There are moments in one’s life where you just look back and think “Am I really here, experiencing this?” Those moments were plentiful over the holiday season while safaring in Botswana with my mom and sister. We went to three different camps during our travels, and while they were all amazing, they each brought their own character and stories during our adventure.
Adults teach a baby giraffe to lick minerals in the ground for nutrients.
Our first stay was at Chobe Game Lodge, on the Chobe River. It was a great way to begin our first safari adventure all together, with lamenities we were used to, such as a/c in the rooms. I will never forget Ishmael, the lodge’s environmentalist, or to us, the man who tracked down our luggage after it was lost on the flight. We safaried for a day-and-a-half in our dresses and flip flops, which looking back just adds a special momemnt. I saw a herd of elephants, to include many baby calves — in a dress. Chobe Game Lodge was the first lodge in Botswana to have all female guides.
Ishmel and the female guides with Nancy Levicki
Our guide, Tsuo, opened our eyes to many amazing animals and birds during our three days at Chobe. The herds of elephants, a tower of giraffes, Cape buffalo, a sole stunning leopard in a tree, two 2-year-old lion cubs playing, crocodiles, banded mongoose, baboons, the staple of many many impalas, and the scariest — a pod of hippos.
A train of elephants makes its way through the brush
Vervet monkeys frolic on the banks of the Chobe river.
Two young lion cubs lounge in the brush in the evening twilight.
In Africa, the hippo is the second greatest killer of humans (the first is the mosquito). We We had a run in with one hippo while on a boat tour. Envision six people in a pontoon boat watching eight hippos basking in the sun on the riverbed. Three hippos swim over to join them. Trying tirelessly to get up out of the water, they fail and begin swimming back to the shallow side. We head down the river to view 20 elephants and their babies playing in the water. As we proceed, we get in the path of one of the hippos. He is two feet from our boat, jumps out of the water, growling and showing us deep down to his tonsils. It was beyond frightening, but an amazing experience nonetheless.
Hippos on the Chobe River
You don't want to get too close to a Cape buffalo is one of the big five predators in Africa.
Our guides, B & TT, picked us up from the Pom Pom airstrip and we got comfortable for the two-hour drive to the lodge. My mom, Nancy, had been to this camp with my dad, so it was very special that we got to celebrate Christmas here. The animals were vast, and the guides are committed to finding out what you would like to see and achieving it. One morning game drive, we headed out and it seemed as though they all came out to say hello. It was a glorious day!
The airstrip at Pom Pom
A warthog and her babies
Our guide, B, and our spotter, TT, served tea and then took us by boat to see three elephants sleeping.
Shhhhhhhhh.....We don't want to wake them.
No river was too deep for our safari!
Our Christmas Day cruise (Nancy Levicki, from left, Lauren Levicki and Pam Levicki
What really stands about Nxabega are the people, the culture and the food. The smiles that greeted us each day — all day — were full of love and happiness. Before each meal the staff sang and danced, then chef Bea introduced each meal to us. We were fortunate enough to be the only guests at the camp on Christmas Eve, and we were invited to join the team for a large dinner party. It was a moment I will never forget. I wondered how they could create such well-presented and culinary feats two hours away from anything in the world.
Christmas Eve dancing at Nxabgea
The food at Nxabega was fresh and amazing.
We received two parting gifts, a signed copy of the A Kitchen Safari: Stories & Recipes From the African Wilderness and a male leopard in a tree. We left sad, yet fulfilled with the many memories while at Nxabega, and I continue to dream of going back.
The leopard that said goodbye as we left Nxabega
And we're off!
We arrived at our final camp, Kwetsani Lodge, with excitement to learn more about the Okavango Delta. While all of our camps surrounded the world’s largest inland delta, Kwetsani Lodge was an island within those marshy, muddy delta waters. The beautiful treehouse lodge made me feel like a kid again.
We had another female guide, Florence, who had actually been one of the first female guides at Chobe Game Lodge - Botswana, the big, small country. In a way it is, it’s the size of Texas and only an estimated 2 million residents. A cool Botswana tip: 85% of the population is literate — much higher than most countries in Africa and many in the world.
Botswana is known for its birds. Here, we spotted a King Fisher.
Florence guided us through the delta with ease: her history and knowledge was vast. The reeds and papyrus shaded us from the sun, while the day lilies were happy to enjoy the warm rays.
Cheers to Botswana and Florence our guide in Kwetsani
Lily pads are everywhere! They make pretty necklaces.
Lily pads also make beautiful hats.
Papyrus gently sways at sunset with a sliver of a moon in the African sky above.
Zebras and impalas on the plains
Lion tracks.... Where is she?
We found her! The last animal we saw in Botswana...and she was magnificent.