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Discovering luxury in the wild at Atzaró Okavango

The brand new Atzaró Okavango Camp lies in the game-rich southern reaches of the Okavango Delta and is best described as a place where adventure, eco-consciousness and indulgence meet.

The Okavango Delta

The Okavango River annually discharges 11 cubic kilometres of water into the dry sands of the Kalahari, creating one of the largest wetlands in the world. A maze of more than 16,000 km² of waterways, lagoons, shallow channels, reed islands and grassy floodplains, the Delta is home to vast concentrations of wildlife, with over 1,000 species of plants, more than 480 species of birds, 130 species of mammals, and numerous species of reptiles and fish. Officially declared UNESCO’s 1,000th World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the Delta is one of the most biodiverse wetlands in the world and undeniably Botswana’s emerald crown jewel.

Atzaró Okavango

As the helicopter rises into the air it leaves behind the bustling little airport of Maun. The buildings, bars, homes, and shacks of town give way to a patchwork of scrub, bushes, trees, cattle kraals, and dried up waterholes. Flying over the Buffalo Fence, a fence built in the 1980s to keep buffalo away from domestic cattle, the landscape changes. Game footpaths and animal highways appear, pods of hippos can be seen in the waterways, families of elephants stand under trees, and the bright blues and greens of the Okavango begin to appear. All too soon the outline of a lodge takes shape and as the helicopter descends towards the earth, a vehicle arrives to transport us to luxury.

Overlooking a seasonal lagoon, with a river along one side, and surrounded by lush palm islands and vibrant delta vegetation, Atzaró Okavango is a truly stylish camp.  8 palatial, tented rooms are connected by raised wooden walkways leading off the central area. All have air conditioning and fans, and voluminous, romantic, mosquito nets, draped around the beds. Outside on a private deck, there’s a small shaded area, with a plunge pool – vital to cooling off from the heat of the day. Bathrooms have both indoor and outdoor showers and baths, and where one bathtub is lovely, two is pure decadence! Imagine spotting wildlife while enjoying a bubble bath in your outdoor tub!  Two family villas add to the options, with their separate rooms linked by a walkway.

Everything you need to plan your trip in 2024

🌟 Luxury hotel deals from Booking
🏡 Vacation rentals from VRBO
✈️ Flights from KIWI
🛫 Private jets from Private Jet Finder
🅿️ Airport parking from ParkVia
🛋️ Airport lounges from Priority Pass
🚖 Airport taxis from Welcome Pickups
🚫 Flight cancellation help from AirHelp
🚗 Car rentals from Discover Cars
🚐 Luxury RV rentals from RVshare
🚴 Two-wheelers from BikesBooking
🚅 Trains from Trainline or Rail Europe
🚢 Cruises from Cruise Direct
⛵ Yacht charters from SeaRadar
🛥️ Ferries from Direct Ferries
🎫 Attractions tickets from Tiqets or Klook
🎭 Events tickets from Ticketmaster UK
🏞️ Tours from Viator or GetYourGuide
🌮 Culinary experiences from Eatwith
🏖️ Packages from Expedia US/CA or UK

🛡️ Travel insurance from Safety Wing
🏥 Medical insurance from World Nomads
📸 Vacation photos from Flytographer
🧳 Luggage from Case Luggage
🛅 Luggage storage from Stasher
📚 Travel guides from Lonely Planet
🗺️ Books and maps from Barnes & Noble
📕 eBooks from Kindle Unlimited
🎧 Audiobooks from Audible
🎬 Movies from Prime Video UK
🎵 Music from Amazon Music UK
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🛂 Visas from iVisa

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The luxury doesn’t stop with the bedrooms. The main thatched lodge area has vaulted ceilings and a large open lounge, with antiques, leather Chesterfield sofas, and traditional Kuba (mud) cloths, embellished with embroidery, applique, and patchwork. The bar is detailed with woods, velvets, and cut glass, and there’s a sunken seating area around an outdoor firepit with views overlooking the seasonal lagoon. Take high-tea at the observation deck, sip pre-dinner drinks at the bar, or sit on one of the comfortable chairs on the deck, and after dinner settle in by the firepit and watch the stars overhead while you listen to the grunts of hippos or the sound of elephants coming to drink.

