The ultimate guide to exploring Africa’s most serene game reserve
by Céline Bossart | November 10, 2017 1:00 pm
Deep in the sleepy heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a cluster of tents is nestled beneath a canopy of ebony and sausage tree branches, surrounded by nothing but grassy plains as far as the eye can see. The 260,000 acre private reserve is well-protected and vastly untouched — an ethereal place in which visitors and wildlife coexist in quiet peace. Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp, a traditional safari camp, is comprised of eight 19th century colonial-inspired canvas tents and one main gathering tent complete with a dining space and lounge area, a small boutique featuring handmade baskets and local trinkets, a pool deck, and a boma (fire pit) around which guests are invited to gather on a nightly basis. It is an intimate experience, rooted in nature and exploration yet shielded by privacy and exclusivity — a marriage unique in its own right set in a place unlike any other in the world. Here, we plan out the perfect weekend in this remote safari dreamscape.
Touch down at Maun’s airport as early as possible. Stanley’s Camp is a bit of a distance from the airport across the Okavango Delta, so once you’re past customs, you’ll board a small aircraft that will bring you to an airstrip near the camp. Keep your camera out; the scenery below is breathtaking.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by your personal tour guide, who will be your point person and host. From the airstrip, you’ll embark upon your first game drive — the 30-minute ride to the camp, which will likely include a handful of appearances by various members of the animal kingdom.
The Stanley’s team will greet you with a warm welcome at the front of the campsite as your caravan is unloaded. You’ll be guided to the main tent for a leisurely check-in as you sink into a cozy armchair overlooking the surrounding scenery (baboons can usually be spotted playing or gathering around the neighboring trees). Afternoon tea should be just around the corner, so hang around for a pick-me-up before heading over to your tent to settle in and freshen up.
South African Chef Emile Van Der Vee serves a rotating menu comprised of local ingredients and expert technique. On most nights, dinner is served in the dining room, with the exception of braai (barbecue) night, which takes place around the fire pit outside and is a true highlight of the Stanley’s experience.
After dinner, you’ll be welcomed to gather around the fire, drink in hand — the perfect way to end your first night in Botswana.
Be ready to wake up at the break of dawn, but don’t worry — any grogginess will be softened by your daily coffee or tea with madeleines, brought right to your doorstep.
The “Living with Elephants” experience is perhaps the most unique and hands-on of all activities at Stanley’s, and there’s really no better way to get in touch with the Delta’s nature and wildlife than to roam the bush alongside its most striking inhabitants. The guided walk includes accounts of the rescued orphaned elephants’ lives, and is as touching as it is educational. The onsite picnic lunch afterward doesn’t hurt either.
Once you’ve wrapped up your al fresco lunch with the elephants, you’ll hop back onto the caravan bound for the camp. You’ll have some time to relax and freshen up before afternoon tea. Following your break, it’s back to the caravan with your guide for one last adventure of the day: a poled mokoro (canoe) excursion just before sunset through the labyrinthine channels of the flooded Delta. Your guide will bring along a picnic with the apéritif of your choice to sip together as the sun goes down.
After your mokoro ride and sunset apéritif, you’ll return to the camp with just enough time to freshen up for dinner. Chef Van Der Vee’s nightly menu awaits.
As your weekend on the Delta comes to a close, squeeze in at least one more activity in the form of either a guided walking safari or, if time allows, a helicopter tour of the grounds. For those who wish to take it easy before heading back to the airstrip, take advantage of the pool deck with a morning coffee or cocktail. Either way, the scenery will not disappoint.
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