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Found 14 results

  1. Hi forum! We are newbies (none of us have never been on a safari), so we would love your help! We will be traveling to Southern Africa in March 2018 (our dates are set). Given the climate that time of year in Southern Africa, and to maximize the “authentic” experience, we are trying to decide on the best safari experience for our family that we can afford. We will be traveling with 2 adults and two kids (both aged 10). We have 14 days total from arrival to departure (arrive into Cape Town, depart from Jo'Burg). We are not seeking luxury; our priority is a great family-friendly experience. We are fine staying in tents without plumbing for some of the trip. After 4-5 days in Cape Town exploring the coast (I will arrange this on my own), we basically have 3 options: Option 1: Fly to Maun from Cape Town. From there we would do approx. 2-3 days in the Central Kalahari and then 4 days or so in the Okanvango. Then fly from Maun to JNB to get back home. I understand it might be more expensive because of the exchange rate (we are Canadian), but we might save a bit (compared to high season rates) due to the low season in Botswana. Option 2: Travel to the Tuli region (e.g., Mashatu) and after 3-4 days there, then travel to a private Kruger-area park. From the Kruger area, head back to JNB to get back home. I was considering the Tuli/Kruger combo which from what I understand is amazing for kids and photography (but we might sacrifice some of the optimal viewing because of the time of year). Option 3: Arrive into Cape Town and do the 1st week in Cape Town and garden route. Then do an Eastern Cape lodge for 3 days or so. From there, go to Tuli (e.g., Mashatu) for 4 days and from there get back to JNB to get back home. This would minimize flights and travel time. While the Eastern Cape lodges are less “authentic” it still might be a great introduction for the kids and we “save the best for last” with Tuli at the end. For this option, we would drop Kruger and drop central/northern Botswana. In your expert opinions (and recognizing that the grasses might be high in March at some locations limiting visibility), which option will be: a. Best for kids? b. Best for game viewing? c. Best for photography? d. Best value? e. Most “authentic”? (I recognize that the “best” option may not be the best for each.) While we would love to also see Victoria Falls, I don’t think if we have either the time or the budget to make it happen. Finally, in a perfect world, we would love to be able to all stay in the same tent/room if at all possible, rather than having to split into two tents (since I would prefer to not have the two kids be alone). I really appreciate any advice that you have!! Roger
  2. Now is your chance to join one of our expeditions into the stunning wild places of Botswana as we take you on an overland adventure into the heart of wild Africa. No we don’t visit luxury lodges but we do give you the service and expertise that you would expect to find in one of those places and yes we do camp but comfort levels are fantastic, service is superb and our guiding extraordinary. Why Kingfisher Expeditions? Owner run operation and predominantly locally owned, benefiting local people directly Our guides are the best in the industry and passionate about their country, the wildlife and their clients Over 40 years combined safari experience giving the best service possible We know the areas we visit intimately giving you the best chance of seeing the amazing wildlife We only take six people per safari and stay for a minimum of three nights in each area giving our clients the best possible experience Regular set departures give you the opportunity to travel when you want Children Welcome Your Guide Tumelo Charles Known simply as ‘Charles’, Tumelo has been working for and running his own ‘mobile safari’ business from Maun for the last ten years. He has spent time taking his foreign clients all over Northern Botswana to some of the most remote parts of his beautiful country and seeing the amazing wildlife that inhabits these areas. He is from the Bayei people, the water people of the Okavango, and was born on the fringes of this amazing inland river delta and having grown up in a small village, knows the Botswana bush intimately. Click here to read more about Charles Our Safari Expeditions An Expedition with Kingfisher Safaris is an authentic wild African experience that will immerse you in some of Botswana’s most remote and inaccessible places. You will travel between camps on comfortable, specially-designed, 4×4 Game Drive vehicles with your back-up crew ahead getting the camp ready for your arrival. Everything you need for your safari is provided by us so that you can enjoy the experience of being in Africa’s wild heart to the full. We take you to the best destinations in this sparsely populated country giving you the chance to see the astonishing wildlife in their own surroundings. We select all our campsites based on the expert knowledge of our guides and the movements of the animals at particular times of the year. Your Accommodation We use what is known as ‘Bow Tents’ with en-suite bush ablutions so that you have exclusive access to all the facilities you need. These tents are 3mx3m in size and we use these largest of small tents as standard. We provide you with a camp bed, mattress, bedroll & lighting so that you are as comfortable as possible whilst staying with us. Set Departures We have three set departures each month giving you the choice and flexibility to join any safari you like to suit your needs. We have two 6 night safaris and one 9 night safari each month. If you book the whole safari to yourself, it can go where you want it to. Click here for our 6 night Okavango Expedition Price Low season (Jan – Jun & Nov – Dec) US$2,100.00, £1,400.00 or €1,600.00 per person sharing Price High season (Jul – Oct) US$2,500.00, £1,600.00 or €1,895.00 per person sharing Click here for our 6 night Moremi Expedition Price Low season (Jan – Jun & Nov – Dec) US$2,100.00, £1,400.00 or €1,600.00 per person sharing Price High season (Jul – Oct) US$2,500.00, £1,600.00 or €1,895.00 per person sharing Click here for our 6 night Desert & Delta Expedition Price Low season (Jan – Jun & Nov – Dec) US$2,100.00, £1,400.00 or €1,600.00 per person sharing Price High season (Jul – Oct) US$2,500.00, £1,600.00 or €1,895.00 per person sharing Click here for our 9 night Moremi & Chobe Expedition Price Low season (Jan – Jun & Nov – Dec) US$2,700.00, £1,800.00 or €2,100.00 per person sharing Price High season (Jul – Oct) US$3,150.00, £2,100.00 or €2,450.00 per person sharing Click here for our 12 night Okavango Elephant Expedition Price Low season (Jan – Jun & Nov – Dec) US$3,600.00, £2,400.00 or €2,800.00 per person sharing Price High season (Jul – Oct) US$4,200.00, £2,750.00 or €3,200.00 per person sharing
  3. I'm in the middle of planning a first safari with my father for August/September 2018. We plan to spend 12-15 days. Our likely trip outfitter, The Wild Source in Golden, CO, has come up with a few great itineraries. And now we're having a very hard time deciding. All three itineraries include 6-7 days in South Luangwa, staying with the Bushcamp Company (Zungulila and Bilumungwe). The other half of the trip is where we need to make some tough decisions: 1. 4 days in the Okavango with Bushmen Plains, followed by 2 days on the Chobe River on a houseboat, and one day at Victoria Falls and Gorges Lodge (If we selected this trip, we'd have a private guide/vehicle for South Luangwa.) 2. 4 days in Lower Zambezi at the Amanzi Camp. (If we selected this trip, it would be 2 days shorter, but we'd have a private guide/vehicle for the entire trip.) 3. 4-5 days in Kafue (unsure of camps yet or private guides; this one is still getting worked out). A Little About Us: As this is our first safari, virtually everything will be new to us (except maybe cattle egrets). My father is a retired wildlife biologist, so he greatly appreciates wide, open space and NO crowds. We're both birders, but we are just as excited to see new mammals and reptiles. My dad specialized in ungulates, so a variety of antelope would be great; again, though, we wouldn't need to be chasing rarities. Wild dogs would be the cherry on top of an amazing trip. Victoria Falls is not a must for us by any means. Questions: Any advice or recommendations based on what you see above? Any concerns we should consider? Have any of you spent ay time on safari on a houseboat? That part sounds a little weird to me, but it might be great for birds. Thanks in advance for your help. I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait 18 months for this!
