Savor a Luxury Botswana Safari at Selinda Explorers Camp

A leopard laying in a tree photographed during a Botswana Safari

There are moments when the stars align and everything comes together and this is one of them. Above us, lounging in the crook of a sprawling jackalberry tree, an adult female leopard is bathed in golden light and to my delight, she knows how to work the camera. I can tell, it’s going to be another amazing Botswana safari.

I’ve come to Selinda Explorers Camp in a remote region of the Okavango Delta within the private Selinda Game Reserve. It’s the second leg of my eight-day luxury Botswana safari. The first being Duba Explorers Camp, a half-hour flight south.

This leopard is the first sighting on my first night and I take it as a good omen.  Nine times out of ten when you find a cat it’s asleep, in shadow, or hidden under a bush. But not tonight, this beauty is posing like a pro and radiating a wicked feline vibe that’s eating up the lens.

Leopard in a tree in Botswana during a safari tour

Guests in another vehicle, positioned where they cannot see her, are thrilled when she moves to their side of the tree; ten minutes later she returns to ours. Straight from the red carpet, she gives us all an opportunity to make a photo.

A half-hour into our session and sunset looming, she begins to climb down, head first, hugging the trunk with her claws until she’s vertical and flush against the bark. She launches herself toward a nearby termite mound, springing off the top in one graceful movement before silently hitting the ground. She disappears behind the jackalberry but seconds later we see her walking away into the grass, presumably to hunt.

Beautiful sunset reflecting in a watering hole during a Botswana Safari

Nothing is going to top her tonight so we find ourselves a tranquil spot next to a wetland to indulge in a sundowner, a safari tradition of cocktails and nibbles while watching the last light of day fade. Reflected in the still water is an ombre sky of blue, orange and yellow radiating from a sphere of fire sinking into the horizon. Cotton ball clouds seemingly float on the surface .  We couldn’t have asked for a better show.

I’m sharing a vehicle with four other guests (a pair from Detroit, the other two from Germany) who’ve been together for the last two days. They like to sing the chorus from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “Who Let the Dogs Out” woofs and all.

Ngakaemang “Doctor” Ramakoba, My Guide at Selinda Explorers Camp
My guide Ngakaemang “Doctor” Ramakoba

There’s a private joke in there somewhere and I consider asking its origin but it really doesn’t matter, I just bark with them. When a jeep passes, we sing again but this time we add a wave.

You never know who you’re going to share a jeep with. I’ve had a few duds in my days but tonight I’m lucky.

The Camp

Selinda Explorers Camp is an intimate retreat with three luxury guest tents and one two-bedroom family tent. As with Duba Explorers earlier in my trip, Selinda is owned by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, renowned for their Botswana wildlife conservation initiatives as much as their award-winning wildlife documentaries.

The main communal luxury tent at Selinda Explorers camp during my Botswana Safari
A view of the communal tents where we gathered before game drives, ate meals, and enjoyed cocktails by the fire.

The Jouberts designed Selinda Explorers Camp to harken back to the 1900s and the romance of early exploration when the wealthy traveled in the lap of luxury through the remotest locations.

Picture a Bedouin-style expedition with two communal open-air tents (one acts as a lounge, the other a bar and dining area) situated on the edge of a white sand clearing shaded by Jackalberry and mangosteen trees.

Campaign-style furniture, Persian rugs, Moroccan pillows, and decorative brass accessories set the scene. The lounge is where we meet before each safari game drive which takes place in the early morning and late afternoon.

A large draped daybed sits to one side of the clearing, a hammock on the other. Both overlook a branch of the Selinda spillway, a historical channel linking the Okavango Delta with the Linyanti wetlands.

One of the Lounges at Selinda Explorers camp during my Botswana Safari
One of the Moroccan-style lounges

It’s November and very hot and dry. Ironically, it’s the beginning of the rainy season but only a few light showers have graced the plains and this tributary is dry. In May, guests will relax here beside a flowing river, all I see are grass and trees blowing in the wind. No matter the view, it’s beautiful.

Before dinner, we sit by the fire pit and chat drink in hand under starry skies. In the center of the clearing is a 20-foot termite mound, an awe-inspiring natural sculpture thanks to Mother Nature’s enduring creativity.

Selinda Explorers Camp- Botswana Safari -301-3
The Other Moroccan-style lounge where our buffet lunch was served

My Tent

I’m staying in the two-bedroom family tent at the end of a narrow sand walkway that snakes through the trees. Essentially, its two luxe tents side by side connected by a covered vestibule.

