A bicycle safari in Botswana

Explore the Okavango Delta on wheels during a multi-day safari experience

A group of cyclists riding bikes in Botswana
(Image credit: Aardvark Safaris)

Most safari operators offer the comfort and security of vehicles that keep you at one remove from the animals you have come to see. Head out into the wilds on a bicycle, however, and you're "just another creature in the bush", said James Stewart in the Financial Times. On one of Aardvark Safaris' multi-day trips in Botswana's Okavango Delta, guests stay in simple, temporary camps, with tin buckets on pulleys for showers, and fires for heat. The route follows hardened elephant trails near the Moremi Game Reserve, on communal land where few other tourists venture. And it takes you to remote places, including waterholes that are inaccessible to 4x4s and too far-flung for most walkers.

The Okavango is one of the world's few inland deltas. From November each year, rain in the Angolan highlands floods south to fill its plains, producing up to 15,000sq km of wetland. Cyclists can explore it in the dry season, from June to October, riding through a wilderness of lagoons, mopane forest and grassy plains, home to lions, leopards, wild dogs and a huge population of elephants. On Aardvark's trips, small groups are accompanied by three guides armed with rifles. There's no "banter" en route – communication is by hand signal, with a raised fist meaning stop, a pinched hand "twirled like a trunk" indicating a nearby elephant, and so on, but guests are given whistles to use if they get lost.

Rather-too-close encounters with wildlife are not unknown: we surprised a bull buffalo ("800kg of muscle and bad temper") on the track, and one of our guides told of being charged by a lion. At such times, "the great drama of safari – hunt or flee – assumes a bell-clanging clarity". But there's plenty of time for calm reflection, too, as when watching zebra rumbling across the plains "beneath a vibrating sky", and guests round off the trip with a two-night stay at a luxury lodge, the Khwai Private Reserve. 

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A six-night trip costs from £5,450pp, excluding flights; aardvarksafaris.com

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