7 Reasons to Visit Botswana in the Green Season

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Happy Birthday Botswana!

 Happy Birthday Botswana!

Botswana FlagAn unspoiled land of romance and timeless beauty –

wide-open spaces; cloudless skies; striking salt pans;

diamond-rich desert; fertile flood plains; vast grasslands; and pristine wilderness.

Here’s to 48 years of independence to beautiful Botswana!

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World Rhino Day

Today is World Rhino Day! We celebrate their beauty, courage and power.

However, poaching is killing more than 1,000 rhinos every year and up to 35,000 elephants. On October 4, 2014 in cities throughout the world, we will march as one voice to save the rhinos and elephants. Please join the global march to call for an end to the killing of these magnificent animals. March against extinction!

Today we honor them, respect them, remember the lost and support the living. On October 4th, we march for them!

To learn more about the global march, click here.
To visit Global March for Elephant and Rhinos Facebook page, click here.

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It’s Official! Okavango Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The list of the natural world’s most extraordinary places, UNESCO’s World Heritage List, gained its 1,000th entry on June 22, 2014 with the addition of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.
This is the world’s largest inland delta – vital, inspiring, pristine and teeming with wildlife. Visit this truly unique and magnificent wilderness paradise, and see for yourself why it is referred to as the “jewel of the Kalahari”.

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Toyota 1000km Desert Race Is Nearly Here! (June 28-29)

For all you motorsport enthusiasts, it’s nearly time for the annual Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 (km) Desert Race. Part of the Dakar Challenge, this exciting 2-day event draws competitors and spectators from around the globe. Will you be there?

Click here to read more about this year’s race.

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Trekking the Okavango by Mokoro

Will Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the world’s largest freshwater inland delta be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? We’ll know soon, as this month (June 2014) the committee meets to announce its status. So this jUne our blogs are all about the Okavango, the vast pristine wilderness area that is one of the richest wildlife paradises on the planet.

Courtesy of National Geographic and the Okavango Wilderness Project

A good place to start is to take you along on the expedition journey of conservationist, wildlife ecologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Dr. Stephen Boyes and his team as they trek through the Okavango by mekoro with their baYei River Bushmen guides and mentors.

Click here to read about and view the amazing videos from the Okavango Wilderness Project. 

This is cool! Follow the Okavango Expedition team’s 2013 trek here: Into the Okavango

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Zebras Hoof It in Longest Land Migration in Africa

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Surprise! Africa’s longest known animal migration is not located in the Serengeti. Rather it’s the migration of Burchell’s Zebra that stretches from Namibia to Botswana—a 300+ mile seasonal trek, according to WWF. The migration—which involves up to several thousand zebra traveling in … Continue reading

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Helping People and Elephants Coexist in Botswana

Did you know Botswana has the largest wild elephant population in the world? They roam freely throughout the land, especially in Northern Botswana.

People and elephants in the Okavango Panhandle. Photo courtesy of Amanda Stronza.

With such a large elephant population, even in remote, sparsely populated regions in Botswana it is inevitable that elephants will occasionally interfere with the lives and livelihoods of farmers in the area.

So Botswana is fertile ground for field research to explore and develop viable solutions to help humans and elephants co-exist, and one interesting Ecoexist project is underway to do just that. Co-led by Dr. Amanda Stronza, associate professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University, and one of three co-directors of the program Ecoexist.

Click here to read about this interesting project, and view the amazing photos Dr. Stronza posted from the field.

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PHOTO ESSAY: On Safari With Ellen Barone

In November 2013 travel photojournalist Ellen Barone explored Botswana with the Botswana Tourism Organization and luxury safari experts, Extraordinary Journeys. In the photo essay that follows, Ellen shares 12 images from her adventures and the stories behind them. 

EllenBarone_Botswana_Intro

When I think of Botswana, I see vast expanses of pancake-flat land splashed with arid ochre deserts, emerald flood plains and winding ribbons of shimmering blue rivers. I hear the joyful voices of camp choirs and feel the radiating warmth of the people I met there. I remember floating down hippo-carved channels in the delta and lazy afternoon naps, saturated sunsets and 1,000 year old trees, sleeping in tented luxury and spending my days watching elephants, zebra, wild dogs and big cats.

In the photo essay below, I’ve assembled a dozen photographs from some of my favorite Botswana experiences. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed making them.

MOKORO EXPERIENCE

MOKORO EXPERIENCE

When I am asked about my adventures in Botswana, it is the experience of floating the watery wilds of the Okavango Delta in a mokoro canoe at &Beyond Xarrana that I most frequently recount. The exquisite silence. The vulnerability. The thrill of adventure and water’s edge perspective. It was pure magic.

