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Trip Report Selinda Spillway Canoeing & Camping Safari- Botswana Aug 2012

We are a family of 4 (2 parents and 2 tweens). We spent 4 days on the Selinda Spillway canoeing & camping with Great Plains Conservation during mid-August (winter) of 2012.

We had an amazing time on this trip and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a really immersive experience in Botswana. The safari consists of 3 nights; we started with a half-day of canoeing and exploring, followed by 2 full days and a half-day on the last day.

Our guide, Josh Iremonger, met us at the Selinda airstrip, and I was concerned because he looks about 14 years old. However, I was completely mislead by his youthful appearance. He is a wonderful guide-- experienced and unbelievably knowledgeable. He is charming and lively companion and the kids loved him. He is full of deep respect and affection for the land and its inhabitants, including both fauna and flora. And he taught us the same. Josh really engages your senses and we enjoyed smelling the wild sage and learning about acacia trees almost as much as finding lion and civet cat prints and seeing the baboons. He really knows his stuff and before we even got to the Spillway, we saw a heard of wildebeest and an incredible sight-- a leopard in a tree consuming its kill, a porcupine. That was only the first hour of the trip.

During the safari, we paddled our own canoes along the Spillway and then stopped to camp on shore every night. Paddling was work but is completely doable for those in good health even if you aren't very athletic-- like me. There was a nice mix of paddling, walking safaris, and even a little lazing about and swimming. In the evening, Josh seemed to time it just right every time, and we'd arrive at camp just a little before sundown.

The team that managed the camp was amazing. We did nothing but enjoy ourselves at camp. The food was varied, delicious and healthful, especially dinner, with fresh baked bread and roasted vegetables a well as a delicious meat. And the tents were very comfortable with these cozy bedrolls. It was quite wonderful to lie snuggled in five star hotel linens and duvets with a hot water bottle, and listen to the elephants and hippos in the distance. KG, Force and Tsejay (whose names I'm butchering) were the part of the gracious and hard-working camp team whose names I remember, but everyone was friendly, helpful and welcoming.

The highlights were the leopard sighting, paddling past a pod of hippos-- scary!-- and paddling between two herds of elephants. But we also saw hyenas, numerous birds, baboons (if you wave, sometimes they wave back!), giraffes, mongoose, impala, kudu, and many many other animals. We even let Josh talk us into a giraffe poo spitting contest. It was a true adventure all round.

The Spillway is a recent addition to the landscape and has only been in existence for 3 years. Who knows if will still be there in another 5. It's a great way to see the land because you are really in it as opposed to driving around grimly in a jeep trying to find that one lion. Instead, you are on the water (where the animals are come to drink of course) and you see all kinds of unexpected things as you glide along.

Packing:
Luggage: For those who don't know, you must take a bush plane to Selinda and this means tight luggage restrictions: two bags per person, usually a carry-on (backpack) and duffel (which must be soft sided and be no bigger than 24" x 12" x 12". Eddie Bauer, LLBean and REI all make the right size. We got ours form Eddie Bauer b/c they were having a sale and theirs were water resistent.

Stuff:
It was winter which means cold cold nights. Were we lucky with very warm days, but days can be cold, too. You are mobile, so there is no laundry on this trip. Everything will get grimy, but that's just how it is. There's a lot of fuss on the internet about what colors you can wear. Apparently most animals are colorblind and see shades of gray, so the real goal is not to wear bright white or real black. Most people stick to gray, tan, olive and khaki. But don't buy all new stuff; it's just not necessary.

2 prs long or convertible pants (I don't recommend jeans. They tend to be too heavy and don't dry quickly if you get wet; you want hiking/REI-type pants)
2 prs shorts
4-6 t-shirts
2 long sleeved shirts (t-shirts or "safari" shirts)
6 prs underwear 4 prs of socks
1 swimsuit
1 or 2 fleeces or 1 fleece and light jacket
something to sleep in (yoga pants or light sweats and a long sleeved t worked for us)
1 pr of hiking boots or shoes
1 pr of keens or water shoes
f1 pr flip flops (optional for hanging around camp)
1 sun hat
1 pr of sunglasses
toiletries and meds
sunscreen
bug spray (we used insect repellent wipes) (There were almost no mosquitos but that may not be true every year.)
camera and extra batteries and memory cards (We brought a solar charger but couldn't get it to work; I still think it's a good idea but test it before you leave home. Also, every member of your party will want their own camera. My kids used their ipod touches.)
Headlamp or flashlight (make sure your batteries are new or bring extra)
cash for tips
small sewing kit (my daughter's pants ripped during a hike and we were glad we could sew them up. You have too few pieces of clothing to lose one!)
small first aid kit (they have one but I like my particular stuff).
pocket knife
journal and pen
book for down time

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