I thought I would describe mobile tenting to you so you would understand how we actually experienced Botswana. We were provided luxuries in camp but were still very close to the land. One was able to absorb the awesome, majestic grandeur of the African landscape and its wildlife. To us it seemed the best compromise. We were not that interested in staying in luxury lodges or necessarily completely roughing it. The mobile camp site was private and led by a truly professional guide. He was completely interested in making sure you had a real wildlife experience. The tents were 12 x 16 feet, with insect proof windows, comfortable single cots with fresh linens and duvets with private verandas. There was also a private attached en suite bathroom tent with a separate hot water shower and pit toilet. We were fortunate in that we were the only three in our two mobile camps so we received personalized service. It was winter in Africa so the temperatures were cold in the morning (the first morning we had frost) but warmed up to the mid-80s in the afternoon. There were fewer mosquitoes and the temperatures were much more conducive to touring as opposed to mid-40°C temperatures typically experienced in summer. One of the nicest surprises we had was climbing into our beds the first night to discover a hot water bottle to make our sleep more comfortable. What service.
Our daily itinerary was consistent. Wake up time was 6 AM. Wash basins were placed outside the tents with hot water to freshen up before we begin another day of adventure. We usually had breakfast before we departed. After our morning game drives we returned to camp with refreshments and freshly baked goods and then rested until a superb lunch was served. Because the temperatures were quite warm and there was little animal activity in midday you would stay in camp for approximately 3 hours prior to the afternoon game drives. You were not allowed to go outside the confines of the camp due to the risk of animal attack. This was a bit of an adjustment for me but it did force me to relax and enjoy the experience. Usually during our evening game drives we would stop for a sundowner which included wine and freshly prepared snacks. This was my kind of wilderness experience. Because we were in a game reserve the rules stipulated we had to be back in camp by sundown. Evening game drives were not permitted. Also, we were not allowed to drive off the main tracks but Brian was very accommodating when required to better view animals as long as he did not encourage other vehicles to follow. Once we returned in the evening we freshened up and then had a superb meal personally presented by our camp chef Flo. We loved Flo. Her meals could have been served in any high end restaurant. Freshly prepared fruit salads, curries, roasted vegetables, local meats (kudu, chicken, beef, crocodile) simply seasoned but delicious and desserts to die for (cheesecake, puddings, chocolate mousse, freshly baked cookies and cupcakes). We then sat by the ever present campfire reviewing the adventures we had had that day. After an appropriate nightcap we ventured back to our tents and fell into blissful slumber with animal calls in the not too far distance.
An open 4 wheel drive vehicle was used for all game viewing. Because there were only three of us, we had the ability to move back and forth to maximize our chances of getting photographs. Brian was very experienced in positioning the vehicle to get the best light which demonstrated to us his experience in dealing with photographers. You cannot realize how important this is in photography-light and location are everything. Clearly, African safaris are transitioning from the classic hunting camps to photography. I would say it is almost mandatory to have a naturalist guide. It is so easy to get lost and you often run onto roadways that are submerged in water making passage impossible. It was not an uncommon occurrence for us to pull out self drive vehicles that had ventured into water and then became stuck. After a while we thought we should’ve charged for our services. According to Brian, self drive touring- mainly by South Africans- is of concern to operators such as himself. Many of these individuals are inexperienced and often travel together which reduces the chances of having a true wildlife experience in addition to getting into all sorts of trouble. He does feel the fees for these individuals should be significantly increased to detract them from undertaking these ventures.
I cannot believe how many animals we saw in this part of Botswana. In my next post I will provide pictures for you to enjoy.