  4. This is a continuation of the trip report started in the South Africa forum. To sum up: my mom and I traveled to South Africa and stayed at Dulini Lodge, where I had stayed once before. After a quick overnight at Victoria Falls, we were now venturing on to a place new to both of us: Botswana and the Okavango Delta. First off, as newbies to the whole system of small flights in and out of the Delta camps, it was thrilling to be flying in our first small aircraft. (Side note: I've just realized that this trip report is probably going to be full of lots of squeals over little things that will probably get annoying to people who do this more regularly. Small planes! Look, we're *driving* through water! There are *elephants* actually *in camp*!!! etc. Sorry about that. What can I say, I'm still excited about it all. When I was a little kid, I watched "Animals are Beautiful People" obsessively, and I mean really obsessively. I couldn't be convinced to rent anything else at the video store. So, maybe I watched it at least once a week, maybe more, for at least a year. The only thing that stopped me was my older half-brother coming into town -- he thought I was going a little nuts and insisted that I be made to rent a Disney movie. Disney movies never did catch on with me, but it did break me of my compulsive nature documentary watching. Anyway, even though that movie was about the Kalahari, they do mention the Okavango, so by the time I got there, I was ready to be there. Everything was exciting. The water was exciting. The reeds were exciting. The sky and the wine glass noises of the frogs were exciting, and keeping my mom from being trampled by an elephant was most definitely exciting (more on that later). Some days you're not up for that. Some days you want to read trip reports from someone who can distinguish all the antelopes or from someone who has learned opinions about the state of the elephants. This is not that trip report. This is mostly a squee! trip report, with a few, "hmmm, I do wish this human bit had been a bit different" moments thrown in for good measure. Anyway, just a fair warning for those following along.) Along the "squee!" theme, it was wonderful to watch a dry landscape slowly transform into a wet one. As a reminder, we were there in mid-May, so just as the flood was coming in -- ever stronger each day, it seemed. We had quite a welcoming committee once we landed, including this LBR with a little snack offering (no thanks, we're really not hungry). And, spectacularly, a pack of wild dogs nested down for the day at the end of the runway. This was the only time we saw the wild dogs, however, something which was only a partial disappointment to me: I would have loved to see more of them, of course, but I was a little worried about my mom on a wild dog chase -- having done those a couple of times at Dulini the year before, I think it might have been a bit much for her. On the whole, therefore, I was OK with how things worked out: we got to see them, but without mom having to bounce around all over the place. If there is a next time (as I very much hope there will be), I'd love to see them again though ...
  5. Travel from Windhoek to visit two of the world’s natural wonders, the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This trip stands alone, but it is also designed to be completed in combination with most of our other scheduled itineraries. You will spend one night with the San Bushmen and then on for two nights beside a pristine lagoon in the Delta and then travel back into Namibia to traverse, over two nights the little visited Caprivi Region. Back into Botswana to Kasane for a boat cruise into the Chobe National Park and then on to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and “The Smoke That Thunders”, the awesome Victoria Falls. Day 1 Windhoek – Ghanzi, Kalahari, Botswana (500 km) (LD) (camping) You will be collected between 07:30 & 08:00. We drive to our wilderness bush camp, which is based on a local farm in the Kalahari, near Buitepos Border, via the eastern village of Witvlei. On arrival we set up camp, enjoy a relaxing afternoon, wait for the sun to set and enjoy a fire cooked dinner and the tranquility of an evening in a remote wilderness environment. Included activity: Bushman dancing. Dqae Qare Swimming Pool Bushmen Dancing Travel from Windhoek to visit two of the world’s natural wonders, the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This trip stands alone, but it is also designed to be completed in combination with most of our other scheduled itineraries. You will spend one night with the San Bushmen and then on for two nights beside a pristine lagoon in the Delta and then travel back into Namibia to traverse, over two nights the little visited Caprivi Region. Back into Botswana to Kasane for a boat cruise into the Chobe National Park and then on to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and “The Smoke That Thunders”, the awesome Victoria Falls. Day 1 Windhoek – Ghanzi, Kalahari, Botswana (500 km) (LD) (camping) You will be collected between 07:30 & 08:00. We drive to our wilderness bush camp, which is based on a local farm in the Kalahari, near Buitepos Border, via the eastern village of Witvlei. On arrival we set up camp, enjoy a relaxing afternoon, wait for the sun to set and enjoy a fire cooked dinner and the tranquility of an evening in a remote wilderness environment. Included activity: Bushman dancing. Dqae Qare Swimming Pool Bushmen Dancing Day 2 Ghanzi – Guma/Okavango Delta (450 km) (BLD) (camping) An early start and a quick stop in Ghanzi to collect any last minute supplies before continuing east and north, traversing the linear dunes of the Kalahari and passing through small towns along the way. A change in vegetation heralds our arrival on the very western edge of one of the natural wonders of the world, the Okavango Delta. Here we turn north for some way before again pointing our wheels west as we enter the Delta proper. We see our first glimpse of the crystal waters through the lush vegetation and we make our camp on the banks of a pristine African lagoon. Elephant Guma Lagoon Guma Lagoon Main Building Day 3 Okavango Delta (BLD) (camping) Included activity: : We are in the territory of the River People, so this morning we leave our vehicle behind and travel in a more appropriate fashion, first by motor-boat and then by traditional Mokoro (dugout canoe), deep into the Delta. Mokoro’s will be our main form of transport. These amazing traditional craft are perfectly designed for the narrow waterways of the Okavango and allow us to travel further into the Delta than if we were using more modern forms of transport. Mokoro’s carry three people, two seated passengers and one driver. The driver stands in the rear of the canoe, (a real feat of balance), and uses a long wooden pole to propel and steer the Mokoro through the twisting channels. It really is the only way to travel in this area. Back to camp in the late afternoon for another night by the Okavango waters. Mokoro on Okavango Mokoro Excursion Day 4 Okavango Delta – Caprivi, Namibia (345 km) Back on the road today, destination Namibia. Passport formalities completed you go directly into the Mahango Game Reserve, a small but excellent park right on the edge of the Okavango River. Game drive your way through Mahango and have the chance to spot rarely seen Namibian species such as roan antelope the majestic sable antelope. Continue your drive along the Caprivi Strip, Namibia. This strip of land is a long narrow stretch of territory running along Botswana’s northern border. It is a landscape of broadleaf forest with many small communities dotted along our route. Overnight along the banks of the Kwando River. Bee-eater Okavango Day 5 Kwando – Chobe National Park, Kasane, Botswana (230 km) (420 km) (BLD) (camping) Lizauli Traditional Village is a community tourism product that gives visitors a glimpse of life in a traditional village. Amongst the things they show visitors are how to stamp a millet, how grain used to be stored, the chicken house (stantwe), and transportation that were used. You can also see how blacksmiths forge metal tools and knives while an assistant operates the hand-made bellows. Visitors also have the opportunity to interact with a traditional healer. We transit to Namibia’s easternmost town, Katima Mulilo. A short break here before crossing back across the border into Botswana. The road takes you directly into the world famous Chobe National Park. Chobe has the world’s largest population of African Elephants and the chances of seeing some big game are very good as you transit through the park to the small town of Kasane for overnight on the banks for the Chobe River. Chobe Safari Lodge Day 6 Chobe National Park, Kasane, Botswana (BLD) (camping) An early hot drink before we head off on a leisurely game drive , exploring the wonders of the Chobe National Park by road. Game drives within the park offer the opportunity to view abundant elephant and other big game species up close, and there is also the possibility of an encounter with one of the large predators. Time to relax over lunch at our camp before joining a river boat cruise , back into the park. From the boat we will have the chance to see a huge amount of wild game, both on the river banks and in the waters swirling around us. Crocodiles and hippos abound in the forbidding Chobe River and on the land side there is often a kaleidoscope of different antelope and species such as elephant, buffalo and even the Big Cats come to the river banks for their sundowner drink. The ChobeRiver provides a very broad habitat for bird life and it is possible to see many beautiful species of our feathered friends. Chobe Gamedrive Chobe Elephants Day 7 Kasane – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (80 km) (BL) (camping) Our journey today takes us to the Kazangula border, this is