View from one tent into the other - Botswana Safari --untitledSelinda Explorers Camp-0277-3
The family tent where I stayed

In keeping with Selinda’s mobile theme, the room is furnished with a king-sized bed, a campaign-style writing desk and side tables, and my favorite, replicas of vintage wardrobe steamer trunks for my clothes. (I have a thing for old trunks.)

There’s an attached open-air bathroom but to use it I must unzip the tent flap (all the flaps are heavy-duty mesh for maximum light and ventilation). It’s small but chic with a waterfall shower and two soft cotton robes ready and waiting. The indoor vanity features dual brass basins but no running water, however, there’s always a fresh pitcher of H2O for washing and brushing my teeth.

(Tip: The loo for the left-hand bedroom absorbs a lot of sun in the middle of the day, test the seat before you sit down. I learned the hard way.)

Double basin in the family tent at Selinda Explorers Camp

My vanity

Selinda is an unfenced camp, meaning animals are free to walk through it. During the day, the noise and visibility are enough to keep me from running into anything dangerous but at night, every guest must be walked to their tent and picked up by a staff member.

A small herd of buffalo congregated on the path leading to my tent one night so when Doctor picked me up for dinner we took a detour through the trees.

As it turns out, the woods surrounding my tent is a buffalo favorite. Late at night, I hear the soft scratching of their hoofs in the sand and the sound of large animals sniffing as they eat. I love moments like this and I’m not afraid. As long as I don’t venture outside without a guide, I’m perfectly safe. In the morning tracks are everywhere.

Botswana Safari: Game Drive Diaries

Lounging by the Watering Hole

On a hot day, waiting by the nearest watering hole is always a good game drive strategy, they draw wildlife from miles around. Ergo, the pack of African wild dogs—the continent’s most endangered predator—lounging in the sand in front of us.

A tour of Selinda Explorers Camp plus some of the wildlife I saw while on Safari

Beautiful, sinewy canines with black, brown and white-marbled coats and oversized ears. They are as adorable as they are vicious. Lions suffocate their prey before dining but not wild dogs, they start eating while their victim is alive. I’ve never seen such a kill in person but I’ve heard gruesome tales.

The pack of 12 has eaten already says Ngakaemang “Doctor” Ramakoba, my guide; currently on the agenda is playful hijinks. They run around tackling each other like puppies periodically laying down but they don’t rest for long. They have an inherent restlessness about them.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, it’s as if a silent bomb has gone off in the middle of the pack scattering the dogs in a starburst pattern. The alpha female is the only one who doesn’t move. She stares at the woods, rigid with adrenaline, her ears pricked forward, straining to hear. The others stop running 50 feet out and turn back.

What on earth?

A buffalo.

A lone buffalo at the edge of the tree line. The dogs must have heard footsteps, perhaps a twig snapping, and in a flash before bothering to learn what it was, they ran. All but the alpha, she faced the black menace. 

Buffalo in the woods
The unwelcome visitor

The buffalo sniffs the air. He sees the pack and freezes. The dogs, on the other hand, unimpressed leisurely walk back to where the alpha is standing. The horned beast five times their size is, evidently, not a concern. The buffalo uneasy with their numbers opts not to drink and disappears into the bushes. He won’t come back until their gone, and the way the dogs are settling in it doesn’t look like that will be any time soon.

The Circle of Life

Doctor and I are game driving it alone this morning. The Whitney Houston cover band left after breakfast, two to another camp while the other two start their long journey back to the states.

One of two very lazy and sleepy lions - Botswana Safari --untitledSelinda Explorers Camp-0277-3
One of two lions in a coalition passed out in the grass

The morning has been quiet, we’ve seen nothing, not even birds. We joke the animals have gone on strike. Doctor spots leopard and lion tracks outside of camp and we track them, wondering which we’ll bump into first, if at all.

Within a mile, our question is answered: the lion. He’s sprawled across the dirt road. We couldn’t have missed him if we tried. Doctor knows this male and begins to look for a second, the other half of a coalition, the term used when two or more males live and hunt together.  

He spots the hind foot of a lion laying on its back, legs akimbo, 100 yards from our position. At the same time, our male gets up walks halfway toward his buddy and stops to drink from a puddle. “Let’s wait by the other lion,” Doctor suggests. “After this one drinks he’ll go to his brother.”

Like clockwork, the two lions reunite, nuzzle each other, then promptly pass out. It’s hard to imagine these big cats as dangerous when they’re curled up like housecats, but fifteen minutes later we find the evidence of their ferocity, an almost perfectly intact, picked clean to the bone, skeleton of a buffalo.

