Africa. They say it gets into your soul, and you’ll always long to return. After all, how can your soul not be changed (for the better), once you’ve locked eyes with a lion, or sat in your Jeep in the Kalahari Desert, watching the first dramatic rains of the season approach across the endless sky?
Botswana is home to a rich array of wildlife, vistas and terrain unmatched anywhere in the world. Exploring the country via safari is the stuff dreams are made of. It starts with a Wilderness Air bush plane ride, where rudimentary airstrips beckon you to adventure, allowing for quick access to 20 different Wilderness Safari camps, each with its own personality, vista and character. Once in camp, the impossible becomes reality: elephants wandering by your well-appointed tent, the roar of a lion in the distance as you nod off to a blissful sleep, your best possible dreams only a fraction of what you experienced in real life that day.
While the Kalahari provides remote solitude, and an appreciation for the abundance of life that adapts, survives, and even thrives in a seemingly empty desert landscape, the Okavango Delta to the north contrasts with the natural richness that a consistent water supply can provide.
Palms sway next to impossibly high termite mounds. The wildlife gathers, not two-by-two, but in multiples of many more. At one water hole, we counted upwards of 20 lionesses and cubs, rolling and lazing in the mud, a welcome relief from the heat of the day.
Pushing further north, the permanent water of the Okavango is home to even more animals, and an endless labyrinth of water channels flanked by papyrus reeds that wind their way past occasional hippo heads that bob up and down with curiosity at your presence.
You constantly pinch yourself to prove what you see is real, especially when that elephant holds your gaze, or lions congregate at the end of the rainbow after an afternoon shower.
And when it’s time to eat and to rest, one dream sequence leads to another, from al fresco dining with your camp mates to jaw-dropping accommodations that encompass luxury and nature, all in one.
Unlike life at home, you can hardly wait for 5 a.m. to come back again, allowing the next chapter of your own personal African story to unfold however Mother Nature prefers. And if you’re patient, she’ll reward you with moments that will change you forever.
Are you ready for Africa?
Read the full story about my Botswana experience in the Vancouver Sun.