It's hard to believe it’s already December! With the holiday season fully underway, we’re featuring some of our favorite places to unwind in front of a fireplace this winter—hopefully with some of your favorite people. Speaking of winter, we’re highlighting a recent trip to the Scandinavian Arctic, complete with a viewing of the Northern Lights. Beaches more your speed? We’ve got the lowdown on some of the best hotels in Anguilla. From all of us at First in Service, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. Cheers to 2019!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Botswana is one of Africa’s wilderness treasures. Nearly 40% of the country is devoted to game reserves and national parks. Our seasoned safari-goer Thelma Abhyankar recently spent five nights with Belmond. She left completely enchanted by not only the people and variety of wildlife, but also the country’s commitment to conservation.
Why would you recommend visiting Botswana?
The trip to Botswana cemented my belief that everyone needs to travel to Africa. Their leading conservation efforts are inspiring other countries. It is such a surreal experience to be in the midst of animals in their true and natural habitat. I would recommend Botswana to anyone who loves animals, and learning about new cultures and people.
Describe a typical day at the lodge.
Wake up begins before 6 am with breakfast followed by an early morning game drive. Most animals are active in the early hours before it gets too hot. After a few hours, lunch is served either back at the lodge, or perhaps in the bush. There is often some free time throughout the day, but the main reason is to soak up the wildlife sighting, so there is an afternoon game drive as well. After dinner, many lodges offer night drives, which I highly recommend. The Belmond lodges were all staffed with locals, which made it easy to learn about the culture.
What kind of wildlife did you experience?
Where to begin? We saw four of the Big Five including lions, elephants, Cape Buffalo, and leopards. My favorite part was how close we were able to get to a mother leopard and her mischievous son. Then there were giraffes, impalas, gazelles, tsessebe, Red Lechwe, waterbucks, wild dogs, warthogs, ostrich, hundreds of bird species, crocodiles, a python, a hard-to-find honey badger, wildebeest, hippo, and bush baby. We also were able to get incredibly close to a pack of hyenas feeding off a kill.
You spent time on the Okavango Delta, one of Africa’s last great wildlife habitats. How was that?
We took 15-minute bush planes from one lodge to the next. From that vantage point, you can see exactly where the tributaries dry up, and how much of the land must be under water at different times of the year. We also did a helicopter safari to get a “giraffe’s point of view,” which was spectacular.
What were your favorite aspects of the trip?
Where did you stay?
Belmond Eagle Island recently underwent a major renovation. The rooms and common areas are exquisite. The tented safari cabins reminded me of old world glamour. They thought of every amenity you would need including a USB port next to the bed. The Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge is intimate, with traditional tented cabins and romantic outdoor showers. The Belmond Khwai River Lodge was a bit more upscale than Savute. There was a lovely hammock on the porch where you can watch the hippos come right out of the water in front of you!