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Guidebook to a Botswana Safari with African Bush Camps 

Lucy Brink, our General Manager at Safari365, recently went on a 6-night educational trip to 3 of African Bush Camp’s properties: Khwai Lediba, Linyanti Bush Camp, and Thorntree River Lodge. Read on about her first-hand experience and insights for a Botswana safari and her visit to Victoria Falls.

From a young age in the UK, I was captivated by Botswana, inspired by David Attenborough’s documentaries of the Okavango Delta’s vibrant wildlife. Botswana’s untouched beauty seemed a stark contrast to my urban life.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit three lodges in Botswana and Victoria Falls with African Bush Camps. This experience prompted the common question: is Botswana worth the higher cost? I believe it is, and here’s why.

Lucy on a mokoro on her Botswana safari with African Bush Camps.

Why should you experience a Botswana Safari? 

Botswana promotes a ‘slow safari’ tourism model: “low impact, high value.” The government limits tourist numbers to reduce environmental impact while ensuring a premium experience. This includes strict sustainable practices, like solar-powered lodges that must be dismantled without a trace once leases expire. Camps often have high staff-to-guest ratios (about 3:1), contributing to higher operational costs. 

Additionally, transporting supplies and maintaining remote camps is costly. These factors, combined with high demand and limited accommodation, explain the higher prices. However, this model ensures a sustainable future for Botswana safari experiences, protecting the wildlife and communities for generations to come.

Introducing African Bush Camps

Leopard lying in the shade on a sandy patch of grass under a tree resting its head on a Botswana safari with Safari365
Leopard spotted lounging in the shade to escape the heat on safari.

African Bush Camps (ABC), founded by Zimbabwean guide Beks Ndlovu in 2006, is a prominent safari operator in BotswanaZambia and Zimbabwe. Known for their authentic approach and community projects through the ABC Foundation.

As I left Cape Town for Maun, Botswana’s tourism gateway, I anticipated six nights across three camps in two countries. I was eager to see how a Botswana safari compared to my South African experiences and whether a luxury lodge near Victoria Falls was worth it.

On the flight, the scenery transformed from South Africa’s urban sprawl to Namibia’s sandy deserts and Botswana’s green bushveld. Maun’s airport, bustling with safari tourists, was our entry point to the Okavango Delta. We boarded a Wilderness Air flight to Khwai, known for its scenic safaris. 

As we boarded the snug, hot aircraft, I realized the importance of a handheld fan. Despite the heat, the mesmerizing aerial views and spotting elephants made it worthwhile. After landing at Khwai Airstrip, we transferred to Khwai Lediba camp, welcomed by singing staff and lemon-scented towels.

Khwai Lediba 

Khwai Lediba, opened in June 2023, is a solar-powered, unfenced camp with modern designs and colorful accents. The luxury tents were comfortable and surprisingly cool at night, even without air conditioning.

We spent two fantastic days on our Botswana safari with our guide Gilbert and a trainee guide, Tsidi. ABC’s commitment to empowering women in various roles was evident throughout my trip. As we explored Khwai and Moremi, Gilbert shared fascinating insights about local plant uses and the many uses of elephant dung, from eco-friendly paper to tea for easier childbirth.

Wildlife highlights included tracking a pack of 19 wild dogs making a kill outside camp, following two lion prides with cubs, and seeing elephants, hippos, jackals, waterbuck, impala, baboons, and a variety of birdlife. Although leopards are harder to spot, one was seen by another vehicle. My personal highlight was experiencing a mokoro ride, gliding through shallow reeds and passing beautiful water lilies. The day ended with a memorable sundowner by the river, watching a stunning Botswana sunset.

We also visited the Khwai pre-school, an ABC Foundation project. Previously, children had to travel hours for school, but now, with the Foundation’s help, they have access to education and meals closer to home. The kids were thrilled to see us.

A group of people overlooking a river as the sunsets with drinks in their hands on a Botswana safari with Safari365
The group enjoying sunset drinks overlooking the river.

Linyanti Bush Camp 

On day three, we headed to Linyanti, a private concession on the Chobe National Park border. After a 25-minute flight and an 8-minute scenic helicopter ride, we arrived at Linyanti Bush Camp. This ABC Signature camp can be accessed by helicopter or a 2-hour road transfer, offering a mix of aerial and ground game-viewing experiences.

If you’ve never flown by helicopter, it’s a bucket-list activity. Our helicopter ride over the Chobe River provided spectacular views of Namibia’s vast plains and Botswana’s lush bushveld. Linyanti, close to the river, is ideal for year-round wildlife viewing and birdwatching. For an added thrill, consider a doors-off scenic helicopter flip.

