Botswana’s mobile magic
It’s nearly 17 years since I set off on my first educational trip with Aardvark Safaris. Back then, a novice in the safari world, I had no idea what to expect and admit I was a little alarmed by the ‘mobile’ and ‘camping’ aspects of the Uncharted Africa safari I was to do in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It turned out to be one of my favourite African experiences and I’ll still wax lyrical about the magic of a mobile camping safari.
To return with friends, as I did last week, was an absolute joy. Six of us, accompanied by guides Super (they do names well here; we met his colleagues Chemical and Bones later in the trip) and Rhu, set off on an adventure full of laughter, wildlife and excitement.
Just driving from the airstrip, the air scented by wild sage and that extraordinary African light, made me wonder why I’d taken so long to get back to Botswana. The years rolled right back as we arrived our private tented camp, pitched on the edge of a small lagoon with gorgeous views across the water. Missing bags – at that stage still in London – were quickly forgotten as the cheerful camp crew offered a selection of coats to go with the assorted bits and pieces pooled from our hand luggage.
For five days we cross-crossed ‘NG12’ (seems human-kind have taken the fun names) in the north-eastern corner of the Okavango Delta. Super and Rhu know all the best spots, having been tasked with exploring when Uncharted Africa were granted the concession a couple of years ago. Grassy plains and woodland punctuate the lagoons and watery channels for which the Okavango Delta is so famous. And apart from the one or two other vehicles this pristine Botswana wilderness and its wildlife was ours alone.
The animals looked in wonderful condition – plenty of well-fed lion, many elephant (very relaxed apart from one herd we left at high speed), and glossy sable. Zebra, wildebeest and giraffe strolled through the plains alongside water specialists reedbuck and red lechwe.
A dozen or so wild dog pups scampered outside their den one afternoon and it was encouraging to spot a separate pack of these rare animals hunting the following day. An aardwolf, honey badger, and leopard with cub all made an appearance. The hyena were as bold as ever with several cheeky raids on the camp furniture – cushions and brass water jugs proving irresistible targets for a night of mischief.
I was delighted to find that the ‘mobile’ and ‘camping’ aspects of the trip are much the same as they were on my first visit. The sites are chosen for their proximity to wildlife as well as scenic settings, and the en-suite tents have everything you could need, updated with a flush loo rather than the long drop I remember.
Our lagoon-side setting of days one and two was swapped for a remote valley on days four and five. To allow for the logistics of moving the camp, night three is spent fly camping in the bush. First time around this had me considering my sanity, but it turned out to be the trip highlight. Arriving at our island camp, on this occasion by mokoro (a traditional dug out canoe), having slipped silently through the lily pads of the delta, was absolutely magical.
The three tents, mosquito nets held up by wooden poles, were likened by one of our party to a fancy art installation and another to a school dormitory. For me, a night under the stars is one of Africa’s finest treats and this was as good as ever, complete with the night-long chorus from hippo and lion. The following morning’s breakfast chat was an amusing discussion about who’d heard what (and whether anyone had been brave enough to venture to the loo!) It’s one of those ‘did I really do that’ experiences so unique to safari.
I am quite sure I’d never have contemplated going on a mobile safari before I started work at Aardvark Safaris. But I’m so glad to have discovered what a wonderful experience it is – it’s not just me either; I’ve five fellow converts from this trip. If you like adventure, want to see wildlife without anyone else, appreciate being off grid for a few days and enjoy the simply priceless luxury of space to yourself, then you must add a mobile camping safari to your bucket list.
Any questions on mobile safaris in Botswana?
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We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.