the near meeting point of four countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe). Upon completion of border formalities we make the short drive to the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. Our campsite is situated right in the middle of Victoria Falls town making it a perfect place to be based with all amenities within walking distance. The Rest Camp is only 2km’s from the falls making it the closest campsite to the Victoria Falls. This afternoon your guide will help you organise the many optional activities available in Victoria Falls. These include white water rafting, bungi jumping, other excursions on the river and scenic flights to mention but a few. Dinner will be in a local restaurant at your own expense. NB: All extra activities are subject to availability and are done at the clients own risk and expense. Chobe Elephant Victoria Falls Day 2 Ghanzi – Guma/Okavango Delta (450 km) (BLD) (camping) An early start and a quick stop in Ghanzi to collect any last minute supplies before continuing east and north, traversing the linear dunes of the Kalahari and passing through small towns along the way. A change in vegetation heralds our arrival on the very western edge of one of the natural wonders of the world, the Okavango Delta. Here we turn north for some way before again pointing our wheels west as we enter the Delta proper. We see our first glimpse of the crystal waters through the lush vegetation and we make our camp on the banks of a pristine African lagoon. Elephant Guma Lagoon Guma Lagoon Main Building Day 3 Okavango Delta (BLD) (camping) Included activity: : We are in the territory of the River People, so this morning we leave our vehicle behind and travel in a more appropriate fashion, first by motor-boat and then by traditional Mokoro (dugout canoe), deep into the Delta. Mokoro’s will be our main form of transport. These amazing traditional craft are perfectly designed for the narrow waterways of the Okavango and allow us to travel further into the Delta than if we were using more modern forms of transport. Mokoro’s carry three people, two seated passengers and one driver. The driver stands in the rear of the canoe, (a real feat of balance), and uses a long wooden pole to propel and steer the Mokoro through the twisting channels. It really is the only way to travel in this area. Back to camp in the late afternoon for another night by the Okavango waters. Mokoro on Okavango Mokoro Excursion Day 4 Okavango Delta – Caprivi, Namibia (345 km) Back on the road today, destination Namibia. Passport formalities completed you go directly into the Mahango Game Reserve, a small but excellent park right on the edge of the Okavango River. Game drive your way through Mahango and have the chance to spot rarely seen Namibian species such as roan antelope the majestic sable antelope. Continue your drive along the Caprivi Strip, Namibia. This strip of land is a long narrow stretch of territory running along Botswana’s northern border. It is a landscape of broadleaf forest with many small communities dotted along our route. Overnight along the banks of the Kwando River. Bee-eater Okavango Day 5 Kwando – Chobe National Park, Kasane, Botswana (230 km) (420 km) (BLD) (camping) Lizauli Traditional Village is a community tourism product that gives visitors a glimpse of life in a traditional village. Amongst the things they show visitors are how to stamp a millet, how grain used to be stored, the chicken house (stantwe), and transportation that were used. You can also see how blacksmiths forge metal tools and knives while an assistant operates the hand-made bellows. Visitors also have the opportunity to interact with a traditional healer. We transit to Namibia’s easternmost town, Katima Mulilo. A short break here before crossing back across the border into Botswana. The road takes you directly into the world famous Chobe National Park. Chobe has the world’s largest population of African Elephants and the chances of seeing some big game are very good as you transit through the park to the small town of Kasane for overnight on the banks for the Chobe River. Chobe Safari Lodge Day 6 Chobe National Park, Kasane, Botswana (BLD) (camping) An early hot drink before we head off on a leisurely game drive , exploring the wonders of the Chobe National Park by road. Game drives within the park offer the opportunity to view abundant elephant and other big game species up close, and there is also the possibility of an encounter with one of the large predators. Time to relax over lunch at our camp before joining a river boat cruise , back into the park. From the boat we will have the chance to see a huge amount of wild game, both on the river banks and in the waters swirling around us. Crocodiles and hippos abound in the forbidding Chobe River and on the land side there is often a kaleidoscope of different antelope and species such as elephant, buffalo and even the Big Cats come to the river banks for their sundowner drink. The ChobeRiver provides a very broad habitat for bird life and it is possible to see many beautiful species of our feathered friends. Chobe Gamedrive Chobe Elephants Day 7 Kasane – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (80 km) (BL) (camping) Our journey today takes us to the Kazangula border, this is the near meeting point of four countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe). Upon completion of border formalities we make the short drive to the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. Our campsite is situated right in the middle of Victoria Falls town making it a perfect place to be based with all amenities within walking distance. The Rest Camp is only 2km’s from the falls making it the closest campsite to the Victoria Falls. This afternoon your guide will help you organise the many optional activities available in Victoria Falls. These include white water rafting, bungi jumping, other excursions on the river and scenic flights to mention but a few. Dinner will be in a local restaurant at your own expense. NB: All extra activities are subject to availability and are done at the clients own risk and expense. Chobe Elephant Victoria Falls Day 8 Victoria Falls ( This is a free day for you to explore the area or to take part in optional activities. It’s a wonderful opportunity to relax a bit after your trip. For some of you, this will be your final night and what a fantastic place to enjoy your last evening with your group. Lunch and dinner today, are not included in the price of the trip. Victoria Falls Bridge Day 9 Victoria Falls – Rundu, Namibia (700 km) (BLD) (camping) We say farewell to all the travelers flying out today. For those people returning to Windhoek, Namibia it is an early start and a long drive. We are in transit only and will not be stopping to take in the sights along the way. We will traverse the Caprivi Strip and will spend the night near the small town of Rundu in northern Namibia. We camp in the grounds of a lodge on the banks for the Okavango River, looking into Angola on the far river bank. Dinner tonight will be in the restaurant at the lodge and is included in the price of your transfer. Okavango River Day 10 Rundu – Windhoek (800 km) (BL) Another early start and another long drive. We head south through KavangoProvince, down through the towns of Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo and Okahandja before reaching our final destination, Windhoek. There will be stops at some of the local woodcarving stalls as well as the market at Okahandja before arriving in the city. You will be dropped off at your accommodation. Additional Information It is strongly recommended that you purchase comprehensive personal travel insurance before you embark on your safari. Travel insurance is for your own protection and we consider it to be an essential part of modern international travel. There are a few nationalities that will require to pre-arrange their entry visa to Namibia and Botswana. Please note that if this visa is required, it will need to be a multiple entry visa and not a single entry visa. Please check on booking this safari if you need a pre-arranged visa. The KAZA UNIVISA is a common tourist visa for the SADC region which shall be piloted by Zambia and Zimbabwe for six (6) months. The UNIVISA will be issued at a standard fee of US Dollar 50, cash will be required. Validity – the KAZA UNIVISA will be valid for 30 days as long as you remain in Zimbabwe and Zambia and clients can cross into Zimbabwe/Zambia as frequently as they like within the 30 day period. It also covers those who visit Botswana for day trips through the Kazangula Borders – it will not be valid if staying in Botswana overnight, in this case you would need to purchase a new Visa. The UNIVISA cannot be extended however you can buy a new UNIVISA (up to 3 per year). Citizens from the countries listed below shall be eligible for the KAZA UNIVISA obtainable at the eight ports of entry as stated. Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain (UK), Brunei, Burundi, Canada, Cook Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy. Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Rwanda, Slovakia Republic, Slovenia Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, Uruguay, USA. Price: ZAR 17, 880.00/ US$ 1,170.00/EU 1,038.00 includes return transfer to Windhoek.
  6. I normally don't look at the upmarket camps in Botswana. The exorbitant rates is one of the primary reasons. Another is I like my independence and flexibility. However, my plan is pitch up in Maun in 2 weeks and start looking for "last minute" deals. I am requesting assistance/opinions for what safari camp operators have the best camps, and which camps would you suggest I look for availability. Prefer 'dry' camps that offer walking, game drives(night too a plus). Lots of wildlife and action on the wish list. Luxury- not even a consideration, but won't say no.