Linyanti is a short drive from the Chobe National Park, which spans 110,000 hectares, dwarfing Linyanti’s 110 hectares. Though water-based activities were unavailable during our visit due to low levels, plan a visit from June onwards if these activities are a priority.

Linyanti delivered incredible wildlife sightings, including an unforgettable night drive on our Botswana safari. We enjoyed sundowners at a dam, watching a pod of 30 hippos. Our guide, Chester, was exceptional, sharing his knowledge and humor. We spotted two leopards within 24 hours, including one with an impala kill. Linyanti now boasts a resident pride of nine lions.

Game drives revealed a fascinating array of wildlife: honey badgers, warthogs, impala, lions, waterbuck, giant eagle owls, dwarf mongooses, kudus, fish eagles, elephants, and saddle-billed storks. Bird enthusiasts would enjoy sightings of white-throated bee-eaters, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, and African hoopoe birds.

Chester’s stories added depth to our experience. For example, the high salt content in leadwood trees leads to branch sacrifice after floods, a process linked to initiation rituals. Night drives were thrilling, with sightings of a lioness, fireflies, a serval, side-striped jackal, bush baby, Verreaux’s eagle-owl, and hippos out of the water.

Linyanti is also close to the Chobe National Park gate, allowing for full-day excursions to Savuti. The camp’s rustic bush style, with an “Out of Africa” ambiance, offers a peaceful setting with shady stoops for viewing the plains. It’s best as a first stop to manage expectations before visiting newer, more modern camps. The property also includes Linyanti Ebony and Linyanti Expeditions for a more adventurous experience.

Evenings at Linyanti are magical, with boma dinners, singing, and conversation under the stars. This hidden gem offers an intimate and enriching Botswana safari experience, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts.

A large lounge area filled with couches and tables for guests to rest on their Botswana safari with Safari365
The lounge area of Linyanti Bush Camp, an African Bush Camp's property.

Thorntree River Lodge

We began with a two-hour drive to the airstrip, spotting impala, a leopard, giraffes, warthogs, a python, baboons, and elephants along the way. The 45-minute flight to the efficient Kasane International Airport was seamless. From there, a 25-minute drive took us to Zambia’s Kazungula border, where four countries and two rivers converge. Visa requirements should be checked in advance, and a KAZA multi-entry visa for $50 is cost-effective.

In Zambia, we enjoyed a picturesque hour-long drive to Thorntree in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Thorntree, an ABC ‘Icon’ camp, offers luxurious accommodations on the Zambezi River. The lodge features modern, open designs with plenty of communal areas. Each air-conditioned suite has river views and a plunge pool, ensuring a “wow” factor.

Wildlife roams freely around the unfenced lodge, adding to the authentic Botswana safari experience. Activities include scenic sunset cruises, birdwatching, and a visit to the ABC Foundation’s Khwai pre-school. Rhino tracking was a highlight, with close-up sightings of seven rhinos, made possible by anti-poaching efforts.

The food and drink choices were excellent, with many activities included in the stay. Optional activities, such as bungee jumping and helicopter flips, are available for an additional charge. I enjoyed a hot stone massage at the spa after the flights.

Thorntree offers a luxurious experience with attentive staff, ideal for starting or ending your safari journey. We visited the Maunga Health Centre, supported by the ABC Foundation, which provides essential healthcare to the local community.

The ABC Foundation’s work in conservation, community upliftment, and female empowerment was impressive. Their camps offer varying degrees of luxury, from adventurous Expedition camps to premium Icon camps. ABC camps are family-friendly, with thoughtful details and amenities. A night drive is a must, and choosing both a water-based camp and a land/mixed camp offers a full experience.

Overall, this journey from Linyanti to Thorntree was an unforgettable blend of adventure, luxury, and cultural immersion, making it a highly recommended experience for any Botswana safari enthusiast.

A bathroom with a double sink and mirrors found at Thorntree River Lodges’s tented camp when on a Botswana safari with Safari365
The gorgeous bathrooms found in Thorntree River Lodge’s tented camp.

Thank You

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to African Bush Camps for hosting me on this incredible trip. From the wonderful hospitality of the staff to the thoughtful touches that made me feel so at home, it was truly a memorable Botswana safari experience.

In conclusion, I fell in love with Botswana. Unlike South Africa, Botswana feels like one expansive national park, immersing you in the bush from start to finish. The people were warm and welcoming, and the sunsets were spectacular.

Women sitting on a safari vehicle on a Botswana safari enjoying the sunset with Safari365
Lucy enjoying the evening sunset with African Bush Camps.

Contact us to book your African safari tour with trusted local experts.