Take an exciting mokoro excursion from Sanctuary Chief's Camp.

Botswana & South Africa | Chief’s Island, Mountain Perches & Beach | 11 Nights The Okavango Delta, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Maputaland Coast

Uncover the wonders of the Okavango Delta and the wildlife haven of Maputaland in KwaZulu-Natal on this 11-night safari and beach itinerary. Bridging Botswana and South Africa, this luxury safari offers experiences ranging from game drives to mokoro excursions and walking safaris, as well as wildlife interactions like turtle and rhino tracking and scuba safaris.

Four nights at Sanctuary Chief's Camp

Though our journey had been long, the friendly African greetings we received on arrival at Sanctuary Chief’s Camp lifted our spirits. We’d loved seeing the luxury safari lodge from above on our flight in, fanning out like a raptor’s wings from its central location on Chief’s Island, and we were excited to explore it on the ground. We went directly to our suite though, keen for a shower and fresh clothes. Clothes turned to swimwear, however, as we whiled the afternoon away dozing next to our private pool in between dips. Our guide Tebogo came to chat about safari options during our stay, and he suggested an early dinner at our suite, which we happily accepted, dining poolside under the stars. The smell of freshly-brewed coffee and a breakfast tray preceded the mokoro excursion we’d settled on for the day. We were nervous to share the waters with dangerous beasts, but Tebogo quickly reassured us, and when a pod of hippo appeared around a bend he poled us past with great skill. The waters of the Okavango Delta were pristine and clear, with blooming lilies and the chorus of reed frogs setting the stage for a tranquil experience. On the way back from lunch on an island, we waved to local women braving the threat of crocodile to gather reeds. Not far along we spotted a family of elephant in the bush; life sure is different in Botswana! After a mouthwatering breakfast, we set off on a game drive to explore the Mombo Concession by land. Although the Moremi Game Reserve, which houses the concession, is renowned for the finest game viewing in Botswana, we were astounded to see three of the Big Five in close proximity to each other. Lunch was enjoyed as a picnic in the wild, listening to the call of cicadas while Tebogo watched for any hungry predators. Back at camp, I opted for a spa spoil while my partner hit the pool, then we joined the other guests for dinner in the outdoor boma, where the African sky was lit up by a thousand stars.For our fourth day, we thought we’d take to the air again, for a scenic flight over the delta. We seen some of it when arriving of course, but we were both a bit bleary eyed and wanted to experience it properly. As we traced the delta’s many islands and waterways from above, our pilot pointed out landmarks and animals, including a herd of sitatunga grazing on the riverbank. We were delighted to learn that it’s Africa’s only amphibious antelope, and that it can paddle several kilometres. Long after we touched down our spirits were still soaring, and we all but floated to our campfire drinks before tucking into dinner.

Though our journey had been long, the friendly African greetings we received on arrival at Sanctuary Chief’s Camp lifted our spirits.

We’d loved seeing the luxury safari lodge from above on our flight in, fanning out like a raptor’s wings from its central location on Chief’s Island, and we were excited to explore it on the ground. We went directly to our suite though, keen for a shower and fresh clothes. Clothes turned to swimwear, however, as we whiled the afternoon away dozing next to our private pool in between dips. Our guide Tebogo came to chat about safari options during our stay, and he suggested an early dinner at our suite, which we happily accepted, dining poolside under the stars.

The smell of freshly-brewed coffee and a breakfast tray preceded the mokoro excursion we’d settled on for the day. We were nervous to share the waters with dangerous beasts, but Tebogo quickly reassured us, and when a pod of hippo appeared around a bend he poled us past with great skill. The waters of the Okavango Delta were pristine and clear, with blooming lilies and the chorus of reed frogs setting the stage for a tranquil experience. On the way back from lunch on an island, we waved to local women braving the threat of crocodile to gather reeds. Not far along we spotted a family of elephant in the bush; life sure is different in Botswana!

After a mouthwatering breakfast, we set off on a game drive to explore the Mombo Concession by land. Although the Moremi Game Reserve, which houses the concession, is renowned for the finest game viewing in Botswana, we were astounded to see three of the Big Five in close proximity to each other. Lunch was enjoyed as a picnic in the wild, listening to the call of cicadas while Tebogo watched for any hungry predators. Back at camp, I opted for a spa spoil while my partner hit the pool, then we joined the other guests for dinner in the outdoor boma, where the African sky was lit up by a thousand stars.

