Botswana Wildlife Spectacular

The photographic wonders of the Okavango and Chobe

The superb and rare African Wild Dog is one of the main targets and is one of the greatest prizes in African wildlife watching (Grant Reed)

The superb and rare African Wild Dog is one of the main targets and is one of the greatest prizes in African wildlife watching (Grant Reed)


Monday 12th November - Saturday 24th November 2018
(13 days)

Post tour extension to the mighty Victoria Falls on request.
Leader: a Wild Images leader
Group Size Limit: 6


Potential Photographic Highlights: 

  • The incredible scenery and wildlife of the Moremi Game Reserve and the Khwai Concession.
  • Amazing wildlife in the world famous Chobe National Park
  • Excellent chances of great encounters with Wild Dogs (African Hunting Dogs)
  • Frequent encounters with large cats
  • Amazing daily encounters with a fantastic variety of other large game
  • A superb variety of bird life, much of which is approachable and photogenic
  • Transport by extended safari Landrover or Toyota Landcruiser with large opening roof hatch. The perfect photography platform that can go anywhere
  • Maximum just 6 group members in the vehicle and a window seat for everyone
  • Only one vehicle and a very small group size for the best possible photosafari experience

Botswana is home to some of Africa’s best parks and most diverse wildlife and yet is relatively little-known amongst Western travellers. One reason is that the great national parks and conservation areas are still real wildernesses that are both difficult and expensive to access. This wonderful safari will take us from Maun in the southwest of the country to Kasane in the northeast, passing through the Moremi Game Reserve, the freedom of the Khwai Concession Area and Chobe National Park as we go. But this is no ordinary safari. We will be staying in spacious and comfortable tented accommodation, (including beds and bed linen, with a private bathroom en-suite!) in exclusive private campsites within the national parks and reserves, whilst travelling in our customized safari vehicles! Now that’s the way to get to the heart of Africa’s wildlife in comfort and style!


Itinerary

Day 1  Our adventure will begin at Maun International Airport from where we will be transfered to our hotel for an overnight stay.

Day 2  This morning we will board our safari vehicle and make the journey Xakanaxa for a three nights stay in our tented camp. There will be plenty to keep us amused during the journey. On the open plains large herds of buffalo and lechwe can be seen, large breeding herds of African Elephant that live in the mopane scrub and in the waterways, pods of hippopotamus are a common sight.

Days 3-4 During our two days in the Xakanaxa region we will explore the surrounding wilderness of the Moremi Game Reserve on morning and afternoon game drives. Moremi lies on the eastern extremity of the Okavango Delta. Habitats here range from wide-open floodplains, marshes, lagoons, papyrus fringed channels, woodland and savannah. As a result of the extremely variable habitat the diversity of both wildlife and birdlife is excellent and we will not know which way to point the cameras. Moremi is amongst the best game reserves in Africa for viewing the endangered African Wild Dog and Xakanaxa is home to a resident herd of several hundred Cape Buffalo whose range covers the territories of at least 4 prides of Lion which may often be seen flanking the ever moving herd. Breeding herds of elephants move between their browsing areas in the mopane forests and the fresh water of the Okavango. Red Lechwe are one of the more unusual antelope species and commonly found here, while the rare Sitatunga antelope may be spotted along the waterways of the Xakanaxa Lagoon. The rich diversity of habitats is also of course home to a large diversity of birds, and some of the more obvious and/or interesting photographic subjects we may encounter include African Skimmer, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, Goliath Heron, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Tawny Eagle, African Fish Eagle, many of most of Botswana’s hornbills including Red-billed, Southern Yellow-billed, African Grey, Bradfield’s and the mighty Southern Ground Hornbills and numerous other goodies including the globally threatened Slaty Egret and Wattled Crane.

Day 5  Today, following an early breakfast, we will take a slow drive through the Moremi Game Reserve northeast towards the Khwai Community Area for a three nights stay in our tented camp. The Manuchira Channel is known as the Khwai River at its eastern most extremity and today’s journey follows this water course, with the track weaving from the riverside and floodplains into the mopane veld and the woodlands that make Khwai one of the most scenic areas of the Okavango. We pass the magnificent Dombo Hippo Pools in the morning stopping to enjoy the scenery and the antics of the resident Hippopotamus. The western mopane veld is home to breeding herds of elephants whilst the eastern reaches of Khwai is home to some impressive old bulls. The mature bulls revel in the cool waters of the Khwai and are far more approachable while drinking and bathing than the breeding herds. The river has an unusually high density of hippos as well as some huge Nile Crocodiles. Predators including Leopard, Cheetah, Serval and Lion are all possible along this route and both Xakanaxa and Khwai are included in the home ranges of two different packs of wild dogs. General game is common and includes Southern Giraffe, Burchell’s Zebra, Tsessebe and Red Lechwe with the spectacular Roan and Sable Antelopes being less common but possible residents, so, along with all the birds we will see today, the cameras should be busy!!

