Mokoro & Island Camping Expeditions
The cheapest and one of the most adventurous ways to enjoy the delta is to join a mokoro trip through the islands, accompanied by a poler with an intimate knowledge of these waters. Oddballs specializes in budget mokoro camping trips and also runs one of the best-known budget camps in the delta. A little more pricey (but still way less per night than staying at one of the Delta's permanent camps, and a very exclusive, authentic experience), is Ker & Downey's Kanana Mokoro Trail, in the western part of the Delta. The trail camp is on a remote island and accommodates a maximum of four people in two twin bedded tents (both with bucket shower and bush toilet); besides the luxury of being alone on an island in paradise, the camp includes the services of five staff members: a personal chef, waiter, housekeeper, and mokoro guides ($420-$540 per person per night all inclusive, depending on season). Another option is the 3-day Xigera Mokoro Trail, departing every 3 days from May to October (www.sunsafaris.net).
Boating, Botswana Style -- No trip to the delta is complete without a trip in a mokoro, a narrow, canoelike boat propelled by a human poler. Traditionally they were made out of hollowed tree trunks, but for environmental reasons, many camps now use mokoros made from fiberglass. These silent craft enable you to get close to birds and animals and are ideally suited to the shallow waters of the delta.
Mashatu -- Radio-linked groups of cyclists set out at dawn and again at dusk on mountain bikes in search of animals; visits to the ruins of 600-year-old settlements on the reserve are included. The program is entirely flexible and can be adapted to the needs and skills of the particular cyclists; game drives can also be included. These safaris run March through October. You can base yourself at Main Camp or Mashatu Tented Camp, but for a real adventure, head out to the wilderness and camp out in basic tents with a guide and minimal staff; budget around $1,500 per person per trip. For more information, call tel. 27/11/442-2267 or 0861-SAFARI (723274; www.cyclemashatu.com).
Join the No. 1 Ladies' Detective
Zimbabwean author Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling novels about Mma Precious Ramotswe, the fictional proprietor of Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (made into a movie directed by the late Anthony Minghella), are so popular that readers have clamored to explore the locations featured in the books. Ker & Downey offer a 12-night Mma Ramotswe's Botswana Tour, which covers the Botswana capital of Gaborone, the Okavango Delta, and Victoria Falls ($7,723 per person). For contact details, write to email@example.com.
If you're interested in Bushman (or "San") culture, make sure you spend a few nights with Uncharted Africa Safari Co. in the Kalahari; one of the most exciting trips held once a year, personally led by Ralph Bousfield, is an 8-night initiation hunt, a rapidly disappearing Bushmen ritual. Uncharted will also, along with such operators as Moremi Safaris & Tours, organize a visit to the Tsodilo Hills (in the northwest, near the panhandle), where you can view some 3,000 rock paintings. The paintings are known for their fine clarity and wide variety, and trips can be made by air or four-wheel drive. There is also a traditional village in the foothills.
Footsteps Across the Delta -- It doesn't get more authentic than at this camp, the best for walking safaris in the Delta. Every day a small group of guests (up to six) make their way by foot and mokoro to the next campsite. There's no electricity or flush toilets, but the experience is in many ways the ultimate in luxury for the right kind of person. The emphasis is on enjoying the slow pace of the delta -- the maximum distance each day is about 6km (3 3/4 miles), and you can travel light; while you cover the distance, the camp staff transports baggage and camp essentials. Accommodations are in three twin-bedded en-suite tents; cuisine is exceptional, given the remoteness of the location. Minimum age is 12. For contact details, see Ker & Downey; rate is $420 to $570 per person per night (all inclusive), depending on the season. To explore a different ecosystem -- the highly rated Linyanti concession -- look into Linyanti Walking Safaris (www.africanbushcamps.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.