Bush sundowners are a highlight at Kings Pool..

Botswana & Mozambique | Kalahari, Lagoon Hopping & Private Island | 12 Nights Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Linyanti Wildlife Reserve & The Quirimbas Archipelago

Combining a luxury Botswana safari with time in the Mozambique islands permits rewarding exploration of pristine ecosystems ranging from the arid to the rather wet. While safari and beach experiences are of course quite different, they complement each other perfectly and can both be enjoyed from a succession of luxury lodges.

Three nights at Kalahari Plains Camp

Like a magician’s hat, the area around Kalahari Plains Camp proved to contain far more than we could see at first. Our guide explained that while the green flush from the first summer rains had started to fade, more life-giving rain was expected and the massed herds of springbok and oryx were lingering in the hope of more fresh green shoots. The predators waited with them, and we were astonished and delighted to see the most impressive of them, a black-maned Kalahari lion, panting in the shade of a low bush during the drive from the airstrip to the lodge. It was enough for us to relax the rest of the day.Having read Cry of the Kalahari we wanted to visit Deception Valley, and our guide was just as keen to take us there the next day. We made a full day of it, and realised that we’d perhaps been deceived as to the true nature of the Kalahari, as we spotted more and more species. The day’s highlight was undoubtedly a female cheetah and her three cubs. Full bellies indicated that they’d fed well and recently, but they still kept half an eye on some nearby springbok. A shady picnic and siesta under some stunted acacia trees was a new experience, and one we really enjoyed.The next day, we stayed rather closer to home – our new home, that is. Two of the San staff took us on an interpretative walk along the fringes of the immense pan in front of the lodge. We only walked 2km, but travelled far in terms of our understanding of the Kalahari and the skills required to survive it. We saw how to trap birds using only twisted grass stems and tasted tsamma melons. Our fire-lighting efforts were unspectacular, and my partner, impressed at the San’s almost instant fire, commented that we would have made very cold and hungry desert dwellers.

Like a magician’s hat, the area around Kalahari Plains Camp proved to contain far more than we could see at first. Our guide explained that while the green flush from the first summer rains had started to fade, more life-giving rain was expected and the massed herds of springbok and oryx were lingering in the hope of more fresh green shoots. The predators waited with them, and we were astonished and delighted to see the most impressive of them, a black-maned Kalahari lion, panting in the shade of a low bush during the drive from the airstrip to the lodge. It was enough for us to relax the rest of the day.

Having read Cry of the Kalahari we wanted to visit Deception Valley, and our guide was just as keen to take us there the next day. We made a full day of it, and realised that we’d perhaps been deceived as to the true nature of the Kalahari, as we spotted more and more species. The day’s highlight was undoubtedly a female cheetah and her three cubs. Full bellies indicated that they’d fed well and recently, but they still kept half an eye on some nearby springbok. A shady picnic and siesta under some stunted acacia trees was a new experience, and one we really enjoyed.

The next day, we stayed rather closer to home – our new home, that is. Two of the San staff took us on an interpretative walk along the fringes of the immense pan in front of the lodge. We only walked 2km, but travelled far in terms of our understanding of the Kalahari and the skills required to survive it. We saw how to trap birds using only twisted grass stems and tasted tsamma melons. Our fire-lighting efforts were unspectacular, and my partner, impressed at the San’s almost instant fire, commented that we would have made very cold and hungry desert dwellers.