Days 6-7  The Khwai River forms a boundary between the reserve and the community area, and for these two days we will explore the Khwai floodplains on game drives both during the day and at night. Exploring after dark with spotlights offers an opportunity to experience some of the nocturnal animals that are rarely encountered during the day. We will also have the opportunity to explore the surrounding wilderness on foot and enjoy an up close and personal encounter with Botswana’s flora and fauna. It is important to note that night drives and guided walks are not permitted within the national parks and reserves and these activities are conducted outside the boundaries of the Moremi Game Reserve in the Khwai community area. We will split our time between the dry-land habitats of the lead-wood and camel-thorn woodlands and savannahs and the riverside and marshy back-waters of the Khwai. Time permitting we may visit the lagoons and waterways of Xakanaxa where the largest heronry in southern Africa exists. The Khwai region boasts excellent populations of both bull and breeding herds of African Elephants. Lion, Leopard, Serval and African Wildcat are regular predators of the region with Wild Dog and Cheetah less likely though possible. Buffalo use this area seasonally with large herds moving in during the summer rains and the swampy areas in the west are home to Red Lechwe. Other ungulates include Tsessebe, Blue Wildebeest, Giraffe, the impressive Greater Kudu, Sable and Roan Antelopes and Impala. The whole area is also one of Botswana’s birding Mecca’s, with raptors and waterbirds being particularly abundant.

Day 8  Today, we head further north as we make our way to Chobe National Park, were we will spend three nights camping in an exclusive wilderness campsite in the Savuti region. It will be a fascinating drive as we pass through the dessert-like landscape which is evidence of the Paleo-Lake Makgadikgadi that dried up some ten thousand years ago. The most challenging part of the trip is crossing the Magwikwe sand-ridge that formed the shoreline for this massive inland sea. The winding track through this deep sand makes for interesting travel! The old lake bed is now the Mababe Depression. The dense clay floor of the depression results in high protein feed for wildlife and the area teams with game after the rains. During the rainy season the depression is impassable due to the “cotton soil” and alternative routes must be used! Today is a day when anything could happen! The range of habitat that is covered encompasses most of the habitat types of northern Botswana. We pass through excellent Lion country and some of the best Cheetah country that our safari will cover. Elephant occur throughout the drive but are more common at the start and end of the drive where permanent surface water can be found. The Mababe Depression is a birder’s paradise. The nutritious grasses that grow on the rich soils provide excellent seed for an impressive array of finch-like birds. Among these are the magnificently coloured Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-cheeked Waxbill, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Paradise Whydah. These in turn provide a good food source for small raptors such as Gabar Goshawk, Red-necked Falcon and Lanner Falcon. It is not only the small birds that feed on the grass seeds, but rodents too. There are annual outbreaks of huge numbers of rats and mice. As a result good numbers of Secretary Birds, Tawny Eagles, Black-shouldered Kites are often present and provide more distractions for the cameras!

Days 9-10  Unlike the vast majority of the country, Savuti, in Chobe National Park, is not a totally flat landscape. Large outcrops of volcanic rock reach up out of the Kalahari sands, towering over the endless savannah. These hills provide habitat for a completely different array of small wildlife, birds and plants. The Savuti Marsh has been the stage for many of the most dramatic wildlife documentaries in Africa. The wide open country, good ungulate populations and particularly strong prides of Lions and Spotted Hyaena clans make for dramatic wildlife interaction and excellent viewing opportunities. The now dry Savuti Channel runs through this landscape linking the dry sand-veld, the waterholes, the hills and the grassland that was the Savuti Marsh. Undoubtedly the main attraction here is the interaction between lions and elephants. The area is inhabited by a huge pride of Lions with numbers fluctuating from 20-30 members. These remarkable predators have learned over the years how to hunt these massive pachyderms that are supposedly above predation. Launching their attack under darkness and using their numbers, they manage to kill adolescent and even young adult elephants. The marsh is prime Cheetah country too and in the wet season it is not unusual to have African Wild Dogs hunting here too. The surface water that is pumped by the Government here provides a major attraction for birdlife. In the dry season thousands of sandgrouse and other species come down to drink in the mornings and are under constant surveillance by a variety of raptors. Red-crested Korhaan are common in the Kalahari Apple-leaf (Lonchocarpus nelsii) veld and the marsh is the home for good numbers of other interesting birds such as Northern Black Korhaan, Dickenson’s Kestrel and Red-necked Falcon.

