Go­moti Plains Camp, Botswana, Africa | TRAVEL

Upscale Living Magazine - - Contents - | By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

Po­si­tioned on the pe­riph­ery of the Go­moti river sys­tem in Botswana, you will find Go­moti Plains Camp in the south eastern sec­tion of the Oka­vango Delta. A shin­ing ex­am­ple of ex­clu­siv­ity and un­der­stated lux­ury, the en­rap­tured trav­eler will revel in the of­fer­ings that are cus­tom to Mach­aba Sa­faris.

Five lit­tle faces are star­ing back at us, per­plexed by our ad­mi­ra­tion of them. One minute has passed and they all bound off in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, with only two resur­fac­ing, tag­ging af­ter mom. Hav­ing re­lin­quished my heart to the bush the first time I set foot there a few years back, I rel­ish noth­ing more than a so­journ to a des­ti­na­tion that of­fers an all-in­clu­sive pack­age. With its land­locked beauty, the African coun­try of Botswana of­fers some­thing for ev­ery­one – ad­ven­ture, lux­ury and the ven­ture of trav­el­ing into a wilder­ness so re­mote that it seems al­most im­pos­si­ble to have con­structed any­thing in such a far-flung con­ces­sion.

Which is ex­actly what Mach­aba Sa­faris has achieved – the most pris­tine camps have been built in the most un­likely places in Africa – where you can­not even imag­ine that there would be some­thing as sim­ple as elec­tric­ity, let alone a camp that runs like a well-oiled ma­chine, built on the fringes of a flood­plain.

Jour­ney­ing into Africa takes some plan­ning and what makes the trip so much eas­ier is hav­ing a di­rect flight to your des­ti­na­tion. Since Air­link’s non-stop flights be­tween Cape Town and Maun were in­tro­duced in 2016, it is ev­i­dent from the num­ber of pas­sen­gers on board, kit­ted in their sa­fari best, that Air­link is the air­line to choose.

What could be bet­ter than start­ing your week off by head­ing to the bush? Which is ex­actly what I did – no Mon­day blues for me! As we take off from Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port, we head in a northerly di­rec­tion in the Em­braer 135, fly­ing over Table Moun­tain and Robben Is­land; icons in their own right. With a mere 2 hours, 30 min­utes fly­ing time be­tween Cape Town and Maun, you are there be­fore you can say ‘sa­fari’!

Af­ter land­ing at Maun air­port, a friendly cus­toms of­fi­cial stamps my pass­port where-af­ter I col­lect my suit­case and make my way to the char­ter com­pany where I wait for my trans­fer to Go­moti Plains Camp. Our flight is up next and trav­el­ing om my own some­times has its ad­van­tages, in this case, sit­ting right next to the pi­lot. Cap­tain Lefa Ditl­habi from Mack Air en­sures that I am strapped in and af­ter his pre-flight safety check, we are ready to head into the big blue in the Cessna Grand Car­a­van.

My guide, Mothusi Ket­sholang, af­fec­tion­ately known as Mott, is wait­ing at the Go­moti airstrip to drive me to camp, which is a 45-minute me­an­der with an­i­mal sight­ings along the way. The over­whelm­ing odor of wild sage per­me­ates the air. I am wel­comed at camp and shown to my ac­com­mo­da­tion for the next three nights by Onalenna Ran­noane. It is quite a walk to my tent and I make a men­tal note to re­quest a ve­hi­cle trans­fer for the back and forth. I am stay­ing in the hon­ey­moon suite sans hus­band and imag­ine it can be quite ro­man­tic had I brought my sig­nif­i­cant other along.

My tent with its cream color can­vas walls is airy and spa­cious, with two three-quar­ter beds, a couch for seat­ing, an in­door and out­door shower, dou­ble van­i­ties, an out­side area for view­ing the pass­ing wildlife and the only dif­fer­ence to the other rooms – a beautiful free­stand­ing out­side bath. It is amaz­ing what a dif­fer­ence the light color of the tented ‘walls’ make; giv­ing such a roomy feel whilst blend­ing in with the sur­rounds of the grass­lands.

