We are just beginning to plan a Botswana safari for May 2019. A number of the properties listed on the “Desert and Delta” website seem appealing. Has anybody used D+D to book a safari?
I have used D & D when booking Xugana Island Lodge which was excellent. This was quite a while ago and D & D have been around a long time and are well regarded so I doubt if you would have to worry about their bona fides.
I stayed at one of their properties in Botswana years ago but I had a Jo'burg agent handle the reservations for me because I was doing properties of other companies as well. No issues, nice stay.
I have stayed at all of their camps except Chobe Game lodge.
The ones which focus more on game drives are in national parks not private concessions (eg Camp Moremi, Savute Safari Lodge). These areas can be quite busy with vehicles plus no off roading is allowed. Personally, I would prefer to be in private concessions, or at least a mix of private concessions and public areas. Or if going to the public areas I would consider a mobile safari rather than a fixed camp. So I wouldn't do a trip of entirely their camps. I suggest you would be better off with an independent tour operator who can book you into camps of different companies rather than going direct to the company which owns lodges themselves. That way you will get advice about different companies camps- there is no reason why you can't mix and match camps from different companies in one trip.
I have been to every Desert & Delta (D&D) property in Botswana in the past 12 months. *I have not seen the one under construction in the central Kalahari which opens very soon, if not already*. I think D&D offers great value for money and can give you a quintessential Botswana safari experience. Some of their lodges, especially Camp Okavango and Chobe Game Lodge, are quite luxurious and upscale. Camp Okavango is as nice as Vumbura Plains IMO. All the D&D lodges, except Chobe Game Lodge, restrict their vehicles to six guests max. Chobe Game lodge has nine guests max per vehicle but many other redeeming qualities that I love like an all-women guiding team. The majority of their land cruisers and boats are electric and re-charged by the warm Botswana sun right there in camp. Chobe Game Lodge is one of the most environmentally friendly and eco-conscious lodges in Africa that I have ever seen and they proudly show you back-of-house if you wish.
For those that know me on this forum, I have almost always been an exclusive fan of the Botswana lodges on private land or private concessions for my personal travels and for my clients. For the purpose of comparing wildlife experiences, I have been to every Wilderness Safaris Lodge (except Qorokwe which just opened and I am going there in a few weeks), along with every Great Plains, &Beyond, & Ker & Downey lodge plus most Belmond, Sanctuary and Kwando lodges. The animal viewing at D&D was good in comparison and the off-roading restriction was not the inhibitor I thought it would be on my recent visit to the D&D properties. The site of D&D’s Savuti Safari Lodge was where I first went on safari in Botswana in 1984 and it was just as I remembered it!
Here is how I look at it now: with regards to off-roading, D&D is just like the vast majority of the northern circuit in Tanzania (there are a few exceptions on private land like Singita Grumeti, Mwiba, etc.). Yet, not too many people focus on the off-road restrictions when discussing northern Tanzania but almost everyone does when discussing D&D. I am not sure why. It is not that big of a deal if you are on a budget and just want to get out there and see amazing things!
Chobe National Park does indeed get crowded, especially June-October. But, Chobe Game Lodge is one of the only lodges (perhaps the only?) inside the Park in that area and they have at least a 30-minute head start on the other properties each morning when it comes to getting their vehicles out on the loop roads where the guests drive. All other properties anywhere nearby (including Chobe Chilwero) are outside the gate and can’t come in until a certain time depending on the time of year. Since the guests at CGL are inside the park (grandfathers in from the mid-70s), they can start their drive at this same time but are already in the Park. One of the best loop roads runs counterclockwise and is right by the lodge so you can be first on!
I hope this helps.
Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
i agree, Desert and delta lodges are often in public areas and so can suffer from congestion (the game drive camps anyway). If off season, then no issue. The company is excellent though in terms of organisation. Think about private areas although this usually means you pay more. Also, technically no off roading in these public areas wheras private concession camps can follow animals indefinitely....something to think about....
Hi Kfynyctravel. Sorry, I missed the booking aspect of your question in my previous reply and I noted you are here in the US in New York. Since you are from the US, I suggest you book with an US based safari expert agent. It won't save any money to shop elsewhere if you find the right agent here at home. D&D does not take direct bookings from the overseas market. If you contact their US representative, Emily Johnson, she will connect you to an agent that has been to all their properties and works directly with them on contracted rates (therefore charging you the website price and not some inflated, opaque price like so many agents Worldwide might try to do). Emily’s email is email@example.com.
Also, Xugana is being torn down and re-built and should be stunning when complete! Savuti Safari Lodge is moving the indoor lounge and bar into a new area down by the water hole. Lots of good things happening at D&D.
Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
To me, the off roading is less of an issue than the congestion- especially in the Savute and Moremi areas, it can be busy. That for me is the main advantage of private concessions. Some of my favourite safari areas have no off roading (eg South Luangwa and Ruaha) but they are also considerably less congested than areas like Moremi, Savute and Chobe.
The Desert and Delta camps are also nearly as expensive as some private concession camps- so for me if I was going to make the compromise of being in the busier public areas, I would rather have the atmosphere of a mobile camp, which will be considerably less expensive. Staying in a fixed camp in one of the national parks is a bit of a weird middle ground to me. It lacks the exclusivity of a private concession yet you are paying high prices for the luxury of the accommodation.
But for me, the luxury of the camp per se is not a particularly important factor and in fact I would prefer a more "outdoorsy" type of experience, so some of the uber luxury camps are simply not to my taste. I haven't seen the new Camp Okavango but I have been to Vumbura Plains and to me saying they are similar is not a flattering comparison. I would go back to Vumbura for sure, but for the area itself which is stunning and has great game viewing but the attraction for me would not be the camp itself.
One of my favourite camps in Botswana is Selinda Explorers- for its outdoorsy style, yet being in an exclusive private concession.
Sadly, the trend in Botswana seems to be for camps to be going increasingly "designer" and losing that outdoorsy feel.
Indeed I agree with you about the trend. Many lodges are closing off the guest rooms so there is not even a screened option to hear the bush at night. Shinde and Stanley's are on private land and about the same price as Camp Moremi and in the same general area (especially Stanleys).
Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
THanks so much for the info. We are pretty experienced travelers but usually book everything ourselves. Using a tour operator/specialist to book our trip is a whole new thing for us. But there seem to be so many choices, it is all rather daunting. Fortunately we are not planning to go until spring 2019! Time to figure it all out. Anyway, your posts were quite helpful and reassuring. Thanks again.
"I suggest you book with an US based safari expert agent. It won't save any money to shop elsewhere if you find the right agent here at home."
Kfnyctravel.... there are agents right here in Botswana with a global presence who are much more experienced and there is no possible way of knowing that it wont save you more money by booking with them... statements like the above are biased and I suggest you ask on this forum who they have used as there may be someone outside of the US who can help you.