Show-stopping wildlife sightings, exciting drives, great food, a commitment to conservation and community, and a low-impact camp that doesn’t compromise on luxury – these were some of the good things we enjoyed at Duba Expedition Camp in the Okavango, Botswana.
Great Plains is the brainchild of wildlife film-makers, photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert. It uses eco-tourism to support its conservation work. Here on the Duba concession, for instance, land that used to be used for hunting is now a wildlife conservation project supported by photo-tourism instead.
But don’t think Great Plains is only about conservation so they’ve dialled back on luxury. Not for a minute. The camp’s communal lounge and dining area is spacious and elegant, with leather sofas, wooden chests, some of Beverly Joubert’s photos as artwork, and a fire deck overlooking the floodplain.
Duba Expedition Camp is on a 31 000ha private concession that’s a typical Okavango mix of floodplain, woodland and islands peppered with palm trees. Through a community empowerment partnership between Great Plains and the Okavango Community Trust, the land is leased from five local villages so their people benefit directly from the wildlife conservation and eco-tourism projects on the land of their forefathers. Some 80% of staff who work at Duba come from these villages too.
Joseph Basenyeng was our guide, joined by escort guide Gaothobogwe (Gee) Samaemo. Gee was from one of the five local villages and was there to learn, observe and report back to the communities. They took us driving on a series of log bridges over swampy areas and through water in search of wildlife
Joseph circled a patch of bushes as he followed tracks, then stopped and switched off the engine. We could hear sounds of licking coming from deep inside the bushes. A few minutes passed, then an excited whisper. ‘Look, a leopard!’
A leopard with a warthog piglet’s head in her mouth. She put it down and called into the bushes. Back came a high chirp – a cub. She was calling for it to come out and join her.
For 40 minutes we watched mom come and go, climb a tree where the rest of the warthog kill was stashed, and call to the cub. As a responsible guide, Joseph decided to leave as the sun began to set because the cub would be vulnerable on the ground overnight. It needed to get into that tree, away from the clutches of passing predators.
That evening chef Herman Breedt prepared a six-course tasting menu. It was heaven. My favourites were freshly made fettuccine with exotic mushrooms and parmesan, sweet potato and coconut soup with an onion bhaji, and a heavenly dessert of poached pear with honey and lemon curd.
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