I spent the festive period in Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta and therefore a popular destination for most of the tourists who visit Botswana. I saw a sign advertising scenic flights over the Delta, which would have been an unbelievable experience, but the associated cost was too expensive.
I was with two other people and the cost for a 45 minutes helicopter flight for three people came to approximately $655, which is around P7000 – I paid just over P4000 for 1 hour 30 mins return flights from Gaborone to Maun. The scenic flight was just that, a flight, the helicopter doesn’t land somewhere in the Delta for a coffee or a picnic. Let’s be honest, 45 minutes would go by very quickly so the experience would seem short-lived.
This reminded me of the time I visited Botswana as a tourist some years ago, and I enquired with a popular and high-end safari operator about the cost of their safaris. At the time the cost with this particular operator was approximately $2000 per person per night, the equivalent of approximately P21000. Why are prices quoted to locals in US Dollars? It also begs the question, why are there no local rates for Batswana or residents of Botswana?
I recently read an article regarding the ivory sculpture of the elephant at the SSK International Airport, and discovered two of the artists involved confessed they had only seen an elephant in pictures and on television… they had never seen an elephant in real life!! I found this revelation quite shocking.
When I think of the cost for the scenic flight, $655 is a lot of money; I could buy a return flight from Manchester (UK) to Paris for the same price. I understand the lure of the Delta and the fact it is a once in a lifetime experience, but isn’t that a good reason for local rates? Many tourists are returning customers, but many cannot afford annual safari holidays. I would imagine safari enthusiasts probably alternate destinations, so Botswana may only come around once every few years. Why not capitalise on a local client base, especially during off-peak periods… unless I’m missing something?
Yes, there are Batswana who have experienced the Delta; it is possible to drive yourself into the bush and camp overnight. If you are fortunate to know someone who works for a safari company, they can help you with reduced overnight stays. Of course there are locals who live in villages within the Delta and locals can visit places such as Kasane, where the wildlife roam freely.
Botswana is a beautiful country and the Okavango Delta is unique, yet many Batswana have never been to the Delta or experienced it through a tourist’s eyes or enjoyed the exceptional hospitality. Most Batswana have visited places such as Sun City or Cape Town in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique. Some have been on safari, but in South Africa and most have never visited the Okavango Delta or the Chobe. It’s such as shame.