Three nights at Kings Pool

The relatively short length of our light aircraft flight from the Kalahari to the Linyanti belied the complete change in landscape and wildlife we found on landing – our Botswana safari was to be a tale of two contrasting regions.The Linyanti region was geographically and scenically closer to the Okavango Delta than to the Kalahari, but just as wonderful as either. The mopane woodlands were green again, and the many pans had filled with water. While the elephant had dispersed, a number of the older bulls remained around the lodge, and we saw a wealth of other wildlife on every game drive. We spent our first afternoon in the sunken hide, a specially-modified shipping container buried next to a popular pan from which we could easily take pictures of elephant eyelashes and feet, given our unique vantage point.With a borrowed pair of Swarovski binoculars in hand, we wanted to work on our birding skills the next day, and our guide, Khan, was the right man for the job. From patient herons among the reeds to vigilant fish eagles, but for Khan we would’ve lost track of the species we saw. Carmine bee-eaters flew alongside our vehicle, snapping up any insects that we disturbed in the grass. Travelling at our speed, they appeared to hang motionless in the air. Our afternoon ended with sundowners at their breeding colony: dozens of these agile birds swooping and weaving above tunnel nests they’d dug into the sandy ground.From our room, we could gaze across the lagoon towards Namibia’s Caprivi Strip – a view once enjoyed by Swedish royalty (hence Kings Pool). The Camp is located on an ancient fault line, one of the final wrinkles of the Great Rift Valley. This a region of lakes and channels, and Khan didn’t have to try hard to persuade us to spend the afternoon lagoon hopping – driving from one to the next along this ancient boundary. We had plenty of opportunity to watch hippo – one of our favourite animals – as well as to add to our birding checklist. And enjoy a G&T, of course.

The relatively short length of our light aircraft flight from the Kalahari to the Linyanti belied the complete change in landscape and wildlife we found on landing – our Botswana safari was to be a tale of two contrasting regions.

The Linyanti region was geographically and scenically closer to the Okavango Delta than to the Kalahari, but just as wonderful as either. The mopane woodlands were green again, and the many pans had filled with water. While the elephant had dispersed, a number of the older bulls remained around the lodge, and we saw a wealth of other wildlife on every game drive. We spent our first afternoon in the sunken hide, a specially-modified shipping container buried next to a popular pan from which we could easily take pictures of elephant eyelashes and feet, given our unique vantage point.

With a borrowed pair of Swarovski binoculars in hand, we wanted to work on our birding skills the next day, and our guide, Khan, was the right man for the job. From patient herons among the reeds to vigilant fish eagles, but for Khan we would’ve lost track of the species we saw. Carmine bee-eaters flew alongside our vehicle, snapping up any insects that we disturbed in the grass. Travelling at our speed, they appeared to hang motionless in the air. Our afternoon ended with sundowners at their breeding colony: dozens of these agile birds swooping and weaving above tunnel nests they’d dug into the sandy ground.

From our room, we could gaze across the lagoon towards Namibia’s Caprivi Strip – a view once enjoyed by Swedish royalty (hence Kings Pool). The Camp is located on an ancient fault line, one of the final wrinkles of the Great Rift Valley. This a region of lakes and channels, and Khan didn’t have to try hard to persuade us to spend the afternoon lagoon hopping – driving from one to the next along this ancient boundary. We had plenty of opportunity to watch hippo – one of our favourite animals – as well as to add to our birding checklist. And enjoy a G&T, of course.

