These Luxe Safari Stays in Botswana Offer a Glimpse Into the Country's Ancient Culture, Natural History, and Art Scene

These African safari stays offer some culture alongside spectacular wildlife and scenery.

Botswana is a nature lover's paradise, but the thoughtful details at the following safari stays offer travelers contextual wisdom of the precious wild.

So, on your next African adventure, get your wildlife fix, then explore deeper at these luxury safari destinations that double as museums and knowledge centers in Botswana.

Jao Camp

Jao Camp in Botswana
Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris

The enormous giraffe skeleton will lure visitors toward this enchanting Okavango Delta spot, but countless trinkets, maps, books will engross curious guests in the Jao Camp library for hours. As safari architecture experts Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens put it: "Imagine a building that houses all our thoughts about visiting the Okavango Delta. This is how the concept of the gallery and museum was born."

EE Galpin, the great-grandfather of Cathy Kays (co-owner of Jao Camp), was known as the "Prince of Collectors," and the exquisite library here honors his life work. He was a keen botanist, and his botanical pressings and prints from the National Herbarium in neighboring South Africa are beautifully showcased. He left some 16,000 sheets to the Herbarium, and several plant species have been named after him — something to mull over as you admire the twisting greenery during a quiet mokoro ride.

Glass cases containing a variety of animal skulls and bones found in the area also present the opportunity to learn more about the species found in this part of the Okavango Delta. Then, there's the fascinating history of the Kays family, which has been rooted in Botswana since the 19th century. Pick up a copy of the book "Okavango" by June Kay, which provides great insight into life in northern Bechuanaland during the late 1950s and early 1960s. And for a real treat, request a private dinner in these storied chambers.

Xigera Safari Lodge

Aerial view of Nigeria Safari Lodge, in Botswana
Botswana’s Xigera Safari Lodge. COURTESY OF XIGERA

Chosen for its prime location in the Okavango Delta, Xigera was the first lodge opened by legendary safari operator Wilderness Safaris during the 1980s, and it has since blossomed into a stay as exquisite and engaging as its wild environs.

Now a jewel in the Red Carnation crown, Xigera cradles an enormous art collection. Although Botswana artists are sadly underrepresented, the Xigera Design Collection champions the continent's coolest creators, and each piece has a backstory that puts the art back into artifact.

This showroom presents more than sculptures (Porky Hefer's hanging creations come to mind) and paintings (by the famous likes of Cecil Skotnes). Described as a "living gallery," every element — from the bedspread (sustainably woven by African Jacquard) to the coffee mugs (handmade by Chuma Maweni) to the bedside table lamps (from Ardmore) — was commissioned from 80 of Africa's best artists, designers, and crafters through Cape Town's Southern Guild collective.

Chobe Safari Lodge

Sunset from Chobe Safari Lodge
Melanie van Zyl

Perched on the banks of the Chobe River beside the game-rich Chobe National Park, Chobe Safari Lodge is northern Botswana's eminent heritage stay. Established in 1959, this bustling lodge started its life as the Chobe River Hotel and has shared this precious environment with guests (and elephants) for more than 60 years.

Decades of guest experience make this the ideal expedition base for iconic game viewing by boat, tiger fishing adventures, and visits to nearby Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. In between all the activities, travelers can take a break in the open-air lounge and learn about Botswana's tourism transition from hunting and timber milling to photographic safaris.

Far smaller than the other properties mentioned, but still fairly comprehensive, this exhibition lays out the historical timeline of tourism to the Chobe region, from the influence of the Cape to Cairo railway and The Victoria Falls Hotel to the heyday of trophy hunting and the modern realities of living alongside wildlife.

Jack's Camp

Historic exhibition area at Jack's Camp
Courtesy of Jack's Camp

The most remote museum in Botswana is roosted into a palm-packed island on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Walking through the canvas and crimson drapes of Jack's Camp is like stepping into a natural history time capsule. Registered as a national museum, the dining room and lounge walls are paneled with a treasure trove of glass-fronted cabinets. Inside, more than 5,000 individual specimens have been collected from this extraordinary landscape by family owners (Jack Bousfield and his son, Ralph Bousfield) and regional experts, including veteran guide Super Sande, who hails from the nearby village of Gweta.

Every item has been carefully cataloged by officials at the museum department, and the central camp display spills over into the bedrooms, so each tented suite has its own unique case of curiosities for a true night at the museum.

Lovingly spread in the display cases, intrepid guests will find copper bracelets, ostrich shell beads, bygone ax heads, fascinating fossils, shells, skeletons, and the successive story of human development as it unfolded in Africa over the past 2.6 million years. The Kalahari is home to the oldest culture on earth, and travelers that venture beyond the museum at Jack's Camp can also learn about this land through ancient eyes on a walk with the Zu/'hoasi Bushmen clan.

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