Sky & Telescope’s 2018 Stargazing Safari in Botswana

Explore the Khwai Private Concession on the edge of the Okavango Delta, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, and Savute in Chobe National Park —Plus Optional 2-Night, Pre-Safari Trip to Victoria Falls

Join Sky & Telescope’s Editor in Chief Peter Tyson and former S&T editor and leading amateur astronomer and astronomy author Stephen James O’Meara for an unforgettable experience in the heart of southern Africa. Undertake daytime safaris to see lions, elephants, hippos — all the large wildlife you’d expect from a classic African safari — and at night view the incomparable Southern Sky, including the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the Tarantula Nebula, and other celestial wonders rarely or never seen in the North. Our travel partner on this exciting tour is Yoga Safari, based in Maun, Botswana.

Below, you will find:

Itinerary for 6-night stargazing safari in Botswana

Itinerary for 2-night pre-extension to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

Pricing & Terms

Link to Reservation & Payment Form

Lechwe antelope and lion in the grass

Red Lechwe antelope from mokoro / Lion in the grass, from game drive vehicle

ITINERARY — 6-NIGHT STARGAZING SAFARI, BOTSWANA

Date Itinerary at a Glance Accommodation Meals
Monday, August 6th Maun/Khwai Private Concession Sable Alley D
Tuesday, August 7th Khwai Private Concession Sable Alley B/L/D
Wednesday, August 8th Khwai/Makgadikgadi Pans Mobile Tented Camp B/L/D
Thursday, August 9th Makgadikgadi Pans Mobile Tented Camp B/L/D
Friday, August 10th Makgadikgadi/Chobe National Park Savute Elephant Lodge B/L/D
Saturday, August 11th Chobe National Park Savute Elephant Lodge B/L/D
Sunday, August 12th Chobe National Park/Maun Depart B

August 6 & 7, 2018 — Khwai Private Concession/Sable Alley Camp

On arrival at Maun Airport in northern Botswana you will be met and assisted to the light aircraft for your flight to Sable Alley, a tented camp on the edge of the famous Okavango Delta. At the airstrip your guide will meet you and drive you to the camp, where you'll meet up with your Sky & Telescope astronomer/tour leaders and the rest of the group.

Sable Alley is a tented camp built among spectacular shade trees in Khwai Private Concession, adjacent to the Okavango Delta. Twelve deluxe tents, all with en-suite facilities, sit on raised decking and front onto a floodplain. The dining and sitting areas are also on raised decking, and there is a circular fireplace and a swimming pool. The food served in camp is of an excellent quality, and South African wines and spirits can be enjoyed with dinner. Water, soft drinks, tea and coffee are also available throughout the day.

Sable Alley interior/exterior

Sable Alley tent interior / Sable Alley pool

The Khwai Private Concession offers the opportunity to take game drives into the wilderness to see the animals of the area. And, because it is a private concession, the vehicles are allowed to go off the tracks, towards the animals, in order to get a closer view. The area is home to a variety of animals, including elephants, antelopes, zebras, buffalos, giraffes, hippos, hyenas, lions, and leopards. The region also has an incredible array of colorful, as well as some endangered, bird life.

At Sable Alley we can also take a relaxing mokoro or dugout canoe ride out onto the flooded waterways of the Okavango Delta. Listen to the lapping of the water as our guide poles the canoe through the lily pads to look for red lechwe and other wildlife. It is a tranquil way to traverse the area, just as the Okavango Water Bushmen have done for millennia, using the mokoro as their main source of transportation to traverse the river or fish for their supper.

This idyllic setting of the camp offers a wonderful view of the Southern Sky, not only from the main area but from every tent too. Our group will be an intimate party of just 24 people. Your astronomer-leader Stephen James O'Meara has been to the area and chosen a fine location, away from the camp, from which to view the magnificently clear Botswana night sky through binoculars and telescopes.

Sable Alley and view of sky

Sable Alley main area / Large & Small Magellanic Clouds as seen from camp

Amazing images can also be taken of the Milky Way directly overhead. Both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds will be highest in the heavens in the pre-dawn hours for you to enjoy from the luxury of your private south-facing deck. Plus we are also in luck this year as we have four naked-eye planets visible in the evening skies — with three of them (Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars) all appearing overhead between sunset and midnight. We will visit our special viewing site each night, have supper out in the wild (with our guides keeping watch to make sure we are safe), and then spend a few hours under the stars, before heading back to the camp and our tents. We will fall asleep to the nights sounds of frogs chirruping, hippos feeding on the grassy floodplain, and perhaps hyenas whooping in the distance.

All accommodation, meals, selected drinks, laundry, and activities are included during your stay.

August 8 & 9, 2018 — Makgadikgadi Pans/Mobile Tented Camp

After one final game drive (time permitting), we say goodbye to Sable Alley and transfer to the airstrip for our light aircraft flight to Gweta. On arrival at Gweta Airstrip our mobile safari guides will meet us and transfer us to our private camp in the vast salt pans of the Makgadikgadi, arriving in time for lunch.

