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The Travel Butlers Blog

Botswana In The Green Season

Paul Campbell - April 20, 2017

Conventional wisdom is that the best time to visit Botswana is in the dry season which runs from May to October.  The logic is that less rain means that wildlife concentrates around permanent waterholes and rivers  and it is easier to see the animals as trees and bushes lose their leaves and the grasses die back.  At the same time flood waters from Angola cover much of the Okavango Delta forcing wildlife to concentrate on higher land such as Chief’s Island, again making it easier to find the animals.

The downsides of travelling in the dry season are that the prices are higher, and many camps and lodges will be completely full as much of the dry season coincides with the European and North American summer holidays.

So given this….is it worth visiting Botswana in the Green Season?  In order to check this out for ourselves, we headed out to Botswana for 10 days in March 2017 to include Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta, and this is what we found:

  • The whole north of the country is green and beautiful, meaning there are stunning landscapes to enjoy.
  • There are still plentiful birds and lots of wildlife…although you may have to look harder to find them than in the dry season.  The quality of the sightings was very good as well, including lion cubs, lions hunting buffalo and impala, elephants playing in the water and charging, wild dogs playing, a leopard up a tree (others visiting at the same time saw a leopard with her cub), and countless other memorable sightings.  The one thing that we did not see is the very large herds of elephants that visitors in the dry season would expect to see regularly, however we did see a lot of elephants in family groups, and on one occasion a much larger herd of 50+ elephants on the banks of the Chobe River at sunset.
  • Most antelope give birth in the green season to ensure there is plenty of food for the newborns, so there are lots of cute young animals around.
  • There are fewer overseas tourists – most camps were about half full, even in the very popular Moremi Game Reserve area of the Delta.  If you’re looking to escape the crowds,  it is worth considering a Botswana green season safari.
  • The majority of lodges are significantly less expensive than in the dry season, although it is fair to say that Botswana is a fairly pricey option at any time of year.
  • If you travel in April or November you will avoid the wettest months – there had been substantial rain in Botswana before we arrived, however we only had a single two-hour storm during our whole stay at the end of March.
  • You will probably not be able to do water based activities in the Delta as the flood waters from Angola do not arrive until May/June (although if there has been a lot of rain you may get lucky here and be able to do some water based activities from mid-March as happened this year at some camps).
  • In Chobe consider a houseboat such as the Zambezi Queen or Chobe Princess. There are a number of houseboats that cruise the Chobe River, and these can be a great option in the Green Season as game viewing on land can be affected by the dense bush that covers much of the park.  Note that these boats are actually registered in Namibia, and the cruise along the river by day and moor on the Namibian side overnight.  You cannot land in the Chobe National Park from these boats, however game viewing along the riverfront is good all year round and the houseboats do offer smaller game viewing launches that can get you closer to the animals.

To put the game viewing into context we saw lions, elephants, leopards, rhino, buffalo, wild dog, hyena, giraffe, zebra, hippo, countless antelope and baboons,  spectacular birds and much more.  The scenery was stunning, especially in the early mornings and around sunset, and below are a handful of pictures from our trip.

We have been fortunate enough to go on many safaris over the years, and this trip to Botswana was one of our very favorite experiences.  The camps, scenery, and wildlife were all excellent, and the people and service we encountered everywhere were absolutely first class.  Special thanks must go to the to the camps that we stayed at: Chobe Princess and Chobe Chilwero for Chobe National Park, and Baines’ Camp and Chief’s Camp in the Okavango Delta.  We also stayed at the excellent Sussi & Chuma Lodge in Zambia, which we used as a base to visit Victoria Falls, and had a lovely stay at African Pride Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, both of which would make excellent additions if you are considering booking your own trip to Botswana.

So in summary…is it worth visiting Botswana in the Green Season?  Absolutely Yes!

Chobe National Park In The Green Season (March 2017)

Elephants On Chobe Riverfront

Boat Based Game Viewing

Chobe River Houserboat At Sunset

Elephants at Sunset, Chobe

Elephant, Chobe

The Okavango Delta In The Green Season (March 2017)

Wild Dog, Okavango Delta

Morning Coffee, Okavango Delta

Sunset On The Okavango Delta

Lion Cub In Okavango Dleta

Lilac-Brested Roller

Vultures, Okavango Delta

Lioness & Game Vehicle, Okavango Delta

Lion Up A Tree, Okavango Delta

Why elephants are more like us than we may think (and where to see them in the wild)

Paul Campbell - January 31, 2016

Elephants are one of the coolest species on the planet and for good reason. Did you know that one of the largest and most famous African elephants was called Jumbo, his name thought to be derived from the Swahili word for ‘boss’ or ‘chief’. He is the reason we use the word ‘jumbo’ as a way of describing enormous things.

