Girls on Safari in Botswana
Katie and Nix from our Guest Services team in Australia and Africa respectively took off on an amazing Botswana safari with a fantastic finale in Victoria Falls. This is the official Botswana Safari holiday blog page where we shared the action of their travels.
The girls explored everything from deltas and plains, light aircraft flights and adventurous river crossings, mokoros and game drives, and even enjoyed a surprise helicopter flight over the Falls!
To see Katie and Nix’s safari holiday itinerary, click the button below or click to enquire today if you’re ready to get the ball rolling.
Day One: Departure from Australia and
Arriving into Africa
It was an exciting time packing my bags, arriving at the airport in Brisbane and seeing my plane preparing for its departure as the sun rose behind it. The anticipation is significant as I prepare myself for Africa, the first time setting foot on its soil, a continent I feel so connected with already.
What should I expect on a holiday with Encompass Africa? What does one get out of a luxury safari holiday that is tailored to suit your needs? I hope so much reward awaits, I am sure it does.
First of all, let’s arrive and meet Jonathon’s beautiful family. His parents are kindly hosting me for my arrival night, and then tomorrow I will go to Fairlawns after a city tour with Trev. They are ‘famous’ amongst Encompass Africa and our family.
Things to see and do in Johannesburg
Today was a fantastic day touring Johannesburg, with a real insider’s insight with my fantastic guides, Pam and Trev Wilson. The morning started with a walk down the local high street, along with breakfast at Michelle’s, a personal favourite of both Danica and Jono’s. After a little bit of shopping on high street, it was time to head off.
My tour took me all over Jo’burg, from the suburbs, the old Jo’burg city centre, up the koppies (rocky hills) for a stunning view of the surrounding city, through booming Rosebank, and finishing up in the upmarket Sandton.
Throughout the tour, I learnt that Johannsburg has vast variety of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities, including: the local Africans, the caucasians, communities from all over Africa, the Indian population, and the Muslim population just to name a few. And all with their own distinct presence throughout the city.
Open street markets and stores are scattered throughout the old city, bustling as the local communities go about their day. On the streets, people sell their wares, from beaded trinkets, to fresh flowers, to brooms and power cords. Its a learning experience, and unlike anything to compare to in Australia.
Highlights of our day were definitely the absolutely stunning view from the top on a hill, a drive by Nelson Mandela’s home, touring the old Jo’burg city, and the intricacies of the local cultures. We also did a drive by of Jono’s first home and old schools, giving me a bit of an insight into the bossman’s life before Australia.
The day finishes up in the gorgeous Fairlawns Hotel. With stunning sculptured buildings, vast green lawns and gardens, the Fairlawns is the perfect escape from the world, and a great place to finish up an amazing day in Johannesburg.
After being greeted in arrival, I was shown to my room, one of the beautiful courtyard rooms. The rooms is stunning, spacious, and welcoming. The wine waiting on the coffee table was certainly a plus too!
About to head off to explore the grounds, so more to come from me in the coming days as the adventure unfolds.
Signing out for today
Feature on the fantastic
Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa
First stop for Katie on arrival into South Africa is the beautiful Fairlawns. It has been a favourite of ours and Encompass Africa guests for a while now.
Set among lush acres of landscaped gardens you’ll find Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, an urban sanctuary right in the heart of Johannesburg.
With close attention to detail and exceptional service, Fairlawns creates an intimate atmosphere where some of the globe’s most vibrant personalities converge. The chic, upscale suites are individually decorated in varying themes ranging from Eastern influence to French provincial, each featuring every desired modern amenity. The hotel also caters to a variety of culinary tastes with an array of elegant dining experiences to choose from.
Fairlawns is situated just 6 kilometres from central Sandton, and 20 kilometres from the Johannesburg city centre, offering travellers a delicate mix of luxury and convenience. Established in 1997, Fairlawns is a property proud in heritage and character. Previously a luxury private residence, it is only fitting that the property has transformed “herself” into the stylish hotel, with an air of eclectic sophistication, that Fairlawns is today. Welcome Katie!
