African Bush Camp’s Linyanti Bush Camp – Botswana
Our very first safari experience! We were beyond excited and while we had zero idea what to expect, we were so looking forward to everything. We knew Botswana was going to be an epic place for our first safari. African Bush Camp’s Linyanti Bush Camp is located on the Linyanti River just outside of Chobe National Park, one of the wildlife paradises famous for the hers of elephants and water buffalo. Some even say is it the best national park in Southern Africa. This was going to be a great couple of days!
When we landed at the Linyanti airstrip, we were met by a safari vehicle to transport us to our first bush camp – African Bush Camp’s Linyanti Bush Camp. We met Ken (known as “Professor Ken” to the group at African Bush Camps) who would be our safari guide for the next several days and Valentine, an intern from Belgium on a several week internship who would be spending time on our game drives as well.
We learned two things right off the bat – we were going to be the only ones at camp tonight and it was a 2.5 hour drive to the camp – both facts we were very surprised to hear. We were really out in the middle of no where! Since we arrived late and missed the chance for an afternoon activity and were the only ones at the camp tonight, Ken indicated that we would take our time and make this into a mini game drive to see what we found along the way to the camp. That made up for any concern I had for arriving late and we were pumped!
Ken took a moment to orient us to the “Game Drive Rules” before starting our drive:
- Mind the Branches – more dangerous than all animals on drive
- Do not stand in the vehicle – it changes the shape of the vehicle and causes alarm to the animals as a threat
- African massage – the road is very bumpy – hang on tight
First of all, the sunsets here are incredibly epic. There has not been a sunset like it anywhere that we have experienced that competes with this sunset. The land and sky are so big that it makes for a beautiful display of colors that for us was assisted by some clouds and haze from wildfire in nearby Namibia. The sun becomes a deep neon orange red color that cannot be replicated in any photo. One tradition on safari is the sundowner which is a favorite portion of the day outside of the wildlife. When the sun is getting ready to set, the guide finds a spot to pull over, arranges drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and a few snacks to watch the sun set. Since we arrived so late, our sundowner was early in the drive and we were treated to a breathtaking sunset – welcome to Botswana.
The animals we spotted on the way to camp – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
We could not believe the wildlife we already spotted just on this one drive! Ken handed us over to Obei, our host for the stay, who escorted us to the main lodge area for orientation and dinner. It was pitch black out but she indicated we were in room #6 and validated we were indeed the only guests staying at camp for the evening.
Lodge orientation review what to expect while stay at Linyanti:
- 5AM wake up call, 530AM breakfast 6AM departure for game drive
- Return from game drive between 1030 -1130AM with lunch to follow
- Afternoon rest
- 4PM high tea and snacks
- 430PM departure for game drive
- Return from game drive between 7 – 8PM with dinner to follow
Other activities we would be scheduled for: game drives, mokoro (traditional canoe), bush walk, scenic helicopter (which we used as a transfer to the next air stripe to the next lodge to avoid the three hour drive).
We were asked about expectations and we honestly did not have anything – we really did not know what to expect or anticipate from this experience so we were just excited to be here and enjoy it. We know with nature nothing is guaranteed so we certainly did not want to set up any unrealistic expectations but an elephant sighting would be the coolest. While the day sounded intense, it was so nice to not have to plan anything – it was already planned for us and we just had to show up. It reminded us a lot of our storm chasing trip oddly enough!
We met the chef for the evening as we went over dietary restrictions and preferences before we sat down for dinner. We were given a delicious orange welcome drink before being offered a white or red wine with dinner – South African wine of course! Dinner was a carrot soup, beef filet with vegetables and potatoes (we were so thrilled to see veggies!), and dessert was an apple crumb cake. We had no idea what food was going to be like on safari but wow we were very pleased! Everything was delicious. It still felt so silly to be the only guests here with all of the staff but we were enjoying getting to know everyone at the camp.
Ken escorted us to our room – rules at the camp are when it is dark, your guide needs to escort you to the room and to the main lodge. These camps, especially Linyanti, are deep in the bush and there are no fences so it is not uncommon to have animals around and in the camp when it is dark. Going with the guide ensures a degree of safety! He indicated he would be by at 5AM as a wake up call and that we would see him in the morning.
We got oriented with our room as best we could in the night. The floor was fixed but there was a canvas tent that secured the room. A mosquito net covered the bed which was expected out in mosquito country though bugs were a bit plentiful. We quickly realized that in order to survive we were going to have to get over the bug situation really fast. We had a bathroom attached to the tent and bottles of water were provided for drinking and brushing teeth. On our night stand was an emergency horn, though we tried really hard to think of a scenario when we will be “those people” that sounded the horn. Though maybe it was intended to be used? We could not decide. Anyway, we could not tell what was outside but we were told we had a deck and and outdoor bathtub.