These be­spoke tents take you back to the 1950’s with a con­tem­po­rary modern twist and the added high-end cot­ton bed­ding adds the most lux­u­ri­ous ad­di­tion to an al­ready fan­tas­tic glamp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The grey bed­ding off­sets the cream of the tents won­der­fully and is in keep­ing with the bril­liant Mach­aba Sa­faris de­sign acu­men.

Back at the main area, I meet An­drew and Rhona Cur­rell, man­age­ment cou­ple ex­traor­di­naire and their de­light­ful daugh­ter, Amy. With their back­ground in lodge man­age­ment and Rhona’s ex­per­tise in cui­sine, they are the per­fect fit for Go­moti Plains Camp. It is time for high tea be­fore de­part­ing on my first game drive. To­day’s spread con­sists of banana bread, cran­berry slices, veg­etable wraps, iced tea, iced cof­fee and gin­ger lemon­ade.

Mott is wait­ing at the ve­hi­cle and as we de­part, I en­quire about the in­cred­i­ble lion sight­ings they have had of late. I’m dis­ap­pointed when he tells me that the youngest cubs, es­ti­mated to be around seven weeks old, have not been seen for a few days as they were prob­a­bly moved to a safer hiding place be­cause of the pres­ence of a dom­i­nant male.

A gi­raffe is play­ing hide and seek at the base of a tree, per­fectly cam­ou­flaged. We sud­denly en­counter a li­on­ess and a male lion known as ‘nag­mer­rie’ (night­mare). They are walk­ing through the long grass and we spot the two sub-adult cubs, chas­ing mom. We lose sight of them and Mott de­cides to spend some qual­ity time with his fa­vorite an­i­mal, an ele­phant. All of a sud­den, he gets a ra­dio mes­sage to say that the lions have just made a kill. A kudu with the most stun­ning horns has met his fate and is be­ing de­voured bit by bit. The male is not let­ting the li­on­ess, who we as­sume made the kill, any­where near the car­cass but tol­er­ates the cubs to feed with him.

We leave them to their seem­ingly de­li­cious meal and drive back to camp as it’s al­most time for din­ner. I forego ‘fresh­en­ing up’ and head straight for the camp­fire where pre-din­ner drinks are be­ing en­joyed by the other guests. Tonight, the most de­li­cious food is on the menu and we all dine to­gether at a long table, weather per­mit­ting. For starters, there is chicken liver pâté fol­lowed by the most ten­der made-to-your-taste beef medal­lions with juli­enne car­rot parcels and cau­li­flower au gratin for main course. We had hardly started on the main meal when a tor­ren­tial thun­der­storm has ev­ery­one run­ning in­side for cover. Dessert is the de­li­cious rooi­bos tea panna cotta con­cluded with cof­fee or tea.

It doesn’t take much con­vinc­ing for me to ask Mott to drive me to my room and he obliges like the gen­tle­man he is. It is night time, which means the noc­tur­nal an­i­mals are at play and you are not al­lowed to wan­der around un­ac­com­pa­nied. I un­zip my tent and switch the light and

the fan on. I take in the night sounds and the frogs are croak­ing in a choir; I hear the dis­tant sound of a hyena call­ing. With hot and cold run­ning wa­ter, my shower with the Heal­ing Earth prod­ucts is re­viv­ing af­ter which I climb into my com­fort­able bed. This is the silki­est bed­ding I’ve ever slept on and the pil­low is, as Amy puts it so truth­fully the fol­low­ing day, feels like ‘sleep­ing on a cloud’.

Re­freshed from a won­der­ful night’s sleep, Mott ac­com­pa­nies me on a walk to the main area as it starts get­ting light. It is over­cast and as we leave for our game drive, it starts to rain. Not many an­i­mals will be around, I think out loud, when we stum­ble upon the sub-adult cubs still en­joy­ing their kudu kill from the pre­vi­ous night. The fe­male cub is eat­ing in such a la­dy­like way that I jok­ingly say I need to bring her a knife and fork to dine with. She doesn’t seem to want to get her face dirty, takes lit­tle bites and she im­me­di­ately starts groom­ing her­self.

