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BOTSWANA Okavango Through the Lens

BOTSWANA

OKAVANGO THROUGH THE LENS

Maun  |  Mopiri Camp  |  Mbudi Tented Camp Khawai  |  Meno A Kwena |  Makgadikgadi Pans National Park  |  Maun

DURATION

13 Days

EXPEDITION LEADER

Greg Nelson

DATES

9th – 21st May 2022

7th – 19th May 2023

GROUP SIZE

Maximum 12 travellers

FITNESS LEVEL

Moderate

TOUR STATUS

Available

THE STORY

Okavango Through the Lens

 ‘It is almost as if the Okavango is a single organism, with the different communities serving the function of specific organs and working together to ensure the well-being of the whole – a kind of super-organism.’  – Spike McCarthy

Declared a World Heritage site in 2014, the Okavango Delta is the jewel of the Kalahari and is one of a very few large inland delta systems without an outlet to the sea. Known as an endorheic delta, its waters drain instead into the desert sands of the Kalahari Basin. It supports the world’s largest remaining population of elephants, who by their passage, shape and reshape the delta’s channels and landscapes. Beneath its crystal waters, each square metre of peaty deposit may contain as many as 50,000 crustacean eggs and myriad other building blocks for life. Each winter, floods pulse down the Cubango River from the highlands of Angola to refresh and reset this extraordinary ecosystem.

However, beyond its teeming wildlife and serene beauty, few know of the origins of the Delta – how it functions, the key elements and patterns that give it its great profusion of life and what pressures and dangers it faces in an uncertain future.

Our one-of-a-kind expedition explores each of these elements, as we immerse ourselves in the astonishing biosphere of the Okavango Delta from three unique perspectives –  bush, desert and water environments. To further enhance this exploration, we have asked internationally renowned National Geographic cameraman Greg Nelson to be Arcadia’s Storyteller and lead the expedition. In a career spanning almost forty years, there is very little Greg doesn’t know about photographing and filming wildlife. For the duration of the expedition, Greg will assist you in creating your book, photo essay or film of your experience. In fact, as soon as you secure your place on the expedition, Greg will be in contact to help you plan your approach and advise you on your photographic equipment.

Limited to just 12 people, there are incredible wildlife viewing and world-class photography experiences right from the very first day – the diversity of habitats covered in this expedition ensures an incredible diversity of wildlife throughout our journey. We begin our explorations with a spectacular private charter flying low over the Delta before landing at Mopiri Camp on the banks of Weboro Lagoon. Hidden away on the North-West side of the Delta, this exclusive permanent camp offers the perfect water camp experience. After three nights, we then fly eastwards to our ultra-luxe mobile tented bush camp in the wildlife-rich Khwai River region, where we spend five full days continuing our quest to follow and photograph the game, culminating in a one hour ‘doors-off’ helicopter filming flight out from camp. We then venture to our remote desert camp, Meno A Kwena for three nights, to explore where the Delta meets Desert, including one night out under the stars on the spectacular salt pans of Makgadikgadi.

Expedition Highlights

Discover the remarkable Okavango Delta from three perspectives – exploring bush, desert and water environments

Learn from legendary master filmmaker and wildlife photographer Greg Nelson

Opulent stays in permanent and mobile luxury tented camps in the style of the old explorers

Waterborne and 4x4 wildlife safaris to remote, off-the-beaten-track locations in the Delta

One hour 'doors-off' helicopter filming flight over the Delta and two private flights allowing for unforgettable birds-eye views over the Okavango

Camping out under the stars on the extraordinary salt pan of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

ARCADIA EXCLUSIVES

On every Arcadia expedition we give you insider access to the most unforgettable and thought-provoking local experiences, curated exclusively by us for our guests. Here are some of the Arcadia Exclusives on this trip:

Day 01 – Arrival Maun, Botswana

On arrival at Maun International Airport, you shall be met by an Arcadia Expeditions representative and transferred to Mopiri Camp via Cessna Caravan on private charter. Set on the western bank of the vast and idyllic Weboro Lagoon, Mopiri’s luxury tented rooms are nestled between palm trees and under large shady figs and all have panoramic views of the Okavango Delta. Long winding boardwalks connect the suites with the main area; the pool and the jetty give you an opportunity to explore the surroundings from an elevated position.

 

This evening we come together for sundowners and our expedition briefing with Arcadia Storyteller Greg Nelson. Greg has worked for some of the world’s leading international media outlets and is the perfect companion to accompany our game viewing and pass on tips on how to best compose the perfect wildlife photograph or video.

 

We then sit down to enjoy a gourmet three course meal freshly prepared by Mopiri’s chefs.

