The couple next to me look tired. “I got woken up by an elephant last night,” one of them confesses. “We left the door to our verandah open, and I woke to this huge elephant’s head looking in.”
Close-up animal encounters like this are an everyday occurrence in the Okavango Delta, one of Africa’s richest wildlife areas.
Our Bench International tour starts at Sanctuary Baines’ Camp, where hippos, hyenas and other creatures wander at night. That’s why the five suites and the main lodge are connected by raised walkways. Animals are able to pass underneath while we stay safe up above.
Later we visit Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, perched by a waterhole, where I pull back my curtains one morning to find a family of warthog gambolling in front of my terrace.
Safaris present life in an uncensored form, and while some moments are heartwarming – a rare glimpse of a hyena nursing her young cubs, for instance – other moments are more primal. Watching another hyena take down a baby impala then wolf it all down in 10 minutes is not a G-rated sight, but that’s life in the wild.
The quality of the game-viewing in Botswana is phenomenal; every day is different, whether it’s canoeing down a hippo-infested river or coming across a pride of 17 lions resting in the shade.
The camps are also some of the very best in Africa. Two that should be on your list are the magnificent Chief’s Camp, which has just undergone a revamp in a bid to make it even more luxurious, and, of course, the exclusive Baines’ Camp.
Game-viewing in Botswana will literally take your breath away.
Words: Ute Junker