September 19

A Guide to a Khwai Safari

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September 19, 2023

You're familiar with the famed Okavango Delta, right? Well, let us introduce you to another facet of its splendour – a Khwai safari. One of Botswana's most picturesque and predator-rich areas, Khwai unfolds in the northeastern fringes of the Delta, nestled between the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park. And, with no fences separating Moremi and Chobe from the Khwai River, a myriad of species naturally saturate this safari hotspot.

Large elephant herd traversing the Khwai marshland and rivers

Explore this wildlife paradise between Moremi and Chobe, Image Credit: African Bush Camps

A True Showcase of Botswana's Scenic Grandeur

Split into the Khwai Private Reserve and the Khwai Community Concession, this expansive area covers nearly 400,000 hectares. And, as massive as that may seem, we've explored every glorious inch of it!

As you venture into this wild land, you'll uncover a captivating array of environments. From lagoons and flooded pans to grasslands, bushveld and woodland forests – there's ample room for nature to flourish.

Seemingly boundless Khwai landscape with grassland, trees and waterways

Khwai is an ENORMOUS area boasting an array of environments, Image Credit: Little Sable

Not surprisingly, given the vastness of Khwai, we're often asked: "Where's the best place to stay to make the most of my Khwai safari?" To address this, let's begin by highlighting the distinctions between Khwai's Private Reserve and Community Concession...

We'll help you decide on the best base to branch out on your Khwai safari, Image Credit: African Bush Camps

Khwai Private Reserve

The Khwai Private Reserve covers 200,000 hectares and benefits from abundant wildlife flowing in from Chobe and Moremi. It features diverse landscapes of open grasslands, waterways, mopane hinterland, and the Khwai riverfront. Exclusivity is its standout feature here, as you can only access the reserve when staying at one of its luxury lodges.

Elephant traversing through green marshes in front of one of the Khwai lodges

Elephant sightings are a frequent occurrence, Image Credit: Little Sable

These secluded lodges lie in the northern expanse of the region, where magnificent mopane trees thrive – the perfect setting to truly immerse yourself in nature. Further south, you'll find the Khwai River, the primary hub for your safari adventures. It's in this region that the terrain is most favourable for remarkable animal sightings.

Luxury tented room

Savour a Khwai safari in the lap of luxury, Image Credit: Sable Alley

While game drives are undoubtedly a Khwai safari essential, what truly distinguishes the lodges in the Khwai Private Reserve is their commitment to enhancing your experience with bespoke activities. Anticipate immersive walking safaris, mokoro (dugout canoe) journeys (when water levels permit), inconspicuous viewing hides, and more.

Lion and lion cub playing

From felines to fowls, enjoy all kinds of animal sightings, Image Credit: Sable Alley

Our Top Accommodation Picks – Khwai Private Reserve

Sable Alley exterior

Sable Alley's lagoonside setting makes for sensational wildlife viewing, Image Credit: Sable Alley

Khwai Community Concession

Encompassing 180,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, the Khwai Community Concession stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts of local Khwai villagers, expertly overseen by the Khwai Development Trust.

While it may draw a slightly higher number of tourists, owing to its accessibility to the public, this extraordinary sanctuary remains a popular choice for those seeking a fulfilling Khwai safari. 

Rooms private view deck complete with hammock and telescope

The Khwai Community Concession will be sure to impress, Image Credit: Belmond Khwai River Lodge

But don't be misled by its "public" status; our admiration for Khwai Community Concession remains steadfast! It's a place where wildlife movements are aplenty, unencumbered by imposing barriers. So, just like its private counterpart, the community concession basks in the bountiful game that flows from the Moremi and the Chobe National Park.

Lion pride sighting while on a game drive on a Khwai safari

The lodges inhabit an area highly populated with plains game and predators, Image Credit: Little Machaba

Within this splendid region, a plethora of lodges and campsites await, catering to a diverse range of preferences, from budget-conscious travellers to connoisseurs of luxury. Moreover, our recommended lodges offer not only exceptional comfort but also unparalleled proximity to the Khwai River.

Lodge viewing deck with private pool and view of the waterways

Stay at sumptuous lodgings closer to the river and waterways, Image Credit: African Bush Camps

Although the focus of safari activities in this public concession leans toward land-based activities like game drives and nature walks, some lodges extend the excitement to visits to local communities as well as mokoro safaris if the water levels permit.

Bird's eye view of a mokoro safari

Search for Africa’s most sought-after wildlife on a peaceful mokoro safari, Image Credit: African Bush Camps

Our Top Accommodation Picks – Khwai Community Concession

Pool deck overlooking the wilderness

Enjoy traditional-style safari camps in the game-rich Khwai area, Image Credit: Machaba Camp

Wildlife of Khwai

The Private and Community sections of Khwai are widely considered the best game reserve in Botswana. This is thanks, in part, to the density and diversity of its wild inhabitants. Here, you'll find a wealth of wildlife and, in particular, hordes of elephant herds meandering through Khwai to get to and from Moremi and Chobe. 

Elephants in the Khwai River

Large herds of elephant are drawn to the Khwai River in the dry months, Image Credit: Tuludi Camp

Moreover, majestic big cats like lions and leopards share their territory with a wide array of antelope species, including sable, roan, kudu and many more. Additionally, the elusive African wild dog makes momentary appearances while on the move, and the waterways are the haunt of hippos and crocodiles.

Pack of wild dogs in green grass

You could possibly spot the endangered African wild dog while on your Khwai safari, Image Credit: Sable Alley

Birdlife of Khwai

On a Khwai safari, you'll find that the birdlife is prolific to boot – offering a spectacular display of species. Raptors reign supreme in the treetops, while saddle-billed and marabou storks elegantly wade through the shallows.

Fisheagle

Birdlife is excellent and varied, Image Credit: African Bush Camps

During the wet season, the concession's limited permanent water source along the Khwai River attracts an even greater variety of aquatic birds. Keep an eye out for a flourish of fish eagles, kingfishers, and the radiant lilac-breasted roller, alongside a multitude of other feathered creatures.

Kingfisher in the reeds

Khwai is a bird-lover's paradise, Image Credit: African Bush Camps

Craft Your Ultimate Khwai Safari

Equipped with our first-hand knowledge, you're now poised to embark on a Khwai safari that transcends the ordinary. Our recommendations are not mere suggestions but insights drawn from our own experience. 

Contact our Travel Experts and explore Botswana's wilderness like never before – a world of raw beauty and thriving wildlife.

Feature Image: African Bush Camps

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Tags

Khwai, Moremi, Okavango Delta


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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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