Botswana | Delta Floodplains & Waterways | 6 Nights The Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is an incredibly dynamic ecosystem. Depending on the season, you may even witness changes during your luxury Botswana safari. This dynamism is reflected in the variety of wildlife to be seen, the different activities and experiences on offer, and even the contrasting styles of the lodges.

Three nights at Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

Our airstrip transfer into Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge became something of a game drive in itself, as we were detained by the grooming and playing of a troop of baboon. ‘Look!’ called our guide as we arrived, ‘A pangolin’. He was joking, of course, but the timber roofing scales of the lodge looked like the armour plating of this creature (which would turn out to be one of few we didn’t see on our luxury safari). The floodplain views were enticing enough that we chose to spend the afternoon on a leisurely mokoro trip, photographing the colourful painted reed frogs that clung to the papyrus stems. Our early morning game drive’s ‘golden hour’ of soft light turned out to be worth its weight. Our guide tuned into the agitated squirrel calls, which led him to a female leopard, lying in the shade of a sausage tree. Above her, slung over a branch, was the bushbuck she’d killed during the night. She seemed reluctant to move until a hyena came sniffing, and then she shot back up the trunk and lay next to her meal. The sight of this supine feline inspired a post-lunch massage at our room, which segued into a lazy afternoon by our plunge pool and a private deck dinner. I’d read about the rock art of the Tsodilo Hills before our luxury Botswana safari, and then a discussion around the campfire last night led us to a scenic helicopter flight booking today. As we sped along at low level, flocks of white egret rose, and a rare sitatunga paused to stare. Myriad blues gave way to drier hues as we left the delta. The Tsodilo Hills are visible from afar, standing proud of the surrounding flatter terrain. Stylised red and white animal paintings created by the San told of their respect for nature and their own rituals, while seeing the ‘Tsodilo penguin’ painting added a surrealist touch.

Our airstrip transfer into Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge became something of a game drive in itself, as we were detained by the grooming and playing of a troop of baboon. ‘Look!’ called our guide as we arrived, ‘A pangolin’. He was joking, of course, but the timber roofing scales of the lodge looked like the armour plating of this creature (which would turn out to be one of few we didn’t see on our luxury safari). The floodplain views were enticing enough that we chose to spend the afternoon on a leisurely mokoro trip, photographing the colourful painted reed frogs that clung to the papyrus stems.

Our early morning game drive’s ‘golden hour’ of soft light turned out to be worth its weight. Our guide tuned into the agitated squirrel calls, which led him to a female leopard, lying in the shade of a sausage tree. Above her, slung over a branch, was the bushbuck she’d killed during the night. She seemed reluctant to move until a hyena came sniffing, and then she shot back up the trunk and lay next to her meal. The sight of this supine feline inspired a post-lunch massage at our room, which segued into a lazy afternoon by our plunge pool and a private deck dinner.

I’d read about the rock art of the Tsodilo Hills before our luxury Botswana safari, and then a discussion around the campfire last night led us to a scenic helicopter flight booking today. As we sped along at low level, flocks of white egret rose, and a rare sitatunga paused to stare. Myriad blues gave way to drier hues as we left the delta. The Tsodilo Hills are visible from afar, standing proud of the surrounding flatter terrain. Stylised red and white animal paintings created by the San told of their respect for nature and their own rituals, while seeing the ‘Tsodilo penguin’ painting added a surrealist touch.

Three nights at Vumbura Plains

Cappuccinos and sunrise views didn’t make leaving any easier, but we were also excited to head on to Vumbura Plains. At the airstrip, our guide identified 11 different species by their tracks in the white dust before the light aircraft landed.From the long bridge leading to Vumbura Plains, we could appreciate its very different architecture: straight lines and a flat-roofed main area. The genius of the design became apparent as we viewed the floodplains from under the shade of immense jackalberry trees – the lodge was a frame, but not a distraction. Our afternoon game drive involved a sighting of a herd of striking sable antelope. Returning after dark, we were led into the boma for a fireside evening of traditional food and singing. My partner’s protests about joining in with the dancing were in vain; the head chef would brook no refusal! The first roar of our second day here was not a lion, but the burners of the hot-air balloon carrying us aloft. We rose into the Okavango Delta skies as the sun was making the same journey, and soon incredible panoramas were opening beneath us. Most animals ignored our odd, bulbous shadow, with lion being a notable and curious exception. Our guide explained the inner workings of the delta, including how islands are formed and why so many of them only have trees on their fringes. A giant crocodile on a sandbar was the most impressive of the many creatures we saw. Wild dog had been spotted very early on our last morning, so we devoted the day to trying to finding them again. Their ability to cover ground quickly meant they could have been almost anywhere. Amazing teamwork by the guides meant we caught up with the pack in mid-afternoon (after taking delivery of a delicious picnic, so we could stay out longer). They stood on the banks of a channel as their intended prey, a lechwe, swam for its life. It crossed safely, while the dogs let fear of crocodiles trump their hunger – and instead of a kill, we witnessed a display of social behaviour.

