Any safari experience will be unforgettable, no matter where in Africa you decide to go. But if memorable wildlife experiences in remote areas are at the top of your list, there’s no place better than Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where two of the area's most reputable operators, Wilderness Safaris and Great Plains Conservation, stand at the center of the country’s ecotourism efforts.
Planning the trip of a lifetime can be overwhelming, and with so many options to choose from, you’ll likely need to enlist an expert for a truly epic itinerary. For this trip, I turned to T+L A-List agent Elizabeth Gordon of Extraordinary Journeys. Born in Kenya and based in New York City, Gordon has extensive knowledge from years working in Namibia with Wilderness, with whom she has a strong relationship—a major plus if you want to be booked in at their camps, which are considered some of the best on the continent. According to Gordon, it’s important to examine which regions will have the best game viewing during the season you're visiting, as well as which operators offer unique experiences that are tailored to your interests.
The ideal entry point for a Botswana itinerary is Abu Camp, owned by Microsoft tycoon Paul Allen and operated by Wilderness. Set on a private island in the Delta’s floodplains, the lodge has luxe accents like brass soaking tubs, oversize chaise lounges, and a wood-fired pizza oven, as well as a habituated population of seven elephants with which guests can interact on safari.
Leaving the Abu herd is a challenge, but journeying northeast to Wilderness’s Vumbura Plains makes for a worthy departure. The architecture has a tropical modernist vibe—think open-air suites with angular lines, low-slung seating, panoramic sliding glass doors, private plunge pools, and a raised deck that looks out over the floodplains. The camp provides diverse game viewing, with twice-daily vehicle drives, as well as traditional mokoro (dugout canoe) excursions and riverboat tours that conclude with picture-perfect sundowners.
Great Plains Conservation camps, to the East, are extremely remote: the 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve is home to just three properties. Designed by Great Plains founders and renowned environmentalists Derek and Beverly Joubert, each has its own aesthetic. (Look out for furniture crafted by Derek and wildlife photography from Beverly.) Selinda Camp is a mainstay within the Okavango, owing to the diverse animal populations that surround it including endangered African wild dogs, large lion prides, and herds of elephants that migrate thousands of miles each year to reach the Selinda Spillway waters.
To round out an Okavango itinerary, head to Toka Leya, in Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The camp is an ideal base not only for excursions to the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls but also for opportunities to spot endangered white rhinos.
Read on for a closer look at Botwana’s luxury camps that are leading the way in conservation tourism.