From the Journal

Wild wellness: Botswana’s best wilderness retreats


Inspiration

Yoga tent at San Camp, Botswana

Doctors can now prescribe nature as medicine. I think deep down, we all know nature heals, but CNN made it official. “Long walks, bird-watching and making daisy chains are being prescribed by doctors to patients in Scotland's Shetland Islands as part of treatments for chronic illnesses”, the news agency reported last year. These ‘nature prescriptions’ are said to treat a range of afflictions, including high blood pressure and depression.


Forbes also named wellness travel as one of four megatrends that will define travel this year. “I don’t think wellness is a fad, but rather it’s a change in society, and what society now expects,” said Andrew Gibson, co-founder of the Wellness Tourism Association.


Whether you want health and wellness in the way of total nature immersion, active adventures or utter relaxation, Botswana’s plethora of wilderness retreats are bound to soothe.


Wilderness Retreat Walking Safari
Walking through the Okavango Delta, photo credit | Melanie van Zyl

Walk wild in the Okavango Delta


Usually undertaken by vehicle in many parts of Africa, a typical safari simply gets better the closer to nature you can get. The Okavango Delta is well-known for its iconic canoe, the traditional mokoro, which is silently steered through the exceptional waters of this hydrous heaven offering the chance to get intimate with elephants. However, the lack of confines afforded by walking makes walking in Botswana an ideal wilderness retreat.

Wilderness Retreat Walking Safari Baines Camp
Walking safari, photo credit | &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

The lack of confines afforded by walking makes walking in Botswana an ideal wilderness retreat.

“Lion tracks”, my guide, Amos, whispered, pointing out their pad marks in Botswana’s characteristically soft Kalahari sand. “Do you mind if we follow them?”, he asked tentatively. Totally islanded by the waters of the Okavango Delta, driving is not possible here at Moremi Crossing lodge. Instead, we got to walk these extraordinary wilds. Moremi Game Reserve and Chiefs Island are world-famous for their abundance of animals, and that’s where Amos spotted those feline footmarks after poling us across the Boro River.

“Lion tracks”, my guide, Amos, whispered, pointing out their pad marks in Botswana’s characteristically soft Kalahari sand. “Do you mind if we follow them?”

Wilderness Retreat Guide 1
Guided walking safari, photo credit | Melanie van Zyl

Not only is walking this wilderness an incredible adventure, but the act of ambling is also wellness in action. Sure, we got close to zebra and buffalo, red lechwe and giraffe, hippos and elephants, even a python too (from a safe distance). However, the rhythm of walking made me more mindful and helped to get in tune with the natural world. Step by step, one is forced to listen out for the harrumphs, coughs and maybe even growls of the creatures that abound out here. Meditation, but with laces tied. A totally off-the-grid lodge, with no cellular signal or Wi-Fi to distract from the natural bounties of the Okavango Delta, walking also reinforced the many benefits of digital detox - reset, reconnect and re-acquaint yourself.  


Baines Camp Mokoro
Mokoro safari in the Okavango Delta, photo credit | Sanctuary Baines' Camp

Ride or glide


Want an even more active wilderness retreat? What about a Botswana horseback safari adventure? Or get close to the waters of the Okavango on a canoe safari through Selinda Reserve’s Selinda Spillway. Otherwise, Baines Camp also offers the unusual opportunity to walk with elephants if you’re after a more guaranteed wildlife opportunity.

Wilderness Retreat Horse Safari
Horseback safari, photo credit | San Camp

Want an even more active wilderness retreat? What about a Botswana horseback safari adventure? 


Wilderness Retreat San Camp Pool
Pool pavilion, photo credit | San Camp, Makgadikgadi Pans

Salute the sun on Salt Pans


The Okavango Delta is so sprawling a mass it can be seen from outer space. The Makgadikgadi Pans network is equally enormous, but it could not be more opposite in disposition. Characterised by cracked and parched earth, these dramatically dry plains play host to some more unusual delights. The zebra migration, scraggly-haired brown hyenas, marvelous meerkats and so much space.    

There’s no better landscape in which to empty your mind and focus your centre than in the infinite nothingness of the Makgadikgadi.

Wilderness Retreat San Camp 1
Yoga tent at San Camp, photo credit | Melanie van Zyl

San Camp is perched on the edge of a wide, white salt pan and embraces the wide-open space of this curious countryside. Marvel at the serenity of silence with a yoga practice in the dedicated yoga tent and pool pavilion. There’s no better landscape in which to empty your mind and focus your centre than in the infinite nothingness of the Makgadikgadi.


Wilderness Retreat Spa

Stay in shape on safari


For something a little more conventional, the &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge has a gym for keeping up healthy habits while out in the wilderness.

Wilderness Retreat Gym
Gym at &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

For something a little more conventional, the &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge has a gym and spa for keeping up healthy habits while out in the wilderness.


Read more of our expert Botswana Travel Tips.


Interested in a wilderness retreat to Africa? Have a look at our 10 Day Kenya and Seychelles Wellness Safari here.

Melanie Van Zyl
Written by
Melanie van Zyl

Melanie van Zyl is a travel photojournalist born, bred and based in Johannesburg. She makes a mean G&T, will try any kind of cheese and is happiest when 4x4ing through the mud on Southern Africa's remote backroads. A qualified field guide, diver and growing twitcher, she's a sucker for the natural environment and is in the pursuit of living sustainably with the wild world. Botswana, Namibia and her home, South Africa continue to lure her away, but current aspirational destinations include Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Morocco. Anywhere on humanity's home continent. 


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