Okavango Delta, Botswana

It’s time for a big trip. Not a long trip, when you drive across the United States or explore Southeast Asia for a few weeks. But a big, bucket-list trip. An African safari, hiking in the Himalayas, or sailing to Antarctica. The type of trip you take for your honeymoon, when you’re about to turn 40, or after you retire. Or just because it’s time. You may not be quite ready for the Himalayas or Antarctica–yet–so let’s start with the safari. Destination: Botswana.

Photo: Wilderness Safaris, Chitabe Lediba
Photo: Wilderness Safaris, Chitabe Lediba

Part of what makes this is an epic trip is just getting there. You’ll need to fly into Johannesburg, South Africa, and then take smaller airplanes to Maun, Botswana and the Chitabe airstrip. After a 30-minute drive, you’ll finally reach Chitabe Lediba, a camp in the southeast part of the Okavango Delta. Botswana is one of the least populated countries in the world. The San people still live off of the flat land. After British rule ended in the 1960s, Botswana became one of Africa’s poorest countries. Tourism and an abundance of wildlife have helped to turn it all around though, making Botswana a great success story. But back to the animals.

At Chitabe Lediba, in a high area along the floodplains of the Santantadibe River, days revolve around wildlife sightings. Grab a muffin and a cup of coffee before heading out in open-air vehicles on the morning  game drive. It’s chilly now, but it’ll get hot–very hot–within a few hours. Expect to see giraffes and zebras. Leopards stalking impalas. Elephants and lions. And a herd of buffalo. Return to camp for a hearty brunch. From the viewing platforms, search for wild dogs and birds. Vultures and eagles. Hornbills, Greater Honeyguides, and Red-billed Francolins. And later, be on the lookout for hyenas, wildebeests, reedbucks, and more elephants.

Photo: Wilderness Safaris, Chitabe Lediba
Photo: Wilderness Safaris, Chitabe Lediba

You’ll be exhausted and exhilarated at the end of the day. Keep soaking in the view and scanning the horizon for moment from your outdoor shower. Make yourself a drink at the bar and sit by the fire pit before dinner, which is served in the traditional boma. Returning to your tented chalet, sit at the writing desk and try to remember everything you saw today. Sleep will come quickly. And pretty soon, you’ll be dreaming about all the other animals you’ll see on day two of your amazing safari. You’re finally in Africa.

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