Mott thinks he sees the shape of a li­on­ess in the swampy area, but we can’t go near where she is with the risk of get­ting stuck. He picks up his binoc­u­lars, but it’s rain­ing so hard we lose sight of her. Un­ex­pect­edly, she ap­pears on the hori­zon and walks with vigor and pur­pose. We fol­low her and hear her call­ing. Call­ing for what we both won­der. Then we hear them. The sound of cubs an­swer­ing! She found them! They are so tiny that we can­not even see them in the swampy grass­lands. The re­union is so sweet be­tween mom and cubs that we hope the other three cubs are safely stashed away some­where.

Brunch to­day is build-a-burger with fries, sal­ads and fruit skew­ers. Be­fore I know it, high tea is served, con­sist­ing of mar­ble cake, sa­vory tuna parcels and choco­late lam­ing­tons. Be­ing the only ve­hi­cle that had en­coun­tered the li­on­ess and her cubs in the morn­ing, we are hope­ful to lead the other guests to this spe­cial sight­ing. Mott finds her hiding place with great ease, but she is sit­ting un­der a dense tree and we can only just see her out­line, in­ter­act­ing with the two cubs from ear­lier.

We wait, pa­tiently and get re­warded when she takes the cubs on a walk­a­bout to hide them some­where else. Their legs are so short that they are hav­ing a hard time keep­ing up with mom, but she stops ev­ery few me­ters to check that they are still with her. They are both com­pletely ex­hausted and hun­gry from all the ac­tiv­ity; we leave her in the swamp where the cubs are now nurs­ing.

Tonight, we dine on pep­pered mack­erel for starters and for main course, in­di­vid­ual kudu potjie with mash and broc­coli, patti pans with roasted al­monds and mocha Bavaria for dessert. The food at Go­moti Plains Camp is so de­li­cious; it is clear that care and at­ten­tion to de­tail is in­cor­po­rated with each and ev­ery meal.

Sun­rise the next morn­ing prom­ises to be an­other in­cred­i­ble day as we make our way to where the moko­ros are moored. Our poler, Ke­didimetse Goit­se­mang, known as Bafana, is glid­ing us through the Oka­vango Delta’s chan­nels and up ahead, an African fish ea­gle is mak­ing her pres­ence known. This is the most serene way to see the river­ine life and all its in­hab­i­tants.

On our way back to camp, Mott thinks it suit­able to ‘pop by’ where we last saw the lion cubs. We turn the cor­ner and our jaws drop in uni­son. There they are – all five of them! Ex­claims of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ abound as we can-

not be­lieve our luck – we were fear­ing the worst. It’s not long be­fore they have all dis­ap­peared and mom ap­pears, set­ting off with two of them in tow.

I spend the re­main­der of the day in the main area where I watch im­palas feed­ing on the grass close to camp and wit­ness the pan­de­mo­nium as a li­on­ess has a stroll through camp in the mid­dle of the day.

On my last morn­ing, I con­cen­trate more on the birdlife that in­habit the plains. They are ex­quis­ite – a long-tailed par­adise-why­dah, an African har­ri­er­hawk, a wood­land king­fisher, a spur-winged goose, some vul­ner­a­ble wat­tled crane and a bateleur ea­gle to name a few. It is time to say good­bye; we take the wind­ing drive to the airstrip for my char­ter flight to Maun air­port. Af­ter land­ing at Maun In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the jour­ney back to Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­gins. We are sched­uled to take off with our Air­link flight at 13:35. With all pas­sen­gers seated, the cap­tain starts the en­gines of the Em­braer 135 and off we go, land­ing twenty min­utes ahead of sched­ule, much to the de­light of my fam­ily and all the pas­sen­gers on board.


Views ex­pressed are the au­thor’s own.

*** Thank you to Wendy Rankin from Mach­aba Sa­faris for mak­ing my ac­com­mo­da­tion and lo­cal flight ar­range­ments and to the very hos­pitable staff at Go­moti Plains Camp for host­ing me.

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