During my trip to Botswana earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting all the Great Plains properties in Botswana. Great Plains was founded by the world renowned conservationists and filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. It truly feels like a conservation company that offers a safari experience rather than a safari company that contributes to conservation. And yet – what an incredible safari experience.
Within the top tier of the luxury safari camp market, Great Plains premier camps offer generous sized tents, with large decks, bathtubs, indoor/outdoor showers. Some also have plunge pools. In-room facilities also include a well-stocked bar and yoga mats.
The Explorer camps harken back to a more traditional safari style, with more modest, yet beautifully decorated tents.
All the camps offer a fully inclusive safari experience, including all premium beverages – in Botswana, each of the premier camps had a specialty spirit, whether it be vodka, gin or whisky (in the case of Zarafa) and offered special tastings for interested guests. Additionally, guests at the premier camps are offered the complimentary use of a Canon camera and lenses during their stay.
The design aesthetic encompasses North and southern Africa as well as the Far East. Many of the floors are made from reclaimed railroad sleepers and Zanzibar doors make for an impressive entrance to the premier camp rooms.
All camps have a small boutique (suites go to main camp to shop).
I began my time with Great Plains at Duba Explorers Camp and enjoyed a wonderfully wild first 24 hours, seeing a large herd of buffalo, a wild dog pack with puppies, leopard, hippo, an elephant outside my tent and a large pride of lion pacing purposefully along the airstrip. The camp enjoys exclusive use of their concession and the landscape was lovely and varied with floodplains (some wet, some dry), grassland and woodland.
The camp is superbly located on an island on a floodplain. It’s a small intimate camp which would lend itself wonderfully for a large family or group looking for an exclusive use experience – children from age 6 are welcome and share with their parents. My highlights in addition to the wildlife viewing were enjoying a “beach” dinner in a small, sandy boma area overlooking the floodplain and checking out the pool which is built into the back of an old army vehicle. The platform has room for a small table for a romantic dinner as well. And the truck still works. Honeymooners can also enjoy a private in room dining experience.
I took the opportunity to visit their premium camp, which was reached via boat. Duba Plains Camp and Suite operate in a completely separate area from Explorer and traverse their own concession for game drives. They will, of course, never guarantee a specific sighting, but most guests enjoy the opportunity of seeing rhino. They also enjoy regular sightings of aardvark, one of the more elusive nocturnal creatures, as well as a very healthy lion population.
Duba Plains is beautiful and spacious with expansive views over the plains, they have a quiet library and a media center where you can edit your wildlife photos, as well as a well stocked wine cellar where you can browse and select your tipple before a meal. In addition to their regular dining area, they also have a wonderful “active kitchen” where you can watch the chef cook. The rooms are beautifully appointed, with a sala and a plunge pool. The Duba Suite with 2 bedrooms is perfect for families.
From Duba Plains, which is short drive from the airstrip, I flew up to the Selinda concession, home to two premium camps, Selinda and Zarafa as well as Selinda Explorer. The camps are all well spaced from each other and all equidistant from the airstrip. During the annual flood, as when I was there, it is quicker to transfer to Selinda Camp & Suite by road and boat, which was wonderful. As we approached the camp from the water, we enjoyed not only stunning views of the camp and its unique roofline of thatch and wood, but also the rumbles of a pride of lion enjoying lunch on the island across from camp.
Selinda Camp is just three rooms in main camp plus the 2 bedroom Selinda Suite, for an extremely exclusive feel. All the rooms overlook the spillway, which is a magnet for wildlife as well as being dramatically beautiful. The main area is breezy and spacious with high thatched roofs and the rooms are tented with thatch above, with a lovely outside area, including a plunge pool and exercise bike (I did sit on it, to take photos).
As always, the camp strives to offer a multitude of dining experiences – mine included lunch watching the above lion pride, dinner in the stunning wine cellar and a picnic breakfast with an elephant.
I took the opportunity to visit Zarafa, the company’s original camp in the area. Zarafa’s name comes from a giraffe that was once gifted to the then King of France in the 19th Century. The camp is beautifully decorated in dark reclaimed woods, in a traditional style, with four suites in the main camp, along with the Zarafa Dhow Suite’s 2 bedrooms, located a short walk away. The outdoor decks on the suites have been recently expanded, all offering views across the plains, though privacy from each other. Their gym, outside under canvas, and its stunning views, should offer plenty of motivation to anyone wishing to work off one of the sumptuous meals.
Both premium camps offer game drives, walking and (water levels permitting) boating.
Lastly, we visited the Selinda Explorer camp, on a quieter bank of the spillway. The camp’s traditional Bedouin vibe is highlighted by the beach area, including a gorgeous day bed. The four tented rooms are cozy and comfortable with hot showers. In addition to game drives and walking, guests can enjoy mokoro excursions on this quieter stretch of water.
All along I enjoyed a busy and varied game viewing experience including lion, leopard, wild dog, elephant, giraffe and a multitude of antelope and bird species. My personal highlights were watching a large bull elephant show a younger fellow how to shake a palm tree to drop all the nuts, and several lion prides with cubs, whose antics were utterly adorable. And to cap it all off on my final night, we stopped the vehicle on an open plain and sat in darkness astounded at the vastness of the star filled African sky.
A safari feeds your soul and nurtures your mind and body. Great Plains embodies that spirit with luxurious safari experiences in some of Botswana’s most remote safari areas and are a wonderful part of an African Portfolio itinerary. I am so grateful for time in Botswana this year and look forward to hearing from you to plan your own Botswana safari.