Day Two: Journey to the Delta
After an early rise and breakfast at Fairlawns, it was time to catch the transfer to Johannesburg Airport. Here I met up with Nicola, and together caught the flight to Maun. Maun Airport was unlike any I had been in before. After landing on the tarmac, we made our way by foot the short distance to the airport, which consists of a single building. Immigration was quick and casual, and then we waited as our bags were bought in by hand, and lined up on the floor for collection. We then met up with the rest of our group, ten in total, with one more to join us at the second camp.
It was now time for my first ever light aircraft flight. The view from the plane was amazing, with the broad expanse of the Delta spread out below us. It is a whole different experience seeing it for yourself; pictures really can’t do it justice.
After landing at Qorokwe airstrip, we were met by our two lovely guides, Jacob and Jonnah, who took us out on our first game drive on the way to camp. To my excitement, our first sighting was a pride of eight lions! Given that lions are my favourite African animal, I was over the moon. The pride consisted of two adult females and six adolescent cubs. They were absolutely beautiful, just lounging around, napping in the sun.
After many photos, we continued on to camp, spotting impala and more along the way. On arrival at camp, we were greeted by the manager Danny, and his lovely team.
Welcome drinks were handed out, and Danny took as through a short orientation and overview of the camp, and the history and topography of the Okavango Delta. Danny was super insightful and knowledgeable, and explained the how Qorokwe is situated on its own private concession, meaning no other camps or vehicle share the area with Qorokwe. It is an amazing experience to have a whole section of land and wildlife to yourself.
Day Two: Continued
The room Nix and I shared was the family suite, so both had our own rooms with huge king sized beds to ourselves. The rooms at Qorokwe are spacious and luxurious, in tune with the rest of the camp, which is really the height of luxury in the Delta.
We then headed out for our afternoon game drive, with our amazing guide Jacob. Jacob was incredibly knowledgeable, not only about wildlife, but also plants, tracks, and the night sky as well.
Through Jacob’s expert guiding, we saw many more animals, including impala, kudu, and the beautiful African elephants. Evening sundowners were amazing, as we sipped gin and tonics, and Jacob taught us all about the stars, constellations, and planets. Using Jacob’s teachings, I can now navigate south using the Southern Cross!
Next morning was tea, followed by a mokoro experience, morning game drive and brunch, before bidding the Qorokwe team goodbye and heading off to the airstrip. On our way to the airstrip, we had some awesome sightings, including a hyena eating a dead hippo, more elephants, zebras and giraffes.
Here we bid our guides goodbye before boarding our next flight to Moremi Game Reserve.
Check out our blog to learn more about Qorokwe CampQorokwe Camp
Day Three: Moremi Moving
Landing in Moremi, we were met by our guides and enjoyed game viewing on our way to camp. Our stay at Camp Moremi was rather special as the camp had just reopened after refurbishments and we were some of the first guests to experience it – it was gorgeous!
Camp Moremi was our first ‘tented camp’ with canvas walls and fly screen windows. It’s not until you experience a tented camp do you really feel as though you are in the wilderness. Camp Moremi definitely succeeds in delivering this feeling!
That afternoon, we headed out on the water, taking one of the camp boats along the lagoon to its neighbouring camps, Camp Xakanaxa and Okuti Camp. After quick site inspections (Xakanaxa is lovely with beautiful tented rooms, and Okuti unique with its domed roofs), we enjoyed sundowners and a leisurely sunset boat ride back to camp.
Day Four: Moremi Explorer
Camp Moremi Continued
The next morning, it was time to head out on our first proper game drive in the region. Camp Moremi is situated in the Moremi Game Reserve, and unlike a private concession, the reserve is open to a number of camps, mobile safari groups, and self-drivers. Thankfully during our stay we didn’t encounter too many other vehicles, keeping that ‘lost in the wilderness’ feeling alive.
As there is no off-road driving in the Moremi, you are slightly more limited in the wildlife you encounter, however, this didn’t stop us from finding elephants, impala, kudu, mongoose, various bird species, warthog, baboons, and even the elusive leopard!
Afterward, we returned to camp for a delicious breakfast, before enjoying a game drive transfer back to the airstrip. From here it was a quick light aircraft flight to Rra Dinare lodge.