For those looking for something extra, there’s a wine cellar, complete with sommelier.  For meals, an artfully thatched, traditional boma, reminiscent of a bird’s nest, adds a rustic alternative to dinner in the primary dining area. The main lodge also serves as a ‘living museum’ and is filled with a collection of intricate and traditional artworks, collected from all over the continent – should something special catch your eye, similar, exclusively commissioned pieces are available to purchase in the gift shop. Amongst all this glamour though, it’s worth noting that in line with their sustainable principles, but without losing focus on exclusivity and style, Atzaró Okavango has been built making use of recycled materials and is fully powered by solar.

As you’d expect from a camp of this type, the range of amenities and activities are many and exceptional. If you fancy a workout, head to the gym, the 20m swimming pool, or visit the yoga deck.  If looking for some pampering, there’s a wellness spa offering a range of treatments, and specialising in some of the best massages I’ve ever had. 

Atzaró is a safari lodge after all and as much of your day will be spent seeking out the wildlife of the Delta, location is very important. The area of the Okavango that has been chosen to build the lodge has high concentrations of game, making for exciting viewing opportunities.

Out one morning, not ten minutes from camp, we sat silently in the back of the game drive vehicle. Five cheetahs lay camouflaged in the grass before us. We’d seen these same cheetahs the previous afternoon, resting in a patch of shade.  This time though, they’re on the prowl. A pair of unsuspecting warthogs and their singular baby appear. The cheetahs’ heads turn in unison, checking out the new arrivals. Suddenly, pandemonium. One cheetah heads towards the warthogs, eyeing up the piglet for a snack. The other four get to their feet and stand watching, before spreading out to corner the family. Breaking into a run the first cheetah closes in on the baby. We collectively hold our breaths. Unbelievably, in the face of the charging cheetah, the warthog parents stand their ground. Just as the death of their baby seems imminent, the parents race towards the approaching cat, who skids to a halt in a cloud of dust, turns tail and streaks off in the opposite direction, pursued by the pair of irate, snorting warthogs. The parents return, victorious, to gather up their baby, while the embarrassed cheetah slinks quietly in the background, surreptitiously reuniting with his brothers.

Aside from excitement filled morning and afternoon game drives, guests at Atzaró can go out on walking safaris (with an armed guide) or birdwatching. Seasonal water levels permitting, there are boat trips and sunset cruises, catch-and-release fishing and the opportunity to enjoy the gentle pace of mokoro (dugout canoe) excursions. All activities are offered on a private basis, so you can maintain your solitude and not have to share your personal space with strangers.

Atzaró Okavango is a truly luxurious safari lodge, that will captivate you with its lavish design, gorgeous views and amazing wildlife experiences. Everywhere you go in this stylish camp, be it sipping a drink from the bar overlooking the lagoon or dipping your toes in your private plunge pool, there’s a sense of relaxed luxury here. With an elegant fusion of contemporary design and traditional African charm, it’s certainly easy to settle into the luxury lifestyle that is Atzaró Okavango.

Okavango Gin

Atzaró‘s in-house mixologist Percy is a master of cocktails. On our way back to camp after a game drive, we found Percy and his ‘mobile sundowner station’ under a tree on the edge of the floodplain. While there was any beverage you could think of on offer, the star of the show was definitely Okavango Gin.

Okavango Gin has been created by a group of like-minded naturalists, safari guides, botany enthusiasts and hospitality experts, who all share a love for the wilderness of the Okavango Delta. A blend of pure Okavango water, coupled with the strong citrus flavours of Marula fruit and the distinctive flavour of Mopane seeds, has created a vibrant, contemporary, small-batch production gin, that’s distilled in a wholly off-the-grid premises, near the rural village of Tsutsubega, about 20km from Maun.

