We had stayed at Selinda Camp, Linyanti, before but now it had been re-imagined and rebuilt so it was like visiting a completely different camp. It lies in a remote wilderness on the Selinda Reserve, surrounded by big game and imbued with the authentic spirit of Africa. Here’s why to include it on your Botswana safari.
As we moored at the jetty, staff gathered on the steps of the main area and burst into song to welcome us. It’s hard not to feel elated by music, so our visit kicked off on a high note.
The new Selinda Camp is gorgeous. Still on the same footprint as the old camp, it stands on a small island on the northern side of the Zibadiaja lagoon. It's surrounded by large feverberry trees and looks out over a big flood plain in the 130 000-hectare Selinda Reserve.
If you’re keen on sustainability – and you should be – you’ll be pleased to know that like all Great Plains Conservation camps across Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, solar energy isn’t where care for the planet stops at Selinda. There’s also no single-use plastic, you get a refillable metal water bottle, and if the camp was dismantled tomorrow there’d be no trace of it within a few months.
Selinda now has just three roomy tented suites (and a completely separate four-person villa that has its own staff and game drive vehicle). There’s a high thatched roof over the tent to keep it cool, a large wood-floored bedroom and dressing area with thick rugs, and a bathroom that includes a shower and freestanding copper bath with a view.
Afternoon game drive
Our first game drive was our favourite kind, just the guide and the two of us – our safari mates not having arrived yet. It’s not that we’re unsociable, just that a game drive is a hard place to make everyone happy. We love stopping for birds, which annoys some lion-or-nothing types. I don’t particularly enjoy chatting on a game drive, unless it’s with the guide and it’s about the area and its wildlife. And we don’t mind staying out for five or six hours and stopping to watch ‘minor’ animals going about their business if the light is particularly good for photography. All of this is hard to do if your level of interest doesn’t align with that of others in the game vehicle.
We stopped for a G&T and to savour the pink and blue layered sky, a palm tree reflected in the water of the channel. Because we were talking quietly, we could hear the doublebanded sandgrouse calling as they flew overhead; we could enjoy a herd of elephants that came to drink just 20 metres from us, treating us as part of the natural scenery. These are some of Africa’s most magical moments.
Morning game drives
A baboon in a palm tree with a pink sky at dawn, roan antelope in the long yellow grass, a fish-eagle calling from a tree, the smell of wild sage as you brush past with the vehicle – this is the stuff safaris are made of.
A clutch of ostriches posed like models on bone dry grass – right in the centre of what guide Rueben Mojoo said was the Linyanti Swamp. ‘This time last year, all that was full of water,’ he said, giving a graphic idea of the severity of the drought in southern Africa this year. That said, the Linyanti still has plenty of water, just a lot less than usual.
Next to another water channel, we discovered a duo of two-year-old lionesses defending a buffalo kill from hooded vultures that landed in the grass not far away. One lioness just kept a beady eye, but the other gave chase. The vultures took clumsily to the air but soon settled again, anxious not to miss out on a free meal.
Best of all was the moment these youngsters started chasing each other and play fighting. Crouch, chase and attack; leap, wrestle and run away. The cycle repeated on a loop for 15-20 minutes before they plopped down in the reeds for a rest.
Another highlight was a breeding herd of about 20 elephants drinking at a patch of water. After a while some of them began snatching up trunkfuls of sand to throw over their wet bodies to form a protective coating.
On our second morning, we found a herd of 15 sable antelope, including tiny calves and an impressive dominant bull testing one of the female’s urine to see if she was ready for mating. There are hormones in her urine that tell him everything he needs to know. Apparently the news was negative because he moved on. ‘A male sable holds a territory and all females in that territory belong to him,’ Rueben explained. ‘With an impala, it’s different. The male has a harem and he owns the females, no matter where they are.’
The leopard found a shady spot and we watched her snooze, always alert, her eyebrows and whiskers twitching, the occasional half-open eye to keep watch, a quick paw chasing away bees. After about 40 minutes we had to leave her to get to the airstrip in time to catch our small plane back to Maun.
1. Don’t miss the game drives
If you’ve come to Selinda and don’t want to go out on a game drive, there’s something wrong with you. Wildlife in the area is abundant, with everything from elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, wild dog and hyena to giraffe, zebra and antelope like sable, roan and red lechwe. Your guide has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the wildlife and environment and will be only too happy to share them with you. (For more about our game drives at Selinda, see the section above.)
2. Go on a night drive
A night drive will greatly improve your chances of seeing nocturnal/crepuscular species like hyena, lion, leopard, honey badger, bat-eared fox, African wild cat, aardvark and porcupine, as well as owls. Head out in the game drive vehicle with your guide after an early supper. He’ll use his knowledge and spotlight to find something you’re unlikely to see during the day. You’ll return to camp ready to turn in and sleep like a log.
3. Take a boat trip on the Selinda Spillway
4. Do a guided bush walk
If you like getting close to nature, seeing tracks and signs and small creatures, learning about plants and their uses as food and medicine, you’ll enjoy a bush walk with your guide. Slather on the sunscreen, take a good hat and your binos and experience the bush with all five of your senses. If the wind is right, you may even get close to big animals like elephants on foot.
5. Take a dip in the private pool on your deck
6. Immerse yourself in nature at camp
Take time out and sit quietly on your deck or on one of the comfy couches in the main area to listen to hippos honking and baboons barking, the call of rebilled spurfowl, arrow-marked babblers and fish-eagles. We saw a barred owl in camp, and there are more than 200 bird species in the area. Giraffe came to welcome us when we arrived and on our last morning, with a pink sunrise in the background, ten elephants with two tiny calves walked in front of our tent towards the water channel. If being immersed in nature appeals to you, the unfenced Selinda Camp will provide you with soul food. After dark, don’t walk alone without your guide to keep a lookout for wildlife on the paths.
7. Eat restaurant quality meals
A brand new interactive show kitchen at Selinda means you can explore behind the scenes to see how its superb food is created, or join a demo and tasting experience in the bar area.
Selinda Camp now has a spa and wellness centre where therapist Oteng Mimi Macha offers massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and holistic signature treatments that engage all five senses. If you’re feeling stressed or need to relax and unwind after a long game drive, you’re going to love this addition to the Selinda experience.
9. Visit the wine cellar
10. Dream up your own activity
The staff at Selinda are there to make you happy, so if you dream up an activity – within reason, obviously – they will try to make it happen. Want to go tracking? They’ll make it happen. Enjoy a back massage on the deck of your suite? Try some catch-and-release fishing? Have drinks on the jetty at sunset? As long as it’s safe, if you dream it they’ll make it come true.
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