Wild At Heart: A Unique Luxury Safari Camp In Botswana

At the Great Plains Conservation safari camp in Botswana, luxury seamlessly merges with the untamed beauty of the wilderness.

“Bring us candy!” young Six would yell towards the small planes ferrying tourists between remote safari camps. Only Miriam ever heard him, the family donkey that eight-year old Six rode to his school in Makalamabedi, the closest village still 10 kilometres from his cattle post. Dutiful Miriam would roam during class until Six honed his tracking skills to relocate her for the ride home.

Coming full circle, Six now commutes on those planes as camp manager for Great Plain’s newest property in Botswana, Sitatunga Private Island camp. His career backstory is one of many shared tonight by Six during sundowners by the fire. We are floating on a circular pontoon, silhouetted against a fiery sky that pairs the colours of my Aperol Spritz, on an exclusive 43-acre island within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Okavango Delta.

With only three guest tents, Sitatunga exemplifies Botswana’s tourism model. It’s one that limits visitor volume with premium offerings that ensures low environmental impact. The camp design draws inspiration from the delta – each waterfront tent is cocooned within a striking arc of bamboo poles to represent traditional Bayei funnel fishing baskets. Tent is an ironic term for what is a multi-room suite larger than most apartments.

With my own private bar and plunge pool, the only thing that lures me out of heavenly solitary existence is chef Herold’s wizardry. My first meal ranks amongst my all-time culinary experiences – beef carpaccio with Szechuan pepper emulsion, followed by clear chicken soup with a vermicelli nest cradling a cured egg yolk, and a main course of ostrich fillet with chilli dark chocolate sauce.

A Botswana safari is unique in its diversity of landscape and wildlife within a small radius. Within 20 minutes of departing Sitatunga I’m sipping a welcome cocktail at Duba Plains camp that, contrary to the short travel time, feels worlds away. A helicopter transfer provides a birds eye view of the never-ending maze of delta spillways separating a jigsaw of islands. Travelling in the chopper window bubble at low altitude exposes animals on mass – from buffalo in the hundreds, tank-like masses of submerged hippos, elephants congregating by waterholes and the monochrome patterns of zebra herds.

Infamous for the lions that call Duba Plains Concession home, I soon find myself within a living wildlife documentary. It’s 6am and the jeep headlights reveal three members of the Tsaro pride. It’s cool and they’re frisky, mock stalking and tackling one another in a bundle of limbs. My finger triggers a machinegun barrage of photos as they slosh through chest-deep floodplains with darkened wet coats. For hours we trail their antics and half-hearted attempts to snag breakfast.

Spotting a target of huddled warthogs, they physically transform from adorable giant kittens to imposing predators. Their bodies stoop low, the golden coats blending with the sunlit dry grass, as they fan out in perfect synchronisation. The takedown is swift, as is the kill. Just metres away in an open jeep, I’m glued to the ensuing dance of hierarchy over the feast as they meticulously polish off all but the indigestible bones of the skeleton.

When I first spot the bulky, peculiar form of a rhino, my reaction swings from joy to sadness when noting its missing horn. It’s a pre-emptive intervention to improve their safety after a devastating rise in poaching during the Covid-19 shutdown. This opportune window resulted in a sickening loss of the threatened species across Africa. It’s an ongoing battle that Great Plains tackles with their Project Ranger program supplying frontline protection. Fortunately Duba Plains is an island haven, with the surrounding crocodiles and hippos acting as a natural deterrent to the criminal pursuit.  

It’s a 25-minute small plane transfer to the Selinda dirt airstrip for my final stop, right by the Namibia border. Far from the Okavango Delta, the private reserve is a contrasting world of dense woodland and dry plains. For two nights I have a piece of Botswana all to myself. From sunrise to turn down, my only company at Selinda Suite will be that of my dedicated guide, host and chef.

Two bedroom suites flank an expansive open-walled living space that layers down into an alfresco dining area, pool sundeck and fire pit overlooking the Selinda Spillway. The construction is rustic with raw, exposed materials, yet the design is grand in proportion and detailing like opulent carved metal-studded doorways.

Scanning my cigar selection, whisky cabinet and spirits bar, I opt instead for champagne from the wine fridge to enjoy by the pool. This is soon forgotten as a rustle reveals four-legged company. One by one, a herd of elephants arrive with pep in their step as they approach the water. The trunk is the universal Leatherman multi-tool, using it to excavate juicy papyrus bulbs to scoop into their mouth, crunching loudly like a crisp Granny Smith apple. Like a manic garden hose, they shower down their wrinkly skin and playfully blow out bubbles. It’s the most mesmerising, intimate show to see and hear. I blissfully lie back and let the safari come to me.

These luxury camps sit within the Great Plains Conservation reserve collection. Guest stays directly contribute to environmental conservation in partnership with local communities. 

For more information on how to book your Botswana itinerary, visit

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