Transformational Travel on The Selinda Reserve
Reflecting on the Selinda Adventure Trails Top 10 Moments of 2017
“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.” – Christopher McCandless
Launched in 2009, as the waters of the Selinda Spillway gently awoke after a twenty year absence, Great Plains Conservation introduced the first modern day fixed date canoe trail in Botswana, the Selinda Canoe Trails. Its core principle to appeal to those with an active and adventurous spirit. The idea of being immersed into nature’s wild habitats, at water level, made this offering an immediate success.
Nature, however, has a way of a reminding us that it marches to the beat of its own drum, and that nothing is ever constant. In 2015 as a drier spell arrived and the Spillway waters receded, our Selinda Canoe Trail evolved into the Selinda Adventure Trail, adding the walking safari component to this experience, and enhancing the overall aspect of an immersed adventure in an incredible habitat.
In mirroring the ever-changing face of nature, we then adapted our offering in 2016 to include a helicopter flight arrival into a remote drop-zone beside the Selinda Spillway, and then again in 2017 with the inclusion of Kane Motswana, a river bushman from the Northern Okavango, adding cultural understandings and know-how to the overall guest experience.
Using the inherent qualities and skills, developed over generations, the bushman were to bring a unique and unparalleled experience to the trails where their tactile and gentle guiding styles would bring our guests not only closer to nature, but closer to understanding the extensive knowledge base passed across from generation to generation and their incredible ability to peacefully live alongside wildlife.
Our tales and stories from this season could literally fill a journal but we have highlighted below our Top Ten Experiences of 2017:
Number 1: African wild dog / Painted dog (Lycaon pictus) successfully hunting impala
As one of the best places to experience painted dogs in Africa, the Selinda Reserve within the Linyanti region of Botswana has ample opportunities, up close and personal, with this endangered species. The open plains and multitude of impala (their favoured prey) provide the perfect habitat. The Selinda Spillway with its bountiful water source, often becomes the hunting ground for hungry predators. Earlier this year, the “Selinda pack” successfully took down an impala right in front of our canoe column one afternoon as guests came into camp. There are few people on this planet who can say they have experienced such a sighting from the seat of their canoe.
Number 2: The bushman experience
It is difficult to put into words, and photographs certainly fall short, of the value a bushman river guide adds to any experience when immersing oneself in nature. Their wealth of information in terms of anthropology and genetics, their co-dependence on and respect for nature, their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving with the changing seasons and, like the wildlife, following the ever-changing water sources, and their social dynamics, are in itself a journey of discovery. The introduction of our bushman guiding has been a huge hit with guests throughout this season.
Number 3: The charge of the honey badger
The element of surprise is not an unnatural concept in nature and it is not always the larger species which one has to be wary of either. Honey badgers are said to be “pound for pound” the most aggressive and toughest animal on the continent, often surviving snake bites, and frequently warding off the larger predators including lions. An early morning walk on the Selinda Adventure Trails turned into a hasty retreat / run one morning, as our guide Kane and our guests surprised a honey badger foraging around in the grass for its morning meal. Whilst the general guiding consensus in most situations with wildlife is “whatever you do, don’t run”, running was the most logical option available for all involved.
Number 4: The lion hunt in camp
As guests gently floated down the spillway one morning, they encountered a large alpha male walking along the water’s edge, proudly surveying his territory. The guide and guests continued drifting, enjoying the moment, before paddling away and leaving him to enjoy his kingdom. Little did they know that our sundowners would provide a reunion with the male lion. That afternoon as the Alpha male joined his pride, they gave chase to a herd of buffalo in front of the camp, crossing over the spillway where they ended the life of a young buffalo calf. The herd did their utmost to defend the calf and ward off the pride, but eventually gave up and moved on. Our guest’s senses were heightened as the noise of the battle drifted across the calm waters, and eventually our guests fell asleep to the sound of the pride feasting on their hard-earned meal.
Number 5: The largest buffalo herds in Botswana
As the seasons transform, and the peak levels of water flow have been reached, the area begins to dry out, the waters subside and a ribbon of luscious grass winds itself horizontally alongside the spillway, left in its wake. This is the time of year when the large concentrations and herds of buffalo pour in from the southern reaches of the Savuti, often reaching numbers of 2000 upwards. There is something quite unique and awe-inspiring in slowly paddling alongside such vast numbers of these impressive animals, admiring their size and strength from water level, and observing their varied behaviour of drinking and grazing.
Number 6: The African wild dog / Painted dog den
Painted dogs featured centrally to the overall wildlife viewings this season, but coming in at Number 6 was a tracking expedition whereby our guide Kane tracked a pack of painted dogs and discovered a den, a short distance from Phiri Camp, the second stop along the trail. Our guests had the privilege of quietly watching the pups at play from a respectful distance, completely unnoticed by the pack. Our guides are all respectful of the delicacy of the den environment, and so after a short moment of enjoying the scene they left to ensure the pack was not disturbed.
Number 7: Tracking male lions
The ultimate adrenalin rush forges through your veins when you come across the large spoor of two male lions whilst out on a walk. As you examine the sheer size of their paws in the indented mud in front of you, you realise how small, vulnerable and insignificant we really are as humans in this natural and wild habitat. Having examined the spoor in detail, Kane continued walking for another 10 minutes with the guests before they came across the two large male lions lying under a tree. The guests were able to safely approach and watch the majesty of the two males from 25 metres away without the lions noticing them.
Number 8: Lunching in the Selinda Spillway
A regular favourite for all our adventurers joining us on the trails is our lunch in the Selinda Spillway along a shallow sandbank. As a highlight, particularly during the warmer months of September and October, guests are able to cool off by immersing themselves in the shallow waters, before indulging in a delicious feast, whilst admiring the picturesque landscape surrounding them.
Number 9: Dancing with Snakes on the open plain
Certainly one of the biggest highlights for our entire team at Great Plains Conservation this year, was an unexpected encounter with a rock python. Our delightful and lovely North American Sales and Marketing Ambassador, Sarah Boeckmann, had joined a group of agents on an educational tour earlier in the year. Following the line of people in front whilst knowing you have people behind, obviously created a cocoon of comfort and security for Sarah, allowing her to drift off into daydream whilst enjoying the serenity of her surroundings. Completely unaware of the rock python a few steps ahead of her and to her left, Sarah stepped forward and saw at the last moment the sleeping snake curled up in the grass. What ensued can only be described as some sort of dance resembling the writhing movement of a snake “on the run”. Relatively harmless and stunningly beautiful, this became a very fortunate, and extremely amusing sighting for the group. What was unfortunate was that no one had seen the opportunity coming and so were unable to capture the moment on video!
Number 10: The wild dog hunt in camp
On the last night of the trail, guests were staying at what we call Moporota Camp, a beautiful area with an avenue of apple leaf and mopane trees overlooking the spillway. During this particular trip, the painted dog packs again took centre stage. An alarm call of a zebra broke the serenity of the sundowners, as the guests sat watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon and darkness began to descend. Suddenly chaos broke out around camp as a herd of zebras charged through camp, with a pack of painted dogs in close pursuit, a zebra foal becoming their sustenance for the day. Painted dogs are renowned as one of the most efficient and formidable predators in Africa, their cooperative hunting technique and stamina resulting in successful kill rates.