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Linyati Explorations (a nice looking alternative or complement to Wilderness Safaris, Kwando and CCAfrica)....


Apr 9th, 2004, 05:23 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
Linyati Explorations (a nice looking alternative or complement to Wilderness Safaris, Kwando and CCAfrica)....


This operator came highly recommended by the agency, Natural Events, that I am working with on my Botswana itinerary for next year (www.natural-events.com). After checking it out further, Linyati Explorations looks like a great place.

I found a very comprehensive post on their bulletin board posted by a very esteemed private guide, Garth Thompson (featured on Wilderness Safaris website as one of the leading guides in Southern Africa), and I think he sums it up pretty well so I will copy and paste his report below.

Just as a sidenote before I post his report, the walking specialists that were at Linyati at the time this report was done, Craig Mercer and his wife? Sharlene, are now at Kafunta in South Luangwa, so I guess that is a real plus for Kafunta to have these two. They had just arrived a few days before I had and we each experienced our first nights at Kafunta Island Bush Camp together.

Anyway, here is the report on Linyati Explorations by an expert guide in the area:

We recently had the privilege of having Garth Thompson visit The Selinda for a week?s guide training. Garth is a well known naturalist, guide, writer and tour operator from Zimbabwe.
He sent this evaluation of his visit.

Selinda Camp, Zibalianja Camp and Selinda Walking Trails

I stayed at the above camps over a seven-day period while assisting in guide training. I thought you might be interested to hear about the camps and the wildlife seen while out on safari activities. I shan?t go into detail on all the rooms, dinning area, amenities etc. This has been well documented on the Linyanti Explorations web site: www.linyanti.com

Location and History

Brian and Jan Graham, well know to many in the tourist industry have been involved in photographic tourism dating back to 1972 when Brian started out with Rob Fynn in Matusadonna National Park. The following year Brian and Jan moved to Botswana and were pioneers along with PJ Bestalink and Loyd Wilmot in the photographic safari industry in that country. During the past 30 years they have owned and operated Chobe Chilwero and Linyanti Camp. In 1995 they were awarded the concession rights for The Selinda Reserve, a massive area in Northern Botswana at the base of the Linyanti Swamp. The Kwando River flows through the concession and into the Zibalianja Lagoon, it used to be part of the Selinda Spillway. Namibia and the Caprivi Strip are not far north of this area.


The area where the majority of game viewing is conducted consists of vast expanses of open grassland studded with islands of knob thorn acacia, lead woods and rain trees. Across this sea of grass, Illala Palms line the horizon in all directions. Most the wildlife is centered around the wetlands of the Selinda Spillway and Zibalianja Lagoon, home to numerous hippo and masses of birdlife.


This area must certainly rate as one of the major Cat Capitals of Botswana. We encountered lion on every safari activity of the day when in a vehicle. On my first day we were fortunate to see all 27 members of the pride, consisting of three massive males, eight adult lionesses, and three litters of cubs, numbering sixteen in all! The males then moved off, but we continued to see the pride of 24 females and cubs daily. This is a massive number of lions to see together. These lions are totally unphased by the presence of the safari vehicles and their occupants.

One morning at dawn, seated on the open air ?loo with a view? at Mokoba Walking Trails Camp, while enjoying the pastel colours merging across a kilometre of expansive grassland, as lioness suddenly strolled out from the fine mist which covered the open plain. She then joined 16 other lion, near the base of the camp?s dinning table, situated on top of a large termite mound. While enjoying the coffee kick-start to the day, with rusks and a light breakfast we were entertained by the ten month old cubs playfully stalking, boxing and wrestling each other. As the winter sun warmed us, we followed the pride by vehicle for the next three hours. They totally ignored the vehicle.

As equally impressive were the three male cheetah whom the guides found, also on a daily basis. The cheetah were so relaxed that they allowed a party of four guests and guide on foot, to approach to within 40 metres without moving from the large termite mound while sunning themselves. They too allowed the vehicles to follow for many hours of the day. On my third day we spent a total of six hours following them. At dusk they gracefully leapt up onto a fallen tree. They were less than five metres from our vehicle, elevated a metre above our roll bars, feline statues silhouetted against the dusk sky. On the last afternoon we encountered a lone female cheetah, within a hundred metres of her and our vehicle, were eight of the lionesses, a lone bull elephant and a side striped jackal.

In the afternoon elephant are to be seen everywhere. Large breeding herds making their way down to the marsh to drink, wallow and feed. Zebra can be found in herds of over 150. Wildebeest, tssesebe, hippo, impala, lechwe, giraffe, kudu, warthog and baboons are common. Wild dogs killed an Impala near the concession headquarters.

On the first afternoon of our walking trail, we sat on the edge of a termite mound, fixing our binoculars on the various shoreline birds feeding in the shallows. We never moved until after sunset, we were fortunate to watch eleven different species of mammal from this spot, including over 60 elephant.

The night drives produced scores of springhares, white tailed mongoose, civet, hyena,
black backed jackal which are more common than side striped.


Prolific throughout the concession, especially in the shallow waters of the marsh. One morning one of the guides and I counted 44 different species in a little over 30 minutes without moving the vehicle. Among these birds was a flock of about 25 skimmers, displaying their graceful flight over the glass like water.

