"We highly HIGHLY recommend this particular itinerary"
As Vrinda and I are (unfortunately) back in sweltering Delhi now, I thought I would write as soon as possible to thank all of you for a truly wonderful trip, which went off without a hitch. Vic Falls was spectacular, and Bayete Lodge was quite lovely, but we are writing, in particular, to give you a sense of our Botswana safari.
Since Chalo Africa had done our honeymoon in the Serengeti, which was a really top-shelf lodge experience, there was bound to be the obvious comparison with that holiday and, before the trip, I was frankly unsure about how such a comparison would pan out.
Let me just set the record straight immediately by saying that the mobile safari experience is probably superior with respect to how immersive it is. There is something indescribably thrilling about the thinnest sheet of canvas separating you from the hyenas and honey badgers scurrying around outside your tent, and the nomadic journey from campsite to campsite through a truly incredible wildlife corridor. We had hippos visit us during dinner in Moremi, elephants calling after lunch at our campsite in Khwai, and hyenas showing up at all three camps on nights that the chef cooked chicken. In Savuti, we spotted a leopard under a bush 200 meters outside our camp, and a pack of six wild dogs about 600 meters out. The mobile camping experience, we feel, provides the opportunity for superior sightings because it places you more directly in the environment that you seek to experience. Obviously, it cannot match a lodge in respect of comfort, but that is not what a mobile safari sets out to do anyway!
We also want to emphasise how grateful we were to have Pilot as our guide. First, as a guide, he is the best and most passionate guide we have ever had, in India or abroad. Thanks to him we had some spectacular sightings, including packs of wild dogs in all three locations, seven different leopard sightings involving six different leopards, some spectacular lion sightings and then the Serval during a Khwai night drive, which was just the icing on the cake. He was always happy to sit with me and get bird identifications exactly right, trying to decide whether we had seen a square-tailed nightjar or a fiery necked nightjar the night before. He even places the jeep at perfect locations for photography, where the light falls just so! Second, his attention to detail is phenomenal, and he is always trying to think ahead and anticipate a client’s needs. Third, he is both engaging and engaged, which is a quality that goes a long way when one is spending nine days together in the bush. I don’t think we were the first people to tell him that he should compile his stories and anecdotes in a book, accumulated during his 32 year career. We cannot recommend him highly enough.
We also want to mention that the food, throughout the trip, was really amazing (for both of us)! Given that we were camping, and not staying in a lodge, we had zero expectations with respect to the food, and were really surprised at the quality of the grub. We had freshly baked bread every day, for crying out loud!
In short – we highly HIGHLY recommend this particular itinerary with Pilot! If we get the opportunity to go back, to visit Nxai Pan, for instance, or other parts of the delta, we will definitely request him as a guide. For younger, outdoorsy people, who don’t have a problem with bush toilets, we would actually recommend this over wildlife lodges.