Botswana Safaris

Dinaka Camp – Kalahari Desert

Dinaka Camp, a Kalahari Desert Safari destination is perfect for wildlife photographers, home to a variety of desert adapted animals. A visit to this unique part of Botswana will not disappoint.
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Dinaka, an Experience in the Kalahari

Words & Images by Diana Andersen

The Kalahari Desert is a place we all grew up learning about but never thought of as a place to visit and enjoy for a holiday. It is certainly not the first place most people consider when planning a Botswana safari. Still, it has a great deal to offer, particularly for lovers of wildlife and photography. I had the great pleasure of visiting Dinaka, a Ker & Downey, Botswana, luxury safari camp on the northern border of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in 2023. Despite the extreme heat during my visit in November, I came home with some of my favourite photographs from Botswana and hope to visit again.

Like many other camps in Botswana’s more remote safari destinations, flying to Dinaka in light aircraft is the preferred method of transport, with small scheduled aircraft transporting guests to various Okavango Delta and Kalahari camps from airports such as Maun. Your flight may make several stops en route to pick up and drop off passengers. If you have a sense of humour, your arrival at the Dinaka International Airport will bring a smile and remind you of how remote these camps are.

What to Expect at Dinaka Camp

Water is life in the extreme conditions of the Kalahari, and the camp has a permanent waterhole that attracts wildlife almost continuously throughout the day’s heat and into the night. You can view the waterhole activity from the comfort of the open lounge area that overlooks the waterhole. Dinaka camp consists of seven individual safari tents with ensuite bathrooms, including one family tent with an interleading door, taking a maximum of four guests. For added relief from the heat, the tents feature thatched roofs rather than canvas and retain an old-world ‘Out of Africa’ charm. Elevated decks join all the tents and link to the main lodge areas, allowing wheelchair access.

Zebras at the waterhole at Dinaka Camp.

Zebras at the waterhole at Dinaka Camp.

ANIMALINFO PUBLICATIONS
DIANA ANDERSEN
Diana Andersen is a professional photographer with a Bachelor of Arts in Design. Major Australian galleries and collections hold her award-winning work. After years as a practising designer and a lecturer in design, Diana turned her attention to her other passion, animals, and became a zookeeper working in conservation. A published author, Diana initially used photography to illustrate her books, but it has since become a passion. Diana founded Animalinfo Publications in 2007.
Kudu fine art print by Diana Andersen

KUDU

A beautiful, intimate portrait of a Kudu drinking by Diana Andersen. Professionally printed on premium fine art paper with archival inks, this image will look fantastic in any home or office. SHOP >

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BOTSWANA SAFARI 2024

Join a safari to the amazing Mashatu and Chobe in 2024, led by wildlife photographer and instructor Diana Andersen. Learn More >>

A Day at Dinaka

In the Kalahari in November, it is essential to go out early to beat the intense heat. Therefore, the day at Dinaka begins before dawn with freshly brewed coffee or tea delivered to your room. Guests can enjoy a light breakfast before departing on the morning game drive or head out earlier to catch the sun rising. Brunch is served on your return to camp, after which you can cool off in the pool or rest. The afternoon activities begin with high tea in the late afternoon before your second game drive.

Both morning and afternoon game drives can include a session in the photographic hide or the bunker, another underground hide. Located at permanent waterholes, both offer excellent opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife. In November, the bunker also provides a little relief from the heat. Other activities you can enjoy at Dinaka include an educational walk with the San Bushmen or sleeping under the spectacular skies over the Kalahari on an elevated platform overlooking the Kalahari.

Dinner is a social affair, complete with a campfire and a song from the camp staff. We even had a little excitement with a visit from an uninvited guest, a leopard coming to drink at the camp waterhole.

