Expert Reviews – Linyanti

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Home of the Wild Dog
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Just beyond the boundaries of Chobe National Park, east of the Okavango Delta, these private concessions have the best of Chobe’s wildlife and the pick of the delta’s scenery but with a far stronger sense of isolation. Luxury lodges have vast stretches of land to themselves, and because the land is privately owned and run, you can enjoy night drives and head off-road in search of wildlife. Linyanti is arguably the best place in Africa to see the endangered African wild dog, while lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena round out an impressive portfolio of predators. Elephant, buffalo and giraffe are also common. The scenery is also a big draw, and I always like to think of the marshes as northern Botswana in microcosm – reed-filled waters ideal for exploring by boat and classic delta scenery alongside surprisingly dense mopane forest and sweeping grasslands. The birding here, too, is outstanding and best observed from the water.

Wildlife drama, off-road and on foot
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The Linyanti Concession, which lies just west of Chobe, shares all the wildlife drama of the national park, but serves it up in a smaller, wilder, more exclusive package. It also hogs some superb riverine habitats – the riparian forests and open floodplains bordering the Linyanti River, a continuation of the Chobe, which waters the region all year round. Antelopes, monkeys and hyenas are here in abundance.

Like its larger near-neighbours, Kwando and Selinda, Linyanti is a private reserve where walking, night drives and off-road driving are all allowed. This adds a wonderful extra dimension to the experience of immersing yourself in the bush. I think it’s worth researching your choice of lodge carefully, though, as Linyanti is a place where the highest rates don’t necessarily guarantee you the best wildlife-watching.

The Mysterious Savuti Channel
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Linyanti Reserve lies to the west of the well-known Chobe National Park. It shares many of the same pleasures as Chobe: the extraordinary concentrations of elephants, the vast black herds of buffalo and a landscape that, like much of Botswana, see-saws back and forth between dry, burnt and hard and wet, green and fertile.

What makes Linyanti stand out from its close cousin though is the sense a visitor has of landing (and you almost inevitably will get here by landing in a light plane) in a place where human beings are mere passing visitors – and rare ones at that. Linyanti covers around 1250km² of mopane woodland, open grasslands and the twisting, ever fluctuating Savuti Channel and in all that space there are only three, very exclusive camps each of which is on its own private conservancy. That translates into an awful lot of space for you and your party. Indeed, during my visit to one of the camps here there was only one other guest staying at my camp and no chance of bumping into another safari vehicle. Or any other vehicle for that matter.

Life in Linyanti is governed by the mysterious comings and goings of the Savuti Channel. This waterway appears to have a mind of its own. For a decade it might be swollen with waters and animals flock to its foreshores, but then, quite without warning, it might dry up and for several dormant years or more be nothing but a series of muddy pools. Nobody really knows why this happens but seismic events have been suggested. For the past nine years the waters have been flowing but at the time of my last visit in December 2015 water levels were dropping and camp guides were unsure if this was due to the major drought affecting Southern Africa at the time or because the river waters needed to hibernate again. It’s worth confirming the current situation with any camps before committing though even if the water does dry up the three camps all have artificial pumped waterholes around them which might even bring about an increase in wildlife sightings close to camps.

The other area where Linyanti differs from Chobe is that because it’s a private area you can partake in activities such as walking safaris, off-road driving and night safaris which are not allowed in the national park.

So, what did I personally think of Linyanti? Without doubt I was very impressed. The scenery along the river channel was gorgeous and elephant sightings in particular were excellent. But away from the water I found the mopane woodland that stretches apparently without pause a little same-same. Linyanti is a superb place for an off the beaten track wilderness experience but if I were coming all the way to Botswana I wouldn’t want to skip the Okavango Delta in favour of Linyanti.

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