SABLE ALLEY Khwai Private Reserve, Botswana
Renowned for its unbridled wildlife sightings, Khwai Private Reserve is home to the most staggering amount of animal viewings. Add to that a stay at the luxurious family-friendly Sable Alley and you know you have landed in paradise.
Ah, Botswana, the Eden of Southern Africa, home to the famously unique oasis that is the Okavango Delta. After a few solo trips, I think the time is ripe to bring my daughter along to witness the indescribable beauty that Botswana has to offer. We depart from Cape Town International Airport directly to Maun International Airport on the stylish Airlink Avro RJ85, flying us there in a just 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Making our way through customs and immigration, we have our passports stamped and are met by a representative from Mack Air, who ensures that we are checked in for our charter flight from Maun to Khwai Private Reserve in the Okavango Delta. The Cessna Grand Caravan takes to the skies with the expertise of Captain Pieter Bezuidenhout at the helm, getting us to Khwai earlier than expected. The magic of the Delta is right on our doorstep.
Our ranger MD Mpdisane collects us at the airstrip, where our drive to Sable Alley takes us through part of Khwai Private Reserve. We are warmly welcomed by the staff and after being shown around our lovely room, we settle in for lunch on the deck overlooking the hippo pool. Lunch is a tasty selection of butternut, hake fish, beetroot and salad. Apart from dinner, which is plated, all other meals are served buffet-style and you can help yourself until you can eat no more.
My daughter and I take respite in our room from the heat outside to freshen up before our afternoon game drive. I opt for a hasty alfresco shower outside with nature as my foreground. The Healing Earth products are wonderfully fragrant, and I emerge smelling wholly better than when we arrived.
Our tent is enormous in size and with 600 square feet of space, the interior is stylishly furnished. When I mention tent, this is not your run-of-the-mill-camping-façade, this is ‘camping’ with all the modern conveniences you can imagine in the middle of the Okavango Delta. The tents are elevated off the ground to allow the cooling breeze to waft through on those hot summer days when the temperature gets close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’m totally in awe of the expansive bathroom, which houses an inside and outside shower, a flush toilet, double vanities, a dressing area and the best lighting I have ever experienced in an off-the-grid camp. If you don’t want to leave the comforts of your tent, you can sit all day on the comfy couch on your veranda, watching the wildlife coming for a drink.
It’s well worth noting that our stay at Sable Alley, or any of the Natural Selection properties, benefits their various conservation projects. A percentage of the revenue raised impacts the protection of endangered species and here at Khwai, Natural Selection is proud to partner with Botswana Predator Conservation Trust and the University of New South Wales to investigate the leopard population in this vast area, a worthwhile cause. They have also teamed up with Round River Conservation Studies / Okavango Research Institute to collect baseline data on large herbivores to monitor the game in the reserve.
After donning our sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, my daughter and I set off to the dining area for high tea, after which we are met at the vehicle by MD to take us on our first game drive. The vehicles are spacious, with only seven guests per vehicle and an allowed three vehicles per sighting, we are sure to have the best seats in the house.
MD sees another vehicle parked next to an overgrown shrub, and excitement abounds as I wonder if it might be a leopard. The other vehicle makes space for us and much to our elation, a stunning leopard, affectionately known as the Delta Female, is on the prowl, shielding herself from being spotted.
As she crouches down to start stalking her prey, she uses our vehicle as cover, but the alarm call of the tree squirrels gives her game away. She looks towards us, lets out a frustrated snarl. We learn that she has two cubs, younger than one month in age, and she has to keep her strength up to be able to provide milk for them. We leave her, hoping she will find a meal that will ensure the livelihood of the cubs.
A few meters further, vultures are circling, feeding on a buffalo carcass