We had a strange predicament where it was so incredibly hot outside even though the sun had been set for a while and the tents held the heat. However, we were nervous about the bugs so we did not want to expose any portion of our body. Yes, there were mosquito nets but there were still a number of bugs that made their way into the safe space. So it was this risk benefit of how much skin to expose while sleeping. There was a floor fan but it just blew hot air around.
In addition to battling the heat, there was a cacophony of animal noises outside that overpowered the fan – hippos, elephants, baboons and probably more we could not identify. It was pitch black when we arrived so our orientation to what was actually outside our tent was zero. Every noise was new, and every noise kept us awake. Even though our doors were locked, it still felt likely that something could find its way into the tent if it desired. Luckily, there is a rule of no food in the tents which I fully support. Needless to say, we did not sleep well our first night as we adjusted to the sounds of the bush.
With minimal sleep, our alarm went off at 4:50AM and our guide came by at 5AM as promised to ensure we were up. We did a quick check of our surroundings before entering the bathroom where we were greeted by a few very large moths and two giant spiders – thank god I did not have my glasses on when I went in to brush my teeth! We decided to share the bathroom with our new roommates since we really had no choice in the matter.
At 530AM, Ken met us back at our tent to escort us to the main tent for breakfast. Breakfast was through the main tent down on the viewing platform with a campfire burning. It was still dark but we could start to make out the view. Breakfast each morning was continental style – cereal, yogurt, fruit, cured meats and cheeses, freshly baked muffins that changed daily wood fire toast, and porridge made over the fire along with all sorts of beverage options. It was so delicious and the staff were so welcoming and accommodating.
By the time 6AM rolled around, we could see the grass and water that made up the landscape from the bush camp. We were excited to be on our way out of our first game drive but we were also looking forward to seeing this later on in full daylight.
While we did not know exactly what to pack with us for the ride, we both brought our Walker Family Goods Valley packs with all the camera gear, sun glasses, buffs, notebook and pen, and full water bottles.
Morning Drive Notes – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
We could not believe everything we saw on our first game drive! We did not come in with expectations since we know nature has a mind of its own and can be extremely unpredictable but wow we certainly could have never guessed we would see all of this in just one game drive.
We jumped out of the vehicle – honestly I loved climbing in and out of these, can’t tell you why but it was thrilling – and we were given time to freshen up ahead of lunch. And for the first time in day light, we got to see our tent and the main tent!
When we walked over to the main tent for lunch, we could not believe what we saw – hundreds of elephants! We could not believe our eyes – there were herds and herds of elephants in the area and many right outside the tent. We were completely stunned and amazed.
I took so many pictures I needed another post just to showcase them – check out all the elephant photos here!
It was hard to take a break from photo taking for lunch but we managed. Lunch was a self-service display of several items – usually a meat, vegetable, potato salad, some meats and cheeses, bread, and a cake for dessert. The food was so wonderful – we (again) had no idea what to expect and the food here was amazing. And this view? Is there a better way to have a meal with a view?
After lunch, we had several hours before our next activity – the siesta portion of the day. Since it is so hot (almost 100 degrees in October) in the middle of the day, most animal activity declines so everyone gets a break. The heat in the tent was too much so we decided to lay by the pool and continue enjoying the view of the elephants. We made our way to the small pool to enjoy some relaxation time with the elephants. The chairs were in the which was perfection and the pool was the coldest water I have ever felt in a pool! It was impossible to get over seeing them like this as it was just amazing.
Elephant activity we witnessed (I took so many pictures I needed another post just to showcase them – check out all the elephant photos here!):
- Baby without a trunk – I only noticed this when I was taking a photo! I asked the staff what the odds of this elephant making it successfully to adulthood is and the responses were mixed as this elephant would have to do quite a bit of adapting. The trunks are so many things for the elephant – the trunk is the hands and fingers, the eyes, the nose.
- Babies playing – with water, trunk, the grass, hide and seek, and other elephants – every bit as adorable as you think.
- Covering their skin with mud – used feet to make a ball to pick up with trunk, absolutely incredible to watch that process. Mud acts as sun protection and coolant!
- Covering their bodies with water – coolant effect.
- Covering their skin with dirt – sun protection and coolant!
- Eating – Elephants eat all day non stop. This is due to their incredibly ineffective digestive system where only half of what they eat is absorbed so they have to eat over 400 pounds of food a day.
- Drinking water – the main reason for these elephants to always be on the move is in search of water! And Linyanti camp is situated right along the Linyanti River.
The entire landscape was filled with life – elephants, warthogs, baboons, red antelope and more. It was getting close to high tea so we returned to our tent and to our surprise the view was covered with elephants – so many elephants! It was just unreal.
At 4PM, we had high tea – a sweet and savory snack with drinks of choice. They even had Kanonkop Pinotage Rose! Another couple had arrived at the camp so we were introduced as they would be joining our afternoon game drive. They were from Montana and had just arrived from Khwai (our next stop). While it was fun to have the place to ourselves, it was also nice to have some company! They were on a three week trip and Linyanti was their fourth and last camp so we were able to hear all about their safari experience.