For our fourth day, we thought we’d take to the air again, for a scenic flight over the delta. We seen some of it when arriving of course, but we were both a bit bleary eyed and wanted to experience it properly. As we traced the delta’s many islands and waterways from above, our pilot pointed out landmarks and animals, including a herd of sitatunga grazing on the riverbank. We were delighted to learn that it’s Africa’s only amphibious antelope, and that it can paddle several kilometres. Long after we touched down our spirits were still soaring, and we all but floated to our campfire drinks before tucking into dinner.

Three nights at Phinda Rock Lodge

We had a sense of déjà vu when landing at South Africa’s OR Tambo – as we’d passed through on the way to Botswana – except now we felt like safari experts! Soon we were at Phinda Rock Lodge, which was perched on a cliff overlooking the African bush. The day passed in a haze of gourmet meals and relaxation by our private plunge pool. Then we joined our guide Roger for a turtle safari, scouring the sand for tracks in the silvery glow of moonlight. We followed a trail leading into the dunes on foot, reaching a giant leatherback digging a hole in the sand with her flippers. Once deep enough, she laid over a hundred eggs, only a couple of which would survive. We left for camp when she’d returned to the ocean, feeling decidedly favoured that she’s let us witness this divine event.After a sunrise outdoor shower we broke our fast and then readied ourselves for our photographic safari. I’d been an enthusiast for years, but admittedly didn’t understand half of my fancy camera’s settings! With the patient help of the local photography pro, my partner and I both managed to get some stellar shots. I can’t wait to get some printed and framed back home, to remind us of our incredible safari. That afternoon, while I edited some pics, my partner enjoyed an in-room massage, then after a lazy siesta we had a wonderfully romantic private dinner.On our third morning at Phinda we enjoyed a quick ‘ranger’s breakfast’ before setting off on a rhino tracking adventure with our armed guide and tracker team, Piet and Johan. We walked slowly through the bush until Johan discovered an older bull’s spoor. We approached carefully, keeping downwind of the rhino, who we found apparently snoozing near a tree. We watched this increasingly-endangered creature in silence from behind a termite mound, before it lumbered off into the thicket. While enjoying lunch back at the lodge, we contemplated the sad fact that our grandchildren may never be lucky enough to sight this majestic creature in the wild.

We had a sense of déjà vu when landing at South Africa’s OR Tambo – as we’d passed through on the way to Botswana – except now we felt like safari experts!

Soon we were at Phinda Rock Lodge, which was perched on a cliff overlooking the African bush. The day passed in a haze of gourmet meals and relaxation by our private plunge pool. Then we joined our guide Roger for a turtle safari, scouring the sand for tracks in the silvery glow of moonlight. We followed a trail leading into the dunes on foot, reaching a giant leatherback digging a hole in the sand with her flippers. Once deep enough, she laid over a hundred eggs, only a couple of which would survive. We left for camp when she’d returned to the ocean, feeling decidedly favoured that she’s let us witness this divine event.

After a sunrise outdoor shower we broke our fast and then readied ourselves for our photographic safari. I’d been an enthusiast for years, but admittedly didn’t understand half of my fancy camera’s settings! With the patient help of the local photography pro, my partner and I both managed to get some stellar shots. I can’t wait to get some printed and framed back home, to remind us of our incredible safari. That afternoon, while I edited some pics, my partner enjoyed an in-room massage, then after a lazy siesta we had a wonderfully romantic private dinner.

On our third morning at Phinda we enjoyed a quick ‘ranger’s breakfast’ before setting off on a rhino tracking adventure with our armed guide and tracker team, Piet and Johan. We walked slowly through the bush until Johan discovered an older bull’s spoor. We approached carefully, keeping downwind of the rhino, who we found apparently snoozing near a tree. We watched this increasingly-endangered creature in silence from behind a termite mound, before it lumbered off into the thicket. While enjoying lunch back at the lodge, we contemplated the sad fact that our grandchildren may never be lucky enough to sight this majestic creature in the wild.

