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The Safari Prep#1—Fly Camp vs Permanent Camp and African Geography 101

As some of you may recall, back in February, and because of *YOU GUYS*, I won the trip of a lifetime courtesy of African Horse Safaris  Instagram competition, and will be headed to  Botswana for an eight day safari the end of August. THANK YOU to all of you who voted for me, and THANK YOU to African Horse Safaris for this incredible gift.  

I don't think I'll believe I'm really going to do this 'til my feet hit the ground in Africa. I realize many of you may think because I post all these gorgeous photos from around the globe, that I must travel a great deal, when in fact, I'm lucky if I make it to town to the grocery store once a week and every few months make a trip into Seattle. I am lucky I get to live in our sweet old farm house with our collection of critters ( or  "the whole catastrophe" as my husband calls it ) on Vashon Island and to be able to work remotely from home, and because it's so beautiful here with miles of trails, I rarely feel the *need to leave. 

In preparation for my trip, I thought I'd do a series of blog posts over the next few weeks to share with you what I'm learning and doing along the way in preparation for departure in six weeks.

This particular ride is hosted by Ride Botswana so the first thing I did was brush up on my geography. Botswana is a land-locked country in southern section of the continent of Africa, bordered by South Africa to the south/southeast, Namibia to the west/north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast.  It's a mainly flat landscape, with up to 70 percent of the country consisting of the Kalahari Desert.  


Since our ride will be taking place in the Okavango Delta ( more about that in an upcoming blog post ), that means we will be riding through water, from island to island, and the first thing I learned from our intrepid "spirit guide", Isabel Juby, at African Horse Safaris is that we will get wet, and tall riding boots are a no-go. Instead, we need mesh shoes/boots—preferably two pair: one to wear, one to dry—that are not waterproof, that will dry relatively quickly, and mesh half chaps. Having never ridden in anything but tall boots, this is all new to me. And because we fly from Johannesburg to Maun, Botswana in a small jumper plane, we have a strict weight limit and our baggage can weigh no more than 47 pounds, which needs to include:

  • two pair boots ( not leather ) 
  • breeches ( bush colored, no bright colors, white or black )
  • long sleeved shirts
  • socks, underwear
  • shorts, t-shirts,
  • fleece or vest
  • sunglasses, riding gloves, sun hat
  • rain jacket ( just in case )
  • helmet
  • gloves
  • swimsuit & sarong, flip flops
  • flash light 
  • binoculars
  • waterproof camera
  • sunscreen, bandaids, ibuprofen, bug spray
  • solar recharger for your phone/devices & adaptor


Another thing I learned was the difference between a fly camp versus a traditional permanent camp-based safari. You may automatically think of scenes from Out Of Africa, with beds covered in flowing mosquito netting, animal skins rugs, and leather club chairs and a veranda where dinner is served. While all that sounds glorious, a Fly Camp is different—think 'glamping'. In a fly camp, you move campsites multiple times during the week, depending on the water levels of the Delta, and animal tracking.

While a traditional camp-based safari is luxurious, it is limited with the amount of big game you can see and the land you're able to cover. Fly Camping allows you to be in the bush undisturbed and uninterrupted by the hustle and bustle of a lodge. You remain with the same group for your stay, where as in a lodge guests tend to be coming and going as they will not be on the same schedule/safari as you. With a fly camp, the safari is mobile and you cover a lot of ground—typically six hours a day in the saddle. You sleep in two-man tents with cots and down duvets, shower in bucket showers under the stars, and are more likely to encounter big game ( or Big Five as they're called: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and cape buffalo ). Typically up at 6am, breakfast, then out for a ride by 7am. A break from 11am to 3:30 or optional afternoon ride, then sundowner ride, dinner, and finally a coma til you get to do it all again the next day. 

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

Food is cooked over an open fire in the bush kitchen, "Pleasantly surprised is an understatement—it's some of the best food I've eaten," says African Horse Safari intern, Minna Henderson. While lodge-based is very comfortable and you have many luxuries, fly camping (just as comfortable) allows for a real Africa safari experience.


  • Arrival and Departure: most common is a flight to Johannesburg, and then a connection to Maun
  • Length: 5 to 7 nights
  • When: set departures. Please see dates and rates for more details
  • Rates 2018: 7 nights from $3550
  • Riding Level: as you will be riding in areas where you can come across potentially dangerous game, this ride requires a strong intermediate plus or above level of riding
  • Number of Riders: maximum of 8 per safari

Did you vote in the competition? If so, remember your 10% OFF coupon with African Horse Safaris is valid through 2019 and keep your eyes peeled for an additional discount code coming soon in my next blog post.