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.

Mother hippo rescues a baby wildebeest in Kenya – African wildlife

Sometimes, strange and wonderful things happen within the world of African wildlife. A few weeks ago at Sanctuary Olonana, a luxury camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Mother Nature looked the other way while the nature of a mother hippo took over.

An infant wildebeest accidentally ended up in the middle of the Mara River, helpless and gangly and unable to swim. The calf had been crossing the river with its own mother (as part of the wildebeest migration, one of the natural wonders of the world), but was swept away by the strong current. The little guy wasn’t doing too well and a crocodile began to circle.

A nearby female hippo caught sight of the struggling calf and nearby croc, and swam to his rescue. Guests watched anxiously for an intense fifteen minutes as she gently pushed the baby wildebeest to the shore where his mother was waiting — a heroic and noble act by a notably aggressive animal. There’s no actual proof that she’s a mother hippo, but with maternal instincts like that, which stretched even beyond her species, I’m guessing that either she is, or she’s going to be.

These touching photos were taken by the Sanctuary Olonana camp manager, who watched along with the guests and staff of the camp. I can only imagine the cheering when the baby wildebeest was finally brought to safety.

A zebra trots down to watch the action:

The hippo gently nudges the infant wildebeest out of the water:

[Photos courtesy of Sanctuary Retreats.]

Visiting Nakatindi – The challenges of a village in Zambia

Nakatindi is a small village in Zambia which was founded by a white landowner. He wanted locals to raise cattle on his property, and so the village was created for them. Unfortunately, over time, the land became unsuitable for the cattle, who eventually had to be sent to graze on the other side of the Zambezi River. Now, this village is struggling to make ends meet — a sociological recipe all too common in Africa.

I visited this village on my Abercrombie & Kent tour of Zambia, as A&K is currently providing funding for the local community school. Also present in the village are volunteers from African Impact and Princeton in Africa fellow Mary Reid Munford, who is working as a project manager for the volunteers. The volunteers stay nearby in Livingstone.

Abercrombie & Kent used to support another local village, but unfortunately, their donations kept mysteriously disappearing, pocketed by some party along the way. Even donations of food would fail to reach the villagers. After too many second chances, the unfortunate situation led to their selecting another village to support. This is just one of the reasons the cycle of poverty here is so difficult to break.


In Nakatindi, there is no virtually work available. Every so often, someone will come by and ask for workers — but there are far too many men who would love the job. The result of this is that they knock their price down and down to beat out their neighbors. They end up working for as little as a dollar for a full day, and due to this, the standard of living stays painfully low.
Education is of course one of the few antidotes to poverty, and the local community school for grades 1-7 (above) is doing their best to give Nakatindi’s kids a fighting chance. The children are learning English and volunteers from African Impact conduct physical education classes, giving them extra exposure to a language that could change their lives. It’s actually somewhat difficult to get children to come to school in a village like this, so the school has constructed a kitchen (see gallery). The addition of a kitchen means that kids who show up get a meal. That gets the job done as far as promoting education.

However, after 7th grade, the children need to get to the local high school, which is a good walk away. With the help of A&K’s donations, the school is saving for a bus. They are also planning to purchase a maize grinder. They would save money by grinding the maize for the children’s meals on site, and could even earn money by selling ground maize. They could pay someone to do the grinding with that money, as well, so the donation creates a job — it’s sustainable donations like these that can truly improve this village’s standard of living.

Though they are not working directly with Abercrombie & Kent, Mary Reid Munford says African Impact’s goals are similar in terms of sustainable help. “We are pretty strict with our volunteers not just handing things out as it creates a sense of dependency. Our whole philosophy is about empowerment and sustainability.” African Impact is currently building a health and education center in Nakatindi (below), with the help of volunteers both from abroad and from within the community. The community Club, which is somewhat like a city council, will be able to use the building as an office, and there will be a large space they can rent out for events like weddings and other parties.

Our tour of the town was pretty short, and though our guide spoke English, he was a little hard to understand sometimes. The tour was notably uncomfortable. My companions remarked on the unease we all felt, trekking through their village in our nice outfits and shoes, and with our fancy cameras. Though most of the villagers understand that tourists coming through is part of what generates money for the community, some were a little less than welcoming. From what I could pick up from body language, one woman shouted at our guide and said something to the effect of “if they want to take pictures of my house, they have to pay me.” I kept my camera pretty quiet after that.

It would have been stranger to be welcomed with open arms.

And yet, “welcomed with open arms” is exactly how we felt whenever we encountered kids in the town. They mobbed us, wanting us to take pictures of them and then show them their digital image. They wanted to play with my companion’s blonde hair, and for some reason, they all wanted to take turns holding my hand. I was a little concerned about one thing: although I understand these kids are learning English, I didn’t hear one word from them. In other parts of Zambia, when we encountered kids, they all wanted to say “HELLO HOW ARE YOU” and other phrases they knew to us. Furthermore, I heard one of the African Impact volunteers say that she was pretty sure the kids were just repeating her English phrases back to her in physical education class, and not necessarily picking up the meanings. I hope the quality of their teachers — not just in English, but in all their classes — isn’t lacking, or if it is, that it can be improved.

One thing is pretty clear: the kids are a lot of fun. They’re energetic and funny and love the camera. Check out this video of them hamming it up for me by the well:

So, would I recommend a visit to a local village when on safari in Africa? Definitely. The visit was more than a reality check (after staying in luxury camps with nothing to do but take pictures of zebras and eat), it was emotional and felt respectful. Maybe some of them didn’t want us there, but wouldn’t it be worse if tourists came through the country all the time and never even so much as poked their head into a real village to see how the people live? It’s an uncomfortable question, but for me, the answer is that making an effort to learn about people, if the intentions are good, is always okay.

My trip to Zambia was sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent and Sanctuary Retreats, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.

Daily Pampering: Live out your “Out of Africa” fantasy

Was it really only 35 years ago that Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Sydney Pollack captured our hearts in the Academy Award winning Out of Africa?

Answer: Yes.

To celebrate this notable anniversary of an instant classic, Sanctuary Retreats, a resort group with luxurious destinations all across Africa, is hosting a special package at Sanctuary Olonana, a safari camp in Kenya — very near to where Out of Africa‘s Masai Mara scenes were filmed.

From June 1 until December 15, 2010, guests can request the all-inclusive Out of Africa Package, which includes:

  • Safari-style luxury tented accommodations
  • Game drives (from the Big Five to spectacular wildebeest migration, Sanctuary Olonana is in the heart of Kenya’s big game country)
  • Three meals daily
  • Out of Africa picnic and al fresco spa treatment at the famous film site in homage to the memorable hair washing scene of Karen by Denys
  • A traditional bush dinner with outdoor Out of Africa film screening under the stars at banks of the Mara River

There can’t be a more literal way to live out your Out of Africa fantasy. Additionally, guests staying for four or more nights between June 20 and September 30 will receive a free hot air balloon ride followed by a complimentary champagne breakfast (a $460 value).

Rates for the “Out of Africa” all-inclusive package start at $389 per person per night. Click here to book.

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