Our private tented camp is set up prior to our arrival, and each tent has its own bush latrine toilet and bucket-style shower open to the stars, attached to the back of the tent. Inside the tent are two beds with mattresses, sheets, pillows, and towels, there’s also a table and battery-operated light. The lights of the camp will be turned off after dinner to optimize our nighttime star viewing.

Mobile camp dining tent / Makgadikgadi Pans

Mobile camp dining tent / Walking on the vast Makgadikgadi Pans

We have chosen the Pans for these two nights as they offer the optimum in stargazing of perhaps anywhere on our blue planet. They are comprised of vast salt pans that were once the bed of an ancient super lake. They are flat and white, have no trees or rocks, and stretch out in all directions as far as the eye can see. At night the sky is as big as you’ve ever seen it, with the stars touching the horizon all around you. August is winter in Botswana, which means it’s cold, but as we know, this also means clear skies! We are in for a treat at our Pans location: We have really great photo opportunities of the center of the Milky Way, as it will be directly overhead and passing between Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. We might also be lucky and have some Perseid meteor activity in early mornings, as they can be strong from August 9th to 13th.

Milky Way (from Makgadikgadi Pans)

Milky Way as seen from the Makgadikgadi Pans

We have two nights in which to view the star-filled sky during our stay in the Makgadikgadi Pans. We also have a guided drive into the Pans on the morning of August 9th to explore the area and learn more about it, and to find out what animals actually live here.

All accommodation, meals, selected drinks, and national park fees included during your stay.

August 10 & 11, 2018 — Chobe National Park/Savute Elephant Lodge

After breakfast we transfer back to Gweta Airstrip for our flight to Chobe National Park. On arrival at the airstrip we are met and transferred to Savute Elephant Lodge, which sits high up on the banks of the Savute Channel. Stretching from the waterways of the Linyanti all the way to the Savute Marsh, the meanderings of the Savute Channel have brought water and new life into the western section of Chobe National Park on and off for many thousands of generations. At the present time the Savute Channel is dry, but Savute Elephant Lodge pumps water into a waterhole directly in front of camp. It is one of very few water sources in the area, so it attracts a lot of game, including but not limited to elephants, hyenas, zebra, kudu, and lions.

Elephant in Savute camp and aircraft

Elephant on drive from Savute camp / Light aircraft used to fly between camps

Savute Elephant Lodge is situated high on the bank of the Savute Channel and consists of 12 luxury tents, each with en-suite bathroom facilities. The tents are built on raised wooden platforms and have great views out over the Savute Channel below. Large, private decks kitted out with chairs and a table make a great spot for viewing the wildlife as it comes to the waterhole to drink. The camp offers game drives in the surrounding area, which is abundant in wildlife, from baboons to lions and a host of other animals in between. The Savute area also has wonderful birdlife, including, among others, the Kori Bustard — Botswana's national bird and the heaviest flying bird in the world. There are also some ancient hills near the Savute Marsh — yes, Botswana does have some hills! — that we can visit to view some interesting Bushmen rock art paintings.

Savute Lodge & Mokoro ride

Savute Lodge tent deck / Mokoro (dugout canoe) ride in Okavango Delta

Savute Elephant Lodge is where we will spend most of our time viewing wildlife; we will still be viewing the stars nightly, but from the safety of the camp and our tents. We will do our best to minimize light pollution in the camp, so we get the best possible view of the night sky.

All accommodation, meals, drinks, park fees, laundry, and activities are included during your stay.

August 12, 2018 — Depart

After breakfast and one last game drive (time permitting) we say goodbye to the camp staff and head to the airstrip for our flight back to Maun. You arrive in Maun in time to connect with your onward flight.

INCLUDED / NOT INCLUDED

6-Night/7-Day Tour Includes:

  • All light-aircraft flights from Maun between camps and back to Maun
  • All transfers to and from the airstrips to the camps
  • 6 nights on safari at 3 different locations, as per the Itinerary above
  • Tour leader and astronomer to assist you throughout your Stargazing Safari
  • Evening stargazing sessions with a skilled astronomer who will answer questions on the Southern Sky and provide tips on how to image the night sky
  • All game-viewing activities as offered in the Itinerary
  • All accommodations in double or single tents
  • All meals as listed in the “at a glance” box at the top of the Itinerary (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
  • All drinks (including South African wines and spirits), teas, coffees, and water
  • Departure tax from Maun, National Park fees & VAT (subject to increase if government raises price by more than 5%)
  • Laundry at Sable Alley & Savute Elephant Lodge only

6-Night/7-Day Tour Does Not Include:

  • International flights or regional scheduled flights
  • Botswana Tourism Levy US$30 payable on entry into Botswana in cash
  • Passports or visas and cost of same
  • Items of a personal nature such as cost of phone calls
  • Travel and medical insurance, which is compulsory (the camps and lodges we visit will not permit guests to enter their lodges without adequate insurance)
  • Curio shop purchases
  • Tips and gratuities

ITINERARY: OPTIONAL 2-NIGHT PRE-EXTENSION TO VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE

This adventure starts on August 4, 2018 just prior to the Star Safari. Please contact Yoga Safari (info@yogasafari.com) before making any flight arrangements, as space is limited on this extension.