Before we knew it 4:30PM arrived and we were out for our evening adventure!
Evening Drive Notes: read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
We could not believe in a single day of safari, we saw almost every animal we could have named on an African safari – just unbelievable!
We arrived shortly after 730PM so we freshened up before our 8PM dinner service. When we walked into the main camp – escorted of course since it was dark out – we were told it was stir fry night – how fun! We were still very new to the safari concept so it was so fun to have these dining options. What we were happy about most was the ability to control portion size for a lighter meal. For starters it was broccoli soup, followed by self-serve stir fry of meats, veggies, and rice, then to finish off dessert was flan. We could not believe how well we were eating on this trip – everything was delicious!
Another mediocre night of sleep at best, we received our wake up call at 5AM, breakfast at 530AM and off on the morning game drive at 6AM. We could not wait to see what animals we discovered this morning. We climbed into the safari vehicle and off we went.
Morning Drive Notes – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
Another wildly (no pun intended) successful day! We freshen up for lunch before having another lovely afternoon siesta by the pool. We were graced with another afternoon of elephants – I do not know if anything can top this!
I took so many pictures I needed another post just to showcase them – check out all the elephant photos here!
Our afternoon activity was going to be on the water taking a traditional canoe called the Mokoro as another way to spot wildlife, birds, fauna and more.
Tonight’s dinner was a traditional Boma! The camp has a separate section dedicated for the Boma meal and celebration. Before the meal, the staff gave a beautiful performance singing and dancing – it really was moving and beautiful. Dinner started with tomato soup, followed by traditional Boma BBQ meats like chicken, steak, and sausage, and dessert was an amazing chocolate tart that reminded me of a smores (graham cracker crust and a marshmallow sauce). We could not believe it was our last night here and it was so wonderful to end it in this special way.
This morning we followed our now normal routine but we did not have to rush out on the vehicle so we enjoyed our breakfast by the campfire while watching the sun greet the day. We spent time just enjoying the main tent and the land. In the distance we spotted a few waterbuck practicing sparing in the distance. The river was so full of life we could have just sat here for hours.
Today we participated in the bush walk where you walk with the guide to explore on foot, typically focusing on smaller animals, birds, tracks, poo, and flora / fauna. Rules are very important when walking in the bush on foot – guide in the front with rifle in hand, guide in the back, walking in a single file line, quiet movements and voices, and following all instructions.
Morning Brush Walk: read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
We loved the bush walk! It was so important and interesting to experience the bush in this way and we learned so much.
Upon our return, we showered, packed up our bags, enjoyed our final lunch and sat at the main camp for a while just enjoying the view and observing the wildlife. This spot is extremely special and we felt so fortunate to have this experience at Linyanti. Words will always fall short in describing this safari and how it forever changed our view of the world and captured our hearts.
And with that we said goodbye to Linyanti, which was surprisingly really hard! The only thing that kept me feeling positive was the fact that we were going to another bush camp. Our guide drove us a few minutes to a helicopter that would transfer us to the airstrip to catch our plane to the next lodge. That’s right, a helicopter. Our stay included a scenic flight over the area but our guide suggested an option to use it as a transfer to the airstrip. The pilot would also be able to give us a scenic route to the airstrip and this would save us three hours in the car in exchange for a 20 minute flight. Neither of us had been in a helicopter before so this was going to also be a brand new experience.
We met our pilot (Ben from Austra) – super cool and nice who oriented us to the copter and what to expect. It was so hot that it took him a few tries to get the engine to stay on (I only felt mild panic that we were stuck!). After a few attempts, the blades sped past us and off we went, right over the camp, where elephants sent us off to our next adventure.
We arrived at Savuti airstrip where our plane met us a few minutes after our helicopter took off for the next ride. To our surprise, the same pilot (Kaboo) who flew us to Linyanti is the same pilot who picked us up for this transfer as well! It was so nice to see him again and we knew we were in good hands. In our 20 minute ride, we spotted lots of elephants until we passed the fire that created a veil of smoke. We were grateful for the short ride and landed on the Khwai airstrip where the next part of our safari journey was about to begin.
Our stay at Linyanti was nothing short of magical and we will absolutely never forget it. We just could not believe all the animals we saw in just four short days. What we loved most about Linyanti was how remote it really was which allowed for the most spectacular wildlife viewing and real appreciation for being out in the bush. We saw no one while we were there other than the Linyanti staff – no other vehicles on safari, nothing. It was just us the entire time which was so special. To be this remote, disconnected from our regular life and connected to deeply to nature and the life’s basics, it really cannot be beat. The camp itself only has six tents to regardless, it will not be a crowded experience but I am unsure if we would ever have a private experience like this again. The staff here were so friendly, welcoming, and accommodating, and everything from our tent to the food was so wonderful. I could not recommend African Bush Camp’s Linyanti Bush Camp more highly and I hope that our journey brings us back here one day.