  7. Ona Basimane Ona was born and grew up in Maun, Northern Botswana. His passion for the natural world started at a young age when he had opportunities to visit the Moremi Game Reserve as well as several trips to Lake Ngami. After finishing school, he joined the Botswana Predator Conservation Programme as a field assistant. His interaction with the study animals such as lions, hyena, leopard, cheetah and African Wild dogs on regular basis fueled his passion for wildlife and conservation. Following the urge to work in an environment where he could work with both people and wildlife, he switched to guiding in 2007. He later joined Wilderness Safaris in October 2010 and spent almost two years at Kalahari Plains before heading to Duma Tau camp, where he spent another two years before joining the Wilderness Safaris Guide training team in May 2014. Ona is a keen photographer and an aspiring wildlife photojournalist. His images and articles have regularly appeared in numerous travel magazines including Peolwane, the Air Botswana in-flight magazine; Discover Botswana, the annual publication by Botswana Tourism Board; as well as Travel Ideas magazine in South Africa. His photography makes him a great ambassador for his country and perhaps the pinnacle of his guiding career so far came when he was invited as a guest speaker at Wild Shots Wildlife Photography symposium 2013 in Cape Town. He also shares a lot of his images with the company’s Facebook page where he has often received a lot of accolades for his work. Ona combines his role as a guide with mentoring and inspiring young and upcoming guides as he travels through various Wilderness camps. His passion for photography has led to a big interest in animal behavior and behavioral ecology. He also enjoys leading walking safaris where the focus is on macro life that one would completely miss from the vehicle. He is also a keen birder who participates in various Birding forums around the Southern African region. Ona is both a highly sought after guide and guide trainer for Wilderness Safaris - www.wilderness-safaris.com -------------------------- How did you first become interested in wildlife and who, later, were the greatest influences upon your guiding career and why? Being born and raised in Maun meant I always had wildlife at my doorstep. The hundreds of hours I spent either on foot or on horseback herding the family cattle in the Boro area kept me close to nature and wildlife in general. We also had a lot of school trips to the Moremi Game Reserve and Lake Ngami as I was growing up. By the time I was at high school, I was a member of every environmental club around school mainly because of the lure of traveling to nature reserves. It was through all these that I knew I wanted to work with wildlife although it took a while to figure out in what capacity. After school I was always either volunteering or working around Northern Botswana with various wildlife biologists and the interest soared from there. However I have always been an outdoor person so after a while the interest in writing reports and filling in field data started to wilt away. I was now getting more interested in working with people and guiding was very appealing at this stage. I then joined &Beyond Botswana as a trainee guide, where I met Frank Mashebe, (the company’s regional guide trainer at the time) and Graham Vercueil, (the group guide trainer). These two gentlemen perhaps shaped my guiding style and career into what it is today. Frank’s knowledge and passion for life at macro scale as well as his enthusiasm for adventure makes him one of the most underrated guides in Southern Africa. Graham was unbelievable in his way of teaching; he was calm and had a very soft voice that somehow made you hang onto his every word. He really had a special way of getting his message across that I really enjoyed and envied. Along with another guide trainer, Bryan Olver, these gentlemen inspired me to think about guide training as a career path down the line. Later I met Grant Reed, (Specialist guide and guide trainer at Okavango Guiding School) and I was awed by his knowledge and passion for sharing it. I spent some time training under him and learnt a lot about birding and botany. The hours we spent, either at his office in Maun, or on foot in the Kwapa area helped build up my knowledge and showed me room for improvement all the time. One major career lesson that I also learnt from these masters in the field was humbleness. As much as I was always overawed by their presence, they never blew their own horns despite all their achievements as guides. They were all keen to take me under their wing and help me develop as a guide. Frank continues to be instrumental with his guidance about life away from work and he is always a horn away whenever I am stuck and need advice. When you are young, the ability to stay humble when there is a bit of hype about you can be tricky and humbleness is something that I drum into the aspiring guides all the time. In your feature on the Wilderness Safaris website, it mentions how you are now involved in guide training. What are the qualities you look for in an aspiring guide and how do you mentor them to reach their full potential? Although I spend most of my time guiding, my official title with the company is that of guide trainer. I am part of a team of six along with Anthony Bennet, who is the Head of Guide training, Brian Rode, Chantelle Venter, Cilas Mafoko and Onamile Lekgopho. We recruit and train guides to the company standards and place them into camps. One major thing I look for in an aspiring guide, which is also our view as a team, is personality. Every guide starting up will always have a very small base of knowledge and we are always looking for people that have the hunger to grow themselves from the basics. Being a trainee guide to me is like being a commercial pilot looking for your first job. Someone has to give you a chance in order to build up your hours and be considered experienced, and without that first chance it will always be difficult to establish yourself. This is often a huge gesture for any company to hand out to an unknown considering the risks involved. A guide with the right personality and hunger to succeed will always grab the opportunity and develop himself or herself further. So when I am interviewing an aspiring guide, I always look for that hunger, a passion to work with people of diverse cultures and a true passion for nature conservation. The right age, (ideally in their early 20s) and good grasp of English makes it easier for us trainers to transfer knowledge and skills to them as well as mould them into great guides. Once the guides are in the system and gone through our training, it is essential to keep tabs on them and to continue providing mentorship. When I am guiding in the camps, I often invite a trainee guide to join me on game drives or walking safaris and I also join them on their game drives. This is to help improve their knowledge and drum in the company standards at the same time. Once they are guiding on their own, it is paramount to look for any signs of watermelons growing under their armpits from time to time, (a sure sign of over confidence). It is so easy for a trainee to develop some attitude after three or four good feedbacks from guests and when that happens, a one on one discussion often mends everything and they get back on track for good. The most important thing here is to ensure the lads realize their full potential by demonstrating to them that they have a big world and bright future ahead of them as long as they do not go off the rails. In Botswana, what are the steps to becoming a guide and how intensive is the training, (comparing for instance to South Africa or Zimbabwe), and how long does it take for someone to become fully qualified? A very important question that I hope to answer fully; the guide licensing system in Botswana is currently in a transitional stage from an old basic system to a more comprehensive one that will hopefully, on paper at least, align us with the best in the region, (being South Africa and perhaps Zimbabwe). Under the system that is hopefully being phased out, a prospective guide would either apply to sit the exam directly as independent candidate or study at an institution and then sit the bar exam with the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. For those that went to institutions, course lengths varied from three months to a year. In my opinion, the exam that would grant you a guide license was always very basic. It did not thoroughly prepare guides for the industry, as it did not cover everything required to produce a competent guide. The onus was always on companies to develop the newly qualified guides pretty much from scratch. Since not all companies provided training, the rest of the guides not employed by Wilderness Safaris, for example, struggled to find jobs and develop further. If they did find jobs, it kept the general standard of guiding very basic henceforth because of lack of further training and assessment. Things are now under review and the new concept, if adopted well, will certainly address this. Under the new system in discussion, there will be levels from Level 1, (which is more of a foundation qualification), to Level 3, (which would be the highest qualification). At Level 2 and 3, there will be strands such as mokoro poling, boat, vehicle guiding and overnight safari guiding. A guide will have to undergo assessments and be deemed competent in order to attain a particular strand and will carry out only activities that reflect on his qualification certificate. To allay fears of losing guides under the new system, there is a strong emphasis on “Recognition of Prior Learning” so that the guides that attained their qualification a long time ago will have their prior experience endorsed into their new qualifications. This new qualification system will also ensure that a guide license will now be regarded as a national qualification guided by the National Vocational and Qualification Framework, (much like the FGASA qualifications in South Africa). Whilst the new system makes all the old system seem elementary, I have to say Botswana has nonetheless produced some fine guides over the years under the old system. The guiding standard has always compared considerably well with the rest of the continent. Quite a few guides have gone on to forge great careers and serve the tourism industry well. The likes of Bakang Baloi, Frank Mashebe, Grant Reed, Moa Monwela and Vic Horatius, to name but a few, are all quintessential examples of how guides could still develop themselves to a bigger stage despite the limitations I spoke about earlier. Since joining Wilderness Safaris in 2010, what have been your personal highlights? 