“It’s at least a week old,” Doctor says. The spine, head, and ribs are still connected. A miracle considering scavengers usually scatter the bones in every direction. An errant vulture feather tumbles in the wind a few feet away.  Doctor picks up two halves of the buffalo’s jawbones. He shows me how the teeth are worn indicating the bull had been old.

“It was a long hard hunt,” Doctor mutters gauging from the area in which the grass is flattened by the encounter. “This is where the lions ate him,” he says walking toward a huge patch of dried goo 20 feet away. “All this is from his blood and organs spilling out.”  The sight is both sad and fascinating at the same time.

It’s not unusual for an old buffalo to end this way. When they get older, they’re shunned from the herd. Sometimes they hook up with other outcasts but often they are alone. Old buffalos are extra cranky because they know they’re more vulnerable. What a battle it must have been.

Jean-Louis and Elizabeth Evans
Jean-Louis and Elizabeth Evans, my jeep mates

Night Drives are Fun Too

It’s early evening and I’m sharing the jeep with Jean-Louis and Elizabeth Evans, a delightful duo from London. The two lions we saw hours ago are still sleeping. They barely moved from where Doctor and I left them.

We watch the lazy boys for a spell while enjoying sundowners in the vehicle, hoping at some point they’ll get up and hunt. Only when the last bit of light leaves the plain do they bother to move, drinking from the puddle nearby before collapsing again in a heap. It’s time to move on.

A benefit to staying at a camp in a private reserve is the option to stay out well after sundown. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some interesting nocturnal species. Doctor, with his eagle eye, finds us a serval and a caracal, two small cats rarely seen during the day. It’s quite a coup.

We pass a hyena with a scavenged bone in its mouth. A few minutes later we come upon our friendly pack of wild dogs. The hyena must be following the predators in hopes of stealing a discarded morsel. On the other hand, the dogs don’t seem interested in food at all, they’re at it again, playing in the grass looking too cute. My heart is full.

Face Off


I look to my right and two cheetahs are running full speed toward the vehicle. More accurately, they’re hunting the Tsessebe babies with their momma we just passed. (That’s the beauty of a safari, one second its business as usual and the next the scene goes from zero to 60.)

One male zooms past us five feet from the jeep—a beautiful blur in action.

Cheetah standing in the sunlight during a Botswana Safari --Selinda Explorers Camp-0347-3
One of two cheetah brothers

By the time we turn the jeep around, the babies are nowhere to be seen. Four or five tsessebes have joined the momma in a show of solidarity. They stand with her and face off with two very bewildered predators.

“The babies are hiding in the grass somewhere,” Doctor explains. The cheetahs want to find them but the Tsessebes are much larger and plentiful and they’re prepared to fight. Stumped, the cats sit sphinxlike. For several minutes they all stare at each, eventually, the cats relax. Seeing an opportunity, the tsessebes run through the trees and out the other side. Instantly, the cheetahs are in hot pursuit.

To follow, we have to drive the long way around foliage to the other side. We find one brother calling to his sibling after having lost him during the chase. The high-pitched chirping sound is not what I expected a cheetah to sound like. It’s more bird than cat. Any machismo these two might have had evaporated as soon as this one yeeped. It takes another 15 minutes before the two find each other an unite. Unfortunately for them, without a kill.

Tsessebes 1– Cheetahs 0.

More Images From my Game Drive Adventures…


Some camps serve meals at separate tables while others serve family style. Selinda is the latter and 90% of the time I prefer it this way. Group meals make it easier to get to know fellow travelers and share the day’s experiences.

The food here is very good. My biggest challenge is stopping myself from eating. You’ll never go hungry on a safari.

Doctor putting out breakfast in the bush
Doctor setting up our bush breakfast

Some camps serve meals at separate tables while others serve family style. Selinda is the latter and 90% of the time I prefer it this way. Group meals make it easier to get to know fellow travelers and share the day’s experiences.

The food here is very good. My biggest challenge is stopping myself from eating. You’ll never go hungry on a safari.

Mornings begin with hot chocolate and biscuits after an early wake up “hello” from Doctor. By 6:15 – 6:30 am we’re in our vehicles, heading out on our first game drive.

Breakfast in the bush -
The truck carrying all the accouterment was hidden somewhere behind a clump of trees, I’m guessing, making it seem as if everything had magically appeared on its own.

Lunch is back at Selinda buffet style. Because the sun is scorching midday we eat in the dining tent where there is shade.

