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Please recommend 3 best classic Wilderness camps in Botswana

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Jan 6th, 2012, 03:47 PM
  #1
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Please recommend 3 best classic Wilderness camps in Botswana

We are traveling to Botswana in November for 8 days/7 nights. It will be the first trip for us and although we would like to stay in the premier camps, we simply can't afford it. Can you recommend 3 nicest classic camps from Wilderness Safari in the Delta/Moreni/Lyianti areas with primarily land-based wildlife viewing and with the best chances of seeing the big 5?
On another note, if this will be our first and only trip to Botswana, is it worth it upgrading to Mombo? Thank you.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 05:44 PM
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Are you only interested in W-S camps or would you look at others (like Kwando) too?

Assuming we are talking only about W-S camps and in the context of the camps I went to:

I just came back from a trip to Mombo, Chitabe,LV, Duba and Kalahari Plains and had a fantastic trip with lots of sightings but it was for 18 nights. If you are looking at 7 nights and in November (earlier is better than later in Nov) and only W-S camps I would recommend a combination of Chitabe and Little Vumbura. Between the 2 I had my best sightings. Duba was great but a much longer trip ( or great luck) is warranted to visit there for what its most known for-lion-buffalo interaction.

Mombo was very good too- unparalleled general game through my trip, exceptional number of lions but instead of paying that price-if you want to- A private vehicle in Chitabe and LV in lieu will give you an overall better experience.

Chitabe is very good for leopards, Cheetah and wild dogs and good for lions. General game-the big herds move away in November but still saw elephants, impalas, bushbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, kudu, lechwes, hippos, steenbok, baboons, monkeys etc. Birding will be phenomenal in November almost anywhere you go.

Little Vumbura was very good for leopards, lions, wild dogs and general game was better than Chitabe with all the usual suspects plus SABLES- the most beautiful antelopes I have ever seen. At LV you can also spend an afternoon on water activities (Mokoro) if you want to.

Kwara/Little Kwara (Kwando property) is another exceptional place to visit in November- I havent been there but want to, someone else will hopefully chip in on that. A combination of Chitabe and Kwara would be great too.

I didnt go to the Linyanti/Selinda/Kwando areas but some guys back from a December trip had wonderful leopard and wild dogs sightings there. At Tubu Tree one person had 8 leopard sightings over 3 days. I had 5 in Chitabe, 2 in Mombo and 3 in LV. I saw Cheetahs in Chitabe and Kalahari and Kwara is very very good for Cheetahs from reports from people who went there in Nov-March. Lions you would see almost everywhere. Wildogs- I saw in Chitabe and LV. Others saw in Duma Tau and Savuti. Rhinos you would have to be really lucky to see anywhere in Botswana and in 3 nights in Mombo, I didnt see any. My guide also said Rhino sightings are usually maybe in 1.5-2 months, sometimes more as they really prefer the thick bush. Buffaloes good herds in Mombo. In Duba if the buffaloes cross over to Paradise Island, the only way to see them currently is by air on a scenic flight- Maybe your travel agent can find out if Duba plans to have access to surrounding islands will be in time for your visit. Also I went from Dec 11th to 29th, In November you might have a better chance with buffaloes.

3 camps in 7 nights might be spreading yourself a bit too much though I might be biased-as I am moving more and more towards longer stays in one place.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 09:18 PM
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Thank you very much for the reply! I will consider LV and Chitabe.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 04:34 AM
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Karobu,

I have been to every Wilderness Safari camp in Botswana in the past two years. To maximize cats and other animals at classic camps and minimize water activities using Wilderness Safari properties I suggest this:

Savuti or Duma Tau in the Linyanti - 3 nights
Tubu Tree - 2 nights
Chitabe or Chitabe Ledibe - 3 nights

Tubu Tree does have water activities but in November the Jao flats should have plenty of dry flood plain you can drive on and the area right around Tubu Tree is prolific leopard habitat.

Before the great recession November used to be peak season. This supports my opinion that it is one of the best month not in peak season.

You won't see rhino at any of these places. Rhino are usually not seen in Botswana although a few live there.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
2011 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Botswana
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:54 AM
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"Primarily landbased"

Chitabe or Chitabe Ledibe--same price, within yards of each other. Near Moremi (one of your requests), but not in it. As you approach the boundary between Chitabe and Moremi, you can see the difference in landscape of the 2 areas with Moremi being more green and lush.

