2020 Will see the launch of Natural Selection’s new flying safaris to Angola. These expeditions, the first of their kind, will follow the paths of the rivers that feed the Okavango and Kwando river and wetland systems from their sources in the Angolan Highlands into the Okavango Delta and Linyanti in Botswana, and finally, to the sands of the Makgadikgadi.
Each safari will be customized to suit guests’ interests, but for the ultimate experience Natural Selection recommends their “Source to Sands” 12-night itinerary. The trip begins with three nights in a simple mobile camp in the Angolan Highlands in the company of National Geographic explorers and scientists, followed by two nights in the Cubango Reserve that straddles both the Cuatir and Cubango Rivers with a day at the Cuito Cuanavale battlefields. From there, it is into Namibia to spend two nights on Nkasa Island in Nkasa Rupara National Park, then across the border into the Okavango Delta for three nights. This epic journey ends in the Makgadikgadi where the waters dissipate into the sands at Meno a Kwena Camp on the fringes of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Natural Selection has partnered with a team of award-winning National Geographic explorers and scientists in their quest to find and protect the sources of the Okavango, Zambezi and Kwando river systems. These passionate adventurers, led by brothers Steve and Chris Boyes, have spent the past five years on mokoros (dug-out canoes), self-paddling over 4500 kilometres on a number of extraordinary expeditions, from the remote sources of the Okavango in the highlands of central Angola to where the waters disappear into the sands of the Kalahari in Botswana.
A safari to Angola is not about seeing the Big Five; it is a conservation journey of discovery and learning through one of the most remote and little-known wilderness areas on the planet. The future of some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife areas, the Okavango Delta, the Kwando, the Linyanti and Savuti in particular, depend on the continued integrity of the Angolan Highlands as the country rapidly industrialises post-civil war. Since the end of the war in 2002, there has been an increased pressure on natural resources and a thirst for development. Much of the country’s wildlife was poached, either to sell ivory to fund the military or to feed troops and local communities. Today, the country faces the delicate balancing act of developing whilst protecting the eco-systems that are the life blood to so much of southern Africa’s wildlife and wilderness.
With members of the National Geographic team, the first days on the “Source to Sands” trip are spent exploring some of the eleven source lakes, either by helicopter, bicycle, vehicle, on foot or snorkelling under the surface of the water. The Boyes’ scientific team have discovered many new species of fauna and flora that are new to science, and more are still to come. Accommodation is in dome tents with dinner cooked on the fire, and stories shared are of incredible expeditions and the conservation challenges facing the continent.
From the Highlands, it is a flight south east to the Cubango Game Reserve, over 500,000 acres of land, adjacent and west of the Cuatir River and to the east of the main Cubango River (which later becomes the Okavango River). Another extraordinary conservation story, this land is managed by Stefan van Wyk, an Angolan National who set aside the area to protect it from logging and development. The countryside is made up of a combination of pristine miombo woodland, savannahs, wetlands and floodplains and is explored by vehicle, by boat and on foot with expert local trackers, following trails of sitatunga and roan.
The next stop is Cuito Cuanavale to visit the battlefields of the 1987 conflict between the South African military and the Angolan FAPLA army, aided by Cuba and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War era. Today it is an eerie place, littered with the shells of bombed out Soviet, Cuban and South African tanks and armoured personnel carriers. These battlefields mark an important turning point in South African and Namibian history and it adds context to the entire Angolan exploration. From there, guests will follow the waters into Nkasa Rupara National Park, Namibia’s largest protected wetland that lies adjacent to the renowned wildlife refuges of Linyanti and Kwando. The unfenced park forms a trans-boundary link for wildlife migration between Botswana and Namibia and ultimately onto Angola and Zambia. The presence of mega herbivores will be a stark contrast to the wilderness of Angola where mammals are rare and skittish. Guests will spend two days game viewing by vehicle or paddling the floodplains in a dugout canoe watching elephant, buffalo, red lechwe and of course, the predators that stalk them. A short flight will take guests into the Okavango, Botswana’s vast inland delta. The waters from the source lakes have travelled 1,200 kilometres into the Delta, creating a maze of channels and lush floodplains that are home to over 120 mammal and 400 bird species. From a base at Sable Alley, Tuludi or Mapula Lodge, game viewing is by vehicle, on foot or by mokoro. The last stop for both guests and the flood water is the vast and arid Makgadikgadi salt pan eco-system. Millions of years ago the waters flooded all this way and the Makgadikgadi was a huge super lake. Today, any water that does make it this far absorbs quickly into the Kalahari sand. The result is a wonderful contrasting eco-system to the lush Delta, a different suite of mammals and birds, and adventurous activities available nowhere else on the continent.
Finally, for the mammal enthusiast, it is possible to add a two or three night visit the national parks in central Angola to search for the Giant Sable, an animal unique to Angola that has been the national emblem of the country since its discovery in 1909. For decades it was assumed that the Giant Sable (locally known as the Palanca Negra) was extinct, but thanks to the tireless work of Angolan conservation scientist Pedro vaz Pinto, small populations are thriving in two of Angola’s most remote reserves, the Cangandala and Luando.
At the core of Natural Selection’s brand is the belief that sustainable tourism, when done properly, is a key conservation driver. It is this belief that is motivating Natural Selection’s pioneering move into Angola. In 2006, the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area was created with the aim of sustainably managing the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem so wildlife and communities alike could flourish. Tourism will be a key component in ensuring that the transfrontier parks become sustainable and productive. Colin Bell, co-founder of Natural Selection explains; “Our presence here must enhance wildlife populations whilst also
helping to fund and support local Angolans to benefit from their natural resources sustainably, and in turn, start the process to help ensure that the Okavango Delta is preserved.”
Every Natural Selection safari to Angola is customized to suit each group’s requirements, time frame and US$20,500 per person for a group of eight guests. This includes all flying costs from Lanseria Airport in a twin
engine Beechcraft KingAir B200, or in a Cessna Caravan from Maun airport plus 12 nights’ accommodation, all meals and drinks, activities, guides and pilots. These safaris will be operational from June to October.
ABOUT NATURAL SELECTION
Natural Selection may be a new(ish) safari company, but its roots in the African safari business run deep. Devoted to the simple premise that safari tourism, when done right, can be an incredibly powerful tool for conserving and protecting Africa’s last great wild places. As such, Natural Selection partners with local communities and governments to help protect and even expand protected areas and critical wildlife habitat through the development of gold-standard ecotourism projects across Southern Africa. Natural Selection donates 1.5% of its turnover revenue annually to conservation. This deep commitment to conservation is matched only by our devotion to providing our guests with truly extraordinary safari experiences.
BOTSWANA: Meno a Kwena, Jack’s Camp, San Camp, Camp Kalahari, Mapula Lodge, Sable Alley, Hyena Pan, The Jackal & Hide, SkyBeds, Tuludi
SOUTH AFRICA: Lekkerwater Beach Lodge
NAMIBIA: Hoanib Valley Camp, Shipwreck Lodge, Etosha Mountain Lodge, Safarihoek, Safari House and Kwessi Dunes (opening March 2020)