On arrival in Johannesburg, you are met by your escort and privately transferred to your luxury hotel, The Saxon, a haven of tranquility in suburban Sandhurst with luxuriant gardens, imaginative interior design, delicious food and obliging staff. Andrew Harper finds it a delightful place in which to recuperate from a long transatlantic flight.
The rest of your afternoon is at leisure to explore on your own or enjoy the amenities of the beautiful hotel. Tonight, enjoy drinks and canapés before continuing to dinner.
This morning you will travel from Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia, on a scheduled flight and transfer to Sanctuary's Sussi & Chuma lodge, located on a quiet bend of the Zambezi River, just a short drive from world-famous Victoria Falls. The remainder of your day is at leisure to join an afternoon game drive with a highly trained safari guide or perhaps to enjoy canoeing on the river. Afterward, return to camp for dinner before retiring to your treehouse accommodation, built into the canopy of majestic ebony trees lining the riverbank. Each air-conditioned treehouse includes a private viewing deck.
You may design your second day to your own interests. Game drives in custom-built 4X4 safari vehicles may reveal elephant, impala, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and zebra. Equally thrilling, you can experience a walking safari to understand the bush ecosystem and wildlife as a whole. Highly trained professional guides will take you on a two-hour walk, and you will find their knowledge and love of the bush contagious. You may also choose to visit a village, Nakatindi, or take a tour of Victoria Falls, "the Smoke that Thunders," where rainbows constantly form and collapse in the tropical sunlight over the falls. Tonight, a private sundowner cruise along the Zambezi River is planned, complete with Champagne and canapés.
After breakfast, fly in a private charter to Kasane, Botswana, and continue to Sanctuary Chief's Camp, a 30-minute drive from the airstrip and located on Chief's Island, in the Mombo Concession of the Moremi Game Reserve.
This area is known as the "predator capital of Africa" and is ideal for game-viewing. The seasonal water of the Okavango Delta ensures that the area in front of the camp is always changing, from a dry floodplain teeming with wildlife to a lush and tranquil lagoon. Mr. Harper finds the lion and leopard sightings on Chief's Island to be unequaled.
Your accommodations here are secluded, permanent luxury bush pavilions designed for ultimate privacy and comfort and offering front-row seats for a rewarding African adventure. Each pavilion has a thatched roof, a spacious seating area, an en suite bath and a private game-viewing deck with a hammock and deck chairs. There is an exquisite swimming pool and poolside spa treatment rooms.
The next two days are dedicated to game-viewing, and the opportunities at Chief's Camp are awe-inspiring. There are several local lion prides, and leopards, genet cats and hyena are abundant. Game drives are available twice daily. Makoros (dugout canoes) offer a different perspective on the bush. Each June the area around the camp floods and turns into a labyrinth of lily-filled lagoons and streams where hippos fight for bathing rights and crocodiles wait for unwary antelope to linger too long over a drink. Poling through the byways in the company of a well-trained local guide is a magical event that allows guests to get very close to the biggest of game and experience a way of transport still used by the "River Bushmen," or Bayei, people. Our group will enjoy a bird's-eye view of the Okavango Delta, going up in helicopters seating three passengers at a time. This is an amazing experience, offering a different angle on the region.
Depart Chief's Island on a Flying Mission private light aircraft to Jack's Camp, situated in Botswana's Makgadikgadi salt pan in the northern Kalahari Desert.
The Kalahari is not a desert of sand dunes like the Sahara, but a vast expanse of arid land that the annual rains briefly transform into a grassy savanna.
At its heart lies the 20,400-square-mile Central Kalahari Game Reserve, second-largest in the world. The main reason to travel to the Kalahari, however, is to experience its awe-inspiring silence and immensity. You will find an untouched wilderness, 800 miles across, still populated by the San bushmen, the original human inhabitants of Southern Africa.
The hub of Jack's Camp is a romantic canvas pavilion of low spires and finials where guests meet for elegant meals at a long communal dining table. Ten roomy and stylish canvas tents with en suite baths and indoor/outdoor showers have been fashioned in a classical style and are set in a palm grove, creating an oasis of civilization in a stark environment. Persian rugs underfoot and cool cotton sheets form a striking contrast with the rugged wilderness viewed from the comfort of one's own veranda.
Venturing far into the center of the Makgadikgadi on four-wheel-drive ATVs, you will explore remote archaeological sites, periodically discovering fossil beds of extinct giant zebra and hippo. This is one of the only places in the world where the silence is so complete you can hear the blood rushing in your ears. There is not one visual landmark, and you swiftly loses your sense of perspective. A safari at Jack's Camp is also a complete desert experience, focusing on species unique to the area. The meerkat expedition ("suricate" to scientists and "Timon" to fans of "The Lion King") is memorable as you interact with these captivating creatures. Another activity option is to visit a remote cattle post to learn about the traditional culture of the Botswanan people. At night, the sky above the Makgadikgadi pan is ablaze with stars. The four largest moons of Jupiter are usually visible with the naked eye, and the Magellanic Clouds, neighboring galaxies invisible from much of the Northern Hemisphere, appear almost close enough to touch.
Depart for Abu Camp by private light aircraft. The camp is set in a pristine pocket of riverine forest in a vast private reserve of 400,000 acres in the Okavango Delta. The imaginative use of canvas and pole has created a unique style of tent with high ceilings and wide, airy spaces, blending flawlessly with the natural surroundings. Each of the accommodations has its own distinctive furnishings and fittings, many of them antique. Well-lit pathways link the tents with the main lounge and dining area, while the nearby secluded plunge pool enables guests to cool off and relax.
The camp is unique in that it allows guests to interact with the resident elephant herd. To walk with the camp’s herd of trained African elephant is an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. Abu Camp provides a full range of wildlife-viewing opportunities, with morning and afternoon game drives, night drives and nature walks to view the abundance of fauna and flora in the area.
Depart Abu Camp by private light aircraft to Maun, Botswana, and continue on a scheduled flight to Johannesburg. Continue your journey on an extension or depart Johannesburg on a scheduled flight back to the United States.