Percy’s cocktail of choice, FRENCH 75

60ml Okavango The Sentinel gin
35ml Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
20ml Simple Syrup
Fresh Lemon to Garnish
Dry Sparkling Wine

Method

Add gin, lemon juice and simple syrup to a shaker half-filled with ice. Shake for 20 seconds to combine. Strain into a fluted glass. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a slice of lemon.

Planning your Okavango travels

Planning a luxury safari is no easy feat, especially if it’s your first time. Locations, seasons, transfers, logistics, and more, all have to be taken into account. What is also important when planning your safari is to do so with a company that truly cares about the destination and about preserving it for the future.

Mahlatini is a Zulu word meaning ‘lover of the African wilderness’, so who better to plan the logistics of your journey to Atzaro Okavango than Mahlatini, a bespoke, luxury travel company, experts in creating memorable adventures, who have been putting together African travel itineraries for over 20 years. At the core of Mahlatini’s ethos is handpicking partners and properties that share their commitment to protecting their environment, conserving wildlife, and benefitting local communities – in the words of Gary Warnock, the company’s Sustainability Team Leader, “We are always looking for new ways to make a difference, and we continually strive to lessen our ecological footprint.”

Atzaró Okavango offers an unparalleled blend of luxury and adventure, providing an unforgettable experience that immerses you in the breathtaking beauty and rich wildlife of the Okavango Delta.

Sarah Kingdom

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Africa at the age of 21, Sarah Kingdom is a mountain climber and guide, travel writer, yoga teacher, trail runner, and mother of two. When she is not climbing or traveling she lives on a cattle ranch in central Zambia. She guides trips regularly in India, Nepal, Tibet, Russia, and Ethiopia, and takes climbers up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro numerous times a year.

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12 Comments

  1. That 11 cubic kilometres of water heading into the Kalahari explains a lot. When I visited I was surprised at how much life there was for a “desert”.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Yes, it’s incredible the amount of water that the Okavango Delta holds, and the incredible difference between the dry season and the wet, in terms of water levels.

      Sarah

  2. I’m gobsmacked by the number of birds. If you’d asked me to guess I would have been nowhere near 480 different species.

    1. Hi Moya,

      Yes, it’s incredible the abundance of bird life in the Delta. I’ve got a friend who has put together a comprehensive app that contains all the animals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants, and it’s been a never ending labour of love and dedication.

      Sarah

  3. Atzaro’s right on trend. Most of us want the old-fashioned glamour of tents and mosquito. Though this is 2024 and we also want our luxuries like air-con.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      You’re right. For me a safari isn’t a safari without some canvas, some thatch and some billowing mosquito netting, but I definitely want a nice hot bath and other luxuries! Atzaró gives you bush and luxury which is a great combination.

      Sarah

  4. I don’t know much about safaris but I’ve got to guess that this is pretty much the top end of the market.

    On top of that, all of these great photos show that it’s in a perfect location, lots and lots of wildlife.

    1. Hi Anita,

      Yes, this is definitely the top end of the safari market 😊. Living in Zambia and being a travel writer, I go on safari a lot, several times a year, and this is definitely one of the most luxurious camps around. But it’s also in a great location for wildlife, which makes it even better.

      Sarah

  5. Encouraging to see that they are taking their ecological footprint so seriously.

    Appointing a Sustainability team leader, putting their money where their mouth is, backed up by a salary, is a good sign that they are not merely paying lip service to ecological values.

    1. Hi Brad,

      I agree. I’ve used Mahlatini for much of travel planning for a few years now and they really make sure the hotels, camps and lodges they book have good eco credentials.

      Sarah

  6. Retirement next year! And this could be a contender for our once in a lifetime celebration holiday.

    It certainly ticks all the boxes for luxury combined with adventure. The only problem is that our short list of options is becoming a long list again …

    1. Hi Hilary,

      congratulations on the upcoming retirement 😊 Atzaró Okavango could definitely be a great place to celebrate.

      There’s a famous quote by Karen Blixen who wrote Out Of Africa, “There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”
      That definitely sums up Safaris for me 😊

      Sarah

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