Now, when it comes to looks it is fair to say that elephants don’t have it all (compared to some other Africa wildlife): grey, wrinkly skin, sticky-out ears and big baggy knees (a bit like some of us, really).  But looks aside, the fact is we have a lot more in common with these intelligent giants than you may think so let us tell you why this is and where you can get acquainted with them.

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1. Brain Boxes.
Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. Their brain weighs around 5 kg which is much more than the brain of any other land-based animal. Elephants have a more developed hippocampus than any other animal (the part of the brain responsible for emotion and spatial awareness).  They can even recognise their reflection in a mirror.

 

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2. In touch with their emotions.
Elephants commonly display emotions including grief, humour, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness and playfulness. Elephants demonstrate concern for members of their families and take care of weak or injured members of the herd. They grieve for their dead. When herds come across an unknown lone elephant that has died they will show it similar respect.

 

 

 

 

Elephant herd

3. Social butterflies.
An elephant herd is considered one of the most closely knit societies of any animal species and a female will only leave it if she dies or is captured by humans. Elephants show affection, frequently touching and caressing each other and entwining their trunks. They can communicate within their herd or between herds many kilometres away by stamping their feet and making sounds which are too low for human ears to perceive.

 

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4. They make incredibly cute babies.
Baby eles are incredibly cute beings.  A little known fact is that some babies take to sucking their trunk for comfort in much  the same way that humans suck their thumbs! Elephant females can have babies until they are about 50 years old. They tend to have a new baby every 2 to 4 years.

 

 

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5. Women wear the trousers.
Elephant herds are matriarchal, led by the oldest female in the group. She decides where and when they move and rest. Males leave the herd as they become adolescent, around the age of 12, and live in temporary “bachelor herds” (like our bachelor pads) until they are mature enough to live alone (much like our own men!).

 

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6. They have sensitive skin.
Elephants are susceptible to sunburn. To protect their little ones from the sun, adult elephants will douse them in sand and stand over them as they sleep.

7. No natural predators.
While it may be true that, like us, elephants have no natural predators, the sad fact is that it is us humans that present the biggest threat to their long-term survival, with increased poaching putting them in real danger of becoming extinct.  This highlights the critical importance of conservation and the amazing work being done by people to protect this incredible species.

Are you an ele-lover?  Here is our pick of the top five places to see African elephants in the wild. If a close encounter is what you long for let our friendly team help you to plan your perfect safari adventure to make your dream a reality.

Kruger National Park, South Africa is home to around 15,000 elephants and sightings are plentiful. Stay at Elephant Plains Game Lodge.

Chobe National Park, Botswana is home to the highest concentration of elephants in Africa. Stay at Savute Elephant Lodge.

Amboseli National Park , Kenya is famous for its elephant population and one of the best places to get up close to free-roaming elephants. Stay at Tortilis Camp.

Selous Game Reserve , Tanzania is a prime site for daily elephant encounters as they amble through camps on their way to watering holes. Stay at the Selous Riverside Safari Camp.

Damaraland , Namibia is home to the rare desert-dwelling elephants. Stay at Damaraland Camp.

Top 5 Places to See Lions In the Wild

TraceyCampbell - August 10, 2015

We have seen a lot of news articles recently about lions, well, one lion in particular, but today is not for mourning Cecil, but it is for remembering him and celebrating the existence of lions all over the world – present and past. Today is World Lion Day – the first global campaign to recognise the importance of the lion worldwide.

The future of lions is slowly moving towards extinction across Africa and India. Humans have lived alongside the King of the Jungle for thousands of years and today, there have never been a more pressing need to embrace the conservation of these magnificent creatures, to help them continue to remain in our lives for the foreseeable future. Lion conservation, raising awareness and education is paramount to their continued existence.

As a visitor to Africa, going on safari and being able to see lions in the wild is a magical experience. To watch them interact with each other in their pride, to understand and learn about their behaviour from your qualified ranger or field guide, to hear their gutteral roaring at night and to see them hunt together is an experience that most people will never forget. If seeing lion in the wild has always been on your bucket list, there are a number of places that you can visit to realise this dream. Here are our Top 5 destinations.

Masai Mara – Kenya
Home to the Big Cat Diary, the grassy plains of the Masai Mara, baked golden by the African sun have always been a firm favourite for lion lovers. The ready supply of antelope, zebra, and wildebeest means a constant supply of food for the resident prides – especially during the months of July through to September/October, when the Great Migration arrives from the drier Serengeti Plains into the Mara in search of the green grass here.