Four nights at Thonga Beach Lodge

Our transfer to Thonga Beach Lodge, further up the Maputland Coast, had us snaking through the coastal forests of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site. Soon we spotted the first of the 12 Robinson Crusoe-style thatched suites, nestled on the dunes with either forest or ocean views. We’d opted for the latter, and as we walked out onto our deck we were bowled over by endless views of the sapphire-blue sea. Lovely as our suite was, Pine Reef – a coral reef just off the shore – beckoned. We simply loved snorkelling through the underwater coral forests in those warm waters, and immediately deemed this an activity worth doing daily! Sunswept and carefree – and hungry! – we walked back to the lodge for a late lunch, where we looked out over the coastal forest and tried to identify the diverse birds that flitted from tree to tree, chirruping and tweeting with glee. An early morning kayaking trip on Lake Sibaya started our second day at Thonga, a memorable experience made more so when we encountered a crocodile basking in the sun. We paddled away quickly, preferring to socialise with the many resident waterbirds instead! The lodge had organised us a picnic lunch, which we tucked into on the edge of the lake while we did some birdwatching: there are 279 species here, including a rare vegetarian bird of prey – the palm-nut vulture. Then the sea beckoned again, and we went off to swim and suntan until dinner – another elaborate feast. On our third morning we readied ourselves for our scuba-diving safari off the coast of Maputaland – one of the world’s best dive sites. After getting rigged out, we rode an inflatable dinghy out to the reef. As we sank the 20m down to the ocean floor, we passed scores of zebra fish. Sixty minutes flew by in seconds in this underwater realm. Later, we stared out at the Indian Ocean over a mug of hot chocolate and reminisced about the incredible variety of marine life we’d seen: clownfish, angelfish, starfish and even a white-tipped reef shark (which still leaves me with goosebumps!).For our last full day on safari, we donned our diving gear and set off with our guide to further explore the coral reefs off the Elephant Coast. The coral was as spectacular as ever, in a secret and magical world we could only transiently visit. Hordes of fish swirled around us, a moray eel gaped at us from its coral hideout, and suddenly, a leatherback turtle darted in front of us. We gave chase, and it seemed as if it played with us, allowing us to get close before speeding off. After a spa treatment, we decided to have sundowners on the lake to say goodbye to this slice of paradise. We lingered over our dinner that evening, before drifting off to sleep in utter contentment.

Our transfer to Thonga Beach Lodge, further up the Maputland Coast, had us snaking through the coastal forests of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site.

Soon we spotted the first of the 12 Robinson Crusoe-style thatched suites, nestled on the dunes with either forest or ocean views. We’d opted for the latter, and as we walked out onto our deck we were bowled over by endless views of the sapphire-blue sea. Lovely as our suite was, Pine Reef – a coral reef just off the shore – beckoned. We simply loved snorkelling through the underwater coral forests in those warm waters, and immediately deemed this an activity worth doing daily! Sunswept and carefree – and hungry! – we walked back to the lodge for a late lunch, where we looked out over the coastal forest and tried to identify the diverse birds that flitted from tree to tree, chirruping and tweeting with glee.

An early morning kayaking trip on Lake Sibaya started our second day at Thonga, a memorable experience made more so when we encountered a crocodile basking in the sun. We paddled away quickly, preferring to socialise with the many resident waterbirds instead! The lodge had organised us a picnic lunch, which we tucked into on the edge of the lake while we did some birdwatching: there are 279 species here, including a rare vegetarian bird of prey – the palm-nut vulture. Then the sea beckoned again, and we went off to swim and suntan until dinner – another elaborate feast.

On our third morning we readied ourselves for our scuba-diving safari off the coast of Maputaland – one of the world’s best dive sites. After getting rigged out, we rode an inflatable dinghy out to the reef. As we sank the 20m down to the ocean floor, we passed scores of zebra fish. Sixty minutes flew by in seconds in this underwater realm. Later, we stared out at the Indian Ocean over a mug of hot chocolate and reminisced about the incredible variety of marine life we’d seen: clownfish, angelfish, starfish and even a white-tipped reef shark (which still leaves me with goosebumps!).

For our last full day on safari, we donned our diving gear and set off with our guide to further explore the coral reefs off the Elephant Coast. The coral was as spectacular as ever, in a secret and magical world we could only transiently visit. Hordes of fish swirled around us, a moray eel gaped at us from its coral hideout, and suddenly, a leatherback turtle darted in front of us. We gave chase, and it seemed as if it played with us, allowing us to get close before speeding off. After a spa treatment, we decided to have sundowners on the lake to say goodbye to this slice of paradise. We lingered over our dinner that evening, before drifting off to sleep in utter contentment.

