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Why you should consider a wild camping adventure in Botswana

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Written by Peregrine Travel Centre SA team member Adriana.

Picture perfect sunsets. Incredible wildlife. Breathtaking scenery. Friendly local people. Everything about Africa makes you want to keep returning for years to come! I recently embarked on my first trip to Africa and it was one of the best adventures I have ever had!

I decided to join the 14 day ‘Wildlife & Wilderness of Botswana’ Exodus trip, taking in both Botswana and a hint of Zimbabwe. Most of the trip was spent wild camping, with some stays at developed camping sites and a lodge stay (in Victoria Falls) included as well. As someone who has never camped before, I was a little hesitant at the thought of two weeks straight in a tent with limited facilities, however the team in the office convinced me that for my first trip to Africa this was the best way to get a completely authentic experience – and they weren’t wrong!

I won’t take credit for a complete ‘roughing it in the wild’ experience, as our camp sites were set-up and taken down by the amazing support staff with us along the way – we had a fantastic leader in Moses, a talented Chef, Jonny; who served up a delicious array of meals along the way, and the lovely Chief and Etoo who pretty much had the camp sites and all of our belongings sorted every day!

I absolutely loved my experience, here is why you should consider a wild camping small group tour with Exodus:

You’ll be in the thick of the action!

Wild camping means just that – your tent is set-up in the middle of nowhere, just the tour group, the Exodus team and the sounds of wildlife in the distance (or not so distant background in some cases). The first couple of nights it took me a while to adjust to hearing the sounds of hippos, lions, elephants and hyenas as we sat around the fire – and I won’t lie, I was slightly concerned about what I had got myself into. But the team were fantastic at explaining what each sound was and how far away they were and reassuring me that we had nothing to worry about. By halfway through I had gotten used to the noises and it became a novelty to be woken up during the night and trying to guess which animal was near the campsite.

Set-up for a night wild camping on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan

The best part about the wild camping experience is that you’re right inside the National Parks, so when other vehicles would have to leave to return back to their lodges we could stay out a little longer on our game drives and take advantage of being the only one’s around – one evening this meant staying an extra 20 minutes with a lioness and eight lion cubs as they played right near our vehicle!

My favourite moment was being woken by a lion roaring at 5:30am, it sounded close and it was in fact in our camp site, coming to check out the strange sound of one of the people on tour snoring. Our leader was quick to make sure the lion ran off and then alerted us when it was safe to come out of our tents. Once we were all packed up, we jumped into our vehicle and our leader followed the lion’s tracks to just 400m away, where we came across three male lions and three female lions feasting on their kill. We were the only vehicle there and the only ones lucky enough to witness this incredible moment – something that would not have happened if we weren’t wild camping!

A lion and lioness feasting on their kill

You’ll witness a fantastic mix of wildlife!

Botswana truly is a wildlife lovers paradise. And with the help of our knowledgeable guide Moses, we were fortunate enough to see an incredible mix of animals, including four out of the ‘Big Five’! We saw elephants (plenty, every day), lions, a leopard, hyena, warthogs, zebra, giraffe, impala, buffalo, hippopotamus, ostrich, crocodile, baboons and the elusive honey badger (to name a few)! As well as an impressive display of birdlife. Moses knew so much about the animals and birdlife, so as well as taking in the impressive views I learnt so much along the way.

We had elephants eating from trees just 15 metres away from our tents, and we would often sit and have lunch and be able to watch other wildlife passing by in the distance.

We enjoyed walking safaris in the Okavango Delta, game drives in Moremi and Savuti National Park, a river cruise and game drive at Chobe National Park as well as a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi – all providing some excellent game viewing opportunities!

You’ll meet great people!

Our tour consisted of 8 people from the UK, 2 from the USA and my friend and I from Australia. A diverse mix of personalities, ages, senses of humour, interests and past travel experiences – but that’s what made us all get along so well! When you spend 14 days camping you really get to know your fellow tour mates; the early mornings, the late nights sitting around the fire and all of the amazing experiences you share in between really make you become like a family. I was really lucky to participate in this trip with all of these lovely people – and with the incredible Exodus team – and together we’ve experienced moments that will stay with us for a lifetime!

Along the way, we were also lucky enough to meet some friendly locals. Specifically, all of the villagers who helped us in the Okavango Delta – listening to stories of their lives, teaching them to play Uno, and sharing with them stories about Australia were all very special moments for me.

Hippos heading for the water

You’ll have many ‘WOW’ moments!

Along the way there were so many moments that quite literally took my breath away. I’ve managed to narrow it down to my top 4!

  1. Our mokoro ride to get to our wild camping site in the Okavango Delta was an incredible highlight. A group of people from the local village joined us for the two days and took all 12 of us, as well as our leader, chef, all of our belongings and camping equipment to a site about an hour mokoro ride away. Sitting in the mokoro and passing silently through the reeds in the water was both eerie and magical at the same time (even with a close encounter with an angry hippo) – an experience I will never forget.

Travelling by Mokoro

  1. Our early morning encounter with lions and seeing lion cubs playing (as mentioned above), was another wow moment for me. There’s something about seeing these magnificent creatures up close in their natural environment that just leaves you speechless.
  2. Witnessing the sunset on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan was truly magical. It was just us, taking in the magnificent landscape – which included a single tree (pictured at the top of the blog post) – and no one else within miles of us. That night, we sat around the campfire with a sky full of stars and not a care in the world.

    Jumping for joy on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan

  1. Finally, witnessing Victoria Falls was another incredible highlight and seeing its sheer size and impressive falls is something I’ll always remember.

    Victoria Falls

This trip was filled with amazing wildlife encounters (angry hippos included), unique local experiences and some wonderful people who I will never forget. I spent most of the trip singing the ‘Circle of Life’ (in my head mostly, to not annoy the other travellers) and it has left me with some incredible memories. It’s true what they say, once you visit Africa it will leave you wanting more and it’s true – I have a special place in my heart for this amazing continent and I hope to return, both to Botswana one day, and to experience other African countries!

If you’d like to know more about this Exodus trip, wild camping or travel to Africa, contact the team at Peregrine Travel Centre SA who can help you put together the perfect itinerary for you!

And to finish – a photo of a warthog, because how great are they!

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