It’s important to agree upon and know about some practical matters beforehand. In that way, you’ll have fun getting ready for your trip and you’ll also be well prepared.
Apart from the flights, the alcoholic beverages in camp (limited availability) and the ammunition you use in case there are shooting drills, everything is included. Besides that everything will be organized for you.
When you arrive in Maun an instructor with a Toyota Landcruiser will welcome you and drive you from Maun to Kwapa Camp (and he will arrange for a drive back afterwards). You’ll receive study books and work books that are issued by the Field Guide Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). Other reference books are available at the camp library.
You’ll be instructed be guides and instructors who’ve made their mark in Botswana and other African countries. Each instructor has over twenty years of professional experience. On top of that there will often be an assistant trainer present. On arrival at the camp your tent (often shared with others, not just for company but also for safety reasons) has already been set up, including a bed and bed linen, a towel, mosquito spray and sunscreen. You will also be introduced to the chef and other staff members of the camp.
Every day you’ll have at least three, and sometimes four, nice and healthy group meals. You don’t have to do the dishes and your clothes (except for underwear) can be laundered for a small fee.
We all know that good preparation is half the battle, and this trip isn’t any different. But we’ve noticed that a lot of participants spend months in advance gathering comfortable hiking shoes, the right torch, a state-of-art-battery charger for their camera and other gadgets they think are absolutely necessary…but in fact aren’t.
That’s why we’ve compiled a packing list for participants that we can email you to make your packing process easier. That way, you can focus on buying what you really need instead of wasting money buying useless gizmos. It also prevents you from buying too much stuff that you end up hauling across the entire Delta.
MONEY, VISA AND INSURANCE
Botswana’s currency is the Pula, which is divided into 100 Thebe. Pula means ‘rain’, a welcome and valuable gift in a dry and warm country. Searching for cash in Maun and the other bigger cities is not as adventurous as it used to be twenty years ago. You can make cash withdrawals at the ATM’s located near the airport in Maun, just like home.
On your flight with Air Botswana or upon arrival at the airport in Maun you’ll receive a traveller’s visa form. After filling out the form (which takes about two minutes), you hand it in at customs, together with your passport. After the official stamps are issued, you can walk outside into the burning sun. You will follow the same procedure when you’re leaving the country. So it’s not necessary to arrange special travelling documents beforehand.
For Botswana, you need international travel insurance. Do check what exactly is covered by your (additional) insurance policy to make sure you’re not underinsured or doubly insured.
Anyone with a good health and a normal level of fitness can follow our courses and modules. But keep in mind that we do a lot of walking. We usually walk three to four hours every day, but there’s always a chance that we double that amount because we see something astonishingly beautiful, or because what used to be an island has been turned into a lake in the last few weeks and we have to walk around it.
You should also bear in mind that it’s very, very warm, that you’re always carrying stuff and that you’re wading through waste deep waters several times per day. You don’t have to be a marine to be able to keep up, but it does help when you exercise beforehand.
If you’re on medication, make sure you take enough with you and let us know if you’re taking medication so we’re fully informed in case something happens. There’s an extensive First Aid-kit in the camp and all the guides have followed a comprehensive First Aid course.
The natural elements are Botswana’s biggest dangers. Apart from snakes, scorpions and other venomous critters, heat is probably the biggest danger. If you prepare for all the things you know you’re going to do and if you live by all the normal safety rules, there’s not much to worry about. Still, it’s not just a walk in the park you’re about to undertake.
Kwapa Camp is a bushcamp without fences, in the middle of the Delta. That means we’re outdoors, night and day. It also means that animals can move freely in our camp, not only small animals such as birds and frogs, but also large animals such as elephants, leopards and hippos. Last November, there was an elephant eating the tree above our tent, while we were trying to get some sleep. Our philosophy is: these animals know we’re present and they choose to be in our company. If we enjoy their presence and leave them alone they will do the same. The bottom line is: we expect everyone to respect nature and to be cautious. That way we can maintain individual and group safety.
There is very little crime in Botswana and the Botswanian people are generally very friendly and hospitable towards tourists. People are curious in a friendly way and once they lose their initial reservations they can’t stop asking you about every aspect of your life.