2010 seems like a decade ago when I look at how I have developed here, both personally and career-wise. It is difficult to single out highlights as I have had a fantastic time throughout. While I am a guide first and foremost, I hardly ever place emphasis on awards or the rich and the famous I have guided. My main aim is to consistently deliver a great, guided experience to every guest that arrives at which ever camp I am at. Every guest that leaves with his or her expectations having been wildly exceeded makes my day. A personal highlight that perhaps stands out would be when Harriet Nimmo, (Founder of Wildshots Wildlife Photography Symposium), invited me to be a guest speaker at Wildshots Wildlife Photography Symposium in 2013. At the time the invitation was a bit of out of the blue and to be honest I was puzzled. It was only at the conference that I got to know that the recommendation came from Don Pinnock, the former editor for Getaway magazine, after I guided him for four nights at Duma Tau Camp a few months earlier. Also I had always had a dream to see myself training and mentoring aspiring guides in this country, so being asked to join the Guide training team here last year was another highlight of course. I now find myself in this beautiful space where I train guides but I still get to guide regularly and therefore my photography isn’t suffering either. Let’s talk photography: what came first, becoming a guide or the passion for taking photographs? How has your photography evolved and what have you learnt from those who you have guided? What has been the best photo you have taken and why? I actually guided for the first two years without a camera at all but I had a desire to acquire one and get into photography. It was at Kalahari Plains in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve when I felt I couldn’t wait any longer. I bought my first camera from a guest, Reto Shegg, who had forgotten the battery charger back home and he was happy to leave the camera behind. I was completely clueless about wildlife photography then and also geographically isolated from the other photographers within the company at the time, being Grant Atkinson, Lets Kamogelo, David Luck and Vic Horatius. I had to learn everything from literature, or from guests that I guided and also just from loads of practice, (thanks to the digital era for it would have been too costly if I was using film!!). A lot of guests were coming through with cameras and were willing to help me with the technical workings of a DSLR. Because of my interest in photography, I was also constantly assigned to guide a lot of photographers and this helped a great deal because I was always asking for advice and some of them had websites and I would follow their work afterwards. With all this help and an occasional mail from Grant Atkinson, my knowledge slowly improved and I started getting confident enough to share some images on social media. When I started I was always cropping too tight in order to show the bore of the animal’s eye and the gore of every action. I was always trying to capture action and my images hardly ever had the sky in them. With time I started appreciating images of animals, their background and the sky. Change of camps from the semi-desert region to Linyanti in 2012 also influenced the evolution of my photography. I was now in a place with lots of surface water and within a week I had photographed lions galloping in water. People who have been on safari with me in Northern Botswana will all provide testament about my obsession with capturing that splash as a predator gallops across a floodplain!! I now appreciate photographing a subject in water or just having water as a background more than I ever did. I also remember when I started out, I would pack the camera away a soon as the light was gone or if it was raining, however now I will still shoot to get silhouettes or raindrops on the animal. As time went by and I got to know the limitations of my camera gear, I also became more comfortable with the enhancing software, (that nasty histogram!) and this improved my photography significantly. Initially I would shoot wildly and then spend hours scratching my head in front of the computer. I think I am now a little more experienced and have a good idea about when to press that shutter button. Participating in various wildlife photography forums in social media also meant I now started having an idea about what superior images are already out there and I became more selective with what I shared. Along with following these forums, I have also built my own library over time. This now means I have become more selective with what I shoot and may not just shoot because I have a camera. Another critical factor has been my improved knowledge and experience when it comes to animal behaviour. I am no expert but in most situations I can safely anticipate the subject’s next move from a very small gesture and my vehicle will be ready in place to capture that. When I am at a sighting, I am constantly looking at different possibilities, thinking ahead about what might transpire and what potential the sighting has got to give us that wow moment to capture. This is something that I think, comes with experience and improved background knowledge on animal behaviour. As for the best shot so far, that’s a very difficult one; one thing I have learnt is I would fall in love with a particular image for a few days or weeks but the excitement dissipates when I get something even better. That said, and because of my earlier confession about some fetish for water splashing around a predator’s body, I will say my favourite image at the moment is the one from Mombo Camp recently when I had Wild dogs chasing a pair of hyena though a pan. The hyena were closely following a hunting pack of six dogs and when they got to the water pan, I decided to hang back on the other side of the pan incase a fight ensued, and we would be in good light. The move paid off nicely as the wild dogs instantly turned around and had a real go at the hyenas with water splashing around them. How easy is it to engage a guest in conservation discussion? What percentage of the visitors you guide demonstrate an in-depth knowledge in the important issues facing wildlife in Africa? And what, as a guide can you do to encourage that knowledge? The threat to African wildlife seems to be a fairly universal topic at the moment and awareness around the situation seems to be reaching many ears around the world, especially in Europe and the North and South Americas. Unfortunately I have not guided enough Asians to gauge their awareness, or lack of, to give an informed opinion. Whilst I cannot give a firm number, the majority of the guests coming through are already aware of problems facing African wildlife. Some guests keep returning to Africa because they believe part of the fee they pay ultimately goes towards conservation and thus they are making a difference. Some actually are involved heavily in providing support to various wildlife research projects across Botswana. Conservation is a topic that I find quite easy to engage everyone in. I also keep old copies of Magazines that highlight such problems and often lend them out to guests to read and have more informed opinions if they are interested. I still have the Africa Geographic April/May 2012 issue that was especially dedicated to Rhinos and also have the issue where John Hanks and Ian Michler discussed the pros and cons of trophy hunting. Guests are always keen to read those during their stay and it gives them a more in-depth analysis around these pressing wildlife conservation matters. A guide’s passion for conservation is always infectious hence the animals will win a few hearts of sympathy. It is therefore very important for guides to go the extra mile at following all the good, the bad, and the ugly news surrounding African Wildlife and share those with guests constantly. It is important to share the figures, be it poaching incidences, animal poisoning incidents or just individual conservation success stories. Conservation is at the core of why we are guides in the first place and therefore I personally believe guides have a mammoth role to play. Photography is another venture that can help spread the message and since guides are always on the ground, they can easily help raise awareness by sharing their images with the world via the various social media outlets that are at our disposal today. As a guide trainer, I appreciate that now I am training new age guides with great technology around them compared to when I started out. I encourage them to use this modern technology to benefit their guiding careers as well as conservation. They now acquire cameras and share their images with the world via the social media. Lately I have noticed that every time I get into a camp, there is someone with a new camera and they need some tutoring, something that is quite encouraging. Photography has become, and will continue to be, a powerful tool for wildlife conservation and the more cameras out there, the merrier. How do you assess what a guest wants from their safari and how do you balance the needs/requirements of one with those of another. (Especially when it comes to being in a shared vehicle.) I think it is absolutely imperative that a guide knows the specific interests and needs of every individual guest in his vehicle because every single guest should at the end of their stay, be satisfied with the effort that the guide put in towards meeting and perhaps exceeding their expectations. I always try and find more info about every individual either from the booking sheet, (Nationality, Age, dietary requirements, camps they have visited before, camps they are going to next), or by asking questions when I pick them up from the airstrip. Occasionally I will chat to the guide at the guests’ previous camp and will pick up on their interests before they even land at my camp. Observation can also give one a hint; for example, a guest coming off the plane carrying big brand binoculars and a telescope is most likely to be a keen birder whilst a guest coming off the plane with big camera gear is clearly interested in photography. I will try to have as much info as possible before the first game drive. This way I can plan their stay and line activities in a certain pattern. Regardless of how diverse the group’s interests are in the shared vehicle, the focus should be on each individual and ensure they feel they are in the right vehicle. While we don’t succeed all the time, we always try and have people with similar interests and expectations in the same vehicle and it always helps when it works out well. While it is occasionally tricky to address every individual’s needs and interests, I have to admit that most guests coming through often have similar interests and are always willing to compromise in certain situations. They all understand that they are in a shared vehicle and flexibility is key towards enhancing not only their own their safari experience, but that of the other people in the vehicle as well. Most safari tourists to Botswana, (as other countries), are limited by time: despite being able to say they’ve visited Botswana, they fly in and out of wildlife destinations but how much of Botswana do they really experience? What do they miss by just transferring directly to Camp A, B, C then flying home? What more does Botswana have to offer the visitor and what can be done to open up cultural tourism in the country, combine it with wildlife tourism? For many years Botswana was marketed as a wildlife destination more than anything else in terms of tourism. I cannot personally fault anything here because an iconic place like the Okavango Delta will always heavily overshadow everything else from the start. Literature and Wildlife documentaries from places like Chobe National Park, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Okavango Delta and the Savuti have sort of created this cliché that Botswana tourism is more of a wildlife destination more than anything else. Due to limited time, as you say, tourists traveling through will therefore mainly choose these wildlife destinations. It is also a challenge to combine these wildlife destinations with cultural tours because of distances between in situ cultural, archaeological and historical attractions, and the wildlife destinations. Because most wildlife concession areas are often removed from the local villages it becomes important to incorporate as many cultural experiences as possible through the people employed in the various camps. Wilderness Safaris, for example, has partnered with various communities in the region for many years and made sure that the community’s stories are well portrayed. Perhaps a cultural activity that has been successfully drafted in along with the wildlife experience has been the mokoro activity. The mokoro was first introduced by the Hambukushu tribe. They were a fishermen tribe that arrived in Botswana in the mid 1800s from Angola and settled around the panhandle, with some venturing further south along the river’s course. Most of the camps in the Okavango Delta offer mokoro activity along side safari activities and in some instances tourists have