Dry rides take place May to October; wet rides from October to end of April. During the wet season there is a chance to see the Botswana wildebeest and zebra migration while the dry season offers wild and pleasurable gallops across the dry pans. The green season is best known for plentiful sightings of animal young. This safari takes place during the dry season in Botswana.
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
The Makgadikgadi salt pans, a complete contrast to the neighbouring Okavango Delta. These salt pans offer some unique highlights – shy brown hyaena; meerkat families; some of the largest baobab trees in the world; and walks with bushmen. A unique environment, that is surprisingly breathtaking! Imagine yourself mounted high above the long grass and reeds watching great herds of wildebeest and lechwe as they move across the golden floodplains. The breath-taking excitement when your silent progress along game paths only used by animals brings you upon a herd of buffalo or a family group of elephant.
Camp Kalahari: a return to the traditional safari style of the old explorers, and the best way to experience the Makgadikgadi. It is the ideal camp for those who want fun, comfort, style and adventure. A thatched central library, living and dining area featuring an eclectic mix of original African furniture and textiles paired with traditional campaign style pieces and colonial antiques provide the perfect area in which to relax and enjoy the serenity of this enchanting area. For those who’d like to cool off, or enjoy a lazy siesta in or out of the sun, the thatched swimming pool pavilion is ideal.
This traditional bush camp has ten spacious Meru tents, comprising six twin tents, three double tents and one family unit which has two adjacent tents, accommodating two guests in each with an inter-leading bathroom. All ten traditional safari tents are en-suite and outfitted with rich textiles, Moroccan kilims, and four poster beds. Hot water bottles are provided in the winter.
Camp Kalahari’s chef is a talented chap, noted for his tasty soups and particularly for his “Pilli-Pilli Ho-Ho,” a lethal concoction of chillies marinated in sherry and gin. Smeared over one’s breakfast eggs, it’s just the thing to sharpen sleepdulled wits in preparation for whatever adventures await!
Day 1: Camp Kalahari
On arrival by air or road, you will be greeted by your host and Guide David Foot and settled into Camp Kalahari, nestled amongst the acacias and Mokolwane palms of Brown Hyaena Island, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, adjacent to the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park, Botswana. A thatched central library, living and dining area featuring an eclectic mix of original African furniture and textiles paired with traditional campaign style pieces and colonial antiques provide the perfect area in which to relax and enjoy the serenity of this enchanting area. Cool off in the swimming pool or enjoy a siesta in the thatched pavilion!
This traditional bush camp has ten spacious Meru tents, comprising six twin tents, three double tents and one family unit which has two adjacent tents, accommodating two guests in each with an inter-leading bathroom. All Guest tents have en-suite covered bathrooms, hot and old running water and flush loos along with four poster beds, crunchy cotton sheets, rich textiles Moroccan kilims and hot water bottles in winter.
Head off after tea in the beautiful afternoon light, for an introductory ride – primarily to match horse and rider but also your first opportunity to experience the beauty of this magical area. Return to the camp for sundowners followed by dinner and to kraal the horses close by…
Day 2: Camp Kalahari
Up with the dawn, a light breakfast is followed by a long morning ride through the “land of a thousand islands”.Stranded on the ancient lakebed, these sand dunes covered in palm trees are one of the most beautiful and fascinating areas of the Botswana wilderness.At the height of the migration season, the islands and adjoining grasslands are awash with zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest and ostrich – and of course the attendant predators! The white encrusted pans between the islands provides excellent going for the horses, but if there has been a lot of rain then many of these areas will be full of water attracting several species of migratory water birds.
Return to the camp for lunch and rest through the heat of the day in the welcome shade of the camel thorn trees or cool off in the camp swimming pool. After tea, head off by vehicle to see some unique desert species such as springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest and the elusive brown hyaena; these consummate desert specialists survive in arid areas where both food and water are scarce. The brown hyaena is a timid nocturnal, solitary forager, rarely seen by humans, but in spite of this are very social animals, living in clans of up to 10-12 hyaenas.
Enjoy a night game drive back to camp and with the aid of a spot light, look for nocturnal desert inhabitants such as aardvark, bat eared foxes, aardwolves, porcupine, honey badgers and perhaps even a black maned Kalahari Lion. The brown hyaena is a timid nocturnal, solitary forager, rarely seen by humans. Arrive at Camp Kalahari in time for dinner.
Xau Xai Fly Camp
Our next destination, Xau Xai Fly Camp, is made up of comfortable dome tents, a central mess tent, loos and bucket showers. Enjoy a long cool drink as you watch the sunset followed by dinner out under the magnificent Kalahari sky. This area is rich in birds of prey and numerous other unusual bird species.
Day 3: Xau Xai
Today is a long ride eastwards to Xau Xai Fly Camp, so an early start is imperative. Be sure to pack a few essentials for the next two days of adventure. The journey takes us away from the edge of the Pans and through the mopane and acacia woodlands interspersed with short grasslands allowing for lovely long, relaxed canters. Whilst the area is rich in birds of prey, bustards, korhaans and numerous other unusual dry woodland bird species; there is also a chance that we will sight kudu and the odd elephant bull.
