African Bush Camp’s Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp
The second stop on our Afican safari adventure was African Bush Camp’s Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp. This camp would cover the second portion of Botswana we were interested in exploring – the Okavango Delta. This spot is world famous for safari! The Okavango Delta is a is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that serves an entire ecosystem in the middle of the Kalahari Dessert. These wetlands are the world’s largest inland delta and triple in size when flooded (from 6,000 to 15,000 square kilometres!). Wildlife flourishes here as the water source serves as a meeting place for animals of all sorts. The Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp is located on the Khwai River where there are two areas to explore – the Moremi Game Reserve and the Khwai concession. Since we saw so much wildlife at the previous camp, the pressure was off and we were open to whatever Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp has in store.
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.
We spotted the African Bush Camp vehicle we have grown to know and love, and felt like pros now that we knew the drill. We met our guide, Banda, who informed us that:
1) It was a 30min drive to the Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp (wonderful)
2) Ee were the only guests at camp for tonight (amazing)
3) And it would be the three of us on safari for our entire stay (how lucky are we?!).
Our guide gave us information on the area, game drive rules, and the opportunity to see some wildlife on our drive to the lodge – there was no rush since no one else was at the camp tonight but us.
Game Drive Rules
- 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
The animals we spotted on the way to camp:
- Red lechwe – new type of antelope for us!
- Elephants in distance
- Kingfisher catching a fish on the bridge into the camp – our first “kill”
At our arrival, we met Nico, our host of the stay, who escorted us to the main camp area for orientation. The main tent was beautiful – we learned Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp opened in April 2021 so it is still brand new. I loved the detail in the decor and the amount of space there was to relax. The schedule here was very similar to our previous camp.
- 5AM wake up call, 530 breakfast 630AM departure for game drive
- Return from game drive between 1030 -1130AM with lunch to follow
- Afternoon rest
- 330PM high tea and snacks
- 4PM 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 over the Okavango Delta.
Since we ate prior to our journey here, we were free to enjoy the camp until high tea at 3:30PM. We were escorted to our room in #5 which was closest to the main tent and the pool with a lovely view of the wetlands. The rooms were very comfortable – even had a fan inside the mosquito net and bed! There were modern charging ports with USB and two shower options – indoor and outdoor (even though the indoor is still outdoor because it’s a tent!).
We decided to drop our stuff and enjoy the pool for the time we had before our first safari. Just check out this infinite styled pool – what a view! And we still could not get over we had this all to ourselves. We wondered if the animals would be out in this area like they were at the last camp – we could spot two elephants in the distance so time would tell. As before, the water is absolutely freezing but when it’s 100 degrees out, it is necessary.
At 3:30PM, we had our high tea and met more of the staff. Everyone is so incredibly friendly and welcoming! Even for just the two of us here, nothing was held back. The snacks were delicious and with something in our bellies, it was time for our first afternoon game drive. Banda asked what we had not seen yet and the first thing that came to mind was lions – he smiled and nodded as we drove off – “we will go find you lions“.
Afternoon and Evening Drive Notes – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
We could not believe what we saw today! Honestly, we hoped to see lions as it was still missing from our list but to see them up close, as a large group, and then with a meal? I just do not think it gets any better. You know it is good when the guide takes out his camera for the wildlife. Turns out Banda is a photographer as well and offered to help us learn how to use the new camera – we hit the guide jackpot! He has even won contests for his work – check out his instagram!
Since we were the only guests tonight, we had the whole place to ourselves. I think we could get used to this! We relaxed in our room until it was time for dinner at 8PM which included pea soup, make your own stir fry, passion fruit pudding – wonderful food continues!
When we returned to the room as we were getting ready for bed, a GIANT spider appeared on our wall – and we had just thought we upgraded from the bug situation at Linyanti. While I wanted to get someone to remove it, Kevin insisted he could do the job. Not that I do not love him dearly, but we have issues at home with regular bugs and we did not have the mighty vacuum on our side. I do not quite think he knew what he was in for but he was able to get the spider to recede into the cracks of the tent and potentially suffocate it with bug spray.
Wide awake from the spider encounter, the noises of the bush were in high swing – the hippos and elephants were so loud – it was always hard to tell just how close these animals were to the tent but it sounded like they were right outside the tent.
The 5AM wake up routine continued followed by the 530AM escort to the main tent for breakfast served around the campfire. 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. Breakfast was always perfection and there is no better way to fuel the day.
At 6AM, Banda gave us the nod and off into our safari vehicle we went. Today we would venture into Moremi Reserve to see what was in store for the morning.
Morning Drive Notes – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
Another absolutely incredible game drive! There was a point where we wondered if there would be a drive that was routine or boring but every single time we saw and learned something new.
Over lunch, a large group of elephants made their way through the marsh outside the tent. We sat there admiring them with Nico and Banda – it never gets old seeing them like this and it is awesome that they feel the same way. Some of them were so close to our room that it was obvious our questions at night of how close they get were answered – they get extremely close to the tent! Our definition of a room with a view has forever changed.
