If you ask veteran African travelers to name the best guide’s, Ralph Bousfields name appears at the top of every list. The most essential prerequisite for a successful trip to the African bushveld is an outstanding guide.
When I was invited on an Uncharted Africa Safari in Botswana guided by Ralph, I didn’t hesitate to confirm.
Co-owner of Uncharted Africa Safari Company, Ralph Bousfield needs no introduction in safari circles. His family has been guiding for five generations and his father, Jack Bousfield, was a record-breaking professional hunter who became a renowned safari guide. Based in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, Ralph was raised in the bush, and is now one of the most famous and knowledgeable guides in Africa.
Although this was my third trip to Botswana, it couldn’t have been more diverse than my previous safaris there.
Our first two nights’ accommodation was in a mobile-tented camp set up in the middle of the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, followed by a fly camp on a private island just outside the reserve.
When you’re in a permanent camp, animals know that they are entering a territory inhabited by humans. However, with the mobile camp, since they are not in the same spot permanently, we are immersed in their territory. As we sat around the campfire our first evening, Ralph reminded us that we are in the middle of their habitat, and what a privilege it was to be here.
While mobile-tented camps are extremely comfortable, they are for the more adventurous traveler. Our camp consisted of a main area decorated with Persian rugs and cushions to sit on, as well as a table set up with coffee, tea and juices, not to mention a fully stocked bar.
The tents were spacious with two beds, vanity with mirror, and were equipped with a flush toilet and bucket shower. Three course meals were served under the stars and included such treats as fresh tomatoes and basil soup, freshly baked bread, roast Botswana beef and chocolate pudding.
On our first gameviewing drive, we encountered a pack of 18 wild dogs, several herds of elephant, leopard, and numerous species of antelope to name but a few.
After our two nights there, the camp staff packed up our belongings and left no trace that we were ever there. It was a short gameviewing drive to the lagoon’s edge where we boarded a boat and set off to explore the twisty, winding waters of the Delta. The deep open lagoons provide a wonderful contrast in habitat after the dry forest areas and floodplains of our first camp, and we spotted crocodiles, hippos, and numerous species of birds along the way.
To my surprise, lunch was served on a sand bar in the middle of the river. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would swim in a croc infested river in the middle of Africa, but knew Ralph would never put us in harm’s way.
We were cautioned to stay where the water is clear, and not venture off too far in the dark, murky water (not a problem I thought to myself). I reluctantly made my way into the river and found the cool water very refreshing (it was a really hot day).
Before I knew it, mud was flying everywhere and our small group broke out into an all-out mud fight (Ralph started it). As much as we hated leaving, we had to make our way down the river to our camp.
When we stepped off our boat onto our private island, it was already dark, but lanterns lined the way to our fly camp. After dinner and drinks by the fire, I made my way to my mosquito net tent. As I drifted off to sleep in the freedom of a night in the open, surrounded by nature at her very best, Ralph’s words echoed in my mind, “what a privilege it is to be here.”