witnessed some incredible wildlife sightings from the mokoro. A few years ago some guests at Little Vumbura Camp witnessed lions killing a Red lechwe ram from the mokoro. Another cultural activity that has often being offered in camps has been basket weaving. The Wayei people in northern Botswana are renowned basket weavers and a lot of their descendents are currently employed in the camps in various positions. During their spare time, a lot of them weave baskets that they get to sell in the curio-shops. In some camps, some are happy to demonstrate their basket weaving skills to guests. This can be quite popular especially for families traveling with young kids. Time pressure has a created a feeling that the cultural, archaeological and historical sites may not be attractive enough to motivate visitors to explore these places exclusively. However for people that have time, there are quite a few cultural destinations spread across the country. In northern Botswana, the Tsodilo hills, (a UNESCO World heritage Site) and Gcwihaba caves are renowned for the San rock paintings. Central Botswana boasts the Makgadikgadi area, Goo-Moremi and Old Palapye ruins to name a few. Venturing further south, one can explore the National Museum, the rock arts at Manyana village, the Kolobeng missionary site and a few other places that gained popularity from missionary explorers. All these destinations are well promoted through the Botswana Tourism Organisation. Cultural tourism is on the up in the country and people are slowly becoming aware and becoming more interested in visiting these sites. Physical infrastructure is improving and thus making them more accessible. Along with the infrastructure, I think it is vital that local residents around these places are given vigorous education about the history of the sites. This can help identify passionate resident guides that will make such a trip memorable to the visitor. This will also create employment opportunities as well income to the communities living around these monuments. Whilst safari tourism to Botswana’s prime wildlife destinations seems buoyant, what about tourism in the more marginal wildlife areas? What percentage of Botswana’s annual visitor number book to visit such areas and what, in your opinion, can be done to encourage more? It is well documented that Botswana is a low volume, high value safari destination. The Botswana government is adamant to continue supporting this effective tourism model so as keep the destination as exclusive as possible and in so doing protecting this fragile environment for future generations. Marginal areas are potentially more affordable and attractive to specific tourism sectors, such as the mobile safaris and self-drive tourists and assist in diversifying the industry. These areas provide basic services such as camping grounds with facilities and some have much more rustic lodges. These so-called marginal areas therefore are essential to tourism in Botswana as they help cater for people with limited budget, especially citizens, and also cater for people that enjoy rustic, back-to-the-roots safaris. These areas provide services for the mobile safari industry hence I feel they are a playing a big role in diversifying tourism in the country. While I do not have figures to support my opinion, I believe that self-drive and mobile safari operators are popular and financially benefiting many citizen operators. Also most of the marginal areas are in close proximity of local communities hence they play a big role in involving local people in conservation. This is through creation of jobs and small businesses that develop to provide small services around these areas. It may be vital to note here that a lot of the marginal areas were previously under the control of the consumptive tourism sector, therefore it is essential that local communities are involved in the current set-up in order to change mind sets, where need be. It is also essential that local communities derive direct benefits from tourism in order to help conserve nature around these areas. The Community-Based-Natural Resource Management policy was implemented in 1993 to address the above, and although a work in progress, it has created a sense of ownership of most of these conservation areas by the local communities. What is your view of the high cost low impact safari tourism model and can it be applied to all wildlife destinations in Sub Saharan Africa? Why does it work so well in Botswana? High cost-low volume, (better explained as low volume–high value), policy promotes the conservative use of sensitive environments and at the same time creates exclusivity. By keeping the visitor volume low, sensitive habitats are protected from over utilization and at the same time demand to visit these destinations increases. As a guide, I personally like the feeling of being out there and knowing that there is probably only so many vehicles that I may or might not even come across. There is never the jostling to squeeze into a sighting that is often associated with places that have too many safari vehicles out. Despite the basic qualification system for guides that I spoke about earlier, I think the low volume-high value policy also keeps the standards of guiding high. There is a lot more integrity from guides and the hunger to be among the best drives the standards. Since there are only so many companies, guides have to constantly up their game in order to be marketable and find jobs with relative ease. On conservation front, it is a policy that will surely ensure that wildlife destinations remain pristine for the future. There is a much smaller human footprint because camps are smaller and fewer. Would it work in other countries? I personally think implementation success would be dependent on a few factors. The country’s human population, its distribution and land use, as well as geography of the areas come to the fore here. For Botswana it was feasible then and it’s a success because the population of the country is only about two million people, and was significantly even smaller when the policy was put in place. A small population meant a lot more land could be set aside for wildlife conservation without depriving people of land for farming for example. Currently almost 40% of Botswana’s land belongs to wildlife. The iconic areas that are driving the policy in Botswana at the moment; being the Okavango Delta, the Linyanti/Chobe, and the Savuti only had small pockets of human settlements. Most of these were subsistence fishermen and farmers. Present land use around wilderness areas is a major factor because communities may not simply be uprooted to make way for exclusive lodges and safari camps. In terms of geography, the policy seems to thrive where there are iconic places of world renown. The Okavango Delta, for example, is an iconic landmark that lures a lot of visitors every year. A country must heavily market their iconic places as well in order for the concept to work. High abundance of wildlife is also key because people pay higher premiums for a combination of great wildlife and a sense of exclusivity. Having elaborated on the above, I also think political stability in the country is vital. It is a no brainer here that a feeling of lawlessness, corruption and greed often drives not only potential investors, but also potential tourists away. A strong political will towards nature conservation and a drive to improve citizens’ livelihoods through tourism also helps to market a country as a wildlife destination and people will be willing to pay for this experience. As more and more properties cater for the high-end luxury market with the associated amenities for that demographic, i.e., plunge pools, bush spas, wi-fi Internet access, mobile phone networks etc., how can these developments be balanced with the “green” ethos? And how can the impact of such safari properties on the environment be minimized? What of the thought that the luxury market place is getting ever further away from the true ideal of being out in the wilderness, being part of nature itself? The tourism industry is about people and their needs dictate the market. The market is a very dynamic one and companies have to create or follow trends that can generate business. Whilst plunge pools, bush spas and all those modern amenities attract business and help penetrate the associated demographic market, it is important to ensure that a safari destination remains a safari destination. It is up to companies to create a balance between the in-camp luxury and a safari feel about a camp. By running away from these modern trends, one is simply turning down business from the sector of people who love their extra comfort and luxury. Having said that, there are only a handful of camps in Botswana that provide this level of high-end luxury and they all do their best to create a balance that ensures the place remains a wildlife destination. We are very fortunate that Botswana has always been marketed as a wildlife destination and most of these high-end lodges are in areas where the density and diversity of game is high. Those camps market the wildlife ahead of in-camp luxury, and perhaps this is why I am yet to meet a guest who came to just soak some sun in camp and enjoy massages without going on game drives. It is all about creating a well-balanced experience with the right balance of luxury and exceptional wildlife viewing. I personally believe that in order to maximize your safari experience one needs to completely disconnect from the daily stress that life brings in order to reconnect with nature. Guests have to appreciate that the amenities such as wi-fi are of limited use and should not affect theirs, or the safari experience of others in camp in any way. Most companies with these high-end lodges also have more rustic camps as well that cater for those who do not care for the ultimate luxury. These two sets can even be combined in one itinerary to get the best of both worlds. While it is attractive to have all these luxurious amenities, it is important to keep an eye on the carbon print that comes with their usage. I have to say here that most, if not all, of these extra amenities are environmentally friendly especially in Northern Botswana where surface water and sunshine are relatively abundant. Some companies are actually even going the extra mile by opting to use solar power and cut back on carbon fuel usage. This further sends a conservation-conscious message since not every gadget can be powered by solar. Imagine a visitor has 3 weeks to spend on the ground in Botswana, (as a first time visitor): what, in your opinion, would be a great itinerary which provides a good overview to the country’s highlights. Why would you recommend such an itinerary? Is there a lower cost alternative that would offer something similar? The major wildlife destinations are the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti/Chobe/Savuti complex. The Central Kalahari is a semi-desert and the game viewing there can be spectacular, especially during the rainy season. I would encourage visitors to start there and then head into the Okavango Delta. There are some camps that mainly provide water activities such as mokoro and motorboats in the Delta so I would combine a water-based camp as well as a drier camp in order to truly experience the Okavango. The Linyanti/Chobe/Savuti region is renowned for high concentrations of elephants and predators so that’s another major highlight. Such an itinerary provides for a variety of habitats and game viewing plus a variety of activities to indulge in. If one is on a limited budget and want a more adventurous safari, they could experience all these regions by mobile camping safaris. Growing up as a child in Botswana, what emphasis is put on wildlife and the environment in the school curriculum? In your opinion, what improvements could be done at a school level to encourage a greater understanding of/involvement in, conservation matters? The school curriculum offers such