Cappuccinos and sunrise views didn’t make leaving any easier, but we were also excited to head on to Vumbura Plains. At the airstrip, our guide identified 11 different species by their tracks in the white dust before the light aircraft landed.

From the long bridge leading to Vumbura Plains, we could appreciate its very different architecture: straight lines and a flat-roofed main area. The genius of the design became apparent as we viewed the floodplains from under the shade of immense jackalberry trees – the lodge was a frame, but not a distraction. Our afternoon game drive involved a sighting of a herd of striking sable antelope. Returning after dark, we were led into the boma for a fireside evening of traditional food and singing. My partner’s protests about joining in with the dancing were in vain; the head chef would brook no refusal!

The first roar of our second day here was not a lion, but the burners of the hot-air balloon carrying us aloft. We rose into the Okavango Delta skies as the sun was making the same journey, and soon incredible panoramas were opening beneath us. Most animals ignored our odd, bulbous shadow, with lion being a notable and curious exception. Our guide explained the inner workings of the delta, including how islands are formed and why so many of them only have trees on their fringes. A giant crocodile on a sandbar was the most impressive of the many creatures we saw.

Wild dog had been spotted very early on our last morning, so we devoted the day to trying to finding them again. Their ability to cover ground quickly meant they could have been almost anywhere. Amazing teamwork by the guides meant we caught up with the pack in mid-afternoon (after taking delivery of a delicious picnic, so we could stay out longer). They stood on the banks of a channel as their intended prey, a lechwe, swam for its life. It crossed safely, while the dogs let fear of crocodiles trump their hunger – and instead of a kill, we witnessed a display of social behaviour.

What sets it apart

Our luxury Botswana safari stands out for the incredible variety it entailed. We were enthralled by the differing landscapes, and by the way that a short hop in a light aircraft or a morning game drive could reveal completely different vistas that still somehow fitted into this exciting jigsaw puzzle.The changing habitats naturally meant a great many animal and bird species seemed completely at home here – more than once, we remarked on how healthy and relaxed even the prey species seemed. The interwoven patterns of water and land made many different means of exploring available to us. We lost count of how many different types of transport we used, whether cruising serenely past papyrus beds in a mokoro, or edging slowly along a sandy track as a leopard stalked along ahead of us. The two lodges we stayed at differed completely in architecture and style. Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge had made a successful effort to blend into its surroundings, while the more contemporary look of Vumbura Plains meant that it unapologetically hadn’t. Both camps however were completely in earnest when it came to their efforts to create the lightest possible footprint in this pristine environment. Change, they say, is a constant and we certainly found that to be true (and wonderfully so) in the Okavango Delta. A second constant was the very high standard of service we experienced: warm smiles, great food and good wine throughout. Together with unrivalled game viewing, it made for a winning combination.  

Our luxury Botswana safari stands out for the incredible variety it entailed. We were enthralled by the differing landscapes, and by the way that a short hop in a light aircraft or a morning game drive could reveal completely different vistas that still somehow fitted into this exciting jigsaw puzzle.

The changing habitats naturally meant a great many animal and bird species seemed completely at home here – more than once, we remarked on how healthy and relaxed even the prey species seemed.

The interwoven patterns of water and land made many different means of exploring available to us. We lost count of how many different types of transport we used, whether cruising serenely past papyrus beds in a mokoro, or edging slowly along a sandy track as a leopard stalked along ahead of us.

The two lodges we stayed at differed completely in architecture and style. Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge had made a successful effort to blend into its surroundings, while the more contemporary look of Vumbura Plains meant that it unapologetically hadn’t. Both camps however were completely in earnest when it came to their efforts to create the lightest possible footprint in this pristine environment.

Change, they say, is a constant and we certainly found that to be true (and wonderfully so) in the Okavango Delta. A second constant was the very high standard of service we experienced: warm smiles, great food and good wine throughout. Together with unrivalled game viewing, it made for a winning combination.

 

  • Varied scenery ranging from mopane woodland, floodplains and islands at Vumbura Plains, to a tangle of channels and streams around Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge.
  • Opportunity to enjoy a mokoro safari and hot-air ballooning, plus seeing wild dog on game drive.
  • All safari costs include local flights, transfers and accommodation, while meals, activities and extras vary by lodge/hotel. For an outline of costs please click here, and for more information on these specific lodges/hotels and what they offer, please see Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge and Vumbura Plains respectively.

 

Day 1–3

Stretch your legs with a drinks stop in the Okavango Delta. © &Beyond

You’ll be met as you disembark from your international flight at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in South Africa, and assisted through customs and immigration. After a scheduled flight to Maun in Botswana, you’ll take another scheduled flight to the Chitabe Concession in the Okavango Delta. You’ll then take a transfer to Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 4–6

Elephant are common in the Okavango Delta. © Wilderness Safaris

After a transfer from Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Maun. From there, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Mombo, and then onto the Kwedi Concession in the Okavango Delta. You’ll then take a transfer to Vumbura Plains, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 7

South Africa is famous for its big-cat sightings. © Andrew Schoeman

After a transfer from Vumbura Plains to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Mombo, then another on to Maun. From there, you’ll take a scheduled flight to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in South Africa, to connect with your international flight.

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