Breakfast is during the drive in a picturesque location. Doctor pulls down the vehicle’s tailgate and lays out simple eats such as yogurt, eggs sunny side up, homemade granola, muffins, and the like. One day when I was driving alone with Doctor, he turned a corner and under a tree was a full buffet and table set for breakfast for him and me.

Four o’clock is High Tea (depending on the season timing may change a bit) where everyone comes together before the afternoon drive. A variety of sweet and savory bites are on the menu along with fresh ginger-lemonade to which I am addicted (recipe below). It’s just the right balance of sweet and sour with a real kick that makes it special.

At sunset, we’re in the bush again somewhere beautiful, watching the sun dip below the horizon.

Super Easy Recipe For Fresh Ginger Lemonade (Amounts are to taste)


Lemons, sliced
Grated Ginger
Boiling water


Boil lemon and ginger
While boiling at honey (if desired)
Strain and let cool
Serve right away over ice or refrigerate covered

A beautiful table set for dinner one evening al fresco
Dinner under the jackalberry tree

When we get back from our night drive, dinner is an hour away. Just enough time to shower, get dressed, and have a glass of wine or two. The table is outside, beautifully set and lit with candles in the clearing. On one occasion a crystal chandelier hung from a tree.

There’s always a choice of entrees with a selection of sides such as vegetable ragout, or polenta topped with spicy tomato and green pepper. An especially delicious meal was a menu of creamy tomato soup, lamb tagine with roasted vegetables or Mushroom Risotto, and for dessert a coconut pudding with rooibos tea infused custard.

When dinner is over, I’m barely able to stay awake. Doctor walks me to my tent, making sure I’m all zipped up before he bids me good night.

Snuggling under the sheets I think of the buffalo and hope they’ll favor me with another late-night visit.

I was a guest of Selinda Explorers Camp but the opinions expressed in this post are my own. There are affiliate links on this post which means if you purchase something I feature I’ll make a little commission at no cost to you.

How You Can Go on a Safari at Selinda Explorers Camp

Selinda Explorers Camp is one of eight camps and suites in Botswana under the Great Plains Conservation (GPC) umbrella. GPC also has camps in Zimbabwe and Kenya for a total of 15 camps and suites. A new camp in the Masai Mara will open at the end of the year.

You can book a holiday directly with GPC or work with a travel specialist.

Best Time for A Botswana Safari Tour

Peak season is June 15 to Oct 31.

Shoulder seasons are on either side of that — April 1-June 14 and November 1 – December 19

Green season is January 11 to March 31

Festive is December 20 to January 10.

Peak and festive (ie Christmas) seasons are the most expensive.

Botswana Climate

Dry Season: April to October

Expect hotter temperatures. Grasses have dried out, water is scarce, and cooler temps in the early morning and at night are the norm. June, July, and August are not as hot, though still in the mid–to high 70s. Nights can get chilly. It’s a good idea to wear hats and gloves. September / October are traditionally the hottest months, early mornings and nights are pleasant.

Wet Season – November to March

November and December have been uncharacteristically hot the last couple of years. In September and October, however, the mornings and evenings are nice. January and February are the wettest months and strong storms are uncommon. In March the rains start to slow down. Everything is brilliant green as if it’s been photoshopped.

I’ve been in Botswana in early November and early March. On both trips, it was cool in the morning and evening. Between 9 am and 5 pm it was really hot but bearable.

How to Get There

Unfortunately, Botswana isn’t the easiest country to get to. You’ll want to fly into Maun (MUB) it’s the main gateway to the Delta. There are very few direct flights to Botswana except through South Africa either to Johannesburg (JNB) or Cape Town (CPT). South African Airways has direct flights to both cities from New York (JFK), London (LHR) and Munich (MUC).

From Maun, you’ll take a bush plane to the Selinda airstrip where your guide will meet you and drive you to the camp. It takes about an hour or longer if you want to stop for wildlife.

Tip: If you want to include Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls in your itinerary, take a direct flight from South Africa to Kasane, Zimbabwe, and then Maun.

For information about vaccinations, visas, and the like, I’ve put together a resource page with helpful links.

Helpful Tech

  • I never leave home without my travel power strip. That way I need only one adapter (I bring two anyway) and the rest of my gadgets plug into the strip. It’s an easy way to charge multiple devices at one time. Duba has its own version of a universal strip in each tent but a lot of camps don’t.
  • Bring a portable power bank with you. Game drives are three to four hours long. If you like to use your smartphone for photos and video you’re going to need back up juice. I really like the size and versatility of My Charge HubPlus portable charger.


