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.

Okavango Delta Airport

You land in a prop plane….on a grass strip on an island surrounded by the largest inland delta in the world. And sometimes, you may have to circle the island to wait for the elephants, giraffes, or antelopes to move off the “runway”.

 

Aerial Okavango Delta

And this is your view from said prop plane from the time you leave Maun Airport until you arrive.

Arrival elephants

Your welcome committee may be an elephant, which I both heard and saw while walking down the path from the plane to the camp.

Okavango Delta, Botswana giraffes

Or maybe your welcome committee will also be giraffes.

Camp Okavango on the Botswana Okavango Delta

Your welcome drink at Camp Okavango.

Dessert at Camp Okavango in Botswana, Africa

Your afternoon tea time, or as I liked to call it, “Afternoon Tea and Cake and Sausage Roll Time”.

Tented camp at Camp Okavango on Botswana Okavango Delta

Where you may stay, particularly, if you’re on your honeymoon.

Tented Camp Okavango Delta

Where you’ll probably actually stay. You guys, so this is what they mean by “tented camp.” Yes, that’s a tent.

Okavango Delta canoe

Your ride around the delta (don’t worry, there are motorized boats, too), because you can’t drive in or out.

Amarula cake in Botswana

Dessert, and lots of it, like this, which comes from the fruit of the Marula Tree that you’ll walk by around the Okavango Delta.

Camp Okavango Delta Botswana

These guides. How much fun do they look? I’m still practicing my dance moves I was trying to learn from them.

Warthog Okavango Delta

You may get into a staring contest with a warthog.

Botswana, Africa Okavango Delta Lions

And then walk up on a pack of lions napping. However, as Obed told me, it was rare to walk up on 12 lions like we did. I had a reverent fear in that moment, but didn’t feel in danger. They simply each got up and walked away.

Botswana Okavango Delta Lions

And see the same lions cross the delta while getting stared down by Mufasa. It was real life Lion King.

Monitor Lizard in Okavango Delta

And with the help of your guide’s X-ray vision, find animals like this, the monitor lizard, on the delta.

Okavango Delta Bee Eater Bird

And these birds, the bee eaters, who are so close together like that to keep each other warm. This is next-level spooning.

Okavango Delta Sunset

Sundowners at sunset on an island to yourself (and maybe like I experienced, to the sound of hippos in the distance).

Hippo okavango delta in Botswana

And said hippo on the way back to camp. But glad this time we were in a motorized boat, rather than a mokoro (dug-out canoe).