Lelly Goes On Safari (Kwara Camp, Botswana)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am, for the most part, a well behaved law abiding citizen. In fact, on many occasions, I have been called a ‘goodie-two-shoes’. Personally, I don’t agree with that, but everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I suppose there are worse things to be called. In fact, I know there are, because I’ve been on the receiving end of that too. You can’t please everyone, nor should you want to.

Let’s pretend for a moment that my moral compass was off – way off. If that were the case and I wanted to dabble in, let’s say, drug-trafficking, the border between Namibia and Botswana would be the perfect place to do it. We could have easily strolled through both checkpoints without anyone ever noticing. From the looks of it, both posts have seen better days. Rundown, barely staffed, and little to no traffic, make it seem like a smuggler’s paradise. Business partners, anyone? (Don’t’ worry, Mom & Dad; I’m only kidding. I’m not that desperate… yet.)

When we crossed into Botswana, we met an older gentleman sporting a suit, cowboy hat, and the most weathered face I’ve ever seen. I can only imagine the stories he’d tell, if only we could listen. He was in need of a ride, but our backseat was piled high and the trunk was full. We thought it obvious to onlookers, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Perhaps you see what you want to see? In any case, this adorable old man wasn’t taking no for an answer.

When we exited the building, he grabbed his suitcase and followed us to the car. We opened the doors, pointed to our junk, and tried to explain that we wanted to help, but didn’t know how, with so much baggage. He just stood there, waiting for us to come up with a solution. I suppose one could say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Like a game of Tetris, we managed to move things around and squeeze him in. In the end, we both felt bad for our initial response… and for all of the others we’d passed previously.

Instantly, we noticed Botswana had a different feel compared to that of its neighbors. Sea, sand, and shopping malls, were swapped for trees, villages, and livestock. The road conditions were fairly decent, but stray animals and children, along with a slow speed of 60kh and occasional potholes, kept us moving at a snail’s pace.

After a long day of driving, we eventually landed in Maun: the gateway to the Delta and beyond. It’s pretty much what you expect any hub to be – congested and pricey. After all, Botswana is the wildlife destination, with the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, covering most of the northern half. You have to pay to play, though. It tends to cater to safari goers with never-ending pockets, offering swanky camps, luxury lodges, and charter flights to anywhere you’d want to go. We tossed around our options and agreed that if we wanted to splurge, this was definitely the place to do it.

With a little research and a nudge from a local operator, we set our sights on Kwando Safari’s Kwara Camp, deep within the Delta. The only way to get there is by plane, so the next morning we boarded a small Cessna, and enjoyed the views from above. Kwara is an intimate camp with only eight tents, overlooking a lovely lagoon. It’s situated on a private concession, meaning no hassle, crowds, and free roam.

The airstrip closest to camp had recently flooded, so we landed at another, about an hour and a half away. We were greeted by our guide and tracker, Kenny and Mopani, who would haul us around for the next few days. This actually worked in our favor, as the ride to camp was like an extra game drive – no complaints on our end. Lucky for us, we arrived during the slow season, so we only had to share the facility with a handful of other guests.

Upon arrival, I knew the experience would be special; what I didn’t expect was for the next night to become one of the highlights of my trip, let alone my life…

Perhaps I should rethink investing in khaki after all?

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