Impressed by the amazing wildlife of Botswana

By Paula Adams
This article appears on page 33 of the April 2018 issue.
Lioness seen during our stay at Kwara Camp.

After several months of planning my trip to Botswana, exchanging emails with Roger Turski of Safari Lifestyles (Maun, Botswana; phone +267 7606 1186,, with excitement and anticipation, the day had finally arrived. Roger is enthusiastic about introducing travelers to his adopted country (he’s from England), and he also is an avid photographer. 

Botswana had been on my agenda for 20 years, and now it was finally coming true! 

The journey begins

This was my sixth trip to Africa, and I relied on what I’d learned on my previous adventures to the remarkable eastern and southern areas of the continent. I never thought I would end my journey to Botswana so thoroughly captivated by its sheer beauty, by the kindness of those I had immediate contact with and by the country’s amazing wildlife. 

Botswana is strictly a non-trophy-hunting country, and the government works hard to maintain its wildlife populations.

After arriving in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta, on Nov. 30, 2017, and clearing Immigration control, I was met by a guide, who directed me to a waiting room for a charter flight to the Central Kalahari, where my first camp was located. 

A smiling pilot introduced himself, and as we flew low, I could see Maun spread out along the Thamalakane River. The city slowly faded into the distance, and the landscape became more barren, with trees and foliage dotting the sandy earth.

Central Kalahari

I arrived at eco-friendly Tau Pan Camp for my first two nights in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. 

Elephants drinking from the Chobe River.

The Central Kalahari was not the harsh desert I expected, though I knew it to be a semiarid sandy savanna. As I arrived on the airstrip, I noticed springbok grazing nearby. 

I was met by a staff member, who drove me directly to the camp, located on a ridge of an ancient sand dune overlooking a permanent water hole. 

After being briefed by the camp manager and finding my tent (there were nine tents, including one family room), I embarked with my guide and tracker for a late-afternoon game drive that produced sightings of a bat-eared fox, springbok, steenboks, oryx, a black-backed jackal and a maze of beautiful birds. 

I lay awake the first night listening to the sounds of the bush, including lions roaring in the early-morning hours that sounded very close! 

At early dawn I was up, and, after hot, steaming coffee and a muffin, I embraced the day. My guide, tracker and I were out all day, and we were able to locate the Tau Pan lion pride: two older males with iconic black manes, two younger males, two females and three 4- to 6-month-old cubs. 

They obviously had eaten the night before — their bellies were quite large — and we watched as they approached the water hole and lapped the water for several minutes. We spent at least 30 minutes with the pride. 

Another highlight was seeing an African wildcat, an elusive nocturnal predator. 

While we did see elephant dung, there was no sign of the elephants, themselves; I was told that they do pass through the Central Kalahari but do not specifically stay at that time of year. 

On my last morning, I was supposed to do a nature walk with my tracker, who is a member of the San, but we were unable to do so since the lion pride was in the demonstration area. My feeling was that I was there as a guest, and the lions, rightly, had free range of the area. 

Okavango Delta

I was flown by air charter to Kwara Camp, situated in the northern Okavango Delta and overlooking a secluded lagoon. I would spend the next two nights at the camp, which had eight traditionally styled tents elevated on raised decks. 

Our game drives there were breathtaking. I saw black-backed jackals, side-striped jackals, elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas, kudus, steenboks, wildebeests, red lechwe, lions, leopards, hyenas, hippos and many beautiful birds. 

One day, we came upon a female lioness walking through the tall elephant grass, and it was obvious that she was watching a young male impala in the distance very closely. We followed her at a distance, and I could see that she was pregnant. 

She went into stalking mode after several minutes and I watched her wiggle her back end, haunches bent down, and then she sprinted after the impala, but she missed her prey. 

A favorite sight was a leopard cub standing by a clump of bushes, his mother hidden from view. The morning light glowed on his beautiful spotted coat. It was a thrill to be in the presence of this young cub, and I silently wished him a full life.

Wonderful wildlife

My next stop was Lebala Camp for three nights in the south of the Kwando concession, adjacent to the headwaters of the Linyanti marshes, dominated by vast plains with scattered palms. 

One of the wild dogs seen at Lebala Camp.

During a late-afternoon game drive, our vehicle came upon a pack of wild dogs resting. There were several adults, including the alpha male and female, and several pups. We watched them for several minutes before the wild dogs woke up and performed their ritual of greeting each other with squeals and direct physical contact. What a commotion and an exciting experience to see wild dog behavior! 

