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Help with Botswana Safari during the green season (February)

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I am planning a safari in Botswana in February and need some help on picking the correct areas and camps given the fact the water levels may be high, the bush will be denser making animal sighting more difficult and possible afternoon thunderstorms. However, there are fewer crowds and much better prices at this time.
I have been on safari in South Africa and Kenya/TZ but this will be my first visit to Botswana. We only have a week plus, so I am looking to do 7 nights on safari. The logistics involve reaching JNB on a Sunday morning at 8.30 am and transferring to Maun and then the camp that morning/ early afternoon. Also getting back to JNB the following Sunday afternoon for an evening flight out.
My basic understanding is that there are four areas to look for camps- the Okavango Delta, Moreni Reserve, Chobe and Kwando. I would like to stay at three camps for the 7 days understanding that perhaps only two would be better, but we want to do three.
We are avid photographers and the three in my party will pay for a private vehicle. I prefer camps where there is a vehicle, as opposed to some delta camps on islands were the only activities are water borne and walking safaris.
Here is where I need help- I do not have a proper understanding of which areas are more desirable in February, same goes for camps. We do not need top end luxury but prefer well run camps with good vehicles and importantly great guides.
Given the green season do places like Duba Plains and Chiefs camp make sense. I have always wanted to go to Duba Plains for the lion buffalo interaction but have heard the interaction has gone down in recent years and also rising water levels make a lot of it inaccessible. Chiefs camp appears to be on the same island as Mombo so game viewing must be great.
How are the mid level camps such as Desert & Deltas properties such as Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango and Savute? What would be giving up compared to the top end camps other than creature comforts? Also how are the & Beyond properties.
Any other insights/advice would be welcomed.

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    Hi AKR1,

    It sounds like you had a short but sweet trip to Africa planned. Botswana will be fine for animal viewing in February so I would not worry about that. It is sometimes difficult for first-time travelers to Botswana to try and understand the patterns of the rain and floods. The rainy season is actually November through March but the peak floods actually occur in May and June. The rain catchment area for the Okavango Delta is in Angola far to the northwest. December is actually the lowest level of water in the Okavango Delta based on historical patterns. But, February is also pretty low as well. There'll be a lot of good areas for dry land game drives in February. The Jao flats which can be almost completely covered with water in the dry season will have short nutritious grasses and plenty of grazing animals on the floodplains. Chiefs Island, where Mombo and Chief’s camp are located will be almost completely dry in the areas where the road networks are located in February.

    There's one major ecosystem you did not mention in your post above and I will also provide a little more insight to the other areas you mentioned. The Kalahari Desert has a short peak season from December through March and you may want to consider a visit here in conjunction with your trip to the rest of northern Botswana. During the rainy season the animals will congregate in Deeeption Valley and you have a good chance of seeing cheetah and black mane Kalahari Lions. So, perhaps consider two days in the Kalahari.

    Regarding the other ecosystems, the Moremi is technically part of the Okavango Delta. It is simply a national Park completely surrounded by the Okavango Delta except on the eastern side. So it is not a separate ecosystem from the Okavango Delta but just a part of it. Mombo and Chief's camp are actually in the Moremi. For Wilderness Safari and Sanctuary Retreats (two of the eight permanent lodge “chains”) these are the only properties they have in the Moremi. With the exception of Chobe Chilwero all the other camps owned by these two companies are on private concessions in Botswana. You mentioned the Chobe and the Kwando above. In my explanation of the ecosystems I consider the Chobe to be one ecosystem which includes a national park but also has three private parcels of land to the west of it. These private parcels of land are the Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando. The Linyanti is owned by Wilderness Safaris and has three camps on the property. The two classic camps are Savuti Camp and Duma Tau and premier camp is Kings Pool. The Selinda is owned by Great Plains Conservation and they have two camps on their property as well. The camps are Selinda Camp which is a classic camp and Zarafa which is a premier camp. To the north of the Selinda is the Kwando concession. Given the short duration of your stay I would just choose one camp in the Chobe ecosystem and that camp could be in a national park or in one of the three private concessions I mentioned above.

    Within the Okavango Delta (or the Moremi), I suggest you choose two camps. Perhaps one has dry land activities only and the other has mixed activities to include dry land and water activities. I suggest you choose lodge “chain” company for your entire trip so you can benefit from their long stay rates. Desert & Delta safaris have the best rates starting with a five night stay. Wilderness safaris and Sanctuary Retreats will get you the best rates if you do a six night stay (or more) on the seven countries special or seven night stay on their normal rates (many of the camps are not included in the seven countries special rates). Wilderness Safaris and Sanctuary Retreats have a special joint marketing campaign this green season with the seven country specials. Kwando has the five river special running through March. Desert & Delta shuts down some of their lodges in February and March so you should look at their maintenance schedule to see what will be available. D&D offers a great value for money. Their only drawback is that all their lodges are in national parks but this is reflected in lower rates.

    I've been to every Wilderness Safari Lodge in Botswana and the majority of the &Beyond Lodges. I've also been to every ecosystem in every season. Based on my experience and what I have seen the most of, I really like the Wilderness Safari classic camps. If you wanted to stay seven nights at three different classic camps you can't go wrong with Chitabe, Little Vumbura, and Duma Tau (or Savuti). The last two are in the Linyanti concession. I also like Xigera which is mostly a water activity camp. If you went to Xigera I would use that camp to replace Little Vumbura. I share your opinion that the Lion/Buffalo interaction at Duba Plains has decreased in frequency over the past few years.

    So – in summary:
    Wilderness Safaris: Chitabe x 3, Little Vumbura or Xigera x 2, Savuti or Duma Tau x 2.
    Desert & Delta: Moremi x 3, Camp Okavango x 2, Savuti Camp x 2
    Sanctuary/Wilderness: Tubu Tree x 3, Stanleys or Baines x 3.

    Hope this helps.

    Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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    Firstly, in Feb the water levels will be low not high- the floodwaters come from upstream in Angola and are out of sync with the rains. Peak of the floods is June/July, that's when water is highest, but it starts to rise around April/May.

    Consequently, Feb is probably quite a good time to go somewhere like Duba that has been having problems with accessibility in the high water times.

    As for the Desert & Delta camps- the "creature comforts" are likely to be at the same level as other camps. However, they are not in private concessions which means no off roading and more vehicles jostling for space at sightings.

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