Luxury Botswana

Elephants South Africa Safari - 04linz/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Photo by 04linz/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

Sanctuary Chief’s Camp’s dining area
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp’s dining are a surrounds a fire pit, letting guests continue their game viewing while eating.



 

Craig Beal and Jeanie Fundora of Travel Beyond, a luxury tour operator that specializes in Africa, feel that a luxury visit to Botswana should always include time in the Okavango Delta or the Moremi Game Reserve. The Okavango Delta is an ecosystem that almost completely surrounds the Moremi Game Reserve. (For the record, most of the Moremi is the Okavango Delta, but there are also private areas.) Beal adds that he almost always recommends an additional stay in the private Linyanti Concession or Selinda Reserve, and, weather permitting, a stay in the Kalahari Desert at the Makgadikgadi Pans.

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Business class seats
Business class seats on the jumbo jets of South African Airways.

Getting There

South African Airways provides nonstop flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Johannesburg, with multiple same-day connection opportunities that can get travelers into Gaborone as early as 12:55 p.m. The airline also has inter-airline fares with Air Botswana for service to Maun. Besides, SAA Vacations gives several packages to Botswana. The airline’s direct flight from Washington, D.C. (Dulles) has several next-day connection opportunities.

The long-haul flights on SAA from the U.S. use a two-cabin configuration, and business class seats on the jumbo jets are first-rate. (Think fully flat beds, multicourse meals, a full bar available at all times.) For layovers in Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, encourage your clients to pay a bit extra for access to the first-class Cycad lounge, which is more exclusive and intimate than the business-class Baobab lounge. (The full-service restaurant is a must-visit.)

 

 

Leslee Hall, North American representative of the Botswana Tourism Board, says that Botswana is working hard to position itself as a model of sustainable tourism, and the luxury properties are at the forefront of this movement. As such, new developments are rare compared to other swiftly rising African destinations.

Where to Stay

There are dozens of luxury camps throughout Botswana, but Beal recommends a few picks, spending at least two days each at two camps.

Sanctuary Chief’s Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve has great year-round animal viewing. This camp is better for shorter visits, and guests can go boating in an authentic mokoro canoe and then transfer to a traditional game drive. Guests can choose from 12 bush pavilions, all of which have private decks, and indoor and outdoor showers.

Cool Touch: The camp’s dining area surrounds a fire pit on the edge of the plains, so guests can continue their game viewing while they eat.

The camp’s spa has a single room, and agents can book treatments for their clients in advance or when they arrive. (Hint: We hear the Sanctuary Signature Salutation is the most popular option.)

The nearest major airport is Maun International Airport, and visitors can then take a 25-minute flight to the camp’s private airstrip.

Luxury travel advisors can reach out to Sanctuary Retreats’ client relationship manager, Bridget Stephenson ([email protected]; 011-27-11-438-4650) with any questions.

Wilderness Safaris manages several camps throughout Botswana, many of them in the Okavango Delta. Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp have only nine and three rooms respectively, and are located on Chief’s Island in the Moremi Reserve. Space is in high demand year-round at Mombo, since the game experience is good regardless of season. For the July-September season and the holidays in December, parties of three or more should book 18 to 24 months in advance. Parties of two with flexibility in dates can sometimes book six to nine months in advance.

Mombo Camp is close to Sanctuary Chief’s Camp (they share a border, so guests generally visit one or the other). The property is a collection of nine ultra-luxe tents on raised decks that all include full bathrooms (with his-and-hers sinks) and outdoor showers. (The entrance is a real door, not a zippered flap.) Nice touches for those accustomed to rougher camping: The tents also have verandas and salas for unwinding outside and watching nature go by.

The camp does not have a dedicated spa, but a massage therapist is on call and treatments can be booked in advance.

Like the Sanctuary camp, Mombo has its own airstrip 15 minutes from the main camp. Children must be six years or older.

 

Advisor Insight:

Tamsyn Fricker, director of Travel Artistry Africa, recommends a different way to see the northern end of Botswana.

The Zambezi Queen is a luxury river cruise,” she says. “It’s the first of its kind in this part of the world, since river cruises are usually in Europe, and it’s a pretty phenomenal experience on the Chobe River for two or three nights. They stop so you can go on game drives, or you can spend time on river itself, fishing or game-viewing. Imagine how close you can get! The family who’s done Botswana already and has done a lot of other sites can do this. It pairs well with tours of Victoria Falls and Zambia, and is a great entry or exit for the country. It’s not a traditional safari experience, but a great way to see everything.”