Day 11  Today we will leave Savuti to travel along the Chobe River arriving at our campsite in the early afternoon for a two nights stay. The drive takes us through the stunted mopane scrub of the Goha clay basin, across the sand-ridge and through the wonderful Zambezi teak woodlands of the Chobe Forest Reserve and along the Chobe River itself. The Chobe floodplain is tens of kilometres wide and in years of exceptional rains the water stretches as far as the eye can see. While there are community areas that we pass through that are settled by local tribes, for the vast majority of the day’s drive we pass through wild country where wildlife moves un-inhibited by fences or man. Roan and Sable antelope thrive in the teak woodlands where the low density of predators and lack of competition for food by other ungulates makes this prime habitat for these large ungulates. Leopard occur in these woodlands in low numbers but they are highly secretive and seldom seen. The Goha region has natural waterholes that hold water well into the dry season and herds of buffalo, Burchell’s Zebra, greater kudu and elephant come down to drink. A variety of interesting birds also occur.
 
Day 12  The Chobe River is presided over by an impressive sand-ridge. Along this sand-ridge broad-leafed woodland is the dominant vegetation. As we move into the valley the impact of the high elephant population is felt with the paucity of large trees that typically line the rivers of sub-tropical Africa and the dense tangled masses of knobbly combretum and woolly caper that appear impervious to the constant onslaught of browsers. The river itself is broad and meandering and in the flood season it is an impressive sight. To the east, outside of the park, lie the riparian forests that are home to so many of the more tropical species whose ranges end abruptly in north-eastern Botswana. Our final full day will be another packed with wildlife. Much of the Chobe’s wildlife come to drink in the latter half of the morning and early afternoon when the heat excites their thirst. This is one of the best places to see Roan and Sable Antelopes. Breeding herds of elephant seem to be around every corner here in the dry season and the massive herds of Cape Buffalo are constantly flanked by the ever-hungry Lions of the Chobe. This is one of the highest lion densities of any National Park or Game Reserve in southern Africa. Puku Antelope occur nowhere else in southern Africa except here on the Chobe floodplains. With the diminishing woodlands and thickets the magnificent Chobe Bushbuck is becoming ever-more scarce. The western Chobe also supports strong herds of Burchell’s Zebra. Again, a variety of interesting birds will crop-up through the day.

Day 13  Following breakfast and an early morning game drive, our safari ends in Kasane mid morning, at Chobe Safari Lodge. Transfers to Kasane airport can be arranged.
 

PLEASE NOTE: Although we make every effort to adhere to schedules and itineraries, these are subject to change subject to weather, roads, and animal movements and availability. You will be notified of any changes.

VICTORIA FALLS OPTION
As the safari ends in Kasane, it is very easy to extend your holiday and add in a tour to the incomparable Victoria Falls. The Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) are on the mighty Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls are some of the largest in the world and are well worth a visit if you can spare an extra day or two. We would recommend travelling to Livingstone in Zimbabwe to see the falls (only about one and a half hours from Kasane), where you could spend one or two nights. It is easy to take a flight from Livingstone to Johannesburg. The price will depend on the number of people wishing to take the option. Please indicate on your booking form if you are interested in this option and we will quote you nearer to the time when we know how many are interested.

Accommodation & Road Transport: During the safari we will be staying in exclusive luxury tented camps which are specially erected for our stays in private campsites within the national parks and reserves. The tented accommodation is both spacious and comfortable, and includes beds and bed linen, with a private bathroom en-suite. The camp is serviced by a safari chef and camp assistants, complete with a supply vehicle. Road transport is by a customized safari vehicle which is specially designed for wildlife viewing and photography. The few main roads are mostly good or reasonable (but there are also plenty of rough tracks in the sanctuaries and some ‘off-road’ driving).

Walking etc: The walking effort is easy throughout. Walking is restricted to a few specified areas in the national parks/game reserves. This is of little hindrance and indeed we can approach many large birds and mammals far more closely in a vehicle than we could on foot.

Climate: Most days will be warm or hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and there may well be some rain.

These are provisional prices

Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike many tour operators who are still showing prices based on hugely higher and very outdated pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assurred that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is a significant recovery by the Pound you will receive the benefit by way of a price reduction.

Tour Price: £5490, €6480, $7190 Maun/Kasane.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services. Kindly note that, for this tour, tips for local drivers/guides and for camp staff are excluded. Please allow around US$400.

Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices will be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a significant change in the exchange rate. See booking information.

Single Accommodation Supplement: Nothing! Five of the 'luxury' safari tents are available for single occupancy at no additional charge.

Deposit: £700, €850, $900.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

The stunning hippos of the Dombo Hippo Pools are a real delight (James Gifford)

The stunning hippos of the Dombo Hippo Pools are a real delight (James Gifford)

Large raptors such as this Lappet-faced Vulture are a common sight (James Gifford)

Large raptors such as this Lappet-faced Vulture are a common sight (James Gifford)

A couple of photogenic Gemsbok square up to one another (James Gifford)

A couple of photogenic Gemsbok square up to one another (James Gifford)

... while other Gemsbok make the stunning sunset that bit more special! (James Gifford)

... while other Gemsbok make the stunning sunset that bit more special! (James Gifford)

A Great Egret looks on at the storm clouds approaching (James Gifford)

A Great Egret looks on at the storm clouds approaching (James Gifford)

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