The Majestic Beauty of the Selinda Spillway
Let’s talk about a place that’ll take your breath away! A wilderness unlike any you’ve ever seen before. It’s called the Selinda Reserve and it spans over 320,000 hectares of pure, unspoiled natural beauty. The Selinda Spillway is a true gem, situated in the northern reaches of Botswana. It’s an ancient waterway, connecting the Okavango Delta in the west to its’ eastern neighbour, the Linyanti Swamps. For thirty long years it was dry, but since the floods of 2009, it’s come back to life. The spillway runs through game-rich land in the Selinda Reserve, one of the most renowned wildlife concessions in Botswana. Only 18 lucky guests are allowed on the reserve at any one time. That means unrestricted viewings of elephants, cheetahs, wild dogs, lions, hyenas, jackals, leopards and more.
And what of the accommodation? Well… You certainly aren’t going to rough it out here! The Selinda tents are a blend of luxury and nature. Copper bathtubs, plush bedding and thoughtful decor collude to make you feel like royalty. And when you step outside, the sounds of the landscape will remind you that you’re in the WILD!
On our first afternoon out, we took to the water on a boat to change our safari perspective. Gliding through the tranquil waters of the Spillway, surrounded by lush greenery and towering trees, we felt as though we had entered a different world. The gentle sound of water against the boat was soothing, and the still air was punctuated only by the occasional bird cry or the rustling of reeds. The water was so clear that we could see straight down to the colourful fish swimming below. With a front-row seat to the wildlife that calls this reserve home, we were lucky enough to observe a large elephant bull. We watched as the elephant swam across the channels. The bull then suddenly stood on the bank, leaving us in awe of its enormous size. It was an experience that was both exhilarating and grounding.
We also had some epic bird sightings and enjoyed views of majestic crowned cranes with their tall, spiky heads and long, flowing tail feathers. Graceful open-billed storks were also a highlight, with their delicate beaks and elegant wingspans. The skies were a symphony of colour and sound. We even had the pleasure of watching a fish eagle catch a tilapia in-front of the boat, and later that afternoon were serenaded by the haunting calls of said eagle as they echoed across the water.
As we made our way back to camp the sun was setting, painting the sky with brilliant hues of orange and pink. On our return, we encountered a raft of hippos preparing to head out to graze for the evening. With the heat of the day dissipating, a cool breeze took its place. The stars began to twinkle in the sky, and the distant sounds of lions and hyenas could be heard from the dinner table. The atmosphere was enchanting.
Fine dining at Selinda was an unforgettable culinary experience. The ambiance was warm and inviting, with flickering candlelight casting a soft glow over the elegant table settings. Chef Olla greeted us with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, promising an evening of gastronomic delights. As we listened to the menu, each dish was described with the utmost care and detail, making our mouths water with anticipation. Every bite was a symphony of flavours and textures, perfectly balanced and expertly crafted. The ingredients were fresh and sustainably sourced, showcasing the best of the surrounding region. Olla is a master of her craft, and every dish was a work of art. It was a night filled with laughter, good conversation, and delectable cuisine.
The next morning, we woke up early for a wonderful adventure: a helicopter ride over the Selinda concession. As the helicopter rose into the air we couldn’t help but feel a rush of excitement. The doors were off and the wind rushed through our hair as we gazed down at the sprawling landscape below. The Selinda Spillway – a 300 kilometre channel that connects two of the largest wildlife reserves in northern Botswana – stretched out before us. We flew over the water channels, dotted with elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, and even a large herd of buffalo. We saw the channel winding its way through the landscape like a ribbon of life. But the highlight of the flight was yet to come. We descended to a hippo pool, where a bush breakfast with mimosas was waiting for us. As we landed, we could hear the grunts of the hippos and the calls of the birds in the trees. Sipping on our mimosas and savouring a delicious breakfast, we watched in awe as the hippos splashed in the water and the birds flitted from tree to tree.
The helicopter takes to the sky,
Excitement rushes, hearts take flight.
Doors off, wind in our hair,
The view below, a masterpiece.
The Selinda Spillway, a ribbon bright,
Connects two worlds with endless might.
Tall palms reach up to the sky.
We descend to a hippo pool,
Where breakfast waits, so cool.
Under trees, with mimosas in hand,
We savour the meal, nature’s delight.
Grunt of the hippos, birds in trees,
A tranquil scene, on the breeze.
We leave with memories, time can’t erase.
For our afternoon adventure we were on a mission. Reports had reached our ears of tiny lion cubs, and we were determined to lay our own eyes upon them. The journey to their last known location was an adventurous one, requiring us to take a boat past many pods of hippos, after which we would transfer into a wheeled vehicle in order to search the land. We tracked the cubs relentlessly, searching every inch of the terrain. But it was when we stumbled upon the fresh tracks of the female, leading away from her cubs last position, that we knew she had moved them for their own safety. With eagle-eyed precision we scanned the area. Eventually one sharp observer caught a glimpse of a tail flick in the reeds. We immediately came to a halt, stumbling upon a breathtaking scene: Six tiny lion cubs playing beautifully in the afternoon light. With their unsteady footing, they clambered up a dead tree, posing for the cameras and capturing our hearts. Their movements were tentative, a mixture of nervousness and curiosity. The stormy sky behind them painted a moody and dramatic backdrop.
The next morning the group decided to sleep in and enjoy the tranquility of the camp before heading out on another epic afternoon game drive with Reuben to enjoy views of buffalo, zebra and giraffe. Later we managed to meet up with some of the “Army Boys,” a formidable coalition of six male lions. This time they weren’t all together as the dominant male was busy courting a young lioness. It seemed to be her first experience of being mated, so she was very nervous. At one point she left the large male and approached our vehicle in order to get some space and enjoy our shade. Her suitor wasn’t excited about that and tried to mate her right next to us, she flirted with him before running away into the wild sage. Needles to say, they did mate again, and again, so hopefully some adorable cubs will be around in just over 100 days time.
Lions in heat, a mating game,
A female’s call, a male’s claim.
With each scent, they come alive,
Their instincts take control, they thrive.
She invites him, with a pose,
The lordosis, a come hither rose.
He follows closely, with no fight,
Her fertility, a shining light.