Botswana Adventure Teaches Critical Bush Skills To Would-Be Explorers

Want to go on an African adventure while also learning an important set of skills that every explorer should know? If so, then Sanctuary Retreats has just the trip for you. Their exclusive two-night Delta Bush Skills Adventure will take you to Botswana’s legendary Okavango Delta, where you’ll stay at the luxurious Baines’ Camp while learning how to survive in the wilds of Africa.

Located on the banks of the Boro River, which feeds into the Okavango, the camp is an idyllic location for spotting wildlife and catching beautiful sunsets over the African plain. It features just five suites and has a host of amenities including a communal swimming pool and a large wooden deck for spotting lions or hippos that frequently wander by.

But visitors attending the Delta Bush Skills Adventure will have little time for soaking up the scenery. Instead, they’ll be busy acquiring new skills that could help them explore the wilderness in an entirely different way. For example, on the first day of the course they’ll learn how to make traditional spears for fishing and how to create rope from natural materials found in the environment around them. They’ll also learn how to track game, identify edible plants and acquire the skill of polling a mokoro – a dugout canoe that is commonly used by the people who live on the Okavango.

That is just the beginning, however. On day two they’ll also learn how to build a shelter, harvest palm nuts and trap wild game. Local women will instruct them on the fine art of basket weaving, helping them create their own personal souvenir to take home with them too. In the evening they’ll discover how to use the sun and stars to navigate just as the indigenous people have done for centuries.

The African safari has been a staple of travel for decades and Botswana is the perfect destination to experience that classic adventure. If you’re considering a visit yourself but would like to add a unique twist to your journey, then the Delta Bush Skills Adventure just might be what you’re looking for. Not only will you get to experience Africa in a beautiful and amazing setting, but you’ll also get the opportunity to learn some new skills in the process.

Largest international conservation area formed in southern Africa

On Thursday of this week five nations in southern Africa announced plans to form a new international conservation area that will be the largest of its kind once it is complete. This unprecedented move was made to allow the participating nations to combine their conservation efforts and combat illegal poaching in a more efficient manner.

Under the agreement, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana will combine 36 nature preserves that are currently managed independently of one another. The newly unified conservation area will be roughly the size of Sweden and will provide wildlife with more than 170,000 square miles of unbroken territory to freely migrate through. This new preserve will be expansive enough to encompass both Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, two of the more spectacular settings in all of Africa.

Conservationists are hailing the move as a good one for southern Africa. The newly formed Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is home to roughly 45% of the total elephant population on the continent and will also feature more than 600 species of birds alone. Other big game, such as zebra, giraffe, buffalo and lion will be plentiful there as well.

Of particular concern for each of the countries involved with the project is protecting the elephant herds that live there. Poaching has become a major concern across Africa where the animals are routinely hunted and killed illegally to harvest their ivory tusks. With each nation working more cooperatively inside the conservation area, however, they hope to prevent much of the poaching that has gone on in the region over the past few years.

Enter the Put Foot Rally for an African road trip adventure

Adventurous travelers looking for a unique road trip this summer may want to checkout the Put Foot Rally, which is scheduled to get underway in June. The event begins in South Africa and promises to send teams on a 7000km (4350 mile) long odyssey through the wilds of Africa.

The 17-day rally will kick off at two separate starting lines, one in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg. Once underway, competitors will navigate on their own, and are free to take any path they like, but are required to reach certain checkpoints along the way by certain times. For instance, the first checkpoint is located at the Andersson Gate, just outside Etosha Park in Namibia. How you manage to find your way to that destination is entirely up to you, but you’ll certainly want to get there on time, as each of the checkpoints will play host to a party as well.

Subsequent CP’s will be located on the Okavango Delta in Botwsana, in Livingstone, Zambia, and on the edge of Lake Malawi in Malawi. From there it is on to Inhambane in Mozambique before proceeding on to the finish line in Swaziland. All told, counting the starting and finish line, there are seven checkpoints, and seven parties, in all.

