The Ker & Downey Botswana Experience

November 2023
Orla Coughlan

A landlocked country in Southern Africa, Botswana is arguably one of the most sought-after destinations on the continent. Praised for its approach to tourism, a model based on the concept of high yield and low impact, this destination offers an experience like no other… combine that with a Ker & Downey Botswana safari and you’re on a win.

Boasting a distinguished safari heritage dating back to the 1960s, Ker & Downey Botswana is one of the country’s most reputable and esteemed safari operators. With five camps located in Botswana’s prime game viewing areas, (four of which are in private concessions) one can expect a plethora of wildlife, striking landscapes of delta and desert and of course, exceptional hospitality and acute attention to detail. Needless to say, Botswana was high on my bucket list and when the opportunity came along to join the November FAM trip it was a no-brainer.

So, why Botswana and why Ker & Downey?


The Ker & Downey Botswana properties are located in the world-renowned wildlife areas of the Okavango Delta and Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Shinde, Shinde Footsteps & Kanana sit within their own private concessions in the Okavango Delta, as does Dinaka in the Central Kalahari, with Okuti positioned upon the serene Xakanaxa Lagoon in the Moremi Game Reserve. The seasonal flood plains and permanent water channels of the delta and the arid, dry landscape of the Kalahari offer the most amazing contrast in terms of experience and the integrated operations of Ker & Downey Botswana and Safari Air make combining these different regions seamless.


Having returned from the Ker & Downey Botswana properties just under a month ago, I may be bias when I say that the safari experience here exceeds expectations. The presence of permanent water and seasonal floodplains that surround the delta properties offer water activities year-round, as well as morning, afternoon and night game drives and walking safaris in the private concessions.

Starting off our experience in Kanana, the bar was raised for the next five days when we embarked on a mokoro safari, only to be joined by a young male elephant as he crossed the channel in a somewhat hair raising yet mesmerizing encounter. Mokoro’s are one of the oldest traditions of the Okavango Delta, an activity that is totally unique in its ability to inspire peace and tranquillity. This experience was further enhanced by our  poler, Beauty, who was the first female poler in the region, when she joined Ker & Downey Botswana under the Women Empowerment Scheme in 2013.

Arriving at Shinde, we were amazed by the permanent water that surrounded the camp, and having never fished before I figured here would be a good place to start. Call it natural talent or beginners’ luck, we found ourselves returning from our boat cruise with fresh catch to be cooked that night, made all the more enjoyable with a Savannah in hand as the sun set beyond the horizon.


Game drives were no less exciting and the window seat guarantee policy at Ker & Downey Botswana ensured impressive views. In transit to Shinde Footsteps, our guide Kenny was intrigued to follow the whooping sounds of the hyena, finding us the thrilling spectacle of a young male lion defend his kill from a kettle of kites and three hyena, who reluctantly retreated as the lion dragged his victim out of the Botswana sun. We were rewarded once again the following day by a remarkable sighting of one of Africa’s most successful predators, wild dog. The pack of 21 lay languidly under the shade in one of the camp’s favoured bush breakfast spots, and it was hard to imagine that these canines are one of the most effective predators in the world. Using extraordinary pack co-ordination and reaching speeds of up to 50mph, their hunt success rate is 80%, compared to that of a lion’s 20-30% - unsurprisingly, there were not many takers for bush breakfast that morning.

On arrival at Dinaka, we were greeted by a herd of zebra with the odd wildebeest in-between. Rumour had it that the watering hole positioned directly in front of the camp had become a favoured hotspot for a particular leopard in the area. Our guide Ronnie, enlightening and ever-patient, sat with us by the campfire in anticipation of what others before us had witnessed. We weren’t disappointed. Cautiously, this leopard creeped down to the watering hole and, on gaining more confidence in his surroundings, advanced to the camp only to sip from the communal pool.

We may need another blog to describe seven days of world class wildlife viewing but other honourable mentions include: the close proximity to Oscar the hippo; the elegant male Kudos; lion cubs who were watched by two hornbill (very Simba and Zazu); the lechwe and their powerful movements through the water channels; two cheetah taking refuge from the heat; a leopard tortoise; a buffalo (on foot!); the giraffe and their elegant stature; sensational birding and a hyena who sulked past us whilst having a sundowner.


One of the things we value at Small World Marketing is the cultural element our clients are so heavily involved in, and Ker & Downey Botswana are no exception. At Dinaka, the camp offers the interactive and utterly absorbing Educational San Bushmen Walk. We walked through the bush with our San Bushmen guides who demonstrated how the San Bushmen adapted and survived in the harsh desert climate. Using medicinal plants and unique hunting techniques, these methods have  been passed down through generations. An absolute must for both adults and children alike, we left the experience with an opened mind and a deep appreciation for such past traditions.


A portfolio of five camps, Ker & Downey Botswana combine exclusive safari with luxury accommodation. Their heritage camps, Kanana, Shinde, Okuti & Dinaka boast opulent interiors, reminiscent of those from bygone safari days. New to the collection, and one I was particularly enthusiastic to see, is the new Shinde Footsteps camp. Traditionally a specialist walking safari, Footsteps has been rebranded and officially opened in May 2023. The new Shinde Footsteps camp evokes the sense of a bush camp but retains the stylish flair of the heritage camps... a real feet in sand experience and a delightful contrast to mix in in any itinerary. Overlooking a permanent water channel, we were welcomed to our rooms by an elephant making his way through the camp, who returned to see us off the following day.

That little bit extra…

Despite enjoying an epic week on safari in Botswana, the Ker & Downey Botswana team threw in some extra surprises that obviously cannot go unmentioned:

-   A scenic helicopter flight with Helicopter Horizons - an iconic view of the delta and a once in a lifetime experience for many.

-   The Sleep Out Deck at Dinaka – an elevated platform that comfortably fit all five ladies on the trip. I had my best night sleep here, falling asleep to the sounds of nearby hyena and lion only to be awoken by a beautiful sunrise.

-  Photographic bunker at Dinaka – not entirely a surprise, but the time we spent here was very special. The bunker is positioned in front of a watering hole and offers an eye-level view with the wildlife. For keen photographers and wildlife enthusiasts alike, the experience here provided the most tranquil and intimate wildlife encounters.


I can’t write a blog about Botswana without mentioning the people. Throughout my trip, I did not meet one member of staff who was not absolutely delighted to be part of the Ker & Downey Botswana team. Personal service, acute attention to detail, warm hospitality and the kindest nature are only a few of the many ways to describe how fantastic this team is. Our guides went above and beyond – their unwavering enthusiasm was infectious and drew us in so deeply, as did each of the camp staff with their devout love for the setting in which they worked.

Our week with Ker & Downey Botswana had been sensational – incredible sightings, thought-provoking conversations, and exceptional hospitality. Sadly, the experience had to come to an end and a cold and frosty Wiltshire was a mere sleep away, but the impression this delicate and inspiring destination left us on all will last a lifetime and I already cannot wait to return.