Review by: Richard Shaw & George Ribeiro-Justo

Overall Impressions

An absolutely superb, fourth safari trip that we have been on. Very well organised and 'delivered' by Mahlatini and &Beyond;, in a beautiful country. The three, &Beyond; camps that we stayed at were very well run, to a high standard, with very good accommodation and food. The animal viewing was excellent, both in Chobe and the delta. A wonderful trip overall and we will return!

Countries Visited

Botswana

Beautiful country and a wonderful alternative and comparison to our last safari trip, in South Africa. The Okavango Delta lives up to its reputation and is a wonderful place to visit. We were there just when the temperature was starting to really rise, although it had not quite reached the 40's. It would be good to visit once again during the rainy season, although I can appreciate that access and moving around would be more restricted.

Accommodation Visited

Chobe Under Canvas

Although this was certainly not our first safari experience and we had stayed at several, excellent &Beyond; properties previously, I must admit I was a little concerned when our travel agent suggested two nights in a tent, without electricity and running water, in Botswana, in October, when temperatures can be extreme! However, I am so glad that I agreed to the suggestion, as the overall experience, 'under canvas' within Chobe National Park, was memorable, with two nights probably being the optimal length of stay and ideally at the start of your trip to Botswana. The camp itself is less than 2 hours drive from (the relatively new) Kasane airport, including a good stretch driving within the Park. The camp consists of six or so comfortable tents, with battery generated torch-lamp lighting, hot water bucket showers, a large wash jug and bowl and a flushing toilet. Igobe, the camp manager and his team really make you feel welcome from the moment you arrive and do a great job at looking after and feeding you, with communal meals eaten in front of an atmospheric fire, looking up at the stars! The camp does relocate and move around the Park every few days, so do check (if you can) where you might be camping, as we thought a location overlooking the Chobe river would have been ideal, rather than the bush site that we experienced. Chobe National Park itself is a wonderful place to visit and a 'must do', is to take a boat along the Chobe river, which is teeming with birds, herds of elephants and hippos. It is a great way to experience the park, in addition to the animal drives (I hate the term 'game drives'!) on land and if you can, take the Pangolin photo (river) safari, where you are taught how to optimally use a 600mm zoom, with an 8GB SD card to use and take home. The wildlife in the park is good and, in addition to numerous elephants, different antelopes, hippos and giraffe, we saw a couple of leopards but sadly no lions. Overall it was fun and memorable experience at Chobe Under Canvas, that we would very much recommend.

Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp

Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp was the second &Beyond; site that we stayed at during our recent, wonderful trip to beautiful Botswana and we enjoyed every minute of our time there! On arrival, after our flight from Kasane, we were met by the camp managers, Rhiana and Judy, together with members of their really friendly team. We were then shown to our 'tent', home for the next three nights! The tents are really well laid out. There is an inside and outside shower and good storage space. They is an electric floor fans which, given the limited time you really spend in the tent and the cool nights, is really quite adequate to circulate the air. We never lowered the blinds, as the tents are well-positioned and a discrete distance from each other, with great views. The camp is not fenced, so at night and sometimes during the day, animals wander around freely. We certainly had visits from various antelopes, warthogs and monkeys. Because of that, the staff escort you to and from your rooms at night and early morning. The communal areas at the camp are very good and the food excellent, with meals served in different areas each night, including an excellent bar-b-q one night in the boma. Do try the Botswana beef, as it is absolutely delicious but I do question whether serving various antelope, that you have had the joy of seeing running wild during the day, is good practice. Rhiana, Judy and team go out of their way to make sure you enjoy yourself and thank you to the whole team for making our stay so memorable. The animal drives (I hate the term game drives!) were great and if you can, do ask for Richard as your guide and 'candyman' as your tracker, because they are passionate about their work and the animals, which was so nice to experience. Thanks to both of them! In addition to the animal drives, we really enjoyed the boat and Mokoro rides along the channels of the delta. We had a great three nights at Nxabega and were sorry to leave. It was such a memorable stay and we would not hesitate in recommending a stay there to anybody visiting the Okavango Delta.

Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp

Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp was the last of the three &Beyond; properties that we stayed at in Botswana and was probably the best located and most 'luxurious', although Nxabega comes a very close second! We had a particularly well-situated 'tent', right on the Okavango channel, which was alive with hippo and elephant. Andre, Kaye and their team really looked after us and the accommodation was excellent, with an air-conditioning unit just above the bed, should it be needed, although we found the temperature at night, with the blinds up, really quite acceptable, notwithstanding 33 degrees during the day. The food was really quite exceptional given where we were and the resident chef (who, we believe, has responsibility for several of the &Beyond; properties) should be congratulated for the quality of the food and presentation. There was, sadly, one issue with our stay at Xaranna, that related to our ranger and tracker, who, compared with the rangers and trackers at the camps we had stayed at earlier, were in our opinion, not as committed and passionate about their roles, environment and wildlife as others, which was disappointing, particularly given this was our final destination in Botswana, at the end of a wonderful stay, in a beautiful country.

Staff Review

Nikki and colleagues completely understood what we were looking for when organising our trip to Bostwana and very much respected the fact that we were returning customers of Mahlatini. They worked hard to deliver the quality of trip that we expected and achieve the budget that we had in mind. After booking the trip (several months before travelling), they continued to respond very promptly and concisely to any questions or concerns we had and overall we would (and have!) certainly recommended Mahlatini, Nikki and colleagues to others thinking of travelling to Africa.