SAVUTI LEOPARD

SAVUTI LEOPARD

Five seconds after I’d clicked the shutter on this photograph, everything changed. One moment I was sipping coffee on the deck of my tent at Savute Elephant Camp. The next, I’d locked eyes with this magnificent leopard, lifted my camera to take its photograph, and then, in a flash, the cat leapt to the ground only a few feet in front of me. A moment later, he was gone. If I didn’t have the photo to prove it, I’d be tempted to think it had been a dream.

SCENIC FLIGHTS

SCENIC FLIGHTS

The safari hopped from camp to camp, habitat to habitat, and one unforgettable experience to another with the ease of charted flights with Mack Air. With vistas like this one of the floodplains of the Khwai River basin, getting about this largely roadless country was a fabulously scenic adventure.

MACHABA CAMP

MACHABA CAMP

The newly opened (2013) Machaba Camp, situated in the Khwai River region at the eastern tongue of the Okavango Delta, is not only beautifully appointed, it also offers great value. With 10 luxury tents, the fully-inclusive, solar-powered camp is the perfect blend of gracious hospitality, affordable comfort and environmental responsibility.

MOREMI LIONESS

MOREMI LIONESS

The intensity and focus of this lioness spotted hunting in Moremi Game Reserve was both inspiring and intimidating. From the safety of the safari vehicle I was relieved that she only had eyes for a nearby zebra herd.

LILAC BREASTED ROLLER

LILAC BREASTED ROLLER

If there is proof-positive that Mother Nature is an artist, it is this bird, the Lilac Breasted Roller. A stunningly beautiful bird, it is named for its courtship flight when the male soars high into the air and then plummets down, rolling its colorful body and wings from side while screeching its mating call.

CAMP FIRE

CAMP FIRE

Botswana is a place where people still tell stories around camp fires under starlit skies. Now that I’m home, whenever I smell the earthy aroma of burning wood, feel its comforting warmth and hear the sizzling pops and wheezing hisses of a camp fire, I’m transported back to Botswana.

BOTETI RIVER

BOTETI RIVER

Meno A Kwena Tented Camp sits perched over the unpredictable Boteti River in the arid Kalahari basin. For nearly twenty drought parched years, camp owner David Dugmore and his staff pumped water to provide wildlife with a vital lifeline until the rains returned and the river flowed again in 2011. Today, the camp continues to play a strategic role for wildlife, providing precious river access in an ancient migratory corridor.

KALAHARI BUSHMEN

KALAHARI BUSHMEN

Walking with native Bushmen and learning about their hunter-gatherer culture at Meno A Kwena Tented Camp offered a rare glimpse into an endangered way of life. Using demonstration, song and dance, the walk was narrated in the extraordinary tonal clicks of the Bushmen language and translated by camp guides.

CAPE BUFFALO

CAPE BUFFALO

Every safari guide has co-opted a few jokes guaranteed to make guests laugh. Coming upon this herd of Cape Buffalo in Chobe National Park, our guide timed his punch line perfectly: “They look at you like you owe them money,” he said as this huge bull stared us down. The line works. I can’t look at this picture without a chuckle.

SINGING CAMP CHOIR

SINGING CAMP CHOIR

I loved the songs and voices of Botswana and the a cappella performances by impromptu choirs that often accompanied a camp welcome. I loved the joy, the high shrilled trills, the foot-stomping rhythms and the love that imbued the songs. For a quick soundbite, check out this youtube video of the Mombo Camp choir.

BAOBAB TREE

BAOBAB TREE

Among the oldest living trees on the planet and an icon of the African landscape, the fat baobab with its tiny leaves and water-filled trunk is known as ‘The Tree of Life’ for its ability to sustain life during extreme drought, and the ‘Upside Down Tree’ because it looks like it has been planted on its head, with its roots sticking up into the air. I photographed this magnificent baobab, estimated to be 800 to 1,000 years old, in Chobe National Park.

Ellen’s photos make us feel like we are back in Botswana! Are you ready to go? These resources make it easy:

Discover suggestions for what to pack for an African safari. 

Click here to view more Botswana photography.

 Ellen Barone is digital storyteller specializing in global adventure. You can follow her free travel updates at EllenBarone.com.