 

Mopiri Camp | Meals: D

Day 02 – Mopiri Camp

Still on different time zones, our travellers have the option to rise to greet the dawn with a continental breakfast in the main dining room, or sleep off the jetlag and rise later for a full English breakfast. After breakfast we meet with Greg to talk gear, strategy and technique before we head out onto the water to traverse the papyrus channels in search of game – hippopotamus, elephants and Sitatunga (amphibious antelope) in their natural habitat. You’ll spend about an hour and a half exploring the channels before moving on to some large islands. Here you have the choice of walking, or paddling in a Mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) before tucking into a well-deserved brunch. We then jump back on the boats to continue our photographic safari. Those who would like a break from looking down the lens, can try to hook a tiger fish at one of the prime fishing holes.

 

We return to camp in mid-afternoon for a siesta and a book or a leisurely walk on the island.

 

We come back together on the main deck for sundowners to photograph the lagoon through Golden Hour, before sitting down to dinner.

 

Mopiri Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 03 – Mopiri Camp

After a leisurely morning sleep in, enjoy a full English breakfast or, for those who choose to rise early, head out with Greg for some early photographic opportunities before breakfast. Lunch will be served at one of several locations depending on the game. In the afternoon, guests will return to camp and continue aboard the Osprey, Mopiri’s double-storey barge, to enjoy sundowners on the water. We return to camp through the dusk for hot showers, before joining everyone around the fire for predinner drinks followed by a gourmet dinner.

 

Mopiri Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 04 – Mbudi Tented Camp

After a leisurely morning, we enjoy breakfast before taking to the air once more in our privately chartered Cessna Caravan and fly eastwards across the Delta to Mbudi Tented Camp in Khwai – the low-level flying affording spectacular views of the Delta. Set in the North-Eastern part of the Okavango, Khwai is a community run concession based along the northern shore of the River Khwai. It sits between the Moremi Game Reserve and the Chobe National Park and is a very beautiful area that is popular with those in the know.

 

Lunch will be served in camp before heading out in search of game. The camp’s guides will already have been updated by radio about any game close to camp and so hopefully put us right on to the very best photo opportunities. As the afternoon draws towards evening, we find an idyllic place for sundowners, before heading back to camp, where you will find your comfortable private classic tent with bedding and bathroom facilities (hot shower and flush toilet). This will be our base for the next five full days from which to explore and photograph wildlife interactions and behaviour in Khwai and Moremi. We come together around the fire to remember the day and share stories before being treated to our Mbudi welcome dinner – a sumptuous sit-down three course meal by the campfire.

 

Mbudi Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 05 – Mbudi Tented Camp

This morning you rise just before dawn with a steaming cup of tea and breakfast by the fireplace, before heading off towards the rising sun in search of game. Khwai is an area that always conjures something up for anyone who visits, and being here on safari, with the ability to operate our own timetable with Greg and our private guides either by vehicle, day or night, or on foot, will give you an experience you will never forget. This is the heart of our photographic safari with Greg. We have intentionally planned for six nights / five full days in camp to enable us to have the time to locate and then, should you choose so, ‘stay on’ the game enabling us to observe and photograph their behaviour over hours, even days.

 

Due to the varying habitats found throughout Khwai, from riverine woodland to open savannah, from mopane scrub to leadwood thickets, there is an immense diversity of flora and fauna to be found here. Due to the large numbers of impala found in Khwai, the leopard and wild dog populations are excellent, and rarely does a safari in the area not encounter at least one of theses on a game-drive. Occasionally there are roan and sable antelope that come down through the mopane woodland towards the river for a drink.

 

After the early game drive, we return to camp where there is the chance to relax and read and watch the animals pass by (and occasionally through) camp. Following lunch, we head out to explore once more with our passionate Storyteller Greg Nelson on hand to advise and help you seek out and film the Delta’s incredible wildlife. It’s not only Greg, but our whole team, that are steeped in knowledge of the bush and animal behaviour  – so no matter who you are with, you will gain incredible insight from their collective experience and knowledge of the Delta.

 

Each evening, the team chooses an idyllic spot to stop for sundowners before we return to camp for hot showers. On occasion, an expert academic or scientist will join us for dinner in camp to enlighten us on projects being undertaken in the Delta.

 

Mbudi Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 06 – Mbudi Tented Camp

At breakfast around the fire, the sounds of the previous night and the tracks of the various animals that may have passed through the camp can be used as clues in planning the day’s exploration of the surrounding bush; and by night the day’s sightings can be recollected with a drink by the fire under the starry African sky.

 

Set up exclusively for our clients, our mobile safari is a unique and intimate way for our group to be in a luxury camp, with furnished tents, en-suite bathrooms, a private chef, camp staff and vehicles curated just for us. Lunch in the mess tent (typically buffet-style) and dinner under the stars (typically three courses) are both served by experienced and friendly camp staff. A fully stocked bar is included and there are always cold drinks, tea, coffee and drinking water available throughout the day.

