On a continent renowned for its dry desert and bushland landscapes, Botswana shines like an emerald. Its northern waterways attract hordes of thirsty game, both predators and prey, some of which migrate from miles around during the dry season when water sources elsewhere turn to dust.
The best way to see this wealth of wildlife is to stay in a safari camp set right among the action. Most camps are very remote, giving you a chance to immerse yourself in the landscape and the animals it supports: from lion and leopard to huge herds of elephant, vivid birdlife and wallowing hippo.
The camps below balance an authentic safari experience with style, comfort and character.
Vumbura Plains Camp, Vumbura Concession, Okavango Delta
Comprising two separate camps, Vumbura Plains is situated within a private concession in the northern Okavango Delta. Here, ample water sources attract a huge variety of wildlife, from elephant and giraffe to hippo and sitatunga (an amphibious antelope).
Both camps have their own lounge, dining and bar area, raised above the ground for views across the delta. With stylish interiors made of wood, they feel almost Scandinavian. There’s also a cushion-strewn deck and an open fire pit, where guests can gather in the evening to share drinks.
With just eight rooms in the north camp (including two family rooms) and six rooms in the south camp, Vumbura Plains is never crowded. Each room is individually housed in a wooden structure with a high thatched roof.
Exceptionally spacious, they feature large outdoor decking areas with a private pool, a sunken lounge, and indoor and outdoor showers with views over the floodplain.
Floating along the water channels in a mokoro (traditional flat-bottomed canoe) with one of Vumbura Plains’ experienced guides gives you close-up views of malachite kingfishers, crakes and little bee-eaters as they flit or wade through the reeds.
The camp also offers day- and night-time game drives around the concession, when you have a chance to spot big cats, wild dog and wildebeest. For something different, head out on foot with a guide for a more detailed insight into the local ecosystem, focusing on plantlife and wildlife you might not spot from a vehicle.
Mealtimes are flexible, so you can spend as long as you wish out on a game drive. From buffet breakfasts and afternoon tea to three-course dinners, the food here is among the best you’ll find in the delta.
Part of the Okavango Community Trust, the camp strives to benefit the local community and reduce its environmental impact. Almost all of its staff are from the local area, and water is treated above ground before re-entering the delta.
Linyanti Ebony and Linyanti Bush Camp, Linyanti Wetlands
A remote wilderness area in northeastern Botswana, the Linyanti Wetlands stretch along the Linyanti River and are a key water source for wildlife during the country’s dry season (May to October). At this time, herds of up to 1,000 buffalo and elephant migrate from miles around to quench their thirst, making for some excellent game viewing.
Set just five minutes’ walk apart among Linyanti’s marshes, Linyanti Ebony and Linyanti Bush Camp both offer an authentic safari experience. The former has just four canvas tents (one of which is designed for families), and you can book it exclusively for large families or groups.
Each tent is air conditioned and high ceilinged, with wooden floors and large windows, as well as a shower and toilet. You also have your own deck with recliners facing out over the surrounding wetlands.
Linyanti Bush Camp has six similarly styled canvas tents furnished with wooden beds and armchairs. Private balconies give views of passing wildlife, which could include elephant, zebra, sable and a host of birdlife.
Each camp has a communal pool area with a raised deck, where you can enjoy private dinners under the stars. The open-sided tented lounge and bar area is another place to take in the views while sipping a sundowner.
The camps run activities including guided game drives, night drives and walking safaris. Best of all, if you’re staying for three nights or more, you have the opportunity to take a 30-minute helicopter flight over the wetlands, spotting wildlife from above. The helicopter lands on an island where you can enjoy a picnic while looking out for hippo wallowing in the water.
&Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp, Nxabega Concession
Tucked among riverine vegetation and ebony trees, this intimate camp looks out over a glassy lagoon and open grassland, where plains game such as zebra, impala, giraffe and wildebeest graze. Here, nine well-spaced canvas tents offer a comfortable, stylish base from which to explore the Okavango’s wildlife.
Raised on a wooden deck, each tent has sides that can open out during the day and a private sala where you can relax while taking in your surroundings. A great deal of attention has been paid to every detail: the en suite bathroom features a rain shower and handmade soaps, while the bedroom is furnished with cowhide mats, teak furniture and a bed that faces the open countryside.
The main camp area includes a swimming pool, a well-stocked bar and a lounge area scattered with books and African art. Meals here are a highlight of each day: generous brunches are served out on the main deck, while dinner can either be taken around the thatched boma’s communal dining table or out in a private bush setting.
There’s a big focus on water-based activities from this camp, with guided mokoro and motorboat rides taking you out among hippo, spoonbills, pied kingfishers and egrets. Bush walks and the usual morning, afternoon and evening game drives are also offered, giving you a chance to see lion, lechwe and tsessebe antelope, elephant and occasional glimpses of leopard skulking in the trees.
Ngoma Safari Lodge, Chobe Forest Reserve
Overlooking the Chobe River, Ngoma Safari Lodge provides uninterrupted views of wildlife such as elephant, leopard, lion and wild dog quenching their thirst — a hide next to the river allows guests to get even closer to the animals without disturbing them.
Offering eight spacious suites with high thatched roofs, the lodge is situated in the Chobe Forest Reserve, which borders Chobe National Park to the west but sees far fewer visitors.
Each suite has a private verandah with a plunge pool. Floor-to-ceiling windows face the river and surrounding floodplain, where you might see grazing buffalo, giraffe, impala and kudu. Suites also feature a bath and an outdoor shower, with two suites offering extra beds for families.
The main lodge — also made of local brick and thatch — is set beside a large baobab tree. It comprises a bar, sitting area, library and large patio where you can enjoy African wines while watching the sunset. There’s also an open fire pit, and telescopes for studying the clear night skies.
Built on community-owned land, the lodge donates a proportion of its profits to the local village. You can visit the village with a guide — many of whom grew up here.
Safari activities from the lodge include river cruises to see hippo, crocodiles and birdlife, game drives into Chobe National Park, and guided walks and night drives through the forest reserve.
Shinde Camp, Shinde Concession, Okavango Delta
This classic safari camp is situated on a large palm island on the edge of Shinde Lagoon in the northern Okavango Delta. On one side it overlooks papyrus beds teeming with birds, on the other wide-open plains that are a hunting ground for lion and leopard.
The camp’s eight safari tents are raised up on decks and decorated in neutral tones to blend in with their surroundings. Each has an en suite bathroom with a walk-in shower and wooden floors furnished with woven rugs. Between safari activities you can sit and watch passing wildlife from your private wooden deck, which either faces open grassland or the delta’s waterways.
Three of the tents, which share a decking area, are known as the ‘Enclave’. They can be booked out privately by large groups, along with private guided activities and dinners.
Meals are otherwise a social affair, served in a beautifully presented communal dining area with a bowed canvas roof and open sides. Everyone gathers around one large table to eat and discuss the day. The main lodge itself is set among ebony and mangosteen trees and features a lounge, a bar and a circular fire pit area on raised wooden decking.
From the camp, you can explore the private Shinde Concession on guided game drives and walking safaris. Water activities are also available year-round, including motorboat and mokoro rides out on the lagoon. Seasonally offered fly fishing trips give you a chance to catch tiger fish and tilapia.
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