About us

A confluence of histories

The Desert & Delta Safaris history

The origin of the present-day Desert & Delta Safaris can be compared to that of a river, where two small tributaries eventually merge to form one large waterway. Today, from the company’s base in Maun, Desert & Delta Safaris continues to strengthen its offering and is one of the most renowned photographic safari operators in the region. The brand is actively involved with local charities and is one of the industry’s leaders for staff wellness and welfare.

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Jessie Neil invests in Botswana tourism

In 1980 Jessie Neil, a frequent visitor to the Okavango Delta decided to invest in Botswana tourism. Jessie was a wealthy Californian who had been visiting Botswana for six or seven years and eventually applied for a licence to build her own lodge in the Okavango Delta. When this was approved Jessie was granted a lease on Nxaragha Island, about ten kilometres south of Xugana, where she built Camp Okavango.

Camp Moremi opens & Desert & Delta Safaris is born

In 1982 she was granted an additional lease at Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve and built Camp Moremi along similar lines to Camp Okavango. The two camps were formally registered under the name of Desert & Delta Safaris, and the brand was born. During this period, friends and business partners Jonathan Gibson and Ian Green were also considering a foray into Botswana’s safari industry. Southern Sun’s iconic Chobe Game Lodge had been closed since 1977 owing to hostilities in neighbouring Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia). By 1983, over three years after the peaceful political resolution in Zimbabwe, Southern Sun had still not reopened Chobe Game Lodge, so the two friends made an offer to purchase the property. They were successful and on 15 March 1984 Chobe Game Lodge was officially reopened by Sir Ketumile Masire, then President of Botswana.

The formation Chobe Holdings with Chobe Game Lodge upgrade

In 1985 the Sun International Group spotted the potential of Chobe Game Lodge, and bought a 50% shareholding, an additional investment which enabled further renovations and access to the Group’s considerable marketing skills. Shortly afterwards, Ian Green decided to pursue other business interests in South Africa and sold his shares to Jonathan Gibson, who in 1989 formed Chobe Holdings Ltd in order to acquire Sun International’s shareholding as well.

Chobe Holdings Acquires Desert & Delta Safaris

By 1991, Jessie Neil at Desert & Delta Safaris was feeling rather wary of the increasing commercialisation of the industry and proliferation of lodges. She finally decided to exit the Botswana safari industry and in 1992, Chobe Holdings purchased Desert & Delta Safaris, expanding the brand by adding Chobe Game Lodge to its portfolio. At the same time, Camp Okavango and Camp Moremi were refurbished and extended to their current size.

Savute Safari Lodge joins Desert & Delta Safaris portfolio

In 1998, Chobe Holdings purchased Lloyd’s Camp on the Savute Channel in the Chobe National Park. This well-known camp was redeveloped as a 24-bed lodge, named Savute Safari Lodge and added to the Desert & Delta Safaris portfolio.

Chobe Savanna Lodge & Xugana Island Lodge join portfolio

Further expansion beckoned and by 2001 the company had built Chobe Savanna Lodge, the fifth product in the Desert & Delta Safaris portfolio. Although just four kilometres along the Chobe River from Chobe Game Lodge, Chobe Savanna Lodge is located in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, and to this day is accessible only by boat. At the same time the company was negotiating to buy Xugana Island Lodge, situated in one of the Okavango Delta’s most beautiful locations.

Leroo La Tau on the Boteti River

In 2008, Leroo La Tau was acquired – a spectacular lodge set on cliffs at the western edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. It is positioned on the route of the large annual migration of Zebra, Wildebeest and their attendant predators, making it an unparalleled location for game viewing

Camp Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve

Most recently, in 2013 Chobe Holdings added its eighth lodge, Camp Xakanaxa, to the Desert & Delta Safaris portfolio. Camp Xakanaxa is located in the Moremi Game Reserve in close proximity to Camp Moremi. The addition of Camp Xakanaxa into the portfolio increased Desert & Delta Safaris offering in the Moremi Game Reserve with both Camp Moremi and Camp Xakanaxa part of the lodge offering.

Chobe Game Lodge Refurbishment

Chobe Game Lodge undertook a massive refurbishment which saw the standard of accommodation and experience of the lodge being raised to be aligned with modern 5-star standards. This was the birth of the luxurious Chobe Game Lodge as we know it today.

Introduction of electric fleet at Chobe Game Lodge

In the same year, Chobe Game Lodge revolutionised the Botswana safari industry by converting and introducing the country’s first electric game drive vehicle and safari boat. Today, half of our fleet of game drive vehicles are electric, and all our boats are solar powered, electric boats.

Camp Okavango Rebuild

The original Desert & Delta Safaris camp, is rebuilt to rejuvenate the legacy Camp Okavango was rebuilt from the ground up, to give one of the most classic camps in the Okavango Delta a new lease of life. Utilising its idyllic location on the Nxaraga Island to its full extent, the lodge was built entirely raised on platforms and walkways to ensure minimal impact on the environment below. It was also the first Desert & Delta Safari lodge to be converted to 100% solar powered.

Camp Moremi Rebuild

Camp Moremi gets rebuilt to complete the legacy circuit Camp Moremi underwent a complete redesign and rebuild. In keeping with the legacy of this historic Botswana safari camp that Jesse Neil built in the early 80s’, the new camp was built with raised boardwalks and extensive public areas within the huge ebony trees that have characterised the property for over 35 years, with the intention of creating an immersive experience in this breathtaking environment.

Nxamaseri Island Lodge

Desert & Delta Safaris is delighted to announce a new addition to its luxury lodge portfolio. In 2021 the group purchased Nxamaseri Island Lodge, increasing its stunning range of lodges and camps to a total of nine. The addition of Nxamaseri Island Lodge truly complements the existing eight lodges and camps.

Our latest news

Prime Predator Time in Moremi Game Reserve

Winter has blown its initial breaths over the region, and with the cooler weather has come a bounty of predator action. Milder weather is especially favoured by big cats who are usually most active at dusk and dawn. W...

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Embark on a Transcendent Journey

Tsodilo Hills Sleep-Out Camp Experience Unveiled by Desert & Delta Safaris – Opening September 15, 2024 Prepare to be captivated by an extraordinary adventure as Desert & Delta Safaris, renowned for their luxury and responsible sa...

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The Great Return Of Our Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Experiences

Come 15 June, you'll have another epic adventure on offer when visiting us. Our Makgadikgadi Salt Pans Experiences will again ...

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The foundation on which Desert & Delta Safaris is built, highlighting our core values in developing human potential and building a sustainable tourism model.

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As Botswana's top safari operator, Desert & Delta Safaris is proud to hold several Travel & Tourism Accolades and enjoy a variety of press features.

See Our Accolades & Press Features