Selinda Camp

The largest of the four camps on the concession, yet ensuring exclusivity by only offering twelve beds in six spacious Meru tents under thatch, all with tastefully designed en suite flush loo, shower and basin. The tent verandahs are large with the comfort of a sun bed, chairs and a hummock. Each tent has its own busy birdbath and looks out onto the open plain and marsh. The tent interiors are tastefully furnished, but not over the top.

The lounge and dinning area are well designed, the lounge being partially sunken with large, comfy sofas, coffee tables, a comprehensive natural history library and bar fridge. The upstairs dinning room has panoramic views of the surrounding plains and marsh. The food was of a high standard at all times. Safari activities from Selinda are game drives in open Land Cruisers; well maintained and comfortable. Night drives return after drinks and snacks have been enjoyed at a waterhole at sunset, usually with numerous hippos in attendance. Early morning walks and fishing are offered. Vaughn and Shirley Volker have been running Selinda for the past two years, they come with over 25 years of wildlife experience. Kanawe Ntema is the head guide and one of the longest Linyanti Explorations employees. He has an uncanny ability to track and sense where the various big cats have moved to. Paul Moleseng has been guiding at Selinda for the past two years, having been in the industry for seven years.

Zibalianja Camp

The ultimate in exclusivity, possibly the only six bed camp in Botswana? Zibalianja camp is about eight kms from Selinda, close to the lagoon from which it gets its name. The three large tents are raised up on wooden platforms offering distant views of the plains, islands and resident wildlife. The camp is managed by Steve and Maryna Bouwer. This warm and welcoming couple have been running Zib for the past two years, having worked for Conservation Corporation at Londolozi and Phinda four years previously. They are ably assisted by Mompati Aaron who shares the guiding with Steve. Both guides are licensed to take walks. Mompati, like Kanawe from Selinda, is gifted with the most incredible sixth sense when it comes to wildlife.

This camp is extremely intimate and shares the game viewing area with Selinda. The same safari activities are offered from here.

Walking Trails

And so the camps get smaller. This three day, two night walking trail is limited to a maximum of only four guests, once again ensuring exclusivity and safety. Most guests will have been staying at either Selinda or Zibalianja Camps. They are collected after an early breakfast and the walk begins from Selinda at about 07:00 arriving at Makoba Camp at around midday having covered roughly eight kms. The distance is punctuated by rest breaks while watching wildlife or just seated on top of a large termite mound, enjoying the view, bottled water and snacks of dried fruit.

The walks are led by Craig Mercer who has been involved in wildlife and tourism for the past seven years, two of which have been leading the Selinda walks. He is an extremely keen and enthusiastic guide with a good all round wildlife knowledge. When walking into camp, guests are greeted by his charming and extremely competent wife, Sharlene offering a wet face cloth and tall glass, whose rim has been coated in brown sugar and filled with ice-cold limejuice is just what one needs after a few hours of walking. The tents are walk in with the comfort of beds, sheets etc. The outside flush loo and basin are open to a magnificent view of a grassy plain extending to the marsh a kilometre away.

Sharlene?s meals are all cooked on the campfire, what she produces from her pots is truly amazing. The food was of a high standard at all the camps but I feel the best meals were on the walking trails. The afternoon walk leaves from camp at around 16:00 and normally covers a distance of about five kms. As mentioned earlier, we only managed to get as far as the marsh and then just sat and watched wildlife accumulate around us while flocks of aquatic birds flew in and fed. On return to camp at dusk another highlight awaits, a his and hers shower; built on an elevated wooden deck, open to the star studded sky and natural surroundings.

The following morning after a light breakfast guests leave Mokoba Camp with only their cameras and binos, while Craig carries a rifle and backpack filled with bottled water, medics pack, snacks and radio. The destination Tshwene Camp, another home of only two guest tents, offering all the comforts one would have at a camp like Selinda.


It was extremely encouraging to see a concession so large offering only 22 beds from a total of four camps. This ensured very few vehicles at lion and cheetah sightings and a feeling of true wilderness. Other than the camps, vehicle tracks and the airstrip there are no signs of man, no gravel roads, concrete culverts or bridges, telephone or power lines, tar roads etc. The concession is incredibly scenic with a high concentration of wildlife from many species. The only other place I have seen so many lion in one pride has been in Kenya, but there were more vehicles in attendance than members of the pride. It is without doubt the best cheetah viewing I have ever experienced. The birdlife would keep the serious ?birder? satisfied for days.

I feel that four nights in this concession should be a minimum, possibly split between Selinda and Zibalianja. Most the guests I encountered were there for six days, split between the two camps and some on the walking trail. If this is what the wildlife experience was in May, the off-season, it must be incredible in September/October!
Roccco is offline  
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Apr 9th, 2004, 06:01 AM
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Their walking safari has been recommended to me as well and Garth Thompson's comments confirm their reputation. I like the fact that Zibalianja takes only 6 guests. What bothers me is that there is no sign of water by the camp and the lagoon is a few minutes away. This year however there could be plenty surrounding the camp.
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Apr 9th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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It is this comment that has me highly motivated to visit the concession run by Linyati Explorations:

"The only other place I have seen so many lion in one pride has been in Kenya, but there were more vehicles in attendance than members of the pride. It is without doubt the best cheetah viewing I have ever experienced".

I wouldn't mind a six night walking safari (2 nights Selinda, 2 nights walking safari, 2 nights Zibalianja) followed by three nights at Kwando Kwara, or who knows maybe also staying three nights at Kwando Lagoon, embracing my obesity and pushing off Comrades for another year or life.
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