Camping with lions in Botswana

September 2018 

Camping with lions in Botswana

September 2018 

Camping with lions in Botswana

September 2018 

Camping with lions in Botswana

September 2018 

Camping with lions in Botswana

September 2018 

Determined to go on a Safari during my time in Southern Africa, I made my way over to Chobe National Park in Botswana. I had pre-booked the cheapest safari I could find online, which happened to be a 3-day trip with two nights of camping in the park.

Being a solo traveler, I was especting to be thrown into a tour with another group, as I had on past excursions. This time, it turned out, I was wrong. When I arrived at the meeting point, it was just me and three guides (two drivers, and one "intern"). I guess that is one perk about solo travel in Africa: private safaris.

Determined to go on a Safari during my time in Southern Africa, I made my way over to Chobe National Park in Botswana. I had pre-booked the cheapest safari I could find online, which happened to be a 3-day trip with two nights of camping in the park.

Being a solo traveler, I'm used to being thrown into tours with other groups. This time, it turned out, I was wrong. When I arrived at the meeting point, it was just me and three guides (two drivers, and one "intern"). I guess that is one perk about solo travel in Africa: private safaris.

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Day one flew by like a dream. My journey started on a boat cruise along the Chobe river, and a few hours later I continued the adventure in my private safari car. The day was filled with crocodiles, hippos, elephants, buffalo, giraffes, lions, more elephants, antelope, monkeys and much more. Did I mention elephants? Chobe National Park is known for their elephants, and I think I saw at least 100.

The safari car I had entirely to myself was no joke. This thing could fit up to 9 people, so I felt pretty boujee in the back seat by myself. This feeling intensified as other safari cars (packed to the brim, might I add) passed by with confused onlookers. More than once I had to explain to other tourists that no, I am not some important person—I'm just a very lucky solo traveler who booked the cheapest tour she could find.

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As sunset drew near, my guides and I headed for camp. And when I say camp, I mean an empty little patch of the park that had enough space to pitch two tents and make a fire. Nothing about the camp spot was protected from the surrounding wildlife, which made me a little uneasy considering we had passed by a pride of lions only a couple hours earlier. There was also no cell service or electricity for miles. If this sounds sketchy to you, that's probably because it was—but that's part of the adventure (and probably why this tour was so cheap).

As sunset drew near, my guides and I headed for camp. And when I say camp, I mean an empty little patch of the park that had enough space to pitch two tents and make a fire. Nothing about the camp spot was protected from the surrounding wildlife, which made me a little uneasy considering we had passed by a pride of lions only a couple hours earlier. There was also no cell service for miles. If this sounds sketchy to you, that's probably because it was—but that's part of the adventure (and probably why this tour was so cheap).

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My guides set up camp and made me a delicious dinner on the fire. We stayed up for a few hours chatting until it was time to head to sleep, which was much welcomed after such an exciting day. The guides had set up a small tent for me about 10 meters away from their own. Looking back on it, I'm surprised I wasn't more anxious being by myself in a tent with literal predators in the vicinity. But I was drifting into a food coma and the guides made me feel safe, so I passed out hard.

The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of my guides making breakfast and listened to them joke about all of the lions they heard from their tent last night. Only it turns out that they weren't joking. They had all heard lion roars throughout the night. Yikes.

Day two of my safari was filled with more animals, with extra emphasis on lions. I counted 16 different lion sightings throughout the day. Six! Teen! Right before heading back to camp for night two, my guide got a tip from another driver about a pride nearby. To be honest, I was already kind of lion-ed out for the day, but my guide was eager to check them out. When we got there, there were a few other cars who also seemed to have gotten the same tip.


And then I realized that one of the cars right across from the pride had gotten its back wheel stuck in the dirt. The driver of that car got out and started shoveling the dirt away, but it was clear that one of the male lions was getting a little curious and aggrivated about the situation. To hide/distract the shoveling from the lion, my guides drove between the pride and the car that was stuck. We were definitely a little too close to the pride for my comfort, and the lions eyes were still locked straight ahead despite my guides best attempts to distract it. A few minutes in, the lion got into a crouching position and my life flashed before my eyes. Okay, maybe that's a little bit dramatic, but I don't remember the last time my heart beat that fast. If that lion was going to pounce, I, alone in back of this car, was smack-dab in the middle of its path. And then two things happened simultaneously: the lion began to lurch forward, and a driver from a different car made some sort of loud noise that scared him and caused him to flip around back into a bush. This all happened within a second, but my memory of it can only be replayed in slow motion.

Oh, did I mention that going into this trip one of my biggest fears was large cats? This is partially thanks to a Wikipedia hole I went down a few years earlier after googling "tiger attacks" before moving to India. Do not recommed.

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The car that was stuck in the dirt eventually got freed, but by then there were about 10 or so safari cars lined up around the pride. I was super eager to get back to camp after my near-death experience (okay, now I'm definitely being dramatic) but my guide thought my fear of lions was hilarious and wanted to stay for a little longer. When we finally did start heading back, there was traffic to get back onto the main "road", so we stayed with the partially aggrivated pride for a bit longer.

By the time we returned to camp, the sun was almost set so we moved quickly to get the fire started. At this point I was still a bit shaken from the almost-pouncing lions we had just seen, and I had remembered that my guides could hear them from their tent last night. I stayed glued to the fire the entire evening, using logic from the Jungle Book that wild animals hate fire. I have no idea if this is actually true, but it gave me a little peace of mind.


I was dreading going to sleep alone in my tent, but as the fire dwindled it became unavoidable. I was exhausted when I finally laid down, but with everything that had just happened I was barely able to get any real rest. And sure enough, I could hear them. A few times throughout the night I could hear distant roars and rustling in the bushes. A lion's roar can be heard from up to five miles away, so in reality they probably weren't that close. But that night, alone in my tent without any cell service for miles, I laid the stillest I have ever laid in my entire life.

Click here for more pictures
from my safari Botswana.

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