Botswana, Call of the Kalahari
With luxe Botswana lodges, Belmond Safaris take you into the heart of Africa.
When your small plane glides low and slow enough over the green savanna to observe migrating herds, when the rhythm of singing voices and clapping hands brings joy to your daily rituals, when constellations take on new depth and noises take on new dimensions in the lightless night, you realize, no matter where you’re from, that this place is where you’re of. No wonder Harry and Meghan keep coming back.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants. Why? Because Botswana alone among its neighbors avoided armed conflict in its half-century of independence. The wars in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique had nothing to do with elephants (though they gave poachers cover). But simply bearing witness was enough. As Rudyard Kipling wrote: “The elephant’s a gentleman.”
Sitting around the Boma, you’ll learn of the myriad ways our lives interweave with theirs. Much more than a campfire, the Boma is where elder tribesmen have received one another with feasts and folk tales, dance and song since long before colonial times. Elephants, music and history will be your constant companions at Belmond’s Botswana lodges. A oneness that begins with the melodious voices of the staff who greet your jeep bouncing up the red-earth track.
Some enchanted eden
Belmond’s Savute Elephant Lodge sits in Chobe National Park, Botswana’s first. The Chobe River flows into the Zambezi and thunders over Victoria Falls into a deep crack on an otherwise uninterrupted expanse of African mesa—an ocean of land teaming with wildlife. At the lodge, herds of elephants and buffalo gather at the stream beneath your terrace pool. On game drives at dawn and dusk, see zebra and giraffe graze on the grasslands, hippo and crocodile wallow in the watering holes, and follow leopard and lion stalking their prey through the brush. Every outing is different, and none predictable.
Victorian-era travelers believed that consuming copious amounts of gin and tonic protected them from malaria (hmm—likely story). Enjoy yours with fellow guests presuming to be Dr. Livingstone lounging beneath lazy fans before dinner, contemplating the sunset over a horizon of low treetops. The lodge’s chef prepares gourmet interpretations of barbecued meats and other regional specialties, paired with fine wines and champagne. For more intimacy, a butler can serve dinner suite-side.
Recently renovated, Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge lends a modern style to skills that define the architecture, furniture, and cosmopolitan and traditional objets d’art. The twelve large, bright, thatched and tented rooms can be as open or sheltering as you wish: French doors, netted canopy beds, air conditioning, and airy bathrooms go well beyond glamping.
Islands in the stream
For a change of scenery, climb aboard a 12-seat Cessna and follow the sun westward to Eagle Island Lodge, another of the Belmond Safaris experiences. Enjoy the isolation of a private island in the unique setting of an inland river delta where the Okavango evaporates into the sky above the Kalahari rather than meet the sea.
By canoe and powerboat explore channels that cover 5,800 unpopulated square miles—roughly the size of Connecticut—classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, along with Mount Kilimanjaro, the Nile and Sahara. In addition to the by-now ever-present lions, elephant and zebra, you’ll see flocks of wading heron and flamingo, and ostriches strutting through hip-deep grass.
With accommodation similar to Belmond’s Savute Elephant Lodge, Eagle Island adds a twist of sensual style—somber mineral tones, private plunge pools outside each room, and sculptural, monolithic, black bathtubs—that melds into the sage-scented morning mists.
“There’s no better way to understand how connected we are with all this,” says F1RST’s Erika Reategui, an Africa veteran. Her experience in luxury conservation excursions includes work with the Jane Goodall Institute. “Something like 77% of wildlife has disappeared since mankind came to be—10% of that just since 1990. There’s no better way to understand how precious this is than to feel it for yourself.”