Sizzling Hot at Selinda Camp, Botswana
It’s early November and I’m at Selinda Camp, north of Botswana's Okavango Delta. The rains haven’t arrived yet and it's a sizzling 45 °C!
October is known as suicide month, where a good day is only 38°C, but it's already November, so we prayed for rain. It came, but only just. We could see a vertical swarm of droplets shifting in the wind and heading our way. It arrived, wet the surface with a cursory nod to what may come later in the month, then left. Even so, antelopes and elephants headed away from the permanent water sources expecting new grass shoots to emerge overnight at this mere hint of rain.
I really needed to be in a swimming pool! Selinda Camp has a gorgeous little pool designed for quick dips, but I wallowed in it watching the sun go down over the lagoon.
Skip the Game Drive and See What Turns Up!
I sat on the stoep (deck) of my thatched tented bedroom and watched at least 50 elephants, backlit from the setting sun, walk right past my quiet motionless body. They had waded through water and sported a black high water mark on their dusty bodies. Some stopped to munch on trees around my room and ran off startled when they suddenly noticed me not 3-metres away. I heard them during the night too, padding quietly around camp stripping the trees of any remaining nutritional leaves. Times were tough and they were thin. But even at its driest there are still hippo pools along the Selinda Slipway running in front of Selinda Camp. And with scarce water to drink, it becomes a magnet, especially for elephant.
Why, after visiting more than 250 safari lodges, do I never tire of it? The same reason why Willem Bakhuys Roozeboom, the Manager at nearby (even more upmarket) Zarafa Camp, uses his quarterly leave to go where else but on safari! I can never see enough of wild animals in their natural habitat.
If you’re hooked, you’re hooked! And I’m hooked on the kind of sustainable tourism offered by Great Plains Conservation. Amongst other safari lodges in Botswana and Kenya, they run Selinda Camp, Zarafa, Zarafa Dhow Suites, Selinda Explorers Camp and Adventure Trails here in Selinda Reserve, just north of the Okavango Delta.
Make your Holiday Spend Matter
If ever you want to make sure your holiday spend goes into real sustainable tourism then go on safari with Great Plains Conservation. That’s what conscious travellers Wyatt and Celsea from San Francisco did. They’ve got solar and recycling in their California home and asked their tour operator to find them environmentally friendly accommodation for their once-in-a-lifetime African trip. I met this enlightened young couple at Selinda Camp and hold them up as an example how we should all travel…with a heightened awareness of things that matter most to our planet.
And that’s why I was here; brought by Fair Trade Tourism South Africa to see safari lodges in Botswana that meet their vigorous standards. Selinda Camp hold the highest Botswana Ecotourism Certification and that benchmark of sustainable tourism is good enough for Fair Trade Tourism to recognise this accreditation.
The basis on which Great Plains Conservation exists is to provide wilderness experiences that have minimum impact on wildlife and the environment and maximum return to local communities. This is done through employment, training and community outreach where it’s needed most. Great Plains founders Dereck and Beverly Joubert, are the well-worn, khaki-clad poster couple, epitomising how to live a bush-centric life, while doing US talk shows on how to make a difference to African wildlife. They do this as National Geographic Explorers in Residence, making poignant wildlife documentaries and feature films that impart important conservation messages. All the while clocking up a few Emmys and other accolades.
What’s most important to you out of the following and will you choose your next safari accordingly? Please leave your answer in the comment box…….
1. Environmentally-friendly policies e.g. solar power, waste recycling, water saving
2. Ethical wildlife encounters
3. Staff empowerment
4. Local community benefits
5. Exposure to local cultures
6. Sustainable Tourism Certification
Fact File on Selinda Camp:
· Getting there: 45 mins flight in a small aircraft from Maun (wonderful views over the Okavango Delta on the way)
· After landing it’s a 45 minute game drive to camp or at high water a combination of drive and boat trip to camp.
· Wildlife experiences: known for rare and elusive wild dog, as well as lots of elephants, hippos red lechwe, impala, lion and leopard.
· Rooms: 9 timber, thatch and canvas suites with king-size bed, drinks cabinet, huge bathroom with bath & shower.
· Main Lodge; elemental Africa with a colonial twist and fabulous swimming pool from where you can watch animals
· Food & Wine: all dietary preferences met: healthy salads, vegetarian, low-carb, etc. Atmospheric wine cellar, most are included in your package price, so go and choose what you fancy with dinner or let them pair the wine and food for you.
· Company policies: recycle all waste, solar power being installed at Selinda Camp, staff and local community upliftment
· Staff: You won’t want to leave after meeting the friendly, happy staff and expert guides
· Region: on the banks of the Botswana’s Selinda Spillway – an ancient waterway which flows in two directions, linking the far-reaches of the Okavango Delta in the south with the Linyanti wetlands to the west.
· Something not many people know: elephants in this area have small tusks, often chipped, because there are not enough minerals in the water to grow large tusks. Most herds have at least one tuskless female.