August 24 – 27, 2016
Now, after a couple of days of animal photos, I can discuss some of the more boring details about safari for those planning a trip.
Little Kwara Camp is a high-end tented camp, although you could spend more. The Okavango Delta is one of the most expensive safari destinations you could choose.
This is an intimate camp with just 5 guest tents. The large semi-tented structure with a huge bed overlooks a large porch and is well appointed while retaining a rustic charm.
The dressing area is behind the bedroom with a bathroom in the back, including a bathtub and both an indoor and outdoor shower.
Common areas include – a lounge where the charging station is located, fire pit area, and dining area where brunch and dinner are served.
Baboons sometimes hang around the common area and get somewhat aggressive but run when I pull out my camera, especially the mothers with young ones hanging on.
In terms of quality and services offered I would consider Kwara on par with the high-end tented accommodations of the Northern Serengeti, albeit at a much higher cost per day, around $1,000/night per person. The difference is that in Botswana the number of guests in an area is strictly limited. You never have more than a couple of vehicles at a viewing site.
A note about cost and booking accommodations. Generally for safari you need to go through a travel agent as they have relationships with the various camps, and the camps don’t have the staff or systems to deal directly with the public through the booking process. That said, it is very difficult to get a fixed price on any one camp because the agents all sell safari packages and get discounts on a package rather than an individual room booking. Therefore you often can get a discount if you book related safari camps. For instance, Kwara and Lebala (our next destination) are both Kwando camps. This is not particular to southern Africa. We found the same situation in Tanzania both in terms of needing an agent and available discounts.
A light informal breakfast is available at 6:30AM by the campfire and generally includes cooked porridge and baked goods.
Brunch is buffet style served after you get back from the morning drive around 11AM.
Brunch 1 – Vegetable quiche, potato salad, carrot salad, Greek salad, eggs to order, fruit, cheese and crackers. Nice selection of French-style cheeses from South Africa.
Brunch 2 – Chicken casserole, pasta salad, quiche, eggs to order, Greek salad, vegie salad, fruit, cheese and crackers.
The evening meal is served semi buffet style, i.e. the first course and desert are served at the table while mains and side dishes are self-serve. They try very hard to serve gourmet fare. Alcoholic beverages including wine with dinner are included. Considering you’re in the middle of nowhere with infrequent access to fresh produce they do an excellent job. Just don’t expect what you would in a fist tier city.
Dinner is by candle light with all the guests and some of the camp managers and guides seated at a large table. I found this approach a great way to find out more about the local culture and the lives of the people that live here. The staff work very long hours, spending as much as two months at a time away from their families.
Drinks are served by the fire before dinner.
Dinner 1 – A mushroom puffed pastry to start. The buffet included – pork stroganoff, mushroom risotto, zucchini, a mixed bean dish with chili seasoning and canned fruit for dessert.
Dinner 2 – Roast lamb, roasted potatoes, eggplant parmesan casserole, green beans, mixed vegetable medley and ginger cake for desert.
Dinner 3 – Chicken stir-fry, brown rice, cheese cauliflower. I’m sure I left some dishes out.
Weather – In late August it was quite cool in the morning and at night with pleasant daytime temperatures.
We spent a few days in South Africa adjusting to the time zone before connecting on to Botswana. If you have the time I highly recommend this. When you are paying such high prices for safari days you want to be at your best.
Johannesburg, SA is an easy 65 minute flight from Maun, gateway to the Okavango Delta. Although OR Tambo (Johannesburg) is a large airport it is relatively easy to manage, nothing surprising or weird.
We arrived in Maun on time. Passport control is slow but there aren’t many passengers making the wait about 15-20 minutes. The smart one ones fill out the required forms while standing in line. Bags were waiting for us, just on the other side of passport control.
When we exited, Erica from Safari Specialist was waiting for us with our flight voucher that listed all our flights for the coming days. We never needed to show this voucher for any of the flights. She informed us that all of our carry-on luggage was fine to take on the plane. We had worked hard to get our camera bags down to the 5K limit each and as such had the remaining gear, the non-fragile stuff, in a separate bag that I was planning on putting in the hold of the small plane. She said it was not necessary and no one checked the weight on any of our luggage. Actually not for any of our flights.
After passing through a security checkpoint we waited to be called for our flight. A little disconcerting as they don’t post flights anywhere. They seem to know who you are and tell you individually when your flight is ready.
When our turn came they called our names along with other groups, a total of 7 passengers for the small 8 passenger plane. They bussed us to our plane at the far end of the runway, passing rows of small aircraft.
They had us check that our bags were both on the bus and on the plane when they loaded it into the hold.
Maun is at the bottom of the map
We were to make 3 stops. Ours was the second. Pretty views passing over the delta, mostly brown in late winter, green around the waterways.
The occasional elephant could be seen, a mere speck on the landscape. First stop was Shindi, 30 minutes into the trip.
They don’t even stop the engines to unload the passengers and were up again for the 15 minutes to Kwara.
A car was waiting for us to drive us the 10 minutes to camp.
Outside our tent
An elephant enters camp just as we arrive. After a short orientation talk, Charles sees us to our tent, number 5, where the elephant is waiting for us right outside the front porch.