As the Cox & Kings Destination Manager for Africa, I am passionate about gaining firsthand knowledge about the destinations we feature. This May, I spent nine days visiting a number of camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Linyanti Reserve, and the Victoria Falls area. I had been to the region in the past, but a few miles in distance can result in a completely different experience in these remote areas, many only accessible by air. The diversity of the Delta in particular is astounding, with some areas boasting primarily land-based activities such as game drives and walks, while others are focused on water-based activities like motorized boat excursions or travel by traditional canoes, known as mokoros. In addition, experiences can vary drastically depending on the time of year (some regions may only have water or land activities at certain times of the year dependent on the annual flood waters). Because of all the possible combinations, travelers can return many times to this beautiful country and feel like it is a completely new journey each time!
In the southern Delta, Chitabe Lediba camp offers stylish tented accommodations with beautiful, unique photographs framed in each room. This private wildlife concession consists of diverse ecosystems and is dry year round, providing adequate land for grazing herds and making it particularly attractive to the local lion population.
Xigera Camp in the heart of the Delta is a more traditional tented camp surrounded by year-round water, which is identifiable by the thick papyrus lining the waterways. When water levels are at their height, full-day journeys as far as Chief’s Island — the largest landmass in the Okavango Delta — are possible by boat.
In the northeast of the Delta, Little Tubu offers an intimate, sophisticated tented camp with only three rooms. A honeymoon tent sits far from the main lodge with its own little tree house and daybed from which guests can watch the elephant and lechwe (a type of antelope) graze in the floodplains below. This region offers both land and water activities and is particularly known for its resident leopards.
Nearby, Little Vumbura is a special property surrounded by water at this time of year. The approach to camp via speedboat from the airstrip is especially exhilarating. Head north of the camp for game drives in search of big cats. Nearby, Vumbura Plains offers exclusive accommodations with expansive private decks and plunge pools.
A special treat for those looking for something unique in Botswana is Abu Camp. Luxurious accommodations, fine dining, and great game viewing are supplemented by the opportunity to interact with a habituated herd of elephants that lives on the property. The matriarch was reintroduced to the wild from a North American zoo, another was saved from a culling operating in South Africa, one was adopted after being orphaned in the wild, and two were born in the herd. In addition to traditional game drives and mokoro excursions, visitors can spend the morning or afternoon walking with the herd or riding elephant back for an amazing perspective on the Delta. A newborn calf, Nylady, whose mother passed away, is being hand-raised by camp staff until she is old enough to join the herd. I had the special opportunity to interact with Nylady one-on-one, her leading me by her trunk, sucking my thumb and trying to play. A stay at Abu is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I continued to Livingstone, Zambia, and visited Toka Leya, a beautiful tented camp on the banks of the mighty Zambezi in the national park above Victoria Falls. This peaceful setting was a wonderful finale to the journey. I enjoyed a brief game drive with a unique opportunity to meet the local rangers and see heavily protected white rhino up close. A relaxing sundowner cruise on the river was the perfect way to end a remarkable day.
The following morning, I explored the Victoria Falls area on a walking tour. Previously, I had visited with lower water levels and was thrilled to be there in May when the water flow is near its height. Well-protected with rain gear, it was more of an experience than sightseeing as you feel like you are in the falls itself with the heavy mist and the deluge of water surrounding you in many areas. I took to the skies in a microlight (basically a motorized hang glider) to see it all from on high. For those looking for a little more separation from the elements, brief helicopter excursions are also available.
As I flew home, I considered how my team could best use the information I gathered during my time in southern Africa to craft special experiences for our guests throughout the continent. Our experience on the ground in each destination and close relationships with our African contacts ensure that each Cox & Kings traveler enjoys the exclusive experiences and insider access that make a journey truly unforgettable.