Five nights at Vamizi Island

A medley of aircraft large and small were involved in our journey from northern Botswana to the Quirimbas Archipelago, and we added some urban energy to our trip with a one-night stopover at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg, allowing our feet to touch the ground, and to tap along to the happening beat of life on Africa’s most vibrant streets.If heaven is a place on earth, then our arrival at Vamizi Island left us in no doubts as to its exact location. Within minutes, we’d discarded our flip-flops (and wouldn’t need them again until we left). Delightful floral scents danced around us, and if chaos theory is true, then the rest of the world must’ve been experiencing severe weather, with so many butterflies flapping their wings. On Vamizi Island, they contributed to a sense of peace and harmony that became even more pronounced as we crossed powdery sand in front of our villa to revive our travel-weary toes in the warm ocean.Having been spoiled by expert pilots and guides, and felt that we should travel somewhere under own steam the next day. We’d seen the sea kayaks pulled up on the beach and they looked like just the excuse we needed. With our guide paddling alongside us, we explored creeks and mangrove forests, running the gauntlet of plunging kingfishers and the beady eyes of fish eagles. On our return leg of our kayak adventure, we ventured further offshore – there was no real swell to speak of – and were joined by a small pod of dolphin, who seemed to be encouraging us to join them in porpoising and leaping clear of the surface.The following day we couldn’t wait to take the plunge, and together with the lodge’s local divemaster as our guide, we scuba dived the Quirimbas, regularly rated as one of the top dive locales on earth. The god of the sea had flexed his muscles here: the number and variety of fish species was completely captivating. There was only one brief moment of relative emptiness, when schools parted to allow a small black-tipped reef shark to pass through. We’d hoped to see its much larger cousins, whale sharks, but it must’ve been their day off. Back on the boat, R&R cocktails rounded the day off in style.After a delicious breakfast on our private deck, we enjoyed spa treatments before my partner gave me a challenge. And so I found myself trying to balance on a stand-up paddle board and inevitably spending more time in the water than on it. Not that I was complaining, although my core muscles began to protest after a while. We decided on an easier mode of transport: we rode to the local school on bikes from the lodge, arriving as the bell rang for the end of class. Smiling faces showed that the delicate balance between community upliftment and ecotourism was being maintained here.We leapt at the chance to spend time on our own sandbar on our last full day, with nothing more than a parasol, a picnic, and a paperback each. We whiled away a perfect day, dipping into our hamper and the ocean, inventing a new form of beach cricket, and collecting shells. As the tide began to rise, we were collected by the lodge inflatable which transferred us to a dhow for a chance to pay one last visit to the reefs, but snorkelling instead of diving. We took turns to swim down to view life on the reef and were joined briefly by a hawksbill turtle.

A medley of aircraft large and small were involved in our journey from northern Botswana to the Quirimbas Archipelago, and we added some urban energy to our trip with a one-night stopover at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg, allowing our feet to touch the ground, and to tap along to the happening beat of life on Africa’s most vibrant streets.

If heaven is a place on earth, then our arrival at Vamizi Island left us in no doubts as to its exact location. Within minutes, we’d discarded our flip-flops (and wouldn’t need them again until we left). Delightful floral scents danced around us, and if chaos theory is true, then the rest of the world must’ve been experiencing severe weather, with so many butterflies flapping their wings. On Vamizi Island, they contributed to a sense of peace and harmony that became even more pronounced as we crossed powdery sand in front of our villa to revive our travel-weary toes in the warm ocean.

Having been spoiled by expert pilots and guides, and felt that we should travel somewhere under own steam the next day. We’d seen the sea kayaks pulled up on the beach and they looked like just the excuse we needed. With our guide paddling alongside us, we explored creeks and mangrove forests, running the gauntlet of plunging kingfishers and the beady eyes of fish eagles. On our return leg of our kayak adventure, we ventured further offshore – there was no real swell to speak of – and were joined by a small pod of dolphin, who seemed to be encouraging us to join them in porpoising and leaping clear of the surface.

The following day we couldn’t wait to take the plunge, and together with the lodge’s local divemaster as our guide, we scuba dived the Quirimbas, regularly rated as one of the top dive locales on earth. The god of the sea had flexed his muscles here: the number and variety of fish species was completely captivating. There was only one brief moment of relative emptiness, when schools parted to allow a small black-tipped reef shark to pass through. We’d hoped to see its much larger cousins, whale sharks, but it must’ve been their day off. Back on the boat, R&R cocktails rounded the day off in style.

After a delicious breakfast on our private deck, we enjoyed spa treatments before my partner gave me a challenge. And so I found myself trying to balance on a stand-up paddle board and inevitably spending more time in the water than on it. Not that I was complaining, although my core muscles began to protest after a while. We decided on an easier mode of transport: we rode to the local school on bikes from the lodge, arriving as the bell rang for the end of class. Smiling faces showed that the delicate balance between community upliftment and ecotourism was being maintained here.