 

Mbudi Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 07 – Mbudi Tented Camp & Moremi Game Reserve

Today we head out on a full day journey to experience Moremi Game Reserve. Situated in the central and eastern areas of the Okavango, this remarkable area includes the Moremi Tongue and chief’s island, boasting one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent.

 

This makes for spectacular game viewing and bird watching, including all major naturally occurring herbivore and carnivore species in the region, and over 400 species of birds, many migratory and some endangered.

 

As you become one with the environment of the Delta, it’s impossible not become impassioned by the threats that face it. As a direct result of Covid-19, incidents of poaching of Elephants and Rhino are on the rise in the Delta – the lack of tourist numbers has emboldened the poachers. To further explore the future of wildlife in the Delta, joining us in camp for dinner will be one of the team members from a leading wildlife foundation.

 

Mbudi Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 08 – Mbudi Tented Camp

Camp life is always fluid, here the game decides what the morning or the afternoon has in store. If we have been following a leopard and her cubs for two days, some guests may choose to continue to record their behaviour. Others may wish to head out in the opposite direction to view the large heard of elephants that passed close to camp the night before. Early each morning, coffee, cereals  and a continental breakfast are ready and waiting before a sunrise safari followed by rest or siesta at the camp.

 

One of the great pleasures of being in camp for five days is that you can afford ‘not’ to go on safari. Unlike a lodge, the game trails are unimpeded by permanent structures and so the animals continue along their familiar paths – both day and night. It is a serene and often unforgettable experience to simply spend the day in the shade at camp and see what comes along! At night it’s not unusual for a leopard or a lion kill to take place in close proximity to camp – the sounds of these great predators and then the squabbling of scavenges can continue for much of the night.

 

As the shadow begin to draw, we return to camp after our afternoon safari, where another three-course sit-down dinner is conjured up from the campfire by our chef.

 

Mbudi Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 09 – Mbudi Tented Camp & Helicopter Safari

The last full day in camp is a real highlight. After days filming wildlife from the ground and the water, we get the opportunity to film and photograph the Okavango from the air. Four-seater Robinson R44 Helicopters (or similar) will join us in camp to take guests on a photogenic air safari low over the Delta. The doors of the helicopters will be removed to enable real freedom of movement to film, with three guests per helicopter ensuring a prime filming platform for everyone. The pilot will search out specific game where possible as we travel out across web of wetlands as they intersect with the savanna and forested plains.

 

After a lunch and a siesta, we head out for the final afternoon safari and sundowners before returning to camp and a special dinner out under the stars.

 

Mbudi Tented Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 10 – Meno A Kwena

After breakfast in camp, we say goodbye to the team at Mbudi Camp and make our way on safari towards Maun.  Upon arrival into Maun, we  take a little time to learn of the some of the social issues confronting the people of the Okavango as we visit Bana ba letsatsi, a charity in Maun set up to support and empower vulnerable and orphaned children.

 

After lunch in Maun, we drive east into the desert to Meno A Kwena. A hidden gem perched on a rocky clifftop above the Boteti River, the camp looks out across the vast Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, where you are immersed in a completely different environment to the wetlands and islands of the Delta. It’s here where the floods of the Delta spread out on to the salt pans and disappear – ‘the river that never finds the sea’. Water is life, and, as the Boteti River is the only permanent water source in the area, it attracts a rich array of resident game and a procession of migratory wanderers.

 

The camp was originally used by Southern Africa’s legendary explorers, and although the owners have added a few little touches and quirks here and there, it’s refreshingly and stylishly simple. The real treat at Meno is the connection with nature; when an elephant provides your alarm call in the morning, and you can game view straight from your private veranda – nothing else really matters.

 

From their lofty position, the tents look down on a menagerie of animals at the water below (season dependent), from herds of majestic elephant, to dazzles of nomadic zebra – all you need to do is sit back, and take it all in.

 

Meno A Kwena | Meals: B,L,D

Day 11 – Meno A Kwena & Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

Meno a Kwena isn’t a hyper-luxurious camp, but that’s why everyone who stays there loves it! Each tent is classically styled, with a few eccentricities thrown in here and there; think locally woven fabrics mixed with colonial-style furniture, and simple fittings brightened by snippets of color. All have fully equipped ensuite bathrooms.

 

The canvas lounge and dining tents are piled high with books and trinkets, and decorated with old-world artefacts, and even a sculpted crocodile. And it’s not there for no reason – Meno a Kwena literally translates as “teeth of the crocodile.” Keep an eye on the river below from a comfy chair in the living area or plunge into the Flintstone-esque rocky swimming pool and watch the animals doing the same below you.

