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Botswana - Linyanti

A herd of buffalo moves across the green plains of the waterways near Duma Tau in the Linyanti Reserve, Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Northeast of the Okavango Delta lies the Linyanti, a diverse region of marshes, grassland, and waterways fringed by riverine forests. Of particular note are two fossil river channels, the Savuti Channel and the Selinda Spillway, now open grasslands renowned for their abundant game.

The Linyanti is divided into three private concessions -Linyanti, Selinda, and Kwando - making up an enormous wildlife-rich area shared between a few small camps and creating a remote and exclusive safari experience in an environment which offers a wonderful contrast to the floodplains of the Okavango.

A young African wild dog perches atop a termite mound in the Selinda Reserve in the Linyanti region of Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
Wildlife The Linyanti is renowned for offering the best opportunities in the world to see the critically endangered African wild dog, with several resident packs denning annually in the reserves - many veteran safari goers plan their safaris around the opportunity to observe these rare and elusive animals. It is also famed for the enormous elephant herds which gather during the dry season, drawn by the plentiful water of the Linyanti's rivers and waterholes, and for offering the best cheetah viewing in Botswana. In addition, four of Africa's Big Five can be seen in the Linyanti (lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo).

Guests and guides look on as an elephant herd approaches the famous woodpile hide at Savuti Camp in the Linyanti Reserve, Botswana.
© Wilderness Safaris larger image
Other mammals which may be seen include serval, caracal, African wild cat, giraffe, kudu, warthog, wildebeest, and zebra, among many others. With luck, you may see rarer animals such as aardwolf, aardvark, or the beautiful sable and roan antelope. The shaggy waterbuck, rarely seen in Botswana, is a Linyanti 'special'.

Birders will find an enormous variety of local and migrant species. Local resident species include wood owls, swamp boubous, brown firefinches, and the unusual Schalow's lourie. Perhaps the most colourful summer migrants are the colonies of carmine bee-eaters which arrive around September and nest in the area until late March - early April; a large colony regularly nests across the river from one of the hides in the Linyanti concession. Raptors are well-represented, with bateleur and fish eagles the most commonly seen. While aquatic species are naturally less numerous than in the Okavango, some unusual species can be seen here including slaty and black egrets and wattled cranes.

A male cheetah stands watchfully atop a termite mound near Savuti Camp in the Linyanti Reserve, Botswana.
© Julian Asher larger image
On Safari Safari camps in the Linyanti are open throughout the year. All of the camps in this region are permanent tented camps, and are essentially land-based with activities centring on game drives though some camps offer limited water activities. Unlike Chobe National Park, night drives and off-road driving are allowed in the private reserves of the Linyanti, enabling you to experience the bush up-close rather than from the confines of established roads. For more detail on camps and activities in the Linyanti, please go to the Linyanti accommodation page.

When to Go The following brief notes focus on the Linyanti. For more detail on Botswana's climate, please see the main Botswana Weather page.

A giraffe's legs frame its head as it bends to drink in this close-up portrait.
© Michael Poliza larger image
The Linyanti follows roughly the same weather patterns as the remainder of northern Botswana, with a rainy season (December to March), a dry season (May to October), and two transitional months between the seasons (April and November). Temperatures in the Linyanti can drop as low as 6°C (43°F) during winter nights - fortunately, the camps provide cosy hot water bottles and fluffy duvets to take the edge off the chill, and winter days often have highs in the 20s°C (70s°F). Conversely, October can bring days where temperatures reach 40+°C (104+°F) in the shade.

Resident populations of game give excellent year-round game-viewing. However, during the height of the dry season (July - October) the permanent waters of the Linyanti River and the Zibadianja Lagoon draw wildlife from drier areas across northern Botswana, leading to enormous concentrations of game - particularly elephants and buffalo.

Summer migrants to Botswana include large numbers of carmine bee-eaters which regularly nest near one of the hides in the Linyanti Reserve, Botswana.
© Michael Poliza larger image
The Linyanti's resident packs of African wild dogs usually den in June, and for the next 3-4 months these normally elusive and far-ranging predators are easier to locate while they are based at the den site. The playful, inquisitive pups normally emerge from the dens from mid-July to August, and are a favourite sighting for many return visitors.

As in most of Southern Africa, birding is best in the Linyanti during the rainy season, when resident populations are joined by summer migrants, many in colourful breeding plumage.