IMG_3004 Morning Game Drive from Porini Lion

Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve – South Africa
Sabi Sands is the most famous of the private reserves adjoining the Kruger National Park. Covering over 65,000 hectares of wild bushland, it offers possibly some of the best lion viewing opportunities to be found on the continent, and provide an unforgettable experience. The land is privately owned, so the game viewing vehicles are not restricted to the road network and it is therefore possible for the experienced guides to follow the prides through the bush and to get extremely close to the animals as they go about their daily way of life.

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Botswana
Botswana is now one of only 7 countries left with a lion population over 1,000 making it imperative to conserve the species in this country. In particular, you have the famous lions living in Savute who are known to specialise in preying on elephants, and a pride in Linyanti who hunt hippo. Visitors to the Okavango Delta may seen lions crossing the waterways from island to island in order to hunt.

dreamstimemaximum_23743771 OKAVANGO DELTA

Ruaha National Park – Tanzania
The Ruaha National Park is renowned for its undisturbed wildlife and stunning, rugged scenery, as well as it’s flourishing lion population. It is estimated that Ruhaha is home to the 2nd largest lion population in Africa – so about 10% of all lions left in the world.

dreamstimemaximum_28354087 RUAHA

South Luangwa National Park – Zambia
The Luangwa Valley has a healthy population of lion, and prides of up to 30 lions are common here. The birthplace too of the ‘walking safari’ you also can have the opportunity to approach prides on foot – of course, from a VERY safe distance!

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The Travel Butlers Top Ten of … Reasons to Go To Africa Soon

TraceyCampbell - June 10, 2015

Can you believe we are half-way through the year already – it seems like only yesterday I was hanging my stocking out for Santa!

So with 2015 well under way, and 2016 rapidly approaching, now might be the time to tick a few things off your Africa bucket list.

Reason 1 to Go To Africa – Going on Safari in the Kruger National Park
We are now in the middle of the winter months in the Kruger, and this is a wonderful time for guests to visit here. Not only are these months cool and dry, but they are possibly the best for game viewing.

Water is scarcer, so the animals are more reliant on waterholes or rivers, which means greater game viewing opportunities around these areas. Although the vegetation around these areas remains lush, the grass elsewhere becomes much drier and shorter, making it easier to spot the wildlife.

Whilst the daily temperatures range from 9 degrees C to 26 degrees C, the early mornings and nights can get very cold – so our advice is to take plenty of layers with you and even consider taking scarves, hats and gloves!

Several lodges also are running Stay/Pay packages too – which coupled with the Rand exchange rate at the moment means superb value for money!

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Reason 2 to Go To Africa – Whale Watching
The first of the whales are already starting to arrive into Hermanus, the whale-watching ‘capital’ of the Western Cape. The peak time, when daily sightings are virtually guaranteed, is during September and October, so availability over these months in the various guest houses and hotels in Hermanus is already getting scarce – so do move quickly if you want to include this in your holiday over this time.

We normally recommend 2 nights in Hermanus, which not only gives you the opportunity of going on an early morning whale watching boat trip, but also gives you the chance to enjoy the whale watching from the land – good whale watching vantage points are from the Old Harbour wall, or from the 12 km cliff path. Another great spot to watch the whales is at Bientang’s Cave restaurant, where from your table you can watch the whales frolic not more than 100m away in the Old Harbour.

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Reason 3 to Go To Africa – The Greatest Show on Earth
The famous, awe-inspiring Great Migration is now fully on the move. Often referred to as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, the million or so wildebeest and accompanying zebra and gazelles are now in the Central Serengeti, heading rapidly towards Western Corridor and the Grumeti River, the first of the river crossings, where the local crocodiles have already started licking their lips in anticipation of a few freebie dinners…

dreamstime 28033753 MARA RIVER CROSSING

Reason 4 to Go To Africa – Mokoro Adventures
The Okavango Delta is filling rapidly with flood waters, so if you have always fancied the idea of floating through the reeds in a mokoro, the next few months is THE time to go to Botswana. Traditionally hand-carved from an ebony or sausage tree log, these shallow canoes are perfect for gliding through the calm waters in search of wildlife. A poler stands at the back of the mokoro so all you have to do is relax, look out for the wildlife and enjoy the experience.

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Reason 5 to Go To Africa – White Water Rafting down the Zambezi
You could argue that there is no ‘bad’ time to visit one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, but between July and September is one of the most popular times for visitors, because many people combine a trip here with a safari in Kruger. For adventure seekers, August through to December are also the best/only months to go white water rafting, as this activity is not run when the river is in full flood.

In addition, the new runway and terminal expansion at Victoria Falls Airport is imminent now, which will be an added boost for tourism to the Falls, as more international airlines will be able to fly directly here.

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Reason 6 to Go To Africa – Flower Power
September is the wild flower season in SA’s Namaqualand – an extraordinary spectacle of nature which turns the otherwise uninspiring landscape into a beautiful blanket of colour.

