Duba Plains is one of the most wonderfully isolated safari camps of the Okavango Delta: There are no other camps in the 74,132-acre concession, located right in the far north of the Delta, meaning you can go for drives without ever seeing other people or encountering crowds at the watering holes or queuing with other Jeeps for the best views. Instead, you’re encircled by seasonally flooded plains liberally dotted with date-palm islands where animals gather to shelter from the midday sun. Most guests come to view the wary interaction between lion prides and buffalo herds. If you’re more of a bird-watcher, though, grab your binoculars to observe slaty egrets and wattled cranes swooping past or moving through the shallow waters. You might even spot lilac-breasted rollers or carmine bee-eaters that return to the area at times of migration. Some game drives are in open-topped vehicles, so remember to bring a hat with a wide brim to protect yourself from the sun.
The plains are unexpectedly reminiscent of the rolling English countryside, but back at the camp you’ll have no doubt you’re in Botswana: the charming staff sing the praises of their glorious country at every opportunity. Indeed, music is a motif: a choir regularly serenades guests upon arrival or during dinner. Duba, which never has more than twelve guests, is reassuringly laid back, African and rustic, with a cheering amount of canvas—less glass and more netting. Tents are right on the bush floor, linked by sandy paths, so after dark, guides escort you home. Once safely tucked up in bed, you’ll fall asleep to the heady scent of mosquito coils and the endless chirping of the bush.
Overlooking a slow-moving stretch of the Linyanti River where elephants often cross during the dry season, King’s Pool is located in what is considered by many experts to be the best spot on the planet for viewing these magnificent mammals. At a watering hole a couple of miles away is a brilliant underground blind from which you can watch the beasts at water level, their trunks splashing about so nearby you could reach out and touch them. The camp itself sports supersmart units whose amazingly carved West African Dogon wooden doors open into vaulted spaces gloriously outfitted with African artifacts and enormous four-poster beds. Check into one of the new suites, equipped with polished teak decks and private plunge pools, where you can wallow in the cool water while gazing over the hippo-filled lagoon in front of the camp. Or snooze on a mountain of pillows on the daybed in the open-air gazebo. Putty-colored bathrooms have two indoor showers and a third on the terrace. Do remember to keep the doors closed to keep the monkeys and other creatures out. And bring your checkbook, because the camp shop is full of tempting pieces, such as Zimbabwean artist Patrick Mavros’s candelabra, priced at $11,000.
Mombo and Little Mombo
Located on Mombo Island, deep in the Moremi Game Reserve, Mombo and Little Mombo have an exhilarating variety of wildlife surrounding, and sometimes passing right through, them. No wonder they’re a regular haunt of National Geographic photographers and film crews who recently shot the documentary Eye of the Leopard here. This part of the reserve is unbeatable for animal viewing: prowling cheetahs, prides of lions, strolling elephants and, most thrilling, juvenile leopards.
The accommodations are just as alluring. The living units and the walkways between them are six feet above the ground, so that Cape buffalo and other game can walk or doze in the shade underneath without having to duck their majestic heads. The main camp has nine tents, which some guests describe as “pavilions.” And expansive they are: inside are huge beds with clouds of crisp white linen and canopied mosquito nets, as well as great, squashy overstuffed sofas with velvet cushions; outside are thatched salas (covered decks) angled to give panoramic views of the widest parts of the floodplain. This is civilized African living in a jaw-dropping setting.
Standards are just as high over at Little Mombo, which is a separate enclave connected to the main camp by raised walkways. With just three tented rooms, its own pool and fantastic privacy, it has more repeat visitors than you can shake a stick at. Book yourself in as early as possible.
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