Botswana and Zambia: A Living Eden

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 15635A, International

Highlights

  • Experience classic safari camping in idyllic locations
  • Enjoy extensive opportunity to observe and photograph African wildlife and birds up close
  • View thundering Victoria Falls

Includes

  • Guided game drives in customized safari vehicles with knowledgeable guides
  • Two commercial flights within Africa
  • All entrance and camping fees within the national parks and reserves

Details

DatesJun 4–16, 2015
Price$7,245
Deposit$200
Capacity12
StaffMartha Greason

Trip Overview

The Trip

This nature safari visits some of Africa's most scenic and wildlife-rich areas. Botswana is one of the last frontiers of African wilderness where the flavor of unspoiled Africa prevails. After meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa we'll travel by commercial air to Maun, Botswana to to meet our safari guides. In rugged SUVs, we'll drive to Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai Reserve, Okavango Delta, Savuti Channel and Chobe National Park for premium game viewing. From Chobe we'll cross the Chobe River into Zambia to explore the trails surrounding Victoria Falls, as well as visit the historic city of Livingston.

Botswana is considered Africa's success story, with a lack of tribal and racial conflict, a forward-thinking government, widely available health care, and educational opportunities. Botswana achieved independence in 1966, prior to the discovery of vast diamond deposits. Since then it has maintained a peaceful democracy and stable economy. Many Americans first became acquainted with Botswana through the film, "The Gods Must Be Crazy." It was filmed in the extensive Kalahari Desert, which covers two-thirds of the country. More recently, the delightful people of Botswana were introduced to readers who enjoyed the series by Alexander McCall Smith, the first of which was "Number One Ladies' Detective Agency."

We'll visit Botswana's verdant northern area, where the Chobe and Okavango rivers create one of the most extraordinary wildlife habitats in the world. This is truly a naturalist's and ornithologist's paradise. The prolific, magnificent birdlife will delight every visitor. With personalized, classic camping service, we'll have an experience very different from those who sleep behind concrete walls. Nothing can compare to the experience of sleeping under canvas, close to the sounds and sights of the African night. While the mobile camps are not luxurious, one advantage they have is the flexibility to move in order to follow the animals, and each tent does have private bathroom facilities "en-suite."

Itinerary

Days 1-3: Our trip begins at the Johannesburg Airport, where we board an Air Botswana flight (included in trip price) to Maun, Botswana. Here we'll meet our safari guides and head toward the Moremi Game Reserve. This vast area of northern Botswana is a blended system of reserves separated only by lines on a map. The animals and birds move without hindrance between Moremi, Okavango, Savuti, and Chobe. This enormous size area, together with the diversity of ecosystems, result in making the wildlife of northern Botswana so very spectacular. We can't predict just how long it will take to reach our first campsite. It depends on what wildlife presents itself, because we'll stop to watch. Over the next days we can expect to see the "Big African Five" (elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhino) plus giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, kudu, tsessebe, red lechwe, waterbuck, reedbuck, duiker, bushbuck, warthog, hyena, baboon, and vervet monkey in good numbers. Cheetah, sable antelope, eland, and wild dog are also here, plus many other species. Soon we'll settle into our comfortable tents and the routine of early morning, afternoon, and sunset game drives that last up to two hours, then enjoy time back at camp and relax over our delicious meals. Hot water will be delivered to your personal shower upon request. The camp crew will have it ready and waiting.

Days 4-6: Time to break camp and send it on to our next campsite in the Khwai River area. By the time we arrive at our new home after a day of game viewing, everything will be set up and ready. This spectacular region is in the heart of the Okavango Delta and home to an impressive wildlife spectacle. Lion and leopard are particularly numerous. By now you'll have been dazzled by the birds of Africa. We'll be thrilled by the lilac breasted roller, kingfishers, lesser jacana, coucal, saddle-billed stork, marabou stork, kori bustard, secretary bird, and ostrich. There are too many to name, but over the days of our safari it should be easy to identify at least a hundred.

Days 7-8: Our crew will move ahead to set up the next camp while we spend our time enjoying the animals and birds, with no camp chores to worry about. What makes safari so fascinating is observing the animal behavior and interaction. We'll see different animals in the floodplains. In addition to those named in the first three days, there are sitatunga, crocodile, hippo, and otter. Birds of the wetlands include different storks, flamingos, bee-eaters, hornbills, and various geese, along with predators such as eagles, hawks, vultures, owls, and others. In this area over 350 bird species have been recorded. This campsite is in the Savuti area of Chobe National Park, which has the most interesting human history in the region. Around the evening campfire, our guides will tell these stories as well as answer our questions about the animal behaviors we have observed during the day and discuss conservation issues.