We leapt at the chance to spend time on our own sandbar on our last full day, with nothing more than a parasol, a picnic, and a paperback each. We whiled away a perfect day, dipping into our hamper and the ocean, inventing a new form of beach cricket, and collecting shells. As the tide began to rise, we were collected by the lodge inflatable which transferred us to a dhow for a chance to pay one last visit to the reefs, but snorkelling instead of diving. We took turns to swim down to view life on the reef and were joined briefly by a hawksbill turtle.

What sets it apart

The opportunity to experience completely different regions of Southern Africa on the same itinerary made this luxury safari stand out for us. We knew we’d be asked which of the three lodges we enjoyed the most, but with each being marvellous in its own way, and yet so different to the others, we could truthfully answer that we couldn’t say.Spending time in pristine wild places – with like-minded fellow travellers and guides who wore their knowledge lightly but were always happy to share it – was one of our favourite aspects of the trip. We loved the sense of freedom we found in the landscapes and seascapes, and the feeling that we were always at liberty to do as many or as few activities as we wished.As well as the pleasing contrasts, we enjoyed the common threads that ran through our safari and beach holiday. While we always had ample time to ourselves to reconnect, we were not at all cocooned away from local people, and enjoyed revealing conversations with guides, teachers and sailors alike on topics ranging from soccer to school and the very best way to eat sushi (the answer, of course, is still-warm-from-the-ocean-fresh, on a dhow, with lemon juice).While we were incredibly well taken care of, it was immensely gratifying to see that our creature comforts were not the ultimate aim, and that ecotourism in both Botswana and Mozambique was making a meaningful difference to the lives of local people. It had certainly made a difference to us.

The opportunity to experience completely different regions of Southern Africa on the same itinerary made this luxury safari stand out for us. We knew we’d be asked which of the three lodges we enjoyed the most, but with each being marvellous in its own way, and yet so different to the others, we could truthfully answer that we couldn’t say.

Spending time in pristine wild places – with like-minded fellow travellers and guides who wore their knowledge lightly but were always happy to share it – was one of our favourite aspects of the trip. We loved the sense of freedom we found in the landscapes and seascapes, and the feeling that we were always at liberty to do as many or as few activities as we wished.

As well as the pleasing contrasts, we enjoyed the common threads that ran through our safari and beach holiday. While we always had ample time to ourselves to reconnect, we were not at all cocooned away from local people, and enjoyed revealing conversations with guides, teachers and sailors alike on topics ranging from soccer to school and the very best way to eat sushi (the answer, of course, is still-warm-from-the-ocean-fresh, on a dhow, with lemon juice).

While we were incredibly well taken care of, it was immensely gratifying to see that our creature comforts were not the ultimate aim, and that ecotourism in both Botswana and Mozambique was making a meaningful difference to the lives of local people. It had certainly made a difference to us.

Day 1-3

Kalahari Plains Camp offers San-guided walking safaris. © Wilderness Safaris

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 a scheduled light-aircraft flight to the Central Kalahari. You’ll then take a transfer to Kalahari Plains Camp, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 4–6

Kings Pool has a swimming pool overlooking the lagoon. © Wilderness Safaris

After a transfer from Kalahari Plains Camp to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled light-aircraft flight to Chobe. You’ll then take a transfer to Kings Pool in Linyanti, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 7

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

After a transfer from Kings Pool to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled light-aircraft flight to Maun, and a scheduled flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. A transfer will take you to the InterContinental Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport Hotel, where you’ll spend the night.

Day 8-12

Kayaking is a wonderful way to explore the waters of Vamizi Island. © &Beyond

You’ll be met at the InterContinental Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport Hotel and assisted through check-in at the airport. A scheduled flight will take you to Pemba in Mozambique, and a scheduled light-aircraft flight will take you to Vamizi. You’ll then take a transfer to Vamizi Island, where you’ll spend five nights.

Day 13

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

After a transfer from Vamizi Island to the airstrip, a scheduled light-aircraft flight will take you to Pemba. A scheduled flight will then take you to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, to connect with your international flight.

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