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Upcountry Maui's Sweet-Smelling Secret
Upcountry Maui's Sweet-Smelling Secret
Beyond Botswana: Two New Luxury Safari Camps and a Name Change to Boot
November 11, 2008 at 5:39PM by Adam H. Graham |  comments

xudun delta lodgeMalarone? Check. 45 SPF Sunscreen? Check. A conquered fear of flying over lion- and hippo-swarmed savannahs on a rickety Cesna 6-seater? Check. These are just a few of the items I needed for my trip to Botswana's Okavango Delta where & Beyond's two newest luxury properties, Xaranna and Xudum — both pronounced with the famed Bushman click (for example, Tlick-ana) — opened this past August.

The opulent but conservation-minded safari company, formerly called C.C. Africa and long known for harmonizing luxury with big game encounters, changed its name in October to "& Beyond." The company's expansion into India, Costa Rica and other parts of the world forced it to drop the Afro-centric title and embrace a new direction.

Getting to the lavish properties from New York City was most of the battle. The flight to Jo'burg on South African Airways took 17 hours, with a brief airport stopover in Dakar, an ideal place to update your Facebook status for bragging rights. Rather than immediately continue on to the hair-raising, three-hour twin-prop portion of the journey on Air Botswana and Safari Air, I opted to stay a night at the leafy, Tuscan-inspired Orient Express Westcliffe, perched in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, 22km from O.R. Tambo Airport.

Start your stay in the bush with a few nights at one of the lavish rooms at Xudum Lodge (pictured), decked out with private plunge pools, comfy oversized cane loungers, full size tubs and airy rooftop lounge areas where you can opt to sleep. I woke up in the morning to a vista of giant lumbering elephants milling through the lagoon. I watched and sipped on the glass of fresh OJ while getting ready for the 6 a.m. game drive, which included sightings of lions, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, baboons, zebras, and crocs — just another morning in Botswana.

For those who want to rough it a bit more, the Chobe Under Canvas mobile tents in Chobe National Park opened in August and offer an ideal way to explore the Kahalari region — though they are luxury tents, they are a bit more spartan than other offerings from & Beyond. The payoff: Chobe contains Africa's largest population of elephants (45,000) and some of the best zebra, baboon and lion sightings in the region.

Comfort-seekers will want to fast forward to the luxury tents at Xaranna, which are in a whole other class and decked out in modern swaths of pink and green. This property is the best place to cap off the safari experience, complete with free wifi and laundry services and desks with views in each of the tents to catch up on your journals and enjoy a sundowner or two. Surrounded by jackal-berry trees, and home to several species of beautiful song birds like the gray lourie and the robinchat, the lodge is situated on an island in the middle of the delta. Though it is not quite as big-game orientated as the others, I saw lions, hippos, crocs and Vervet monkeys within hours of arriving.

Trawling through the bush is admittedly not for everyone and definitely not affordable, but a glass of Amarula (Africa's version of Kahlua, made from the Amarula fruit), an in-tent foot massage, or a dish of curried ostrich followed by persimmon sorbet on the spacious deck overlooking a pod of hippos or herd is an experience on which you can't put a price tag.

Adam H. Graham is a contributing writer for this blog; his work also frequently appears in Town & Country Travel, both in the magazine and online.


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