April 10th, 2011
Brent Reed is a director and guide at Letaka Safaris in Botswana and has been an outdoor-lover his entire life - he was even born in the Magaliesberg Mountains.
Now running a tented safari camp, no one has spent more time in the bush than Brent. So who better to ask about the safari experiences that you should just not miss?
GoTravel24: What safaris should every nature-lover do at least once?
Brent Reed: "Two words: Okavango Delta. It is a unique African wilderness and is in my humble and extremely biased opinion, unrivalled as far as a safari experience goes. You can see lions in the Serengeti, lions in the Kruger, you can see lions pretty much anywhere but seeing the lions of the Okavango, the swamp cats that regularly take to the water to follow herds of buffalo as they move from one island to another, that's special.
Okavango lions are a special sight
You also realise that you are visiting an environment so fragile that it could disappear in a matter of a few years due to any number of ecological or man-made factors so don't wait until you're nearly dead.
Once you've done the Okavango you really should consider Namibia. Nam as it is known in safari circles is a WOW country, it's landscapes stand up and slap you in the face, a firm girlfriend-getting-your-attention slap that wakes you up to the extraordinary world around you.
Of all the places I have travelled to I don't think I have ever been so regularly overwhelmed by vastness, strangeness, stillness and remoteness. My Namibian highlights are the desolate Skeleton Coast, the ancient Namib Desert especially around Solitaire and Sossusvlei and the great white nothingness of the Etosha National Park.
Going on a 4x4 trip in the Namib Desert is an unmissable experience Photo: Letaka Safaris
You're based in Botswana, what's the most intriguing thing about the Okavango?
"That's a difficult one to keep short but I'll try.
The Okavango is an incredibly enigmatic environment. In this day and age where we can quantify, measure and predict virtually everything, the Okavango Delta continues to surprise and contradict.
The reason for this is threefold, firstly the Okavango Delta is located on the south-western most extremity of the Great Rift Valley and as such is subject to frequent tectonic activity which results in subtle uplift and sinking of the land.
This would have no significance if it were not for the second reason; the Delta is incredibly flat with a drop of only 65m from the top of the Panhandle in the far north to the southern extremity of the delta at Maun, a distance of around approx 250km. Because of this pancake-like topography any variance in height has a significant effect in the distributive flow of the water.
The last major factor is the highly variable amount of rain which falls in the Eastern Highlands of Angola where the Okavango rises as two separate rivers, the Cuito and the Cubango. These two rivers are fed by other tributaries with different catchment areas where rainfall is also (obviously) variable, the Cuito then joins the Cubango to flow into Namibia as the Kavango river and onwards into Botswana where it becomes the Okavango.
These waters are known simply as ‘the flood'. The flood is not a raging torrent of water but a slow and steady rise which at the end of it's almost 2000km journey will flood the world's largest inland delta to an extent of around 16000km2. Where this water is going to go in that vast area is a subject of much debate in Maun every year and because of the lack of gradient and the infinite papyrus swamps which slow the flow, it takes six months for the water to travel from its Angolan source to the extremities of the delta.
That's ample time for the locals to formulate a hundred different opinions on which areas will be flooded this year, opinions which are generally strongly held, hotly argued and universally wrong.
Do you have any other favourite safari routes in Africa?
"One of my favourite routes north of the Zambezi is the Shoebill Safari which as the name suggests focuses on finding the bizarre Shoebill, a massive stork-like bird which lives in the Bangweulu Swamps in northern Zambia.
One of the great things about this route is that the trip starts in the northern Chobe National Park which means you get to start off with a massive elephant overdose, some fantastic birding and lots of general mammal viewing before heading into Zambia and winding northwards towards the legendary Bangweulu Swamps which are also host to a vast number of mammals and birds other than the Shoebill.
The shoebill is a bird well worth finding
Sometimes having a specific target species can be a bad thing, but in the case of the Shoebill it's not so much about seeing the bird (although we generally do) but relishing being in a diversity of habitats and trying to find one of nature's truly weird creatures whilst racking up an impressive bird and mammal checklist.
The top ten safaris destinations in the world
1. Kenya - Famous for its reserves such as Masai Mara. Best time to go is August and November each year when the migrations take place.
2. Tanzania - Home to the Seregenti National Park and the Ngorongoro crater. climbing Mount Kilimandjaro is an also an option as is spending a few days in Zanzibar just off the coast of Tanzania.
3. Botswana - For the must-experience Okavango Delta and its elephants.
4. South Africa - Kruger National Park is world famous for viewing the Big Five. Alternate gems are Hluhluwe-Umfolozi game reserve, the Drakensberg mountains or the Kalahari desert.
5. Zimbabwe - Victoria Falls inspired safaris.
6. Namibia - Namibia offers stunning views in the Namib desert as well as wildlife in reserves such as Etosha National Park.
7. Zambia - Victoria Falls and Zambezi River adventures are some of the Southern African treasures on offer in Zambia.
8. Malawi - Home to Lake Malawi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9. Uganda - Gorillas make their home in its 'Pearl of Africa' forest and the wild Ssese islands on Lake Victoria are worth seeing as well.
10. Rwanda - Famed for its troops of gorillas.
Have you had a completely unforgettable bush experience? Please let us know in the comment section below.