Day Four: Moremi Explorer Continued
On arrival into the airstrip, we were met by our lovely guides, and enjoyed a game drive transfer to camp. Along the way we were treated to our first and only sighting of rhino. We sat and watched these three gorgeous creatures for a while, taking as many pictures as possible. It’s not often that you manage to see all of the Big Five within your first three days in Africa!
Rra Dinare Camp is lovely, with raised rooms and pathways, and fantastic wilderness views all round. Each room has its own private deck, along with an amazing outdoor shower. We did receive a warning regarding the outdoor shower however, not to leave anything out there as it would be stolen by baboons! Not often you hear that sentence!
This afternoon, we set out on a game drive, and had a fantastic sighting of three adult males lions! We spent some time with these gorgeous animals, watching them lazy around in the afternoon sun, before we set off again.
During our game drive, we stopped in to inspect Mma Dinare, Rra Dinare’s new ‘sister camp’ that is set to open to guests very soon. Rra Dinare and Mma Dinare mean Father and Mother buffalo respectively. Mma Dinare is definitely shaping up nicely, with us all very curious to see the final look once it opens.
We rounded out the evening with sundowers by the water, watching as an elephant herd trotted by in the distance.
Day Five: Linyanti Concessions
Kwando Lagoon Camp
The next morning, a few us headed out on another mokoro ride, this time enjoying the water ways of the Gomoti river. The others enjoyed another game drive, and were lucky enough to spot a cheetah! From here, we piled back into the vehicles and transferred to the airstrip, ready to catch our next flight to Kwando Lagoon Camp, perched on the banks of the Kwando River.
On arrival into Lagoon airstrip, we were met by our guides and the lovely Jacqui from Kwando Safaris, who I often work with closely to confirm bookings and guest details. Loading into the safari vehicles, we enjoyed a game drive transfer to camp.
Kwando Lagoon Camp was one of my personal favourites from the trip. Perfectly located, Lagoon has stunning views over the water, with a beautiful open pool area and viewing deck. The rooms at Lagoon are lovely, incredibly spacious with high thatched roofs. Each room has a private deck, indoor sitting area, and both an indoor and outdoor shower. And with only eight rooms, the camp has a wonderful, intimate feel.
An evening boat cruise then ensued, exploring the waterways of the lagoon that gives the camp its name. Upon our return, we enjoyed drinks around the fire, where I had the chance to chat to other guests in camp, and their safari experience so far. It was then time for dinner. A word of warning to all: three course dinners are standard in African camps and lodges, so be prepared to eats lots and gain a few kilos on your trip!
Day Six: Linyanti Concessions
Kwando Lagoon Continued
After breakfast the next morning, we headed out to an area within the private reserve used for nature walks. Here, a safety briefing ensued, as walking safaris have the potential to encounter large game and predators. In our case however, we encountered nothing larger than ants, and we were treated to a wonderfully informative walk by the guides. Accompanied by armed rangers, we set off and were shown the smaller side of Botswana, from recognising animals prints and dung, to termite mounds, and the different flora in the region.
Our walking safari was followed by a bush breakfast, organised as a birthday surprise for one of our fellow group members. The set up was amazing, a long fully prepared table, with tablecloths, napkins, cutlery, and even bottles of champagne! The thought and effort from Lagoon Camp should definitely be commended. There was even a home cooked birthday cake thrown in!
After our amazing breakfast, it was time to bid Kwando Lagoon goodbye as we caught our next flight to the Chobe region, leaving the Okavango Delta and our amazing experiences behind.
Day Six: Chobe River Front
Chobe Elephant Camp
Touching down in Kasane, we proceeded through the new Kasane International Airport, which opened mid 2017. While we waited for our bags to be loaded into the transfer vehicle, we were all manically checking our phones, as we discovered internet connection for the first time in five days. Not surprisingly, nothing much had happened while we’d been away.
From here, we enjoyed an hour transfer to our lodge, set outside the Chobe National Park. Along the way, our driver pointed out the road to Namibia, accessible through the Caprivi Strip, a section of Namibia that protrudes between Botswana and Zambia. Before arriving at camp, we also stopped to inspect Ngoma Safari Lodge, which has excellent views over the Chobe River.
