaceful, you would rarely see other people and it was the perfect recipe for de-stressing.
The landscape in Moremi was completely different to Savute, it’s all marshland with so much water that we had to drive over huge amounts of it, this is where we really felt a sense of adventure, especially considering the first group of animals we saw were some male lions who had recently killed and devoured a buffalo.
The abundance of life here was also something amazing, we saw herds and herds of zebra, so many elephants and giraffes too.
Day Six – Our day was spent in search of a leopard. Easy made it his absolute mission to allow us to get up close to one, as we had spotted them in Chobe and Savute, but only from a distance. This time, after almost losing hope, we found two leopards hanging out on a tree, relaxing after having recently killed. They were unbelievably beautiful. So feline and so poised. We stayed and watched them for as long as possible before heading back to camp.
We ended our trip on this note, and the next day hopped on a small flight back to Maun to catch our plane to Cape Town. It was so emotional leaving as you really do become a different person during a trip like this. We were so switched off from everything that our focus was solely on ourselves and the nature around us. I can’t describe the peace and serenity you experience, I can only recommend, that you set off to find it your self. You’ll never forget it.