I took so many pictures I needed another post just to showcase them – check out all the elephant photos here!
We spent the afternoon at the pool relaxing – it was so hot that all the electronics were burning up so I stuck them in the small refrigerator in the room to try and cool them off – October in Botswana is no joke.
Our afternoon activity was the Mokoro (the traditional canoe ride) – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
Once again, we were blown away by how amazing our evening was – and we did not even set out for a game drive and look what we found, just unbelievable. We were we still checking off new animals and it was awesome.
Unfortunately it started to rain and the camp had everything set up for a beautiful Boma night – the staff at the camp seemed disappointed but for us it was something to bring us back on a return trip (yes I am already throwing that out there, I am in love with safari). The Boma food was done under the tent which similar to the Boma in Linyanti included tomato soup, various meats and veggies, roasted pear. Everything was so delicious! A large group of nine had arrived late in the afternoon and they were a bit unscheduled and the staff was great about taking care of us as we liked to eat quickly to get to bed.
Another night in the bush – while the sounds still kept us awake, I would not have it any other way.
This morning was our bush walk day! We enjoyed the bush walk in Linyanti so much and we were really looking forward to it. Banda brought along Nelson, a guide in training, to assist us in the walk since two guides are needed – one in the front with the rifle and one in the back to assist with spotting and escape if needed.
Morning Drive and Bush Walk Notes – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
When we returned, we had our lunch and our COVID test. The way it worked with African Bush Camp, they set up a medical professional to be transferred to the camp to conduct our test. In speaking with the person performing the test, he does about twenty of these a day going from camp to camp via helicopter – impressive! They have this system down to a science as we had our results back the next day for our transfer to Zambia. How was this better than what we have in the US where I had to take four tests to make sure something was ready within 72 hours? Anyway, it was a very easy process and I am grateful they have this arrangement to allow for tourists to visit.
We had some time to ourselves prior to our scenic helicopter ride. We enjoyed our time at the pool prior to meeting up with our helicopter pilot Tom for New Zealand. The ride was without doors on the helicopter which felt extremely unsafe but apparently it is done all the time. We were strapped in and ready for our 30 minute scenic tour of the delta.
I took so many pictures I needed another post just to showcase them – check out all the photos here!
What an epic way to see the delta! If you go on safari and have the opportunity to see it from the sky, definitely do it – it really was amazing.
When we returned, it was time for high tea and snacks before we set up on a short afternoon game drive with Banda. He insisted this time would be used to find birds in flight to catch them with the camera but as always, he seemed to have a knack for finding cats.
Afternoon drive (bird photography!) – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
When we drove back to the camp, the fires had spread very close to the village. We certainly expressed concerns but Banda reassured that the village was actively working on it and staff from the sister camps were going in for assistance. A surprise awaited us when we walked into our tent – a birthday cake with champagne! What an incredibly sweet gesture for my birthday – and the cake was divine. We munched on this the rest of the trip. We had dinner early to attempt a night game drive since we had not done a proper one. Dinner included broccoli soup, pork belly, flan – just delicious!
We hopped back into the vehicle but unfortunately, the fires continued to spread at an alarming rate so it was not safe for us to cross. We had never seen anything like this as the fire illuminated the dark night sky. The staff were hopeful that the rain would pick up a bit to help extinguish the flames and that the sand roads would help break the spread. We turned back and returned to camp.
I think we slept better as the rain kept the animals inland but then at 4AM, the most aggressive and crazy wind started. It was so intense we thought for sure the tent was going to fly away. But I figured the staff would have alerted us if there was anything to be concerned about as there was no way someone was sleeping through the wind – it was quite scary. And of course we had our fingers crossed that the fire was under some sort of control before this wind started as it would have escalated quickly towards the camp if now.
At breakfast we asked about the wind and it seems to be something that can happen as a storm builds since the heat is so high. Luckily the fire had been confirmed under control and almost complete before the storm had started. It sounded like rain was likely on our drive but we did not mind – it certainly was much cooler so an extra layer came in handy.
Morning Drive – read my safari notes and see all the photos here!
As sad as I was when we left Linyanti, I think I was more sad to leave Khawi. I knew this would be the end of this trip’s bush camp experience and I have to say, I absolutely fell in love with it – everything about it. I was not ready to leave safari life.
After our morning drive, we had a quick bite to eat before Banda took us back to the airstrip for our final goodbye.
Our stay at Khwai Leadwood was nothing short of perfection. We felt incredibly lucky and honored to have had Banda as our guide and not only showed us so much wildlife but also taught us how to properly use the camera which was such a bonus – the photo quality between the pictures at Linyanti and Khwai was certainly noticeable to me. While it was not as remote as Linyanti, we still rarely saw other vehicles and it never impacted our wildlife viewing experience when we did. Not to mention we had an entirely private safari this entire stay – I am still not sure how we got so lucky. 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. It was certainly so lovely to be at a brand new camp as well! 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 Khwai Leadwood Bush Camp more highly and I hope that our journey brings us back here one day.