The Oscars of the travel industry, ‘The World Travel Awards’, recently released its regional nominees for this year’s programme. The organisation acknowledges excellence across all sectors of world travel and tourism but in this article I will be focusing particularly upon the nominations for Botswana, considered one of Africa’s most exclusive and ecologically proactive destinations.
There is nowhere else in the world that matches Botswana’s incredible geographical diversity; a place that is as beguiling by land, by water or by air and where glorious luxury is juxtaposed seamlessly with the authenticity, heritage and the nature. Botswana is renowned for its private wilderness lodges and is home to some of the most remote and spectacular conservancies in the world; from Moremi to Makgadikgadi, Chobe to the Okavango Delta. So here is a closer look at the contenders for the award for Botswana’s Leading Safari Lodge 2012.
Nestling in the North Eastern corner of Botswana, the lodge is ideally poised with just a ten minute drive to the spell binding Chobe National Park and an encounter with some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife. There are 60 beautifully conceived rooms in total which range from thatched studios and apartments to chalets and luxury suites with their own private lounges. The accommodation is fully equipped with all of the modern day conveniences one might expect including air conditioning, satellite TV and luxury bedding as well as a daily housekeeping service. In reality though, guests don’t come here to raid the mini bar but instead to embrace the warmth and wonder of Botswana’s mesmerising landscape. Activities include game drives, sun downer cruises along the wide Zambezi River, sightseeing trips to Sedudu Island or a memorable day trip to the magnificent Victoria Falls
Located in the heart of the game rich Kasane Forest, Elephant Valley Lodge brings the wildlife to its guests’ very doorstep. The property takes its name from the vast numbers of pachyderms that pass through the area daily and can be sighted regularly; indeed Botswana boasts the densest populations of wild elephants in the world. Accommodation comprises of 20 Meru-style luxury tents, with exquisite furnishings, twin beds and en-suite facilities. The camp also has a swimming pool and a sun deck offering the perfect spot to relax after your safari. Guests can enjoy morning boat rides along the beautiful Chobe River and game drives in the thrilling Chobe National Park.
The lodge sits on the edge of a secluded forest overlooking the floodplains of the Moremi Wildlife Reserve, enabling guests to view a wide range of big game from the comfort of their own private deck. Elevating ‘glamping’ to a new level of luxury the camp’s collection of raised tents are housed on grand wooden platforms providing spectacular views out across the plains. Charmingly adorned and featuring en-suite bathrooms, exterior lounges with hammocks, air conditioning and four poster beds the accommodation provides all of the comfort of a five star resort but in the heart of Botswana’s rugged wilderness. As well as guided safaris and night time game drives guests can also explore the nearby village of the San Bushmen on an organised trip to discover the history of these fascinating and proud people.
Muchenje enjoys an envious location to the west of the Chobe National Park atop a rocky escarpment and commanding spectacular views of the Chobe River as well as Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. Owner maintained and managed the lodge has 11 exquisite thatched safari bungalows, each one enjoying its own unique panorama. Game drives are organised daily and guests are invited on night walks, boat safaris and local village encounters. The main lodge is impressively constructed with a number of communal spaces to relax and unwind, decked platforms surrounding warming fire pits and a wonderfully romantic outdoor dining space.
An escape to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, the eponymous Okavango Delta is the home of the Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, a beautifully crafted and elegant property. Staying at this lodge, guests are able to experience day and night safaris, bush walks and powerboat cruises, offering excellent opportunities for spotting big game. The lodge has eight luxury suites, elevated on individual viewing decks which all featureriver facing views. Sandibe is found at the heart of an 8,000 hectare private reserve which ensures guests can exclusively explore the area undisturbed.
Situated along the banks of the Limpopo River within the Northern Tuli Game Reserve the lodge is poised amongst dramatic sandstone outcrops and bush lands, an ancient and awe inspiring corner of Botswana known simply as, ‘The Land of the Giants’. The lodge has eight inimitably grand suites each playfully named after a member of the local wildlife and offering a unique and personalised stay. Tuli boasts its own swimming pool and deck area making it the ideal spot to unwind after an exhilarating morning of game viewing as well as a picturesque waterhole to the rear of the property which is overlooked by a secret ‘hide’ where guests can relax in seclusion or perch themselves for a better view of the wildlife that frequents the spring.
A unique and very private offering Xugana Island can be found lying within the vast waters of the Okavango Delta and is accessed via chartered flights from Maun airport. The exclusive lodge which accommodates only a maximum of 16 guests at a time offers walking safaris and novel canoe safaris in the Xugana Lagoon which is widely regarded as the most breath-taking perennial feature in the entire Okavango Delta. The lodge is home to eight thatched chalets which all have delightful views of the lagoon and promise complete seclusion and relaxation; such is the isolation of the property that no fax, mobile or internet service is available although a two-way radio ensures managers can easily communicate with the operators’ office in Maun.
Greg Fox is a Director at Mahlatini.