Guests wishing to travel to partake in the extension to Victoria Falls prior to the start of the Star Safari, will need to arrive into Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe, on August 4th. Upon arrival they will be met and transferred to their hotel. After their two-night stay, they will be transferred to Kasane Airport, Botswana, to begin their Star Safari. Guests on this extension will also need to arrange their flights so that they depart from Maun Airport, Botswana, on August 12th.

Victoria Falls sunset cruise

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe / Sunset cruise near Victoria Falls

August 4, 2018 — Victoria Falls

On arrival at Victoria Falls Airport, you will be met and transferred to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (or an equivalent 4-star property) for your two-night stay. You are booked on a bed and breakfast basis, for two nights at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (or an equivalent 4-star property), with dinner in the Boma restaurant on one of the nights and dinner at the hotel restaurant on the other.

The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is set on a high plateau that forms the boundary of the unfenced Zambezi National Park. It is a deluxe African lodge, designed with thatch roofs, hardwoods, and vibrant colors that offer guests excellent uninterrupted views of the National Park and easy access to the Falls. The lodge’s main building faces a waterhole that offers guests numerous wildlife sightings as the animals pass through the area into the wild bushveld. All the rooms have en-suite bathrooms and are equipped with safes, air conditioning, hair dryers, fans, mosquito nets, and complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

After checking in and settling into your room, you are free to enjoy the lodge and its surroundings until dinner time. Dinner has been booked for you in the Boma Restaurant, which offers you a little insight into the culture of Zimbabwe. Experience the lively dancing and incredible drumming of the players as you try out new tastes and enjoying delectable dishes.

Overnight Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (or equivalent 4-star property)

Boma Restaurant

Boma Restaurant dancers (left) and barbeque (right)

August 5, 2018 — Victoria Falls

After breakfast this morning your guide will meet you at your hotel and take you on a guided tour of the roaring Victoria Falls. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the area. Then at a pre-arranged time, your guide will meet you and take you to the mighty Zambezi River, where you are booked onto a two-hour sunset cruise with complimentary drinks and snacks, where you can witness the spray of the Falls in the setting sun. After the cruise your guide will return you to your hotel for the night. Dinner tonight will be in your hotel restaurant.

Overnight Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (or equivalent 4-star property)

August 6, 2018 — Victoria Falls/Kasane Airport/Star Safari

After breakfast today your guide will meet you and transfer you across the border into Botswana and onto Kasane Airport where you'll be met and assisted to the flight for the start of your Star Safari Adventure in Botswana.

2-Night Extension Includes:

  • Meet and Greet at Victoria Falls Airport
  • Return airport transfers (from Victoria Falls Airport and to Kasane Airport)
  • Breakfast
  • Boma dinner
  • Dinner in the hotel restaurant
  • Sunset cruise with complimentary drinks, snacks, and return hotel transfers
  • Guided tour of the Falls with return hotel transfers (excludes entrance fee to the Falls)
  • Flight from Kasane Airport to start of Star Safari

2-Night Extension Does Not Include:

  • Any meals & drinks not mentioned above
  • Entrance fee to Victoria Falls ($30 as of December 2017)
  • Park fees for the sunset cruise ($10 as of December 2017)
  • Visa for Zimbabwe ($50 as of December 2017)
  • Drinks (except on sunset cruise)
  • Tips
  • Anything not mentioned in “2-Night Extension Includes” above

 

Pricing (per person) Double Single
Botswana Stargazing Safari $8,400 $9,900
Victoria Falls 2-Night Pre-Extension $1,600 $1,750

Note: All tour prices are based on costs and U.S. dollar exchange rates in effect at the time of posting, including Botswana national park fees and VAT (value-added tax). As such, prices listed here are subject to change. Sky & Telescope/Yoga Safari will inform clients of any changes prior to departure.

 

PAYMENTS & TERMS

  • An advance payment of US$2,000 per person, along with the completed reservation form for each traveler, are required to secure your reservation. See link below to Reservation & Payment Form.
  • Final payment is due by March 1, 2018.
  • Cancellations must be made by email to info@yogasafari.com. A reply acknowledging receipt of the cancellation email must be received back by cancelling clients.
  • All advanced payments, less a US$700 per person service fee, are refundable until January 21, 2018. For cancellations between January 21 and March 1, 2018, the total advance is forefeited.
  • There are no refunds after March 1, 2018.
  • All clients are required to read and sign two documents: Terms & Conditions, and Release of Liability & Assumption of Risk. You will find these on the Reservation & Payment Form (see link below).

 

READY TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT?

Go to: RESERVATION & PAYMENT FORM

Note: You will be redirected to a secure page run by Sky & Telescope's parent company, F+W Media, Inc. Our tour partner for this Botswana Stargazing Safari is Yoga Safari, based in Maun, Botswana.