  • Early morning and late afternoon/early evening game drives
  • Walking safaris,
  • Canoeing trips (water permitting)


Tipping isn’t mandatory but it is customary and should be in cash (U.S. dollars). I’ve never been on safari (15 now) where gratuities weren’t earned and then some.

Budget $15 to $20 per day, per person for the staff. The pooled tips are split amongst them. There’s typically a wooden letterbox in the main tent where you can place it (Envelopes are in your tent).

Your guides, who spend hours of their time and works very hard to make your stay as wonderful as possible, should also receive $15 to 20 per person, per day. You tip the guide directly.

If there is anyone else who makes you feel extra special, of course, feel free to reach out to them directly as well.

Some advice: I prepare my tips before I fly to Africa. I use two envelopes per camp (one each for staff and guide) and fill the envelopes beforehand so I don’t have to worry about pulling the money together at the last minute. It also helps to know the cash is spoken for and I won’t accidentally spend it. I label the staff envelopes and add my guides’ names to the others once we’ve met.

Random Notes

  • There is no Wi-Fi at Selinda or cell service. You’ll be off the grid. Enjoy.
  • Outlets to charge camera batteries and phones are in a chest located in the lounge. There are no outlets in the tents.
  • Children six and above are welcome.
  • If sustainability is important to you, you’ll be happy to know it’s very important to the Jouberts as well. All the electricity for the camp is generated by solar power; guests are given refillable metal water bottles, there’s no unnecessary plastic, and if tomorrow the camp were to close they could pick up shop without leaving any permanent trace.
  • Speaking of plastic, bags are banned in Botswana.
  • The sand, random curves, and dirt tracks in the delta will rock your Land Cruiser from side to side, forward and back like a child’s funhouse ride. After days spent being tossed about, the constant jumble may wear on you. If you have a sensitive back you should keep this in mind.
  • For the same reason, if you’re prone to car sickness, you might want to have Dramamine on hand.

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Wild dogs, roan, caracal, serval & sable. All rare animals and yet I saw them all in one Botswana safari at Selinda Explorers Camp in the Okavango Delta. Leopards and Lions too! #Botswanatravel #Botswanasafari #wildlife #Wildlifephotography #OkavangoDeltaBotswana #OkavangoDeltaphotography #OkavangoDeltaSafari #Africanwildlife #Africanwilddog

14 thoughts on “Savor a Luxury Botswana Safari at Selinda Explorers Camp

  1. Maureen Reilly says:

    We stayed at Selinda Explorers for 5 nights in Sept 2017 on our first ever safari. It was magical. I find it impossible to describe in a way that brings people there but your post, with your gorgeous photos, comes close. We went to another country for the 2nd half of our safari and while okay, we decided that in the future, we only want to visit Botswana, and only with Great Plains. So in November, we’ll be heading back and doing the same stops you did – Duba Explorers (can’t wait to visit the Okavango) and Selinda Explorers again. Last time we wanted to stay longer so this time we’ll be in Selinda for 7 nights and Duba for 4. Still not enough time but is it ever? Thanks for these posts. They bring me back in a way no other blogs or reviews do.

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      It’s so true Maureen, the true essence of Africa just can’t be felt unless you’re there. How wonderful that you’re going back for such a nice long visit. Though you are right, it’s never quite enough. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it.

  2. Alina says:

    Once again, incredible story and beautiful pictures! I enjoy reading your articles every time and keep hoping that some day I get a chance to experience it for myself! 🙂

  3. Kirstin says:

    “Above us, lounging in the crook of a sprawling jackalberry tree, an adult female leopard is bathed in golden light and to my delight, she knows how to work the camera” – ahh you know how to paint a picture with words as much as your stunning photography! This took me right back to my safari in the Okavango Delta, which was nowhere near as luxurious as yours but has me dreaming of going back!

  4. N K Napier says:

    We’ve stayed at Selina and will again in a month. Great description! Makes me “homesick!” Thanks for your good reporting and photos. Loved your comment about going from zero to sixty in under a minute in the bush!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      It’s so true, right? You’re kind of wondering if you’ll see anything and then all of a sudden, wham, something extraordinary happens. It’s why I’m addicted to safaris.

      Thank you very much for your kind words and for taking time out of your busy day to take a look. Are you staying at Selinda or Selinda Explorers?

  5. Angelyn Cannada says:

    Love the thorough report on Selinda and your experience! The video and photos are wonderful, too!!! Thanks for sharing!

I would love to hear from you! What did you think of the post?