The Put Foot is accepting just 50 crews for the inaugural 2011 rally, and as of this writing they are about halfway to filling that quota. A crew can consist of as many people as you want, but they all have to fit inside one vehicle. Speaking of which, you can also drive any type of car, truck, or SUV you want, as long as it gets you to the checkpoints on time. You can even elect to ride on a motorcycle if you prefer. Organizers of the rally estimate that about 95% of the route can be done on paved roads, which means a 4×4 isn’t necessary to compete. But part of the fun will no doubt be getting off the beaten path and finding interesting ways to reach the checkpoints. Just don’t take a wrong turn and end up in a country you weren’t expecting!
While the rally is going to be great fun, and will certainly provide plenty of opportunities for amazing travel experiences, it isn’t being run just for the adventure. The Put Foot Rally organizers have joined forces with the Bobs For Good Foundation to raise funds and awareness of that charity, which focuses on providing shoes for underprivileged African children. Many of those children might not ever own any kind of footwear under normal circumstances.

If you’d like to put your own crew together and enter the Put Foot Rally, you can register for the event, which gets underway on June 22nd, by clicking here. Be warned though, this is no organized jaunt down the well marked highway. It is instead a self guided safari through some of the wildest places in Africa, and if you’re not prepared for the challenges you could find yourself in real trouble. That said however, if this sounds like your kind of adventure, the rewards could be amazing as well.

Personally, I think Team Gadling would rock this rally!

On the trail of the Kalahari bushmen

A few days back we posted about 18 unique travel experiences that even the seasoned traveler would find interesting. One of the suggestions on that list was to travel to the Kalahari Desert to stay with bushmen and partake in an initiation hunt with the tribes that still wander the remote regions of southern Africa.

Recently, travel writer Sally Emerson journeyed to Botswana to go in search of the bushmen herself. She wrote about her adventures for the Times Online, as she explored the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari, following in the footsteps of author Laurens Van der Post, who published The Lost World of the Kalahari back in 1956. The book has become one of the seminal works on the bushmen and their culture.

Both Emerson, and Van der Post before her, were searching for the San Bushmen, one of five distinct tribes that are spread out across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and Botswana. Today, it is believed that less than 100,000 of the bushmen remain, but those that do, maintain close ties to their culture, and the land on which they live.

Emerson says that the bushmen that she met were able to teach her about the plants and animals of the Kalahari while showing her how to set traps and hunt as well. They displayed a deep understanding of what their surroundings could provide for them, allowing them to survive for extended periods of time in the desert. Many of the tribesmen are now guides, and are eager to share their history and culture with visitors from the rest of the world. Traveling to the Kalahari to spend some time with these guides would indeed makre for a unique and amazing travel experience.

Adventure destination: Okavango Delta, Botswana

For many adventurous travelers, an African safari is at the top of the list when it comes to mixing beautiful scenery with the best wildlife encounters on the planet. Most visitors go to Kenya, Tanzania, or even South Africa to get the classic safari experience, but there are other, lesser traveled places, that can deliver that same experience, in a more remote location, far from the typical safari crowds.

One such location is the Okavango Delta, located in the interior of Botswana. Years ago, the region was dominated by a large body of water known as Lake Makgadikgadi, which the Okavango River once emptied into. But the large inland lake has mostly dried up, and due to tectonic shifting, the river now empties out into the Kalahari Desert, forming the Delta, and giving life to an entire ecosystem of plants and animals that couldn’t exist there otherwise.

The well irrigated portions of the Kalahari turn into a grassland, not unlike the Serengeti, and it attracts a similar level of wildlife as well. Elephants, giraffes, zebras, and hippos all call the Delta home, as do an array of big cats, including lions, leopards, and the elusive cheetah. More than 400 species of birds inhabit the region as well, and it is also home to a substantial population of wild dogs, which are now found in very few places on Earth.

One of the unique aspects of visiting this region of Botswana is that it allows visitors to go on safari not just by land but also water. Traditional 4×4 safaris are popular of course, but the waters of the Delta allow travelers to see the wildlife from an entirely different perspective, namely from a dugout canoe that is poled along by a native guide. Drifting through the serene waters, the canoes pass over hippo pools, while antelope drink from the shore, and Nile crocs float past like logs with eyes.

While the Okavango Delta is less traveled than the more well known safari locations in Africa, it still attracts thousands of visitors each year. That means that there are a wide array of accommodations available, ranging from simple campsites, with travelers staying in tents, to lavish lodges with all the amenities. But make no mistake, this is a remote and rugged place, unlike any other on Earth, and is definitely a must see for all adventure travelers.