Soon it was hunting time, so the dogs took off and we followed. Our guide drove over the sandy marsh watching the wild dogs as they stalked and eventually tried to hunt down a warthog. I saw the warthog running toward our vehicle and the dogs following suit, but the warthog was able to escape into its den. 

The next morning, I witnessed two cheetah brothers resting under a tree — elegant animals, without a doubt. 

Later we came upon a wonderful herd of elephants, numbering at least 30 to 35 in all sizes and shapes. Several females surrounded a young calf as it lay sleeping, and a young male strolled over to our vehicle and sniffed the hood with his trunk while looking directly at us with his intelligent eyes. I was so humbled by his presence that I had goosebumps on my arms. 

There was an adult female elephant who had lost half of her trunk, perhaps due to a predatory attack, and she was being fed by two of her female family members, who placed the browse (parts of woody plants) into her mouth. If ever there was evidence of a family bond, this was it.

Close encounters

Savute Safari Lodge, in the southwest wilderness of Chobe National Park, was home for the next three nights. The lodge consists of 12 suites with comfortable, contemporary furnishings. 

Nearing the end of my second day at Savute, I saw an incredible sight in a somewhat remote area not far from camp. Gwist, my guide, had mentioned a hyena den area where, he said, more than one female hyena resided. He took me there, and I could see at least three large dens grouped together. 

A female hyena, sitting by one of the dens, ran about 20 yards away when she saw us, and there before me was the spectacular sight of two small spotted cubs lying by the den and watching us inquisitively.

Gwist mentioned that newborns are black, and within seconds of saying that, a small black cub emerged as it struggled to climb out of the den on its small legs, eventually approaching the two spotted cubs. What a thrill!

We also had an adventure while in this area. We were at a water hole where two hippos were resting. One of the males was eyeing my guide and me with a nasty look on his face — he was an old brute with battle scars — and as I was taking some photos, he belted out of the water and charged the vehicle. 

I knew hippos could run fast, but I was stunned to witness the hippo’s quickness; as we took off, he rammed his head against the back of our vehicle. Bam! 

As we escaped from the mad hippo, we turned to see a male elephant in musth that was walking aggressively toward us. Gwist pounded the vehicle door to keep him at bay as we headed to better ground. The adventure of nature in action! 


Another charter flight delivered me to Chobe Elephant Camp by way of Kasane Airport, where I was picked up by Mike, my guide for the final three days of my tour. 

A black-backed jackal enjoying a good stretch.

Chobe National Park, known for its large population of elephants, lies along the Chobe River; on the other side of the river is Namibia. 

At first, I wondered how I was to see any wildlife with all the tall, green bushes and trees, but my worries were unfounded, as we observed many families of elephants in the three days I was there. The matriarchal family groups would wander down to the river and wallow in the mud, and to watch them being wild and free as they displayed their natural behavior was awe-inspiring. 

On my game drives, I saw baboons, vervet monkeys, giraffes, zebras, impalas (so many babies!), kudus and even a baby crocodile walking through the grass toward the Chobe River.

My final animal sighting before heading to the airport in Kasane was a herd of elephants running in a very big hurry across the road, trumpeting and raising their trunks at us as we waited for them to cross. Mike said, “Just wait. There is a male after them.” Sure enough, out lumbered a huge male heading toward the females. 

The details

I had a budget for my Botswana trip, and Roger kept within the parameters while honoring my wish list. 

The total cost for my trip was $7,144, including all charter flights from camp to camp, single supplement and all meals, beverages and even laundry.

The only change I would make on a return visit would be to stay three nights at each location; two nights was not enough. 

Adorable leopard cub in the Okavango Delta.

Roger was quick to answer my emails, addressing each and every question. Unquestionably, I would recommend him highly as a “go to” tour operator. By his residing in Maun, he is very knowledgeable about the country as well as being proficient and competent. He strives to give the visitor the best arrangements allowable within the dollar amount allocated, whether luxury, mid-range or budget. 

I had no favorite camp on this trip, as I found each to be unique in its offerings. Botswana’s brand of magic is exceptional, its vibrant sunrises and sunsets were brilliant, its people lit up the camps with their beautiful smiles and kindness, its comfortable accommodations were first-class, the meals were outstanding in their variety and presentation, and there are no words strong enough to describe its extraordinary wildlife.

I hope that Botswana continues its hard work in maintaining a healthy population of wildlife for the world to witness. The country was blessed with magnificent wildlife, and it takes a great deal of effort and solid decisions by the government to make sure humans and wildlife live in peaceful synchronicity with each other. 

I now consider Botswana my home, too, even if it is half a world away. 

Please feel free to email me at with any questions.