Duma Tau or Savuti Camp--they are near each other in Linyanti

Little Vumbura--in the delta. Even though water activities are possible, you can do all land activities in a great area. So you have a choice. To get to the camp itself you take a 10 minute boat ride through a scenic area so you have a mini built-in delta experience several times a day.

As mentioned above, only Mombo/Little Mombo/Chief's Camp could provide rhino, and even that's not a given. The other 4 of the Big 5 can be seen at the other camps, plus the beautiful sable antelope at Little Vumbura.

Mombo? You stated you simply can't afford the premier camps. If a Mombo stay would really stretch your budget, then no. If the difference between including Mombo and a classic camp is what you'd spend on a weekend getaway 2-3 times a year, then include Mombo.

Duba Plains is my fav of the Wilderness camps at any level (classic, premier, adventure) but probably not your best bet in this 7-8 nt trip because:

-The main activity there is lion and buffalo interaction. Plus some surprisingly good canine activity--aardwolf, bat eared fox. But not big on Big 5, as you requested.

-Depending on water levels and where the lions and buffalo go, I'd always recommend 4 days over 3 days. That would be half of your trip.

-It used to have a surcharge above the classic prices and maybe still does.


Though I haven't stayed at Savuti Camp, I have stayed at the other places mentioned aboave and they are lovely. Really, all are top of the line places. No need to spend the extra for premier.


Depending on how important the chance to see rhino is and how attached you are to only Wilderness camps, you might consider Sanctuary camps. I have not been to these, but I'd love to go some day. They are similar to Wilderness.

You could do a Sanctuary combo of:

Chobe Chilwero--it is in Chobe, not far from Linyanti. You could arrange an afternoon river cruise on the Chobe River, a truly outstanding wildlife activity of the continent, especially for elephants.

Baine's or Stanley's--in the delta. Water and land activities plus the opportunity to walk with habituated elephants on a walking safari. The ele walk is an added cost.

Chief's Camp--on Chief's Island where Mombo/Little Mombo are, which is in Moremi. Chief's is less costly than the Mombos but probably more than the other Classic-priced camps of Wilderness or the other Sanctuary camps. Chief's is not in quite as good of location for lots of animals as Mombo, but I have heard that the rhino like the area around Chief's more.

Since discounts for several nights with the same company are offered, whether it is Wilderenss, Sanctuary, or Kwando, compare the final costs of your 7-8 night trip, rather than the camp to camp costs. Go 8 nts rather than 7 if at all possible.

Finally, which is most important to you--visiting the country of Botswana or seeing the Big 5? If it is seeing the Big 5 and perhaps budgeting concerns ("simply can't afford premier camps") maybe you want to go to a different country such as South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania?
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Jan 7th, 2012, 09:48 AM
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Thank you Craig and Atravelynn for your responses. To see rhino, maybe we could spend 2 of the 7 nights in SA instead and stay in one of the lodges in Sabi Sands -- which "classic" camp would you recommend there? Would 3 days/2 nights in SA and 6 days/5 nights (3 nights in Savuti/2 nights in Tubu Tree) in Botswana be a good package? Thanks again for the very helpful responses!
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Jan 7th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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there are about 5 rhino in the mosi o tunya national park on the zambia side of victoria falls. these are best scene while a guest at Toka Leya.

"classic camp" is a term only used by wilderness safaris to describe a style of accomodations that they have. along the same price point of a classic camp would be malamala main camp and lion sands river lodge. lion sands river lodge has stay4pa3 pricing so a two night stay might not be a good deal. i have seen rhino every day i have ever spent in the sabi sands (and i have been there a lot).

craig beal - owner - travel beyond
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Jan 7th, 2012, 12:10 PM
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If you want to see the big 5 up close, personal and often, go to Sabi Sand Reserve. Easy to spend all 7 nights there in 2-3 camps. MalaMala, Leopard Hills, Lion Sands, Exeter River Lodge, Dulini, Kirkmans, Londolozi, all first rate camps.

regards - tom
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Jan 7th, 2012, 01:59 PM
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I'm sure you'd see rhino if you spent two full days in Sabi Sands. But you'd need one day devoted to transfer time between SA and Bots.

