A love affair is by description “an intense enthusiasm or liking for something” and my love affair with Africa is part enthusiasm, part liking and part “in my blood”… this unique place is deeply woven into my being and landing on African soil immediately feels right. Being in the bush on safari magnifies that intense connection that I feel and I always return home (to the States) refreshed, at peace and yearning for my next visit.
My most recent trip to the Selinda Reserve in Botswana this past May was no different. The air smells different, the sunshine is warmer and the mundane issues of modern life slip away when you take a “trip on the wild side”. Our private PC 12 landed in Maun and the journey unfolded with much color, laughter and interaction with nature. A quick flight onwards to an airstrip in the 320 000 acre Selinda Reserve in Northern Botswana and we were immediately engaged with elephant and lion en route to our first camp, Selinda Explorers Camp. Shoes off, toes in the sand… happiness!
The Main Camp feels like a mix of old-school tented safari meets bedouin bohemian clan, with richly-colored carpets and oversized pillows strewn across the sand, a chest filled with local beers and soft drinks, and a “dining area” that will rival any “most beautiful setting” competition… think stars, camp fire, Selinda Spillway and not much else. And of course the perfect hammock site! The magic of this camp is to experience game viewing on foot and from canoe (as well as on game drive). There is no WiFi, no gym or spa and this is purposeful. Visiting is all about being-off-the-grid and being reminded of how precious these wide open spaces are. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of the comforts of my over-sized tent filled with campaign-style furniture, Persian rugs and copper finishes. A hot shower under the stars (enclosed on the sides but open to the heavens) was pure bliss and there is a flush loo! This is not roughing it as one might’ve done as a child with Dad in the local nature park BUT it is a paired-down luxury safari where the true luxuries are space, solitude, wildlife and the joys of a longwinded philosophical conservation around the campfire while nursing a whiskey… Here I was guided by Kane Motswana – a gentleman, comedian, renowned tracker and photographer – and had the pleasure of seeing the bush through his eyes and learning about his family & culture (bukakwe Bushman). Perhaps my favorite experience was canoeing along the Spillway ultimately finishing at a hippo pool – filled by harrumphing (such a word?!) hippo – only to come upon a bush breakfast, set-up and cooked on the spot. Bacon and eggs never tasted better.
Of course there was more to explore and so we moved on by boat to Selinda Camp for lunch and to dip our toes in the plunge pool overlooking the floodplains. Next stop the impressive Zarafa Camp & Dhow Suites. I was tempted to stay… forever…seriously! Zarafa sits on an island in the floodplains of southern shores of the Zibadianja Lagoon (source of the Savute Channel) and you are gobsmacked by the views from the main camp and your 1000 square foot “marquis style” canvas tent. This palatial suite consists of 3 tented rooms filled with leather, wood, copper and soft linens and you can shower indoors, outdoors or take a dip in your private plunge pool. Thoughtful touches include the opportunity to use one of the camp’s professional camera & lens kits (co-founders of Great Plains Conservation, Dereck and Beverly Joubert are world-renowned filmmakers and conservationists; 5-time emmy winners and appointed as National Geographic Society “Explorers in Residence” and appreciate quality camera equipment ) and a lovely experience was boating on the Zibadianja Lagoon as the sun set… Other game activities include early morning and late afternoon / evening 4 X 4 open vehicle game drives and guided bush walks. For families or couples traveling together the new Dhow Suites impress, and once again the true luxuries are space (2200 square feet of space!), exclusivity (private chef & staff including private game drives) and the lack of a schedule. The rhythm of the bush and your personal enjoyment of this magnificent wilderness is what determines how your days unfold. We live in such a pressured society that to “just be” is a wonderful thing – whether that’s on the back of a game vehicle, pedaling a stationary bike on the Dhow Suites terrace (they are introducing a mobile gym) or watching elephant from the safety of your private plunge pool – the choice is yours.