Arriving at Chobe Elephant Camp, we were shown to our rooms. The rooms, along with the rest of the lodge, were built using sandbags in order to insulate the walls, adhering to the camp’s eco-friendly mandate. Chobe Elephant is a lovely and homey feeling camp, which overlooks the vast wilderness.
We headed out again that evening, and enjoyed a game drive transfer through Chobe National Park to the Chobe jetty, spotting elephant, impala, and a large pride of lion along the way. We were then treated to nibbles and G&Ts as we cruised along the Chobe River, its vast waterways spreading out around us as it experienced unusually high water levels. This is the life!
Day Seven: Chobe River Front
The next morning, we bid the lodge good bye as we transferred by road to the nearby Chobe Game Lodge. Here we inspected the lodge before being invited to enjoy a lovely lunch on one of their stunning viewing decks, perched over the bursting bank of the Chobe River.
Chobe Game Lodge is the only lodge located inside Chobe National Park and is a great option despite being significantly larger than both Elephant Camp and Ngoma. It offers a range of activities including game drives, boat safaris, in house eco tours, and cultural exploration trips. Additionally, Chobe Game Lodge holds the unique title of being the only camp in the region to have a full team of all female guides: the Chobe Angels. We were lucky enough to meet the head guide who took us on a quick ride in one of their electric game vehicles, something else unique to Chobe Game Lodge. More information on Chobe here.
From here, we continued on our way to our next lodge in Kasane, passing through the town along the way.
Day Seven: Chobe River Front continued..
Chobe Bakwena Lodge
We arrived into town just as school let out, and were greeted with waves and smiles from many children as they made their way home. It was a lovely way to be welcomed to town.
As we reached Bakwena in the mid afternoon, we still had plenty of time to fill. While a few of our group headed back out on a game drive, the rest of us were content to sip wine around the pool, enjoy the view from the deck, and take a moment to relax and enjoy the lodge.
Bakwena Lodge is a favourite of Encompass Africa in the region, with chalets set on the banks of the Chobe and others on raised platforms among the trees. Either way, your view will be amazing. The rooms at Bakwena are lovely and spacious, and like many safaris camps, boast both an indoor and outdoor shower. When you have the choice, outdoor is a definite must!
Dinner and drinks were enjoyed tonight, before heading off to bed to prepare for what would be a full day tomorrow, filled with border crossings and many site inspections.
Day Eight: Livingstone, Victoria Falls – Zambian side
From Botswana to Zambia
After breakfast this morning, it was time to head off for our first two site inspections in Kasane. We toured through Chobe Safari Lodge and Chobe Bush Lodge, which are great options for families and those travelling on a budget.
It was then time to bid Botswana goodbye and make our way to Zambia. This is a unique border crossing process, as the only direct path from Botswana to Zambia is by boat. Our guide transferred us by road to the border post, where we cleared immigration out of Botswana. From here, we continued on to the rivers edge and were assisted to board a small motorboat.
Here we crossed the water, a place where four countries (Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia) meet, and took in the sight of the new Botswana-Zambia crossing bridge being built. When completed, the bridge will significantly improve the lives of many truck drivers, who are often stuck for weeks at a time as they wait to transfer across the river by ferry. Departing the boat, we stamped into Zambia and purchased our KASA visas, which allow enter into both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
From here, we enjoyed the transfer to Waterberry Lodge, our first site inspection in Zambia. Waterberry is a stunning property, with beautiful gardens, access to the national park, and hard to beat views of the Zambezi River. Waterberry is divided into two sections, the Farmhouse and the main lodge, with a scenic walking path connecting them both. However, due to the shear volume of water in the Zambezi at the moment, the path was flooded during our visit, and guests were required to transfer by vehicle between the sections. After our tour we were invited back to the Farmhouse to enjoy lunch (three courses!), before heading off again.
Day Eight: Livingstone, Victoria Falls – Zambia side
Thorntree River Lodge
Our accommodation in Zambia was the absolutely stunning Thorntree River Lodge, hidden within Mosi-Ou-Tunya National Park. Thorntree is truly luxurious, set among the bush on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, and the perfect escape from the rest of the world. Here, you can sip drinks on your private deck, relax in your private pool, and wake up to the music of the Zambezi River.
