I now know what I would tell someone if they came to me and asked, “Spencer, what is the one place I should go to in Southern Africa if I could only go to one place?” Well I would first ask them why are they only going to one place in Southern Africa. But then, I would tell them, if there’s one place you have to go to in Southern Africa, it’s to Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
I think a lot of why I found myself gravitating so much to Botswana, and more specifically, the Okavango Delta, is because how truly wild it is. You leave from the Maun Airport on a prop plane and it’s nothing but miles of wilderness. While there are no signs of human life, there are plenty signs of wildlife, as the entire 30-minute plane ride to Camp Okavango (my home for my first two nights in Botswana) had someone exclaiming about what they were seeing below, which was frequently in the way of elephants grazing or a herd of antelopes migrating across the delta. You guys, you can see elephants from an airplane in Botswana. It was the open wild. No entrance gate. No fences. It was just me, the largest inland delta in the world, and the largest population of African elephants in the world. Talk about feeling small.
But as captivated as I was by the wilderness and wildlife, I was equally captivated by the people I met at Camp Okavango, all of whom were from Botswana, and some of whom had even grown up on the very channels and islands we were exploring. Obed, my guide for the trip, was by my side from the time I arrived (high-fiving me as I got off the plane) until I departed (waving goodbye from the airport, or rather the grass airstrip). Which I wouldn’t have wanted any other way, especially after walking up on a pack of lions. You explore, eat, drink, and laugh together with your guide at Camp Okavango. And even sing and dance, as the first night had the entire staff of the camp greet us at dinner with 15 minutes of singing and dancing to traditional Botswana songs.
And I hope that it’s the wildness and warmth of Botswana that most comes out in this post. I believe it strikes at the heart of both Desert and Delta Safaris and Tourism That Cares, who organized and hosted my trip, but also Botswana, which has a Tswana proverb that says, “To travel is to see.” I think that sums up Southern Africa well.