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Far-out flying safari from Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta leopards

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The way to go for an unforgettable flying safari in Zimbabwe and Botswana is by small plane from mighty Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta and its wildlife riches…

Botswana ranks right up there as a ne plus ultra safari destination. Along with having the richest variety of wildlife and luxuriant vegetation you could ask for, it has a relative scarcity of tourists. That is because so few can be admitted at a time to its game reserves and small lodges or camps. Once you know this, the price tags that they bandy about here start making sense — no, you’re not using the wrong exchange rate. They really mean it’s that much and per person to boot!

So, if you’re not used to paying astronomical prices, make a wide detour around those exclusive Botswana camps. And, in the interest of your inner vacation peace, at this point you might actually want to stop reading this article!

As for me, I thought it behooved me to go all out in colossal fashion on the occasion of my 50th birthday. In spades! And so it came down to our letting Monika and Mirjam, safari specialists with The Safari Source, customize a birthday itinerary for us. Here it is, with adventure following adventure in rapid succession:

Highlight right out of the blocks: Victoria Falls

The adventure-inclined traveler reaches the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe by plane from Johannesburg. It’s a minimal town with a maximal waterfall. Actually, the term “waterfall” does the natural phenomenon an injustice. That’s because the masses of water that fall here during the high season with a deafening roar and pour bucket loads of spray on visitors makes a lasting impression. In any event, despite a sun that just wouldn’t quit under the cloudless sky, it left us sopping wet…

Instead of the hiking boots we wore, we recommend waterproof sandals for visiting the Falls! Our shoes took the entire sunny afternoon noon to dry at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge…

Highlight: wildlife riches of Chobe National Park

By SUV, you travel from Victoria Falls to the Botswana border. Here you pass through immigration control and cross the border on foot, then a safari jeep transports you to a lodge by the famous Chobe National Park. The reason why the park is justly famous dawns on the well-disposed big game hunter as soon he crosses into it. No need to look for the wildlife here; you practically trip over it!

You bed down here in style in the Ngoma Safari Lodge. Just as along the Chobe River, the animal viewing is spectacular here. Don’t pass up an early morning “walking safari” with carbine on the shoulder. A really special adrenaline rush…

Highlight: Flight safari into the Okavango Delta

A few days later, you take off in a Cessna from the small Kasane Airport. Our bush pilot Michaela is at the controls and sets a course for the tent camps of the Okavango Delta! This is literally high adventure!

To keep the drama of the journey building, we recommend the Tubu Tree Camp from Wilderness Safaris’ “Classic Camp” category as the next stop. Your lodgings in a romantic “tent for two” will be beguilingly airy. Freshening up under the outside shower surrounded by the bush is exquisite!

The wildlife density here in the Okavango Delta is not as high as by the Chobe River, and so the well-disposed safarist has to work harder for sightings. But then it is all the more satisfying when you actually succeed in “bagging” a perfectly camouflaged leopardess and her cub. After what seemed like searching for a needle in a haystack!

To be fair, let’s give credit where due: to our guide Kambango. It was only thanks to his immense tracking skills that we did not spend our days driving blindly past the leopardess and assorted other wildlife. Only the elephants and giraffes we had no trouble spotting without help…and the omnipresent impalas, to be sure.

Also not to be missed in the Okavango Delta is a ride in a mokoro dugout. In the old days, these shallow-draft canoes really were hewn out of logs, but today they are plastic replicas.

Katja and Walter on a Mokoro in Okavango Delta

Katja and Walter in a mokoro with guide poling them through the Okavango Delta

Even when hungry hyenas chew on our Cessna parked on the Tubu Tree airstrip and make it unairworthy for the next leg, it does not damp down the adventure. On the contrary… Aside from this typical bush mishap, our bush pilot Michaela has everything under control the next day as usual and soon we are airborne again.

Highlight: The Kings Pool premium camp

Barring a possible flight delay due to hyena attack, the flying safari brings the so-inclined frequent flyer to the journey’s climax: to a place where kings are wont to go swimming, to wit, Kings Pool.  So long as there are no giant crocodiles wallowing in it…

Kings Pool seen at dusk from the tent

View of the Kings Pool at dusk

From the moment you are welcomed in the open-air lounge of this premium camp by Wilderness Safaris, it’s clear you can set yourself up in elegance even in the bush. Where Tubu Tree Camp goes more for the picturesque colonial style, in Kings Pool you have landed in a designer camp: light hues, and clean lines combine with green color accents into a harmonious whole.

Deck with a view

Deck with a view

Taking possession of the room, or rather make that “of the tent,” is, if anything, even more breathtaking: the “tent for two” with its gigantic dimensions is easily without equal when it comes to the interior furnishings…

Canopy Bed Kings Pool

“Tent for two” Botswana style

… or so we naively thought…

Highlight of highlights: Little Mombo Camp

However, nothing says that the flying safari has to end with Kings Pool. For our final destination, our two ladies at Safari Source had hit on a way to up the ante once more — with Little Mombo Camp…

“Little” here refers to the camp’s size: With just five tents, it is inevitable that the guests will have every wish read in their eyes before they can even verbalize them!

If Kings Pool takes your breath away, and you’ve recovered from that, then things get a tad more critical at Little Mombo: the lounge may be somewhat smaller, but the tents here will see your Kings Pool and raise it a bundle … or what else to make of the dressing table with its make-up and shaving mirrors completely open to a view of the Okavango?

Make up mirror with a view!

Dressing table with a view!

Here, too, they offer spectacular safaris with leopard sightings. Man, oh man, it’s too much for my strung-out nerves!

Here are our individual reviews of the lodges and camps highlighted in this post:

Booking pointers

We took our 12-day trip in early June at the start of high season: this makes it shortly after the end of the rainy season, i.e., when the Victoria Falls are still running near full blast and the bush abounds in greenery. True, the better for the animals to hide in, but with so much wildlife, there’s always plenty to see anyway.

Night time temperatures in winter hovers around 5 degrees Celsius; by noon, it tends to warm up to about 25 degrees Celsius. Dressing like an onion in layers therefore is a principle worth adhering to, including down jackets on the outside; with the wind chill, it gets even colder in the open safari jeeps. That said, they do put a hot water bottle on the seat for you in the mornings as well as one in your bed at night in the tent.

The Safari Source is a local safari operator based in Zimbabwe that is run by two women, one from Switzerland, the other from Austria. They give very competent advice and the trip documentation is highly detailed. In it, they stress in several places not to pack more than 20 kg in small bags and you need to observe this rule religiously: otherwise, your gear won’t fit into the little Cessnas …

But then you really don’t need a lot of clothes on a flying safari, since you can also have them laundered in the camps. A pair of hiking boots can handle just about anything — bar at Victoria Falls, where rubber sandals are definitely the thing …

A pre-trip visit to a doctor specializing in tropical medicine also recommends itself. The Okavango Delta is known as a malarial region, especially during the rainy season. But  we are happy to report having seen only three mosquitoes in June. Two of them got away…

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About Author

Walter Schaerer’s extensive background in the travel industry, passionate enthusiasm for photography and a firm belief that luxury destinations can also be affordable; were some of the main factors that motivated him to create the travel blog travelmemo.com. In his day job Walter is a web product manager based out of Zurich, Switzerland.

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