By lunchtime we reach the famous Green’s Baobab proudly positioned alongside the well-travelled Missionary Road, traversed by David Livingstone on his journeys northwards. The magnificent trunk of this ancient tree is scarred with the initials of early travellers dating back some 150 years thus providing a living testimony to the rich history of this area. Break for lunch at the adjacent Gutsa Pan under a stand of palm trees where we may find Stone Age artefacts and the hunting blinds used over millennium by the Bushmen.Siesta through the midday heat and after tea, continue the journey on to Xau Xai.
Day 4: Pans
Wake up to a steaming hot cup of coffee and a light breakfast, before heading off on your horses in search of some of the Kalahari’s most fascinating inhabitants, the meerkats. With our horses tethered we will proceed on foot in to the midst of the group. Due to an ongoing habituation programme by Uncharted Africa Safari co. it’s possible for us to get up close and personal with these captivating creatures. Remember, they are not tame – just used to our non-threatening presence. On chilly mornings, you might well find a meerkat snuggling up to you for warmth. Or, in the absence of a termite mound or tree, using your head as a sentry lookout post…By spending quality time with these incredibly social, superbly adapted animals, you will be able to see how they interact with each other and their environment. You also get the chance to see the desert through the eyes of a meerkat – which, despite the fact that it’s only a foot off the ground, is a pretty spectacular vantage point, and definitely one of the most special and memorable game experiences you will encounter in Botswana.
As the day warms up, leave the meerkats to continue foraging. Mount up and follow the well-worn trails that lead to the resident herds of zebra and large congregations of ostriches attracted to the area by permanent freshwater in hidden waterholes. Return to Xau Xai for lunch, a refreshing shower and a siesta in the shade of the mess tent.
Set off in the late afternoon for one of the greatest adventures imaginable – a ride straight out into the middle of the ancient lakebed! Eventually all that can be seen is the vast flatness stretching in every direction. Watch the sun set and the stars rise. This is one of the only places in the world where the silence is so complete you can hear the blood circulating through your ears. There is not one visual landmark to be seen and one swiftly loses one’s sense of perspective – 16,000 square kilometres of baking soda void, are inhabited only by you and a few gazillion invisible brine shrimp! And it is here that we’ll make camp. Sleeping on bedrolls under the silence of a star studded sky!
Day 5: Camp Kalahari
Wake up on the moon! As the dawn greets this extraordinary landscape and the last of the stars disappear, head homewards directly across the Pans to Camp Kalahari, we may be lucky enough to see the unusual sight of ostrich deep in the Pans and then from a great distance the famous Chapman’s Baobab. Also known as the Seven Sisters, and acknowledged to be one of the largest trees in Africa, measuring 25 metres around its girth, this great baobab was also the campsite of early explorers like Livingstone and Selous when they pioneered the area.
Arrive at Camp Kalahari in time for a refreshing shower and lunch. As the sun dips below the horizon and the last light fades, we will be sure to dwell on these amazing past few days. Incredible scenery, memorable wildlife encounters and above all superb riding!
Uncharted Africa has pioneered and passionately supported cultural tourism in Botswana since the company’s inception in 1993. It has long been our belief that it is a vitally important tool in terms of preserving this unique, but sadly fast-vanishing, culture. We have been working closely with the Zu/’hoasi people of the Western Kalahari for many years and are privileged to have Bushmen women, men and pre-school children comprised of four generations, living at Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi. Offering a window into the past, they teach us how they have survived in this harshest of environments, using their vast and ancient knowledge of plants, animal behaviour and survival skills.
The Zu/’hoasi lead a semi-traditional lifestyle, and share their traditional hunting and food-gathering skills as well as how they make jewellery and hunting equipment, it is a glimpse into their traditional way of life, but by no means an attempt to keep them frozen in time. Through our initiative, a community is able to work together and share their knowledge with each other and our Guests, allowing the older generation to pass the knowledge on to the next generation. The young children are the future and we hope that they carry the knowledge and traditions of their incredible ancient culture into the modern world with a sense of pride and personal empowerment.
Day 6: Zu/’hoasi Visit
After breakfast, drive through the bush to the traditionally built Bushmen village; where the community gathers during the day. The huts provide shelter from the harsh Kalahari environment, but are not the community’s permanent accommodation.
On arrival, the elders of the community will meet you in a traditional manner after which you will walk out into the bush with the men, women and children. The focus of the walk will be to provide a gentle introduction to the Kalahari and Bushmen way of life. The group will point out the distinct ecological characteristics of this area and its animal and bird species. Spontaneous gathering and discussions about the uses of plants and wildlife by your Bushmen Guides provide the link between culture and wild environment that we seek to offer our guests. We join together once more for a long lunch before guests bid farewell to Camp Kalahari in preparation for their onward journey.
“Meeting the Bushmen is like finding out who you really are. And, it’s a wonderful discovery, because they’re such lovely people.”
Alex Shoumatoff, Vanity Fair