Once on the endangered list and hunted for their ivory tusks, the elephants of Botswana are now protected and plentiful.
The country is home to the largest population of elephants on the African continent, estimated at 200 000+. We learnt a great deal about our wrinkled, thick-skinned (1 inch) ‘mammoth’ companions while at Camp Kuzuma, a privately owned retreat, located in a natural elephant corridor between the Chobe National Reserve and Hwange Reserve in Zimbabwe, offering a combination of an unspoilt bush safari and five-star hospitality.
What sets Camp Kuzuma apart is the close proximity of the elephants. They are constant companions and we watched in wonder as they traversed the pathways to and from the man-made waterhole situated within metres of the camp.
An earthcam focussed on this drinking hole was chosen as one of the top 25 in the world for the uniqueness of its content. Camp Kuzuma works closely with Elephant Without Borders, the region’s leading cross-border research organisation focused on elephant conservation and management, to ensure their survival.
So why the fascination with elephants?
Physically they are the largest land animal and the closest mammal related to dinosaurs. Yet, for such large, lumbering animals, they are minutely sensitive, with a highly developed brain and great memories. They are also social creatures (with frequent flatulence one rather antisocial behaviour trait) and you get a glimpse of this as they playfully lock tusks and the babies chase and splash each other, always under the watchful eye of mum.
Besides the rumbling and intimidating trumpeting, elephants purr a bit like a cat, as a means of communication. Although their eyesight is poor they have a highly developed sense of smell. And, strangely enough, they favour one tusk over another, a bit like humans being right or left-handed.
As for those large flapping ears, these regulate their temperature and they are also able to use their feet to listen, through vibrations in the ground.
But elephants are not the sole attraction at Camp Kuzuma. It has loads to offer bush whackers. Game drives will take you up close to impala, warthogs, baboons, lions, bat-eared foxes, zebras, buffalo, spurfowls (referred to as ‘suicide birds’) and more.
If you’re lucky, you might spot a pangolin. We were pleased to see plenty of ‘towers’ of giraffe as they are now listed as vulnerable. And, interesting to learn that their characteristically long necks have the same number of neck vertebrae as humans. Just seven! Although ours are Lilliputian in comparison.
The changing geography of the area makes you acutely aware of nature’s complex ecosystem and the symbiotic relationship of all animals – big and small – plus the
importance of ecotourism which underpins Kuzuma’s philosophy.
It operates completely off the grid, using a uniquely designed, dark blue solar panel system that stores both sunlight and light. An eco-green sewerage system recycles all water and kitchen waste.
At the camp the luxury is understated. Each of the five beautifully appointed tented suites is built to blend with the unspoilt natural environment, be completely private while taking full advantage of the sunrise. You can watch the dawn break from the comfort of your XL king size bed, sipping freshly brewed coffee and nibbling on home-baked rusks, curled up in one of the armchairs or out on the sundeck. The setting is breathtaking.
Being closer to the equator, sunrise and sunset in Botswana happen quickly and spectacularly. As the day shuts down trees are briefly silhouetted against the red sky or the trunk of an elephant or the crisscrossing Aubrey Hepburn necks of the giraffes as they gaze – up to 2kms – into the distance.
Sunsets can be viewed from a 4x4 out on a game drive. The elephants, or some of the 196 species of birds, will keep you company as dusk turns into a night sky. The beauty of Camp Kuzuma is the freedom of choice. You can opt for an ‘african massage’ and head off on the unbeaten paths on a game drive, get active on a guided walk, sit and do absolutely nothing but watch what nature has to offer or enjoy a spa treatment.
All of this between 3-course gourmet meals and high-tea. Discreetly private and personal, the small well-trained team of 9 are always on hand to ensure your stay is memorable.
Airlink fly direct from OR Tambo in Johannesburg to Kasane International daily. Camp Kuzuma offer transfers to and from Kasane Airport/Town or Zimbabwe/Zambian border posts on the Botswana side.
There are special rates for SADC residents ranging from US$ 380 pppn to US$ 445 pppn depending on the season. Children from 10 years and older are welcome. Camp Kuzuma closes annually for the wet season from December 1 through to February 28.
For more information go to www.campkuzuma.com, or call SA +27 (0) 60 961 8548 or Bots +267 75861842.