As African Safari Experts , we spend every day doing what we love: helping our clients live out their dream African vacations in magical destinations. But it’s not all fun and games – to reach expert level we have to pass serious written examinations (just like college) and personally visit every destination we recommend. In fact, we’re can't advise our clients on a destination until we’ve passed the exams and actually been there. After mastering South Africa – which really is ‘a world in one country’ with every sort of attraction from whales and wine to the Big 5 and resorts like Sun City – we started working on our next destination, Botswana.
August in Southern Africa marks the end of the region’s short-lived winter and the welcome return of warmer temperatures. Down in Cape Town, the last few winter storms wring themselves out and the days get longer, while up in safari country the weather is pretty perfect: sunny, warm and dry.
Famous for its Kalahari setting, Botswana is generally a place of empty blue skies and dazzling sunshine. It does have a rainy season, however - often disarmingly called the Green Season - but don't worry too much about that word 'rainy'. The absolute wettest part of the country records as much precipitation in a year as London or Melbourne do, while the rest of the country gets about enough to fill a coffee cup. You're not going to need to pack an umbrella. And besides, nearly all the rain falls between December and April with soggy February accounting for the bulk of it.
The iconic images of African wildlife are typically of large, leopard-studded trees in rolling savannahs, sweeping vistas with wildebeest and zebra stretching to the horizon, silhouettes of baobabs and dramatic heart-wrenching depictions of animals battling it out against the elements in the continent’s harshest environments. Photographs of these scenes abound in the pages of magazines and coffee table books, and are spread thick and wide across the Internet. But there’s another part of Africa, a wild eden, which offers a different safari experience where fresh images can be found. That place is the Eastern Cape, in South Africa.
With an enviable 300 days of sunshine a year, Botswana is a year-round destination but anyone planning a safari should note that it's not always benignly warm and sunny.
If you are planning a holiday to South Africa, you may find it difficult to decide where to go and what to include. Do you prioritise lions and elephants? Or vineyards and historic battelfields? How about championship golf courses and award-winning beaches? If you choose the latter, do you prefer the chilly Atlantic shores with their penguins and seals, or the balmy Indian Ocean coastline with its turtles and whales?
Botswana was part of my life for five glorious years and I have yet to see wildlife anywhere else that can match it. It's a place where buffalo gather in their hundreds and elephant herds are measured in their thousands.
This morning, we woke very early to take a walk through the reserve, but there were too many signs of lion and a large herd of buffalo near camp, making it unsafe to go on foot.
My first evening on Botswana’s Chobe River was the stuff of dreams. I sat on the roof of a game drive vehicle and watched in open-mouthed wonder as herd after herd of elephants poured out of the surrounding forest and down to the river to drink. Many younger ones broke into a run, their trunks and ears flapping in excitement; the older ones usually managed to keep to a dignified pace – at least until the last few yards. The countless trampling feet sent dust billowing into the air, turning the setting sun into a huge, hanging orb of fire.
It’s early morning and the still-cool air is filled with the buzzing and chirping of countless insects and birds. You’re walking single file along a dusty hippo trail when suddenly your guide gives the signal and you freeze: up ahead a lioness wanders into view, fixes you in the gaze of her savannah-gold eyes, then with a flick of her tail slinks away again into the surrounding bush.