Thorntree was another favourite of mine; it was lavish but also welcoming, with magnificent views from all rooms. That afternoon, we set out on one of the lodge’s luxury boats for a sunset cruise along the Zambezi River. With great skills and knowledge, our driver navigated the currents and islands, providing facts about water levels, animal crossings and more. We were lucky to encounter a small herd of elephants inhabiting one of the small islands which are now stuck there until the water levels recede. Here we could observe them up close, with no other boats or guests, and really take time to enjoy the sighting.
The night was spent around the fire with drinks and great company. I traded stories with a staff member who was happy to share her experiences working in camps and lodges in Zambia. We discussed the difference between wildlife experiences in Zambia and Australia, and bonded over our mutual distrust of chickens.
Day Nine: Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe side
Exploring Victoria Falls
Today was another full day, full of border crossings, site inspections, and Victoria Falls Tours. We departed Thorntree to the border, clearing out of Zambia and into Zimbabwe easily with our KASA visas. The crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe is something truly special as you cross over the Victoria Falls bridge and see the spray from Victoria Falls in the distance.
Our first order of business in Vic Falls was site inspections. We toured The Elephant Camp, Victoria Falls Hotel, and Ilala Lodge. Victoria Falls Hotel is certainly as old and grand as it looks in pictures, with a deep and rich history, and has hosted everyone from railway workers to the current Queen of England.
After our morning inspections we enjoyed lunch at the Lookout Café, which as the name suggests, looks out over the gorge. Here you eat as the water rushes by and watch as adventurous travellers throw themselves off the gorge swing!
From here we set off on a walking tour of Victoria Falls. This is something everyone staying in Victoria Falls must do, and definitely a highlight of our trip. There is nothing quite like seeing the water thunder over the Falls, creating a wall of stray that buckets down and soaks anyone underneath. While we were wearing rain ponchos they were no match for the might of the Falls, and we all ended up sopping wet as we headed off to our last inspection. One hundred percent worth it.
Our final inspection was at Old Drift Lodge, a brand new lodge on the banks of the Zambezi that has only just opened this May. Guests at Old Drift are transferred to the lodge from town by luxury boat, enjoying the sights of the Zambezi before arriving at the luxury getaway. Definitely a lodge to keep a look out for in the future.
Day Nine: Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe side
Victoria Falls River Lodge – Island Treehouse
From here we were transferred by boat along the Zambezi to our final accommodation. Due to space constraints, three guests spent the night at Victoria Falls River Lodge, while the rest of us enjoy the secluded luxury of the Island Treehouse Suites.
What can I say but, oh my God, what a treat. Located on an island just a few minutes by boat from River Lodge, the Island Treehouses are perfect for those who want to escape the rest of the world. With only five suites, each with their own deck and plunge pool, Island Treehouse is an intimate oasis.
Here we enjoyed drinks at the bar followed by a three course dinner, the rest of the group joining us from River Lodge. It was the perfect way to end our African adventure, in style and class, celebrating with new friends.
Day Ten: Departure day
End of a Botswana safari to remember
Today, we bid good bye to our island escape and each other, as the group went their separate ways to catch flights, enjoy activities, and explore more of Vic Falls.
Nicola and I, along with another of our group, had the privilege of experiencing a helicopter flight over the Falls. Did I say that the Falls walking tour was great? Well this is even better. You cannot truly grasp the shear size and magnificence of the Falls until you have seen them from above. If you are heading to the Falls, make sure this experience is on the itinerary. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
We had time to explore a little of Vic Falls town before heading off to the airport. Here we ran into others from the group as we all caught flights to Johannesburg, before separating again to fly off to our different countries. It was a true pleasure to have met this group of fellow agents, to have learnt from each other and experienced this wonderful trip with them. I will miss you all!
I bid goodbye to Nicola in Johannesburg, and caught my flight back to Sydney, and onward to Brisbane. And all of a sudden, my trip was over.
A thousand thanks to Encompass Africa for this amazing experience. To have seen and felt and experienced Africa, a place unlike anywhere else in the world, is a true privilege.
And to all those considering their first time to Africa, I say this: You won’t ever regret it.