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Reason 7 to Go To Africa – Gorilla Trekking
July through to September are the most popular months to trek gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These months fall immediately inbetween the main rainy seasons (though remember that the gorillas live in rainforests, so as the name suggests, be prepared for rain at any time!) but the real plus point are the fantastic low season permit rates – USD 350 per person per trek compared to USD 600 per person per trek outside of these months – what a fantastic saving! This almost means you can spend twice as long here (woman’s logic – what you save you can therefore immediately spend again…). Bwindi is home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain wild gorilla population, but it is not just gorillas you can expect to see on your morning trek – watch out for duikers, bushbuck, monkeys, giant forest hogs and forest elephants, as well as a host of bird species.

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Reason 8 to Go To Africa – Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters Flock Back in their Hundreds
These stunning African migrant birds return to their homeland and set up breeding colonies along river banks. Some of the best sightings are in South Luangwa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Some colonies can have over 10,000 birds.

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Reason 9 to Go To Africa – Turtle Safaris in KwaZulu-Natal
Witnessing literally hundreds of tiny new-born baby turtles making a mad dash for the ocean is not something you get to see every day. Only 2 breeds of Maputaland turtles lay their eggs on the KwaZulu-Natal shores – the Leatherback and Loggerhead.

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Reason 10 to Go To Africa – Namibia
A trip to Namibia is an adventure that can be done anytime of the year, in all honesty. Namibia is a beautiful country, with endless highlights – the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the wild desert elephants in Damaraland, the stunning Etosha National Park…You can drive for hours and encounter only a couple of cars on the road, making you seem magically and wonderfully alone in a barely-discovered Africa. Namibia is far more than just a holiday destination – it’s somewhere really special that is guaranteed to leave you wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

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Now if these aren’t Reasons to Be Cheerful – Part 3 – I don’t know what is…(only people over a certain age will understand this reference!).

All images copyright of TravelButlers via Dreamstime.com
#takemethere

Love is in the Air

TraceyCampbell - February 11, 2015

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it got us thinking about the romance that Africa can offer you. Here is our shortlist:

Proposing on the top of Table Mountain – One of the most iconic destinations in Africa, if you want your proposal to be memorable then going down on one knee here will not fail to disappoint – and hopefully elicit the answer ‘yes’ from your bride-to-be!

Table Mountain

Little Kulala – with the desert and towering red sand dunes as your vista, your private thatched ‘kulala’ (the word means ‘to sleep’) offers not only stunning accommodation but also a private plunge pool, indoor and outdoor showers and a rooftop star bed for romantic star gazing. Truly one of the most romantic places I have ever stayed at, in all my years of travelling around Africa.

Little Kulala

Msambweni House – spacious rooms with private verandahs, a luxury tented room or private villas facing the ocean with private pools and jacuzzis. Whichever accommodation type you choose, end your day with a dip together in the infinity pool then walk down the winding jetty hand in hand to enjoy the perfect sundowner spot on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. What could be more romantic?

Msambweni House

Sleeping out under the stars – For the hopeless romantic, nothing can beat a luxury safari sleep out. Imagine falling asleep in the middle of the African bush with a blanket of stars above you, surrounded only by flickering lanterns and listening to a bedtime lullaby of roaring lions, crying jackals and laughing hyenas.

Lion Sands Chalkley TreeHouse

Or for those not feeling quite so adventurous, then enjoy a luxuriant bubble bath on your private safari deck as the sun sets over the African bush. Either way, it is romance at its best!

Sanctuary Baines Camp

Denis Island – your own private Robinson Crusoe retreat, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Step out of your villa onto the deserted white sandy beach. Barefoot escapism doesn’t get better than this.

Denis Island

Singita Sabora – situated in the Grumeti Reserve in northern Tanzania, this intimate 1920s-style explorer’s tented camp is steeped in character and romance. Playing host to the annual Great Migration is just one of the reasons to stay here.

Singita Sabora

Sunrise balloon ride over the safari plains – despite the early start, drifting slowly over the African plains as the sun rises, with a birds-eye view of the wildlife below is a wonderfully unique and romantic experience. Upon landing, enjoy a glass of sparkling wine before heading off for a bush breakfast – a memorable finale to your adventure.

Balloon Safari

Helicopter ride followed by romantic meal on top of a mountain – only in the private Entabeni Concession in the Waterberg area of South Africa can you combine a short but exhilarating helicopter flight with a romantic meal on a secluded mountain top – with just the two of you left alone to enjoy the indescribable natural beauty of the landscape beyond you.

Entabeni Safari Conservancy

Luxury Train Journey – journey aboard the Rovos Rail and take a nostalgic step back in time to the romantic days of privileged, decadent rail travel.- an unbeatable way to experience the epic and ever-changing landscape of Africa.

Rovos Rail