Scott Dunn USA guest Tina H recently traveled to Botswana, including a memorable nine-day mobile safari with Letaka Safaris. Here, she tells us all about her experience traveling to Africa during Covid-19 and why she would recommend Letaka Safaris with no hesitation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your overall experience at Letaka and in Africa?
I’d been dreaming of a trip to Africa for more than 30 years, and for me, it was more than seeing the exotic animals or taking great photos, it was the mystique of a place that is the cradle of life. Expectations like that are hard to live up to, but in fact, my hopes were more than exceeded in this trip. I loved the experience of sleeping in camps where we could hear lions, hippopotami, elephants and others just outside our tents, eating our meals in the open air, sitting by the campfires and identifying constellations. Of course, the most magical part were the animals we saw. We had not made it from the plane to the camp before seeing half of what I’d hoped to see, but that doesn’t really capture it. It was the fact that so many of the sightings were not just the animal, but how it was interacting with others and the environment. This is where our guide Robson brought so much; his explanations gave us an appreciation of what we were seeing that we could not have had on our own. We saw multiple prides of lions, elephants (including a herd with young crossing the Chobe river), giraffe, hippopotami, over 100 bird species, wild dogs with a litter of pups, two leopards, a den of hyenas with cubs. Too much to name. The accommodations were comfortable, the meals were truly delicious, and our hosts at Letaka were gracious, hospitable and full of good humor.
What was your favorite part about Letaka?
From the moment the little plane landed, and our guide was smiling and welcoming us, to the questions he asked about our interests, comfort levels and experiences, to the warm greetings, delicious meals and comfortable tents with creatively folded towels, it was clear that Letaka was dedicated to showing us the Africa that they know and love. The team all very clearly have deep knowledge and passion for Africa and are eager to share it with you. Our guide Robson was particularly amazing; he not only showed us animals that we wanted to see, he taught us how to see things that we would never have noticed. He explained behaviors and situations so that seeing a leopard in a tree surrounded by squabbling baboons was not just a novelty but was a life-and-death drama playing out in front of us. It was much more than seeing Africa and seeing animals, it was experiencing it. Letaka is clearly dedicated to giving guests that experience.
Who would you recommend Letaka to?
We have many friends and family who are not quite as ‘outdoorsy’ as we are, and when we said we camped in tents, they looked at us with skepticism. However, after showing them the photos and describing our accommodations, many of them are now seriously interested. I would recommend Letaka to anyone who is interested in more immersive, experiential travel – if you have a passion for discovery and learning, and crave experiences, this is the right trip for you. Additionally, you should be in reasonably good physical health (can comfortably climb in and out of a land cruiser, open tent zippers) and be comfortable using portable toilets.
How did you prepare for a mobile safari through Botswana? Any top tips?
Both Scott Dunn and Letaka have guidances for what to bring and how to prepare. I followed those. Top tip would be not to overpack. You don’t need much in clothes, but do bring a warm jacket, hat, sunscreen, good set of binoculars (worth the investment), and maybe one of those quick-drying wash cloths. You can wash everything.
Did you feel safe while traveling to Africa during this time? Were there Covid-19 protocols in place? What were the pros and cons about traveling during this time?
Traveling during a pandemic and crossing multiple borders can seem intimidating, but we felt taken care of the entire time. At every single place, it was evident that safety and health were everyone’s priority; every country, hotel, restaurant, airport, etc. had implemented protocols to ensure safety. This did lead to some very minor delays and adjustments to our travel; we did have to take Covid-19 tests at every border crossing and schedules had to be adjusted for this. However, our guides and travel agents arranged everything so that for us, the experience was a very minor adjustment. It probably did result in some extra travel time, but over the course of a three-week trip to Africa, it was quite minor and pretty easy to navigate.
That said, traveling now has some significant positives: people were thrilled to have guests again. We were welcomed graciously everywhere with very personalized, sincere service. Hosts (even our pilot) ensured we got the tests we needed and stayed with us until everything got sorted out and we were set for our next step. At no point did we feel remotely unclear about what was going on, or how to manage. And on top of that, the reduced numbers of guests meant that we got the most personalized experience possible.
What would be your advice to travelers who are thinking about traveling right now to Africa, but aren’t quite sure?
A mobile safari might well be one of the safest travel options right now in that everyone is tested thoroughly before joining the safari, and once on the safari, it is a bubble of a limited number of people who are all known to be healthy. I would highly recommend this as an excellent time to travel if you have been vaccinated and take common sense precautions.