Join a riding safari and travel through the vast, unspoiled area of Botswana's salt pan in the same way as the early missionaries and explores did, on horseback. You will be provided with a safari experience that although traditional in style, it is in no way compromised in terms of comfort. You can revel in an amazing sensation of being alone in an eerie and completely empty nothingness. It will be the ideal place to have a real adventure with unreal style.
During this safari, you will stay for three nights at Camp Kalahari and two nights at Xau Xai Camp.
Camp Kalahari has ten spacious Meru tents, comprising six twin tents, three double tents, and one family unit which has two adjacent tents, accommodating two guests in each with an inter-leading bathroom. All guest tents have en-suite covered bathrooms, hot and cold running water, and flush loos along with four-poster beds, crunchy cotton sheets, rich textiles, Moroccan kilims, and hot water bottles in winter.
A thatched central library, as well as living and dining area featuring an eclectic mix of original African furniture and textiles paired with traditional campaign style pieces and colonial antiques provide the perfect area in which to relax and enjoy the serenity of this enchanting area. For those who’d like to cool off, or enjoy a lazy siesta in or out of the sun, the thatched swimming pool pavilion is ideal.
If you are traveling with children 8 years of age and under, a private guide and vehicle will be required at an extra cost. Children under 6 years of age will be accommodated free of charge while children between 6 to 11 years of age will have a 50% discount. Children under 12 years of age are not permitted to stay alone in their own tent. A child will be accommodated on a bedroll in their parents’ room if they are under 12 years of age. A tent for a maximum of two adults can be shared with one child.
Xau Xai is a comfortable dome tents with fully made up stretcher beds, a central mess tent with dining table, bush loos, and bucket showers. A fly camp will be available in the dry season if weather permits.
On arrival by air or road, you will be greeted by your host and guide, David Foot, and settled into Camp Kalahari on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. You will head off after tea in the beautiful afternoon light for an introductory ride, primarily to match horse and rider and also for your first opportunity to experience the beauty of this magical area. You will return to the camp for sundowners followed by dinner and to kraal the horses close by, before the lions of the Kalahari commence their nightly prowling.
Up with the dawn, a light breakfast will be followed by a long morning ride through the land of a thousand islands. Stranded on the ancient lakebed, these sand dunes covered in palm trees are one of the most beautiful and fascinating areas of the Botswana wilderness. At the height of the migration season, the islands and adjoining grasslands are awash with zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest, ostrich, and of course the attendant predators.
The white encrusted pans between the islands will provide excellent going for the horses. If you came in the green season and there has been a lot of rain, then many of these areas will be full of water attracting several species of migratory water birds. After that, you will return to the camp for lunch and rest through the heat of the day in the welcome shade of the camel thorn trees or cool off in the camp swimming pool. After tea, you will head off to see some unique desert species such as springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest, and the elusive brown hyena.
These consummate desert specialists survive in arid areas where both food and water are scarce. The brown hyena is a timid nocturnal, solitary forager, rarely seen by humans, but in spite of this, are very social animals, living in clans of up to 10 - 12 hyenas. You will enjoy a night game drive back to the camp, and with the aid of a spotlight, you can look for nocturnal desert inhabitants such as aardvark, bat-eared foxes, aardwolves, porcupine, honey badgers, and perhaps even a black-maned Kalahari lion. You will arrive at Camp Kalahari in time for dinner.
Today will be a long ride eastward to Xau Xai Fly Camp, so an early start is imperative. You have to be sure to pack a few essentials for the next two days of adventure. The journey will take you away from the edge of the pans and through the mopane and acacia woodlands interspersed with short grasslands allowing for lovely long canters. Whilst the area is rich in birds of prey, bustards, korhaans and numerous other unusual dry woodland bird species, there is also a chance that you will sight kudu and the odd bull elephant.
By lunchtime, you will reach the famous Green’s Baobab. You will have a break for lunch at the adjacent Gutsa Pan under a stand of palm trees where you may find Stone Age artifacts and the hunting blinds used over a millennium by the Bushmen. You will take a siesta through the midday heat and after tea, continue the journey on to Xau Xai Fly Camp. You will enjoy a long cool drink as you watch the sunset followed by dinner out under the magnificent Kalahari sky.
You will wake up to a steaming hot cup of coffee and a light breakfast, before heading off in search of some of the Kalahari’s most fascinating inhabitants, the meerkats. With your horses tethered, you will proceed on foot into the midst of the group. Due to an ongoing habituation program by Uncharted Africa Safari Company, it will be possible for you to get up close and personal with these captivating creatures.