What sets it apart

From safari and beach to forest and lake, several things stood out for us about this luxury safari. Water was the theme of this luxury safari, as we traced the waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and discovered the pristine oceans of Maputaland. The experiences we had were almost unbelievable. Certainly our friends back home would wonder how we saw so much, of such variety, and we couldn’t wait to tell them about it all: how we tracked a rhino on foot, saw three of the Big Five almost on top of each other in the Okavango, watched turtles nesting and stumbled upon a white-tipped reef shark (and many a croc) in its natural element. To think that these were just the larger mammals; there was also the prolific bird- and marine life. As for the human contingent, we loved the macro perspective on life in the delta, and the lands and waters of Maputland.We also returned wiser about the conservation challenges faced by these places, and how the lodges we stayed at are contributing through ecotourism. Sanctuary Chief’s Camp is on a private concession with its own solar farm, which allows it to run completely on renewable energy; Phinda Rock Lodge was designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding sand forest and its unique ecosystem; and Thonga Beach Lodge is an eco-friendly camp built in a World Heritage Site … all three committed to a light environmental footprint and community upliftment. The service at all these luxury lodges was so outstanding that it felt effortless, and everything was taken care of without us ever needing to ask for it. While food was not a major criteria for us, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that gourmet dining was part of the package! We can’t wait to come back to experience it all over again.  

From safari and beach to forest and lake, several things stood out for us about this luxury safari. Water was the theme of this luxury safari, as we traced the waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and discovered the pristine oceans of Maputaland.

The experiences we had were almost unbelievable. Certainly our friends back home would wonder how we saw so much, of such variety, and we couldn’t wait to tell them about it all: how we tracked a rhino on foot, saw three of the Big Five almost on top of each other in the Okavango, watched turtles nesting and stumbled upon a white-tipped reef shark (and many a croc) in its natural element. To think that these were just the larger mammals; there was also the prolific bird- and marine life. As for the human contingent, we loved the macro perspective on life in the delta, and the lands and waters of Maputland.

We also returned wiser about the conservation challenges faced by these places, and how the lodges we stayed at are contributing through ecotourism. Sanctuary Chief’s Camp is on a private concession with its own solar farm, which allows it to run completely on renewable energy; Phinda Rock Lodge was designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding sand forest and its unique ecosystem; and Thonga Beach Lodge is an eco-friendly camp built in a World Heritage Site … all three committed to a light environmental footprint and community upliftment.

The service at all these luxury lodges was so outstanding that it felt effortless, and everything was taken care of without us ever needing to ask for it. While food was not a major criteria for us, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that gourmet dining was part of the package! We can’t wait to come back to experience it all over again.

 

Day 1–4

Mekoro are propelled through the shallow Okavango Delta by standing in the stern and pushing with a pole, similar to punting. © Sanctuary Retreats

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 Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta. You’ll then take a transfer to Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, where you’ll spend four nights.

Day 5–7

The guest suites at Phinda Rock Lodge have private rim-flow pools.

After a transfer from Sanctuary Chief’s Camp to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Maun. You’ll then take a scheduled flight to Johannesburg in South Africa, and a connecting scheduled flight to Richards Bay. A private transfer will then take you to Phinda Rock Lodge in Phinda Private Game Reserve, where you’ll spend three nights.

Day 8–11

Five of Thonga Beach Lodge’s guest suites have ocean views. © iSibindi Africa Lodges

A private transfer will take you from Phinda Rock Lodge to Thonga Beach Lodge in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, where you’ll spend four nights.

Day 12

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

A private transfer will take you from Thonga Beach Lodge to Richards Bay. From there, you’ll take a scheduled flight to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, to connect with your international flight.

  • Our safaris are tailor-made to match your personal safari dream, taking into account when you’d like to travel, how long you’d like to be away for, who you’d be travelling with, what safari lodge style you’d prefer, and more.
  • This luxury safari trip idea is simply to show you what’s possible. To see what this type of safari costs, and what’s generally included, click hereFor a general overview of African safari prices, you can click through to our blog.
  • We also offer a curated selection of Botswana safari packages, wrapped and priced for your convenience, click here to explore them.

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