It’s been my dream to visit Botswana
It’s been my dream to visit Botswana for as long as I can remember. Most of my friends were surprised by this choice, suggesting Hawaii, the Maldives or Bora Bora. For me, it has always been the Okavango Delta and having watched several programs on the National Geographic Wild channel, it quickly went to the top of my bucket list. When the time came to make the trip, little did I know it would exceed my expectations and be life-changing for me and my husband.
observe and read the signs
Someone once told me I should observe and read the signs life puts in front of me. I’m glad I didn’t otherwise I wouldn’t have boarded the plane to Africa. Events seemed to be telling me “perhaps you shouldn’t go; why don’t you stay at home?”. Let me explain. Firstly, a damaged passport with only five days to get a new one issued; done! Secondly, my dear husband catching the worst case of man-flu ever immediately before the trip; antibiotics and although still complaining, he was almost as good as new. Finally, an airport transfer which didn’t show up and our subsequent mad dash to get to the airport. We boarded with minutes to spare, sweaty and out-of-breath!
Johannesburg and Maun
Several flights later, with connections in Frankfurt, Johannesburg and Maun, we were met at Maun airport by the lovely bright smiles of the safari lodge representatives, a promising sign of the warm hospitality to follow. Our itinerary included three magnificent Belmond camps, Khwai River, Savute Elephant and Eagle Island. Our connection with nature was instant. On the first attempt to land at the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, the pilot pointed to a pride of lions enjoying an afternoon snooze on the landing strip. We realized then and there we were their guests, privileged to be visiting their wild habitat. Finally, we landed, disembarking to the expanse and silence of the savannah. We couldn’t help but smile on seeing a crooked wooden sign welcoming us to ‘Gate 3, Terminal 5’. Greetings and introductions, chilled towels, iced water, our luggage whisked away and we were on route to the lodge. Minutes later, we slowed as our Land Rover passed an elephant reaching up for acacia branches, completely indifferent to our presence. It was impossible not to feel a little emotional. Then again, it was funny, how after only a few days, we got used to seeing elephants daily. I can’t really describe my feelings on seeing an elephant walking through the restaurant as we enjoyed lunch. Or, seeing a baby elephant hiding in the bushes next to our tented lodge. Or, having a full-grown male elephant leaning against our lodge at night, sleeping and snoring louder than my husband. Now, back at home, I miss having them around.
impressed with the high standards
I was impressed with the high standard of accommodation in all three lodges. We simply couldn’t believe how comfortable and well-designed they were, subtly blending in with their surroundings. In part, I was relishing the absence of Wi-Fi for a few days but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the connection was strong enough for me to Skype my children. It was comforting to know we were not completely cut off from the outside world. Open and breezy dining areas, swimming pools to cool off in between game drives, libraries to enjoy a quiet moment; all created a relaxing and luxurious setting. With ten to twelve lodges in each location, a unique sense of intimacy is achieved. This affords the space to effortlessly connect with fellow guests, be it at five thirty in the morning over coffee before the game drive or of an evening Amarula-tasting by the fire. We were brought together through sharing our unforgettable impressions of safari sightings, our encounters were so much more than we could have hoped for. Our fellow guests from Peru, Germany and New York were gracious, inspiring and wonderful people.
precious unspoilt places
These precious unspoilt places show us the importance of nature in our lives. I saw my strong man in tears of emotion as we witnessed the simplicity of life. There is something powerful in watching lions prowling, hippos staring, cheetahs lazing in the midday sun or a dazzle of zebras running alongside your vehicle. Did I mention the sunsets? Far more spectacular than I have ever seen. And just when you think it can’t get any better, your guide offers you a glass of wine or a gin and tonic to enjoy with the view. That’s when you are truly in the moment.
This wonderful adventure brought people into our lives who we will never forget, who ensured our comfort and safety and gave us their friendship. Let’s remember, we were among some of the world’s most dangerous predators, at any given time and especially when out of the safari vehicle, you’re as good as prey. My husband still refers to one of our guides, the fabulous JR, as his ‘brother from another mother’; his kindness, sense of humour and humility touched our hearts. The team from Savute, on hearing us singing around the camp fire came to join us even though it was the end of their long working day. Our spontaneous dancing and the sense of belonging made it one of our most memorable evenings.
Piece of my heart in Botswana
I left a piece of my heart in Botswana. I need only close my eyes to recall the sights, to remember the scents, so foreign to me then, so unforgettable now. And the people, genuine and proud, happy with as little or as much as life has given them. It changed the way we see our day-to-day lives and gave us a new found appreciation. We smile more as we await our return to our beloved Botswana.