You have to remember that they are not tame, they are just used to your non-threatening presence. On chilly mornings, you might well find a meerkat snuggling up to you for warmth. In the absence of a termite mound or tree, they will use your head as a sentry lookout post. By spending quality time with these incredibly social, superbly adapted animals, you will be able to see how they interact with each other and their environment.
You will also get the chance to see the desert through the eyes of a meerkat, which despite the fact that it’s only a foot off the ground, is a pretty spectacular vantage point. It will definitely be one of the most special and memorable game experiences you will encounter in Botswana. As the day warms up, you will leave the meerkats to continue foraging.
You will mount up and follow the well-worn trails that lead to the resident herds of zebra and large congregations of ostriches attracted to the area by permanent freshwater in hidden waterholes. You will return to Xau Xai for lunch, a refreshing shower, and a siesta in the shade of the mess tent. After that, you will set off in the late afternoon for one of the greatest adventures imaginable, a ride straight out into the middle of the ancient lakebed.
Eventually, all you can see is the vast flatness stretching in every direction. You will watch the sun set and the stars rise. This is one of the only places in the world where the silence is so complete, you can hear the blood circulating through your ears. There is not one visual landmark to be seen and one swiftly loses one’s sense of perspective. 16,000 square kilometers of baking soda void, will be inhabited only by you and a few gazillion invisible brine shrimp. It is here that you’ll make camp. You will be sleeping on bedrolls under the silence of a star-studded sky.
In the late afternoon of the green season, you will take a walk to a nearby permanent waterhole to look for many of the Kalahari’s special bird species. As the sun sets, you will watch the hundreds of sand grouse fly in for a drink. After that, you will return to the camp for another beautiful evening under a Kalahari sky with a delicious dinner around the campfire.
You will wake up on the moon. As the dawn greets this extraordinary landscape and the last of the stars disappear, you will head directly across the pans. After a light breakfast in the green season, you will mount up and head homeward at a fast pace. Sometimes, you will ride along the edge of the pans and at other times head into the woodlands and open grasslands where the zebra and wildebeest graze.
You may be lucky enough to see the unusual sight of ostrich deep in the pans and then from a great distance, the site of the famous Chapman’s baobab. A visit here will give you an opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into the history of the early explorers. After that, you will arrive at Camp Kalahari in time for a refreshing shower and lunch. As the sun dips below the horizon and the last light fades, you will be sure to dwell on these amazing past few days.
After breakfast, you will drive through the bush to the traditionally built Bushmen village, where the community gathers during the day. The huts provide shelter from the harsh Kalahari environment, but are not the community’s permanent accommodation. On arrival, the elders of the community will meet you in a traditional manner after which you will walk out into the bush with the men, women, and children.
The focus of the walk will be to provide a gentle introduction to the Kalahari and Bushmen way of life. The group will point out the distinct ecological characteristics of this area and its animal and bird species. Spontaneous gathering and discussions about the uses of plants and wildlife by your Bushmen guides will provide the link between culture and wild environment. After that, there will be time for one more lunch before you bid farewell to Camp Kalahari in preparation for your onward journey.
David has over 25 years of experience leading safaris throughout southern and central Africa. He trained in wildlife in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and his knowledge of natural history, mammals, plants, and birds as well as his energy and enthusiasm make him an exceptional guide. He returned to his home country Malawi in 1989 and ran horse safaris on the Nyika Plateau for fifteen years.
This safari will take you through Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and Kalahari. When the waters dry up, the birds and animals migrate and the extraordinary ecosystem of the Makgadikgadi becomes the main attraction. It is during the dry season that guests can experience the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans on quad bikes.
Uncharted Africa is renowned for menus that emphasize fresh tastes and originality. The meals at Camp Kalahari are plated, not buffet style, and are comprised of interesting and delicious dishes. Camp Kalahari’s chef is a talented chap, noted for his tasty soups and particularly for his pili-pili ho-ho, a lethal concoction of chilies marinated in sherry and gin. Smeared over one's breakfast eggs, it's just the thing to sharpen sleep-dulled wits in preparation for whatever adventures await. You have to inform the reservations of any dietary requirements prior to your travel and confirm upon arrival.
In the dry season, you can take an epic quad bike journey to Kubu Island and explore the island and its surroundings.
You can book your flight and arrive at O. R. Tambo International Airport. From there, fly to Maun and then you can charter a light aircraft for an additional cost to Camp Kalahari.