It was pitch black and the footsteps were getting closer and closer. Step, crunch. Step, crunch. Branches torn, chew, chew. I awoke from my light slumber. Sleeping in a tent, even a glamorous one, unsettled my brain and left me unable to sleep soundly.
“It must be an elephant!” I think in my hazy 2 a.m. thoughts. The shadows creep up around the deck of the tent, perhaps 5 meters from our bed. Nope, too small to be an elephant, maybe it’s a hippo.
The next few hours go by in darkness speckled with moonlight. I lie awake, still in awe of the fact that I’m sleeping in a beautiful tent with wild animals going about their usual business right outside, only a few planks of wood and a screen separating us. The morning light—and our tracker after spotting the flat splats of poo outside our door—revealed that it had been buffalo keeping me awake. “They’re noisy eaters,” the tracker said. Indeed, they are. These are the things keeping you up at night when you’re on a Botswana safari honeymoon.
Our Okavango Delta safari
It took my husband and me a while to decide on a honeymoon destination. We ended up choosing a Botswana safari after hearing wonderful things about the country itself as well as the safari experience there. I’m so happy we chose Botswana and andBeyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp (not sponsored in any way, we just loved our stay).
If you’re curious about what to expect on a luxury Botswana safari, specifically an Okavango Delta safari, read on.
What to expect on a Botswana safari
Most visitors arrive at the Maun airport. From there you’ll jump on a small bush plane headed to your safari lodge. Most camps in the Okavango Delta seem to be a 25-35 minute flight from the airport.
Yes, it can be a bumpy ride and if you’re prone to motion sickness you should definitely take preventative measures, but don’t let that scare you. A short ride in a bush plane is totally worth it, and actually quite an exciting experience in itself.
Game drives occur in the early mornings and early evenings, when the animals are most active. Around 5 a.m. your porter, guide or someone else on staff will stop by your room to make sure you’re awake. Then they’ll pop back around at 5:30 a.m. to escort you to breakfast. In my experience in Botswana and South Africa, the camps do not allow you to walk around by yourself when it’s dark outside, for obvious reasons.
Even in the summertime when temperatures reach 40°C / 104°F in the heat of the day, the mornings and evenings can be quite chilly on your drive. Make sure to pack light layers, a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, and of course, your camera.
Morning and evening game drives are accompanied by a coffee or cocktail break to stretch your legs and take in the stunning sunrise or sunset…truly breathtaking sights on their own.
During the day, there’s plenty of time to have lunch, relax in the pool, lounge around the property or take a nap. This is a great time to take a mindful pause and let the experience of being on safari soak in.
Even though we went on our Botswana safari the wet season (January), the Okavango Delta was dry as a bone because of drought. Almost all of the floodplains were just grass. Because of this, we weren’t able to experience the traditional mokoro canoe safari, but we were still able to see an amazing amount of wildlife on land game drives and by
The Big Five animals (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo) and many, many more can all be seen on an Okavango Delta safari. The rhinoceros seems to be the hardest to spot. They’re elusive anyways, but also exist in much smaller numbers in Botswana than South Africa. In fact, they exist in Botswana at all because of conservation relocation efforts to save them from poaching in South Africa. Aside from rhino, which we didn’t see, I saw every animal that I saw on safari in South Africa’s Sabi Sands and more.
Since this was our honeymoon, we opted for a luxury safari experience. It’s possible to set up your own camp in designated areas, but for the most part, Botswana caters to the eco-luxury market and the majority of your options will fall into this category.
The Botswana government makes wildlife conservation and responsible tourism a priority by limiting each lodge to 12 rooms maximum and encouraging sustainability among outfitters as well as individuals (for example, plastic bags are illegal). Serving fewer visitors at higher prices grows the local economy, helps preserve conservation efforts and elevates the entire experience.
Our stay at andBeyond Nxabega exemplified eco luxe to a T. From the moment they greet you at the airport with their own filtered water in glass bottles to their commitment to sustainability through the Africa Foundation and Rhinos Without Borders.
The accommodations and food were incredible, as were the genuine and friendly staff who made our honeymoon that much more special.
I held back tears in the hours before we began the long journey back to the states, but it wasn’t long before they came pouring out. Two flights and a long layover later and I was still susceptible to sudden bursts of crying.
I was sad to end our amazing honeymoon, of course, but the tears stemmed from something deeper. I felt overwhelmed by the deep sense of connection and peace I experienced there. A Botswana safari is a special experience. I’d say a once-in-a-lifetime experience but I know in my heart that’s not true—I’ll