 

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Cheeseheads on Safari, July 2013

Cheeseheads on Safari. What kind of title is that? Well, if you are a fan of American football, you know the enthusiastic fans of the NFL team in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers, call themselves “cheeseheads” (Wisconsin is nicknamed the Cheese State, for its robust dairy industry). On home game days, fans turn out in force wearing funny looking hats that look like cheese wedges … it’s quite the sight! Well, turns out some “cheeseheads” are also very enthusiastic fans of Botswana. Thanks to Sonny S. of Marshfield, WI, whose family traded cheesehead gear for safari gear for sharing their exciting family safari adventure in Botswana with us. Thanks also to Jody Schuster, Africa Director at Borton Overseas, who arranged their wonderful trip and submitted this guest blog post to us:

Footprints in the Saile Sands

Footprints in the Saile Sands

RAAWWRR! rawwr! RAAWWRR! rawWR!  RAAWWRR! RAawwR! RAWWRR! RAWWRR!

Loud at first, then echoed by a softer, purr-like meow.  Another loud roar, then the reply – a bit shrill initially and gradually turning gruffer. Throughout the night it increased crescendo, climaxing in a resounding RAAWRR duet around 2 am. Menchu (my wife) and I are enthralled by this chorus, as we huddled inside a tent at the Saile Tented Camp, pitched on the east bank of the Savuti River. We are in the Linyanti area of the Chobe Enclave, right by Chobe National Park, in the Southern African nation of Botswana. What a fitting overture to our African Symphony!

The next morning, we examine the paw prints in the soil just outside the tent. We discover mother lioness’ larger imprints, surrounded by pint-sized cub marks. Foster, our knowledgeable guide (who will be at arm’s length throughout our stay, 24/7) claimed we have little to fear, if we stay nestled in the safety of the camp. He knew the beasts obey Nature’s Rules, re, Territoriality. The Monarch of the (Savuti) Jungle / Wild Dog of the Savuti

The Monarch of the (Savuti) Jungle / Wild Dog of the Savuti

Halfway through dinner that evening, we are interrupted by a trio of anxious fishermen. As they were pulling up their nets, they encountered the King of the Jungle, Old Simba himself- surveying the menu. On our next morning’s drive, we confronted His Majesty, still firmly ensconced on his riverside throne, nonchalantly waiting to be served. We felt as if we were in a zoo, except in this case, we were on exhibit; the animals were observing us.

A herd of impala came crashing at, then around our Land Cruiser. They were being chased by a pack of howling, fierce-looking wild dogs. Foster yelled, “Hang on, folks!” and off we go in pursuit too, scrambling over bushes (now we know why it’s called The Bush), raising a cloud of dust.  The impala settle in a foot of water, the dogs perch on the riverside, we park a few yards away. We watch the dogs, as they watch the impalas, who were watching out for crocodiles (and the wild dogs!).

Three days earlier, we had checked into the Elephant Valley Lodge, situated in the far north of Botswana on the outskirts of Chobe National Park. Built on a knoll, overlooking a watering hole, the lodge is surrounded by an electric fence which we are instructed to always stay within. We ate meals at the “ Boma” (Swahili ,”meeting place”) while the animals gathered at the pond- a troop of baboons, a sounder of warthogs, a flurry of flamingos. We become collective noun authorities.

Sonny/Menchu(and friends) on the Chobe

Sonny/Menchu(and friends) on the Chobe

We went on a Chobe River cruise the next day. Zambo, our local guide, docked our dinghy by an enormous hippo that was greedily munching on papyrus, oblivious to our ‘Oohs and Ahhs’ and clicking cameras; he had grown up inured to humans. Cautiously, out of the scrub protruded a trunk, then tusks, then the torso of a bull elephant. Was he testing the water temp as he lowered his toe?  Must have been suitable because, soon after, his buddies emerge from the brush, and begin wading into the water.  In the middle of the river, the boys began wrestling and you could feel the testosterone surge as they joyfully splashed and splattered, jostled and shoved and soaked one another.

Mud wrestlers of the Chobe River

Mud wrestlers of the Chobe River

After Saile, we would fly deep into the Okavango Delta for a stay at Kanana Camp. This used to be an old hunting lodge that has been converted to luxurious accommodation for photographic safaris. Our four seater Cessna had to circle the airstrip twice to make sure that zebras (hundreds!) weren’t blocking the runway. The next three days would find us on walkabouts, boating, or out on game drives. Each locale had a particular abundance of fauna that was distinct from the others.

The Kanana Welcome Committee

The Kanana Welcome Committee

Dugout canoeing on the Okavango

Dugout canoeing on the Okavango

Jody Schuster, our travel agent, presented us with a leather bound journal pre-departure. Enclosed was a wildlife list that we would dutifully cross off. Let’s see: Giraffes, check; Leopards, check; Cape Buffalo, check; etc., etc. There is an “African Big Five Must- See” list – we had no Rhino sightings! We are saving them for our next trip…

Photos courtesy of BJ Siasoco 

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