subjects as social studies, environmental studies and geography from primary school level. These subjects aim at teaching pupils about nature, environment and conservation. Most, if not all schools have active environmental clubs that offer education on nature conservation and protection of natural resources. While the theory is great and the message reaches the right ears, I think it is important to beef things up with a lot of field trips. Some schools do offer a few trips a year, but I think more can be done in order for the school kids to understand and relate. Trips to the game reserves and national parks may provide inspirations to some kids to take on wildlife conservation as a career path. Also such trips may help kids educate their folks back home about conservation. What incentives exist for Batswana, especially the younger generation to visit the parks and reserves? What is the cost of “going on safari” for a Batswana compared to SADC visitors and those from overseas? First of all I think we should divide wildlife destinations in Botswana into two based on affordability; the game reserves and national parks, as well as the exclusive camps and lodges in private concessions. Figures from the Parks and Reserves Reservations Office, (PARRO), indicate that Batswana pay lower park fees compared to SADC and overseas visitors in parks and reserves. It should also be noted here that the best wildlife destinations are in the northern part of the country while the younger generation with good income are mainly based in the central to southern part of the country, (in the cities). Now the question is how much interest in nature does these youth with good income have? A few years ago, youth in the cities preferred a weekend in Johannesburg or Mafikeng than camping in Moremi Game Reserve in my opinion. However this is changing, (through better internal promotion of local destination tourism) and lately Maun is buoyant with citizen tourists during national holidays and it is something that indicates a change in mindsets. A lot more Batswana are taking up camping and traveling in northern Botswana and this is the only way that incentives may be increased to cater for the numbers in the future. It is indeed an encouraging sign as it also boosts local communities that run campsites, small lodges and mobiles safaris in marginal areas. Exclusive camps and lodges charge higher rates and affordability therefore, becomes an issue with Batswana. This is perhaps why there are fewer citizen tourists in these places on annual basis. However some companies offer discounted rates for Batswana and it is something that can be appreciated. In some companies, Batswana are treated as walking-in clients and thus enjoy highly discounted rates. Once we have more and more Batswana becoming aware of this and taking advantage of these rates, I am sure more companies will come on board and recognize the local citizenry as a potential market that can be enticed and tapped. How important is it for local communities in Botswana to be involved in the conservation process? Decision-making? Benefit directly from wildlife management? As someone once said, you can’t teach conservation to an empty stomach. People will only protect something if they see a direct benefit from its existence. There are a few communities that inhabit some areas around the wildlife management zones. Some of them may have been farmers, or simply living off the land over generations. It is important to involve such communities in decision-making processes as this helps to reduce conflicts between people and the governing authorities as well conflicts between the people and wildlife. Their involvement leads to people being more informed and hence appreciate certain decisions aimed at protecting wildlife. Consultation is something that is deeply rooted in Batswana’s culture and local people always appreciate being involved in decisions regarding their land and other natural resources. It is always important to get their buy-in through consultation and perhaps education about wildlife conservation. Most importantly people want to see the benefits of certain decisions before the buy-in. While conservation is always aimed at protecting natural resources, it should also improve the livelihoods of local communities. This may be in the form of job creation, improved infrastructure and general income. Botswana has done relatively well with this approach hence there are fewer cases of subsistence poaching compared to the rest of Southern Africa at the moment. What benefits do people in Botswana see from Safari tourism? Obviously it’s important for the country’s economy both on a national and local level but again what of those living in marginal areas? How is revenue from concession leases etc., distributed? Tourism is the biggest employer in the private sector in Northern Botswana. A lot of youth find employment in lodges around the delta as well as in companies providing services to those lodges. As for marginal areas, the Community Based Natural Resource Management, (CBNRM), was set up in the 1990s to ensure that local communities derive benefits from tourism in their areas. Community trusts were set up to administer lease fees and their distribution to the local people. This has over time improved the livelihoods of these people. Companies operating in marginal areas have a big obligation to employ and train locals so as to improve their livelihoods. By so doing, communities see direct benefit from tourism in their areas and therefore they conserve the natural resources around them. The concept has worked well over the years and has helped curb the persistent issue of subsistence poaching. Whilst a lot of the world’s media focuses upon the iconic species, how worried are you by the increasing instances of poaching of lesser-known species in Botswana? For instance there has been a growing trend in the illegal trade of pangolins, (whether for meat or scales), but yet it still attracts little focus by NGOs other than grass roots organizations. My worry here stems from the fact that we do not have figures to know whether we have a problem in our hands or not. I am as clueless as the next man since not much research is being carried out on these lesser-known species. Efforts and funds seem to be concentrated more on iconic species such as elephants, Rhino, the big cats, Wild dogs, Roan and Sable antelopes to name a few. Funding from the government, the private sector as well as from philanthropists must be allocated to research work on these lesser-known species. It is the only way that we can pick up trends in populations and attention can be brought up in cases where there are sharp declines in populations. The illegal trade in pangolins is a worrying one because Botswana has pangolins too. For now though there are no known poaching incidences on this species here. At least for now we can draw a little comfort that the media is raising public awareness on pangolin trade. By highlighting the problem and showing figures, may be the funders can divert some support towards research on these species. I do not blame the NGOs because they all rely on external funding and such funds come with priorities. It is up to the media to continue with the sterling work on uncovering these bad practices so as to bring attention to people that could help. How much of a threat is the illegal bush meat trade to Botswana’s wildlife and whilst one can consider areas such as the Okavango Delta to be relatively safe, what about areas closer to the borders? Illegal bush meat trade is a threat to a lot of countries in Africa, and Botswana is also feeling the negative impact of this to some extent albeit on a smaller scale than certain neighbouring countries. I personally don’t think there are that many places that can claim to be immune to it. Whilst most of Botswana seems to be well protected, there has been some occurrences of internal bush meat trade, and also some more serious cross-border poaching along the northern borders. The physical geography of the Chobe/Linyanti region makes it vulnerable to poaching and we do read or hear news about the Anti-poaching patrol teams engaging possible poachers in the region. The region has a very high concentration of elephants and poaching for ivory will become a significant threat in the future as the continent's numbers dwindle. In the past few years the Government declared that one of the Botswana Defense Force’s primary mandates as one of protecting its wildlife resources. This has assisted in controlling the subsistence bush meat trade to some degree, but some of the remote outlying areas remain vulnerable. Poisoning of poached animal carcasses is of great concern and this is having a heavy negative impact on scavengers, particularly vultures. Most of the areas that generally appear to be vulnerable to poaching have been identified over time by relevant government authorities and measures are in place to curb poaching. Measures here include setting up of bases with active air and ground patrolling by Anti-poaching units. Joint collaboration between Government and private enterprises is also essential to curb illegal trade. Having often encountered the anti-poaching patrols around the areas I operate in while out guiding, all I can say is, I would think twice about trying to poach an animal in Botswana! Having recently interviewed Sue Snyman, Programme director of Children in the Wilderness for issue 3 of Safaritalk’s magazine, I’d like to know more about CITW’s activities in Botswana and how are you personally involved – how can you see the programme developing further in the future and what role do you want to play? The main aim of the programme is to educate and sensitize young kids about conservation in the country. It targets kids in rural areas, most of them underprivileged and living adjacent to wildlife and pristine wilderness areas. The idea is to create leaders for tomorrow who will be inspired to play a big role in conservation of Botswana’s natural resources. For more information about the programme and activities, I have attached a link that may help elaborate more about the actual activities in place at the moment: www.childreninthewilderness.com/our-programmes/botswana.html Up until now, my training and guiding commitments meant I have unfortunately not had enough time in my hands to contribute to CITW activities. I have mainly been limited to a role of role model as I go about guiding through the camps. Since the programme has also now introduced photography lessons, perhaps I can find time and contribute from that perspective. Conservation and education both have a special place in my heart and if I could contribute through photography, I will be the happiest man. Having achieved much in a relatively short time at Wilderness Safaris in Botswana, what are your goals in the next few years and where can you see yourself in ten years time on a professional level? The tourism industry is very dynamic and constantly evolving, especially in Botswana. It is always difficult to predict where one would be in a decade’s time. Two things that are very close to my heart at the moment are guide training and wildlife photography. I would like to continue making a contribution to the development of guides in the country for as long as I physically can. I believe I benefitted immensely from great guidance and mentorship during the early stages of my guiding career and it is something I wish to carry forward and help up and coming guides to realize their potential. I would also like to see myself leading specialist photographic trips across the continent in the near future. While Botswana remains a jewel in terms of prime wildlife photographic opportunities, I would like to explore other parts of Africa as well. (Matt's note: Ona will be sharing more of his images with us here at Safaritalk and I'll be adding them to this topic. All images courtesy and copyright of Ona.) The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk.
