I grew up in Botswana in Southern Africa. My parents managed safari lodges when I was young, so the early part of my childhood was spent in the beautiful Okavango Delta. We moved to Maun (a small town on the edge of the Delta) when it was time for me to start school at the age of five.
Growing up in the natural world had a big influence on me. It’s not hard to see where my love of wildlife came from. My father was a keen photographer and put me through school by selling wildlife postcards. At age 12, he gave me an old film camera and I never looked back.
Photography remained a hobby of mine for most of my adolescent life. This passion has transformed into a profession in the last couple of years. I now consider it a privilege to take photography workshops and safaris in Africa and teach people the trade I have come to love.
Earth Ark Travel: Botswana Based Travel Agency
Earth Ark Travel started years ago as the brainchild of a good friend of mine – fellow photographer and safari guide, Steve Stockhall and his wife Robyn. I spent most of my twenties travelling and working around the world until I was finally ready to move back to Botswana permanently.
When I did, we naturally came together on the basis of our shared goals. I became a proud part of Earth Ark. We are taking what was a small, successful family company and growing its reaches all over the continent.
We are a travel agency that plans and books tailor made expeditions and safaris to all corners of Africa. For those with a special interest in learning photography, Steve and I are available to travel with you and essentially provide a photographic workshop on your safari.
The added bonus is that you get access to our local knowledge and good banter! For professional photographers, we are here to plan photographic expeditions to some of the exciting “new” destinations in Africa, leading the expedition with the same positive energy and good humour!
Why Botswana Should be on your Bucket List
Botswana is unique. It holds some of the largest wild areas on earth and the largest population of elephants in the world. The African country has dedicated over 30% of its landmass towards protected areas and continues to be one of the fastest growing economies on the continent.
It’s also one of the only countries in Africa to have never fought a war, experienced a coup or dictatorship. With a small population, it’s landscapes are vast and compromise three major ecosystems: the Kalahari Desert, the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and the Okavango Delta.
The People are friendly and peaceful, the wildlife is abundant and the future is bright! What is not to love about living here? It’s impossible to pick one favourite place, but perhaps because of my up-bringing, the Okavango Delta always remains close to me. Words alone cannot describe it.
My Travels around the Wonderful Botswana
I have been exploring Botswana my entire life but have not been everywhere yet. The Okavango Delta and Chobe River are prime game-viewing areas. I have travelled through them alone by car, boat, canoe and on foot many times. Yet each trip is always a different experience.
One memorable trip was an unsupported and unarmed walk down the length of Chief’s Island with a couple of good mates. It took us four days and we had numerous interesting encounters with dangerous game.
I recently travelled down the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans on a quad bike expedition. The pans comprise the largest continuous salt flat on earth, fringed by grassland that is home to colonies of meerkats and a large annual zebra migration. It was one of the best expeditions of my life.
A place that I haven’t been to yet but which is on my bucket list is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It’s a massive desert in the south of the country that is home to some incredible desert landscape and creatures.
Safaris through Botswana’s Three Ecosystems
The three main ecosystems of Botswana – Kalahari Desert, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and Okavango Delta – are the best places to take a safari. Each has their own attractions. Is there a “best” one? Probably not.
Most popular would be the Okavango Delta for its sheer abundance of life. These include every species of the Big 5 and a huge array of mammals, birds and insects. The Kalahari Desert is home to a different range of desert animals including eland, oryx and the famous black-maned lions.
Makgadikgadi Salt Pans themselves are a desolate moonscape with the occasional silhouette of an ostrich in the distance. However, the grasslands that surround the pans are full of surprises just waiting to be had.
One thing to keep in mind is that experiences in Botswana aren’t chosen by you beforehand. You merely have to put yourself in promising areas and hope that these experiences come to you. For example, an encounter with an elephant or having a lion roar outside your tent can’t be planned.
Coming on safari is not about ticking off things from your bucket list but about being out there and being receptive to what the wilderness throws at you. If you have an open mind, an adventurous spirit and are willing to spend some time in the bush the experiences will come to you.
Interesting Local Foods and Delicacies
In comparison to most countries, Botswana doesn’t boast a big “food scene”. Most of Africa is like this simply due to the lack of variety in local plants, spices and animals. People here still live subsistence lifestyles and don’t have the luxury or the ingredients to develop a big food culture.
That being said, there are a couple of interesting delicacies: dried mopane worms, toasted flying termites and the local dish Seswaa (goat meat). If you ever find yourself in Maun, my mum runs the oldest coffee shop in town and makes a mean loaf of bread and her salad dressing is legendary!
Visiting Botswana for a Good Couple of Weeks
Most travellers come to Botswana for a safari and spend between one and two weeks here. It’s enough time to do some really good safaris and get out into some great areas but in reality you will only touch a tiny fragment of the country in that time. It takes a lot longer to fully grasp the place.
What tends to happen is that people come for a couple of weeks, fall in love with the essence of safari and then return again every year for most of their lives. Botswana is the kind of place you keep coming back to.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
Botswana has had a long standing tourism policy of ”high end – low volume”. This has worked wonders for protecting her natural areas. However, it does make it more difficult for the budget minded traveller.
This is slowly changing as the budget market develops so don’t let the price prevent you from coming. There are tons of experiences throughout Botswana that can be had without the price tag if you do a little research.
I would also strongly recommend chatting to a travel agent to get an idea on seasons, rainfall, temperatures and what to expect – especially if you haven’t been on a safari before. There is quite a lot to consider beforehand.
Apart from this, come to Botswana with that open mind, that spirit of adventure and I guarantee you will leave with vivid memories etched forever into your consciousness. Thanks for reading and safe travels!