There is a fenced rhino sanctuary in Botswana called Khama. I have never been but I have heard nice things about it. I think it is about 250 miles from Maun. That would be an option. You could probably arrange a driver or you could drive yourself on that highway.

If you wanted to do South Africa and Botswana in one week, I'd spend 3 nts in Sabi Sands, a day of transfer then 3 nights at one of the Botswana camps. I think I'd choose Little Vumbura since you experience the delta but have the wildlife advantage of a land camp. But that's lots of moving around in a week.

If rhino is a real big deal, then do what Tom says and stay in South Africa at 2 places in Sabi Sands. You'd have a wonderful time.

Craig mentions Vic Falls, are you going there so that you could spend time in Mosi o Tunya and perhaps see rhino? Do check the current #s. Unfortunately there were very few and poachers reduced even that number. I recall not long ago they were down to 1 or 2. Maybe more now.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 03:59 PM
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Here are the daily sightings at one camp in NE Sabi Sand, assuming 2 drives/day:

http://blog.arathusa.co.za/category/...fe-statistics/

Just info. The only place I've seen wild dog is at Mashatu. We've been very unlucky with WD. Bums me out.

Not knowing the rest of your itinerary, it's difficult to advise. But I would try to stay a minimum of three nights. Did a 2-2-3 in Botswana 2006 and we never had time to relax and just soak in the atmosphere - we always felt like we needed to pack or unpack or think about our next transfer. Three nights makes a huge difference. We LOVED Duba - the staff was outstanding. Very relaxed place. We stayed at Vumbura, the over the top one, and our game experience was excellent. I would recommend Little Vumbura. I much prefer the classic camps to the premier camps. The premier camps just feel like "too much" out in the wilderness. Mombo, due to its location, not luxury, is my exception.

atravelynn - I think the last rhino was poached in 2010.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:06 PM
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"atravelynn - I think the last rhino was poached in 2010"

I think so, Christabir, my 1 or 2 left in Mosi o Tunya comment was wishful thinking. There could always be a relocation too. But with so much poaching, that might be a death sentence.

Anyway Karobou, have you ever been to Eastern or Southern Africa in the past? Your response will provide some background. You mention first and only trip to Botswana. Is it also first and only trip to Africa for safari activities? Is the first and only a product of time or money or both? If it is only because of money, maybe you could go somewhere else in Africa and have two trips. I am assuming we is 2 people. Is that right or is it more?
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Jan 7th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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All, thanks very much for your responses. I think I have narrowed down the classic camps to Duba Plains and Tubu Tree (for sure), still deciding if to stay in another classic camp in Botswana (people seem to recommend Little Vumbura, Chitabe, Duma Tau/Sadibe equally, so not sure yet which one) or stay for a couple of days in Sabi Sands. Depends on the cost, I guess. Thank you again everyone.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 09:03 PM
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I must have the wrong park in my head. I think it was the Zim side. There are seven rhino, including a baby, as of Dec, 2011!!

All accommodations at many price points:

http://www.sabisand.co.za/ Check out the map for traversing rights. I prefer the east side of the park - less crowded.

If you decide to go to SS, take into account the trans time and the cost. It adds a lot in both aspects. Can you add more nights for safari time? If this is your only safari (many of us thought that) more is definitely better!

Botswana is incredible. My favorite place I've ever been. It is also the most expensive. Africa has a way of working itself into your soul and this may not be your only trip. It doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive.
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Jan 7th, 2012, 09:37 PM
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Christabir I was just wondering if you and Lynn had the parks mixed up. At Mosi-o -Tunya they have 1-2 rangers 24/7 with each rhino. I had read this earlier and then one of my guides in Bots had worked in Toka Leya and he was giving me the story on those ranger's life in general.
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Jan 8th, 2012, 08:25 AM
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I was thinking Zam side, but I am glad there are rangers there all the time now. Maybe things changed after the last round of poachings several years ago. If there are rangers overseeing several rhinos that would be great news all around.

Karabou, all of the many options you have mentioned that include various Botswana camps or Sabi Sands lodges will give you a great trip. At the end, I'm sure you'll say, "We certainly picked the right places."
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Jan 8th, 2012, 09:23 AM
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Duma Tau was our favorite camp when we were in Botswana. We saw wild dog, leopard and lion in our first game drive.
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