Lesley Kaye, owner and president of Discover Africa, says that Botswana is a favorite destination because of how easy it is to get from place to place. “Once you’re in, getting from camp to camp is seamless,” she says. “Flights from airstrip to airstrip are like a well-oiled machine. You don’t spend a lot of time waiting.

“Mombo and Little Mombo are the most sought-after camps, not just because of the luxury, but because they offer the best game viewing. I was there last year, and we just went in for a quick inspection…We landed by helicopter, and it was like being in The Lion King movie. It really does deliver.”

 

 

Vumbura Plains features both land and water activities in the Okavango Delta on an exclusive private concession, and is a good combination package with Mombo. The property is actually two distinct camps, each with seven tents, allowing for a total of 28 guests (and plenty of privacy for families or groups). All 14 tented rooms are raised off the ground on wooden platforms with walkways connecting them to the main living areas. Each room has a bedroom, a lounge, a sala and an outdoor shower. Best of all: Each room also has its own plunge pool.

The North Camp has two family tents, each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The main adult room has a large sunken lounge and showers, while the children’s room is smaller and has standard facilities.

The water activities at Vumbura include motor boating and mokoro canoes.

Top Tip: Beal notes that most guests staying at Vumbura Plains and Mombo consecutively are transferred between the two using a scenic helicopter flight. The flight is often a surprise to the guests, as it can be unavailable if the helicopter is out of service.

Some of the other special experiences the Wilderness team has created include a fishing expedition outside of Moremi Game Reserve (where fishing is illegal, so a helicopter charter was involved to bring fishermen to an appropriate spot), private brunches in the bush, and one-on-one experiences with locals.

Good to know: Guides and managers rotate among Wilderness’ camps regularly, so agents should e-mail [email protected] with questions, which can then be directed to the best Wilderness representative. Virtuoso and Signature advisors can reach out to the Wilderness’ U.S. Sales and Marketing Representative Philippa Kort ([email protected]; 404-252-5731). 

Also Important: Wilderness Safaris’ properties can only be booked by tour operators, so reach out to an Africa specialist to arrange a visit.

Many camps in Botswana are far from roadways and can be accessed only by air. If your clients are not fans of flying, be sure to double-check how they will have to arrive at the camps.

The new Ngoma Safari Lodge in the Chobe Forest Reserve is away from the crowds in the Chobe National Park and good for a stand-alone visit or for a quick stayover during a visit to Victoria Falls. The eight-month-old property’s eight rooms (permanent structures rather than tents) all have indoor/outdoor showers as well as panoramic views of the Chobe River, and two include daybeds for families to use.

Like most other lodges in Botswana, game drives are the focal activity at Ngoma (typically at sunrise and sunset, when the most animals are out), but the lodge also arranges for full-day safaris that include a cruise on the Chobe River. The tour departs after breakfast and returns at 6:30 p.m.

Good to know: Ngoma can be accessed by road from Victoria Falls or Livingstone, making it an ideal option for those who don’t like planes, and a good pick for treks to those other popular attractions.

Luxury travel advisors should contact General Manager Doreen Prinsloo ([email protected]
lodge.com; 011-26-77-452-1641) or Marketing Manager David Kartagener ([email protected]; 800-524-7979) for VIP needs.

Ngoma Safari Lodge
Ngoma Safari Lodge’s sitting room has views of the Chobe River.

Also good for a stand-alone visit to the Kalahari Desert at the Makgadikgadi Pans, Jack’s Camp is a collection of 10 tents, all with en-suite bathrooms (and indoor/outdoor showers, of course) and a private veranda.

The camp incorporates local Bushman culture for an authentic experience. The guides at Jack’s Camp are often graduate students who combine research with guiding, and team up with a small group of Zu/’hoasi Bushmen to guide guests on morning walks and game drives.

Getting There: Private jets can land at Tsigaro airstrip, which services the Uncharted Africa properties. Private charters can be booked directly from Johannesburg but must include a short stop in Maun to clear customs.

Chief’s Camp
Chief’s Camp’s all 12 bush pavilions have private decks, and indoor and outdoor showers.

Good to know: Uncharted Africa Safari Co. is the only operator in the Makgadikgadi region, a salt pan the size of Switzerland. Because the ground is so sparse and flat, visitors can actually see the curve of the earth. Fans of TV’s Meerkat Manor will appreciate the nearby meerkat habituation program, which is the only one of its kind. Guests can approach and interact with the little animals—we hear they will even climb on guests’ heads!

Luxury travel advisors can reach out to Marketing Manager Simona Quaglia ([email protected]; 011-27-11-447-1605) with any questions.

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