 

After a leisurely breakfast we head out into the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park where baobabs stand like sentinels above the shimmering expanses of crusted salt. This is the desert in its most iconic state, and a jaw-droppingly magical sight. We travel out to the edge of Ntwetwe Pan, photographing along the way, with its endless landscapes dotted with umbrella acacias and clumps of mopane woodland to a basic fly camp setup in the pans by Meno, specially prepared just for us.

 

We then have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of camping on the pans themselves. After sundowners and a meal cooked on the campfire, you can snuggle up in warm and cosy swags and fall asleep under an impossibly perfect view of the heavens.

 

Desert Camp, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park | Meals: B,L,D

Day 12 – Meno A Kwena

This morning, our quest is to find and photograph the resident meerkats of Makgadikgadi, who are busy preparing for their day ahead.

 

We return to Meno a Kwena for lunch, and spend the rest of the day lounging on the day bed or by the swimming pool whilst observing the wildlife action unfolding below. This is a great opportunity to look out for the zebra migration, Southern Africa’s largest mammal migration. At night, retreat to the dining table for a feast of flavour, accompanied by flickering lanterns and stories of old. Joining us for dinner in camp will be a local historian to share their insights on the early exploration of the Delta.

 

Meno A Kwena | Meals: B,L,D

Day 13 – Departure to Maun

After a final camp breakfast, your last morning on the Makgadikgadi salt pans is spent relaxing through the morning before making your way back to Maun for your onward journey around midday.

 

Meals: B

IMPORTANT

Okavango Delta Floods

This expedition has been created to coincide with the high period of the flood and the Delta’s waterborne expedition component is contingent on there being enough water to travel. While we have every expectation that the floods will make this part of the expedition possible, the possibility of low water levels may require the itinerary to be adapted or changed to navigate the Delta safely and in a timely manner. Worst case scenario is, with a very low flood, that the boating component would be limited to navigate selected channels and we would be base at alternate bush camp location.

 

Resident scientists, wildlife and environmental experts

Due to the unpredictable schedules and unforeseen events, the availability of the resident scientists, wildlife and environmental experts cannot be guaranteed. However, every effort will be made to ensure a representative from the organisations mentioned in the itinerary are able to join us on some evenings.

YOUR EXPERT EXPEDITION LEADER

Greg Nelson

Greg is an internationally renowned cameraman specialising in African wildlife. He is a Wildlife Director of Photography for some of the world’s leading international wildlife outlets including the BBC Natural History Unit, Animal Planet, National Geographic and the Smithsonian Channel.

Greg’s early career began as a TV news cameraman and editor in Africa and Asia. He has worked filming in war zones such as the Rwandan Genocide, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and the Afghanistan conflict. From covering earthquakes in Japan to filming stories charting the rise of China, Greg has travelled the globe capturing history’s most important moments, with a personal career highlight being the filming of the release of Nelson Mandela.

Armed with his passion for the natural world, it was the African wilderness that brought true purpose for Greg. Together with his young family, Greg moved to the heart of the African bush and began documenting the lion prides on the reserve he and his family lived on, which led to a successful series of full-feature lion documentaries sold to the Discovery Channel. Since this time, his career has taken him to wilderness areas across the African continent, his creative eye documenting not only life in the wilderness and natural behaviour, but also the plight of its flora and fauna.

Whilst living and working on wildlife reserves, Greg came into contact with many safari lodge guests and began to accept requests to lead game drives. After many of these pleasurable interactions, leading a safari became a natural progression. Greg is now based in Cape Town with his wife and four children and when not leading safaris, continues his career as a distinguished wildlife cameraman.

ACCOMMODATION HIGHLIGHTS

DATES & PRICES

$19,750

PER PERSON, TWIN SHARE
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT $6,890 per person

9th - 21st May 2022
13 DAYS
7th - 19th May 2023
13 DAYS

INCLUSIONS

  • Meals as per itinerary (12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners) including welcome and farewell dinners
  • All alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
  • Domestic flights as per itinerary
  • Private airport transfers (arrival and departure)
  • Accommodation as stated on a twin-share basis
  • Porterage at airports and hotels
  • All land transport by 4×4 vehicles, river boat and charter plane
  • Services of an Arcadia Expedition Leader and English-speaking local guide throughout
  • Sightseeing as specified including entrance fees to sites mentioned in itinerary
  • Reusable responsible travel water bottle with daily drinking water provided
  • Gratuities/tipping for local guides, drivers, hotel staff and restaurants for included meals
  • All taxes

EXCLUSIONS

  • Return international flights
  • Passport and visa charges
  • Items of a purely personal nature (i.e. telephone calls, laundry etc)
  • Excess luggage
  • Lunch and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in itinerary
  • Travel insurance

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