By Karen Loftus
Karen Loftus was recently in Botswana and Namibia on a writing assignment about the romantic appeal of Southern Africa. She shared with us why she fell madly deeply in love with Botswana. Enjoy the read!
Travel to Africa was love at first site for me. I have been a number of times now and have headed in a few different directions. This past fall I dipped in to the bush of Botswana. I decided to stray away from an all luxury level trip this time. So, I started in the lap of luxury with &Beyond in the Okavango Delta. Then I went for a rustic, authentic and immersive traveling safari with Letaka.
It’s easy to see why so many couples choose Botswana for their honeymoon or romantic getaway. Two weeks later, I had fallen truly, madly and deeply for Botswana. You will as well. This is what you can expect…
First stop: &Beyond – Xaranna Lodge on the Okavango Delta
After a quick connecting flight from Johannesburg to Maun, followed by a bush flight, I was scooped up by the crew from &Beyond (www.andbeyond.com). My African adventure started once we departed from the airport.
En route to the Okavango I was greeted by Xaranna’s crew who had a chilled bottle of champagne and exquisite snacks, which were served to me on the jeep. That immediately set the spoiled tone that was consistent throughout the trip.
Once there, it was easy to relax in the lap of luxury as their digs are decadent. True to the name, everything that &Beyond does, between amenities, service and aesthetics is always above and beyond. Their welcome massage on the deck of my villa was the best way to decompress after the long journey.
My game drives were a mix of morning, late afternoon and full day drives where the Xaranna crew provided full linen service and a beautiful buffet lunch in the middle of the bush. It will be hard to ever step in to a restaurant again.
On our drives we were saw herds of buffalo, female wart hogs with their babies, zebras, giraffe and vultures after a kill. Drives aside, we took full advantage of the Okavango Delta’s magical oasis of islands and waterways in the middle of the arid Kalahari Desert. Sundowners and game were also taken in from a boat as well, where pods of hippos surrounded us and snorted throughout our toast.
Riding in the small mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe, was even more relaxing. The soul sating silence and the slower pace together with their stunning South African sparkling rose wine had me drifting away in a matter of minutes.
The level of culinary excellence reached at each meal at Xaranna was one of the many stars on site. The candlelit dinners served by an exuberant crew on Xaranna’s deck together with spring bok jumping in the air, in a choreographed-like manner and elephants grazing, but a few feet away from our feast, set the safari tone. Whether on a drive, on the Okavango or on deck, the game was forever around.
It was anything but easy to leave the Delta, the Xaranna crew or my luxury villa. My return is already on my travel to do list…
Letaka Safaris – Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai Concession Area and Chobe National Park
Before I knew it, I hopped a quick flight on a plane the size of a suitcase. Letaka (www.LetakaSafaris.com) took over as we headed to the Moremi Game reserve. The bush boys of Botswana provide a slice of safari life for the more ruggedly romantic couple. It made for the perfect travel pairing with the lap of luxury that &Beyond provided.
I’ve never been much of a camper. So, a camping safari felt a bit daunting. But Letaka’s crew complete with a guide, a chef and two crew members provided seamless service throughout. Our tents came with a private veranda in front, the perfect way to experience the laze of the day between game drives. Equally important was the ensuite and bucket shower in the back, which was filled throughout by Gabriel, from our crew.
We were spoiled silly with fresh bush bread, baked daily underground by Life our chef. That, together with fresh five course meals cooked over the fire, where no two dishes were ever repeated, made the meals as much of a feast as the experience itself.
Every night after our late afternoon drive, we sat around a raging fire with beers and wine in hand. Before we were called to the table for dinner, Life would tell an unbelievable story. The simplicity of conversation, silence, stories, bush theatrics, the roar of the fire, the moon’s mood and dinner on a picnic like table surrounded by tiki torches, quickly became a delicious ritual.
There was nothing quite like a roar from the king mid-meal to remind us that we were merely visitors. Animals in camp were expected. We had buffalo snorting in a macho match below our tents, elephants making a feast of the trees surrounding our tents and hyenas waltzed in to our open kitchen regularly.
That is just the beginning as we experienced an abundance of bush theatrics in the Moremi Game Reserve, the Khwai Concession Area and the Chobe National Park on our twice daily drives.
We saw it all as no two days or drives were ever alike. Full bellied male lions looking like kings after a kill, herds of elephants, bachelor groups of impala with their white tails in the air, herds of buffalo running through the water, giraffes awkwardly and adorably dropping to their knees to gather sodium from the soil, stunning zebra romping around and observing a leopard mother dragging her kill across the bush floor to her young made for the most amazing moments of the trip. Chadrick our guide commented on how privileged we were to experience that.
Top that off with unimaginable beauty and an endless string of Botswana sunsets that had us all convinced that nature was trying to one up itself. We all got lost in the lure of Africa, the bare beauty of the bush of Botswana and that seductive safari silence.
It’s easy to see why so many say I Do to Botswana.
The above itinerary was arranged by Aardvark Safaris: www.aardvarksafaris.com
You can follow Travel & Luxury Lifestyle Writer Karen Loftus and her travels on:
Her Global Gallery is Lofty Photography: http://loftyphotography.smugmug.com/ and her travel blog is on Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-loftus/