  8. Hi Has anyone personally been to Abu camp recently (and preferably other camps in the Okavango Delta) that can give some insight ? A group of (very lucky) people inquired about the best wildlife experience in the Delta - Abu certainly looks looks like a great option, but the question is: Apart from the elephant experience, is the game viewing good enough, since these kind of travelers will also have the means to visit Mombo / Duba Plains or any other camp, but obviously they want the best food and service (and unfortunately the bragging rights as well). Thanks
  9. Impressions of my Okavango Houseboat Experience 3 nights on the Delta Belle Houseboat 25-28 April 2014 My wife and I slotted this in between 6 nights at Nxabega and 6 nights at Kwando Lagoon. We thought it might work well for us this way, like an interlude, and it worked like a charm. Our days in camp are usually frenetic. It revolves around getting up early, bouncing around for hours, downloading and backing up pictures, keeping batteries charged, packing/re-packing for the vehicle, and socialising with fellow safari goers while dining, not to mention trying to get shots of those critters while in camp. On the houseboat, all of these can take place without "going out". But first, a big thank you again to @@Jochen is in order. It was his TR http://safaritalk.net/topic/10904-botswana-blend-boat-lodges-and-camping/ that set this particular plan in motion. Our time on board was spent with the same crew Jochen had - namely Lucas (boatman), Clifford (captain) and Bashi (cook) - the same guys he showed in his shot of the kitchen (#17 in his TR). From his shot of his room (#12), it looks like we even spent our nights in the same room he did - downstairs, forward starboard side. Quite possibly we were also crowded out of the dining area the first night by the same insects :-D We flew in to Shakawe airport from Nxabega airstrip in just a little under an hour. We had enjoyed our morning game drive before finishing packing and leaving, and landed just before 1pm. From the air, Shakawe looked un-remarkable, an impression not changed on the ground. And Shakawe is an airport because it has more tarmac than dirt, and an actual brick building. It is however, as deserted as the airstrips out in the bush. Except we had Clifford hustling out to meet us and help with luggage. A short drive later, we were at the site the houseboat was berthed. We wasted no time getting on board, getting settled and casting off. We were the only passengers and so we effectively had a private vehicle for our three nights. Under such circumstances, how could our camera gear not take over the boat? We didn't really know what the "plan" was. How long/far would the houseboat travel? Where/when would we go out on the smaller boat? But we were happy just to go along. The cool breeze as the boat moves slowly along is really pleasant against the hot African sun during the day. Much more pleasant than in an open vehicle at noon, that's for sure. With the big bazooka being quickly mounted on a tripod (something I seldom bring but specifically packed for this part of the safari), I was soon grabbing quick, excited shots of Cattle egrets, White-fronted bee-eaters and Pied kingfishers on the banks as we passed them in the houseboat. However, what got me really going was when we started to slow down for our berthing spot for the day (this after only hardly an hour of slow steaming). The resident swallows (there were two separate species one nesting under the roof and one nesting under the floor) started to fly out and about. And I started to try and get them in flight. This made the entire crew laugh. As you can imagine, this was quite a challenge for me. Which I relished. So here is the first one in focus (sort of). The Wire-tailed Swallow was the merest speck in the frame. Cropped this shot to kingdom come. And what's a few hundred deleted other shots among friends? :-D They were not entirely without pity. These two posed on a branch of a dead tree we had berthed next to. Which allowed full firepower to be brought to bear. So 36 megapixels and 800mm were filled with frame-filling goodness. Couldn't help the harsh light, nor the pose though. Here's what a near-100% crop of another shot of the other swallow looks like (and shows up how shallow the depth of field is on an 800mm focal length at f5.6) And some White-fronted Bee-eater with dragonfly action I guess you can tell by now we are also quite keen on photographing birds. And that's what a houseboat on the Okavango delivers. If birds bore you, give it (& the rest of this TR) a miss. To anyone on ST pursuing the sighting of a Pel's Fishing Owl, go to Shakawe! There's a pair (at least) in that neighbourhood. Sometimes in the trees bordering the river but inside a military compound, but at other times, outside of it. We were offered a possibility of a Pel's and we were off with Lucas on the speedboat post haste. Left the big guns behind and just toted the Sigma 120-300/2.8 and Jill the Nikkor 70-200/2.8 That first time, they were inside the military compound. Lucas had told us that pointing our cameras at the base was forbidden. Some military type did come out and checked us out, and Lucas did some magic and lo! permission was granted. So we got a few shots off from the small speedboat. It was the second time around, on the next day, when we saw them outside the military base that we could get off onto land and got much better shots of a pair of them (with a Nikkor 300/2.8). There might even be a third owl (probably their offspring) but I cannot be sure as they never sat together while we were there, craning our necks and pointing our lenses up into the canopy. After the Pel's, we did the obligatory White-fronted Bee-eater colony (their nesting holes on the banks of the Okavango - so similar to what we saw of the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters did on the Zambezi), various other bird action, followed by the other obligatory sunset-over-the-Okavango-from-the-speedboat thing. We then ate some bugs on the 15 minute high speed ride back to the houseboat. Coming upon it in the 6:30 light, it looked great. That first evening, we were un-prepared for the insect onslaught. As you can see above, the lounge and dining area of the houseboat is entirely open. The crew put out some lights away from the food - to attract the insects away from the people as much as to provide illumination. It was nice and cool out in the open. But the insects soon drove us away. We quickly finished dinner and withdrew into the sanctuary of our rooms. The enclosed space was not as comfortable as the lounge, but we just could not take the bugs. As it turned out, this first mooring place had the most bugs. On the third night, they just let the reeds catch the houseboat and we were stopped in some shallow side channel in the open, as it were. There were much fewer insects. Or maybe we had just gotten used to them :-) More to come - time permitting :-)
  10. Hi, I am planning a trip to Okavango and Kalahari towards the end of February and I was wondering about the best (cheapest) way of making the reservation. Prices seem to vary significantly - anyone know if the prices quoted for the Kwando “5 rivers safari” offer found here http://wetu.com/Map/Resources/10996/5%20rivers%20rates%202013%202014.pdf could be correct? 321$ pppn for Kwara and Tau Pan seems like a good deal and since the minimum stay is only 4 days I might be able to combine this offer with the "green season special" from Wilderness Safari found here http://www.ultimateafrica.com/travel/specials.html Who should I talk to regarding making the reservation - any suggestions for travel agents (local or US/EU-based whichever is cheaper)? We only have 10 days available and we are considering the following camps - would we be better off only doing three camps instead of four (less travel time) and would these camps be a good choice for the end of February? Kalahari Plains or Tau Pan 2 – 3 days Kwara 2 – 3 days Little Mombo 2 – 3 days Jacana 2 days Thankful for any input. Regards, Håkan
  11. The Children in the Wilderness Botswana Camp took place at Banoka Camp during December 2013. Looks like we might have at least one future pilot for Wilderness Air... But seriously, the life skills these children acquire just a week or two of instruction, combined with educational activities, games and career guidance is impressive... and very rewarding!
  12. The following link takes you the Ngami times, where the report of the Moremi air crash has been reported. Moremi air is run by Kwando safaris, and the CEO operates both, with the current CEO being the one in charge during the crash. Hopefully there should be some corporate accountability for lack the of safety standards and culture, as this is truly unacceptable.The following link takes you the Ngami times, where the report of the Moremi air crash has been reported. I thought it was bad enough how the camps have been run into the ground over the last few years due to cost cutting. (to the point where i refuse to go bak unless changes are made)but this takes it to a new level. As a previous and multiple Moremi passenger, all I can say that unless the faces at the top change and the culture changes, you have lost any faith I had to travel with Moremi air. It upsets me to think how your lax approach could have easily cost me my own life. http://www.ngamitimes.com/ (apologies for the typo, was on an Iphone when typing)
  13. Botswana’s uniqueness in the abundance of wildlife and diversity it holds offer a safari experience of a lifetime. The true African nature of the country from the dry Kalahari shrub to the wet Okavango delta and the salt pans inbetween guarantee you’ll leave with amazing memories and beautiful photographs. We’re based on the ground in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango delta and we’ve personally visited each lodge and camp we book and are in constant contact with them during your safari to make sure you’re safe and enjoying your time with us. We know the seasons, the state of the annual Okavango Delta flood, the lodge staff themselves and the ever-changing regulations for travelling the protected wildlife areas of Botswana. The logistics of planning a safari are something we can do for you. Tell us where you’d like to travel and when and we’ll do all the rest, leaving you to relax and enjoy your time with us in Africa. Safaris, quad biking, elephant riding, boating, mokoro riding, fishing, birding, hunting, walking, photography, horse riding and scenic flights - we can book them all for you. From a luxurious safari retreat in the wilderness sipping cocktails under a dreamy sunset, to a self drive camping trip with the bush surrounding you while you listen to the calls of the wild, we’re here to make sure you experience a trip of a lifetime. The warmth, smell of rhythm of Africa will touch you forever... www.botswanafootprints.com
  14. http://www.tourismupdate.co.za/NewsDetails.aspx?newsId=67170

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