Days 9-10: We'll move farther north into Chobe National Park. This park, which is just over the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is a good bit larger than Connecticut. It encompasses a wide variety of terrain, from a lush river region in the north (where myriad game come to drink) and unremitting dry bushland in the south. Chobe is famous for its herds of elephants. They trample around everywhere -- 45,000 are said to make Chobe their home. Watching elephants is fascinating and one cannot help but admire these huge, intelligent beasts. Nowhere in Africa can elephants be seen in such numbers as in Chobe. Of course, this is also the kingdom of the big cats and hippos as well and many species of antelope.

Days 11-12: We'll bid good-bye to our safari guides, cross the Chobe River and be in Zambia. A bus will be waiting to drive us about an hour east to the Zambezi Sun Hotel, situated next to Victoria Falls. Of course, the falls are a world-famous sight with a 350-foot drop and mile+ width. It is a sight to behold. After a short walk to get oriented, we'll be free to explore the various hiking paths on our own. Dinner both nights will be at the hotel, as will breakfast. Lunches here are on your own, leaving participants to pursue individual interests. While some keep exploring, others may be relaxing in the beautiful swimming pool and enjoying the lovely gardens. A bridge crosses over to the Zimbabwe side of the falls (visa sold on-site and fee is not included), where there are also many hiking trails. Zimbabwe is not included in our itinerary and a decision to cross over should depend on political conditions at the time. On the afternoon of day 12,  an excursion into the historic town of Livingston is included. The Livingston Museum is renowned for its collection of Dr. Livingston's memoirs and has exhibits on the art and culture of Zambia.

Day 13: After breakfast we'll leave for our scheduled departure and flight to Johannesburg, where our safari ends. But memories of the safari sights and sounds will last a lifetime.

Photos

Details

Accommodations and Food

Our nights in the tented camps include spacious and comfortable stand-up tents with two beds (including bed linen), storage space, and battery lamps. The bathroom facilities are attached to the sleeping area so there is no need to go outside to use them. There is no plumbing, but a regular toilet seat sits on a newly dug short drop hole with material provided to keep it pleasant during the short stays at each campsite. The shower consists of a five-gallon bucket hanging six feet above the ground. This is filled with hot water as needed and operated by a pull cord. A wooden platform keeps one's feet above the water, which is drained outside. A washstand and basin for each person is filled with warm water, morning and night. Three delicious, nutritious meals are served every day, in addition to some snacks. All food, drinks, and water are carefully handled so there is no worry of disease or infection. Drinks included are mineral water, soft drinks, beer, wine, and gin and tonic while camping. Drinks are not included while at the Zambezi Sun Hotel, nor are lunches included there.

Trip Difficulty

This trip has been designed for the adventurer and lover of nature and animals. It is suitable for anyone over 12 years of age in good heath and stamina. We will be in remote areas very far from good medical services. We will not be walking while in the game parks nor leaving the immediate campsite on foot because of the presence of predatory animals. This lack of exercise is difficult for some so it is suggested to bring a jump rope, Frisbee, or something else with which to get moving. A spirit of adventure and a flexible attitude are most necessary and will bring many rewards. Safety among the animals should not be a concern, but it is imperative to follow the safety instructions given. The camp crew is alert and guarding the campsite at all times.

Equipment and Clothing

No special equipment is needed for this safari. Most participants want to bring binoculars and camera. A complete packing list will be sent by the leader.

References

  • Lonely Planet Guide to Botswana and Namibia.
  • McIntyre, Chris, The Bradt Travel Guide to Botswana.
  • Main, Mike, Visitors' Guide to Botswana.
  • Moss, Cynthia, Portraits in the Wild. (Strongly recommended to understand the habits of the big mammals.)
  • "Botswana: In the footsteps of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency with Alexander McCall Smith," a film by Mats Ogren

Conservation

Botswana and Zambia face many of the same problems as other African nations concerning population, land use, and conservation. But unlike many other African nations, Botswana recognizes the value of wildlife and genuinely wants to preserve it. Policies regarding the hunting and selling of ivory are changing and are some of the complex issues to be discussed during our trip. One of our conservation objectives will be to gain an understanding of the forces that create these problems. We will have the opportunity to meet knowledgeable people who can help us understand the complex issues at stake. We will learn about government programs that have made local people partners in conservation. We will also become aware of the effect foreign visitors have on the land, on the conservation of wildlife, and on the local people. We will tread lightly, with respect for all.

Staff

Leader:

Marti Greason has over a decade of experience leading Sierra Club trips to various destinations in the United States as well as abroad, introducing participants to varied landscapes, exotic cultures, and fascinating creatures (elephants and octopi, anyone?). She has traveled extensively in Europe, trekked through the Serengeti, visited the Orient and explored the Holy Land. She has also scuba dived in the Caribbean, zip-lined in the Costa Rican jungle, and followed Darwin's footsteps in the Galapagos. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, where she is a docent at Tohono Chul Park, introducing visitors to the basics of desert flora and fauna.

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