Wildlife Experiences at Dinaka

My guide at Dinaka was Ronald, or ‘Ronnie’, as he introduced himself. Like all my guides in Botswana, he was friendly, knowledgeable, and keen to ensure I saw the animals I wanted. The first afternoon was rewarding, with sightings of ostriches, chanting goshawks, oryx, and springboks, their striking and unusual black-and-white faces so different from those of other African antelope species.

Only the strongest survive in the harsh Kalahari conditions, so the animals we encountered were large and impressive, none more so than the powerful black-maned Kalahari Lions. We encountered the resident pride just before sunset, including two massive males. If the animal sightings weren’t remarkable enough, an incredible orange blood moon rose over the Kalahari on the way back to camp.

Springbok at Dinaka in the Kalahari.

The Dinaka Bunker

As a wildlife photographer, waiting for animals to come to me and capturing them at eye level is much more appealing than driving around in a vehicle. In addition, photographing wildlife from a hide offers an exceptional opportunity to capture natural behaviour shots. As it’s known at Dinaka, the bunker gives photographers an excellent chance to do just that, provided you have the patience. There are no guarantees with wildlife, but the morning and afternoon sessions were very productive for me and a little cooler than driving around in a vehicle. Being a permanent water source in sweltering conditions increases your chances of good wildlife sightings.

Kudu, Impala, Oryx and Steenbok visited throughout the morning and afternoon sessions. A resident family of black-backed jackals came and went continuously, as did the warthogs who visited to drink and wallow in the mud. The waterhole was a hive of activity for birders, with Guinea fowl scuttling around and other species flying in to quench their thirst. Yellow-billed kites and chanting goshawks sat close by, watching for an opportunity to grab a meal in addition to a drink, and we even had a visit from a couple of inquisitive slender mongooses. Both morning and afternoon sessions were good from the perspective of animals. However, the light in the afternoon was better, with the golden light falling on the subjects in the late afternoon.

Kalahari Lions at Dinaka

Much to Ronnie’s disappointment, the lion pride failed to appear at the waterhole during my sessions at the bunker. We agreed to make a final attempt to see them the following morning before my midday departure. With a pre-dawn departure from the camp, we arrived at the bunker just in time to see the three lionesses, with nine cubs in tow, leaving the waterhole.

While it was disappointing to miss seeing them drink, Ronnie was able to follow them for some time afterwards, giving me an excellent opportunity to both observe and photograph these remarkable big cats. They were undoubtedly the most impressive lionesses I had seen and were in fantastic condition for animals living in such challenging conditions. Human conflict with wildlife in the Kalahari can result in pressure on Kalahari lion prides. However, with bellies full to bursting, I felt the cubs had a good chance of surviving with the refuge provided by Dinaka.

There was very little that could have made my morning any better in terms of wildlife encounters. However, as if in a parting gift from Dinaka, the drive back to camp provided another rare sighting. A young martial eagle dropped to the road before us, grabbing a large snake in its talons. As it took off, it lost its grip on the snake, and a tawny eagle grabbed the falling snake. Despite not getting a good photo, it was a thrilling wildlife encounter to witness!

Lionesses with cubs at Dinaka Camp in the Kalahari Desert.

Booking Dinaka Camp

You can’t go wrong with a visit to the Kalahari to experience a unique part of Africa with a genuine sense of remoteness. If you want to visit this region of Botswana and enjoy the remarkable wildlife photography opportunities it provides, many travel agents can book a safari at Dinaka.   

Pangolin Photo Safaris arranged my visit to the Kalahari, a perfect add-on to several days of experiencing Chobe with Pangolin Photo Safaris. A few days in Dinaka also pairs perfectly with a visit to Shinde, another of Ker and Downey’s properties in the Okavango Delta, and one with enough difference to satisfy your interest.

Martial eagle with a snake at Dinaka.

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Kudu fine art print by Diana Andersen

KUDU

A beautiful, intimate portrait of a Kudu drinking by Diana Andersen. Professionally printed on premium fine art paper with archival inks, this image will look fantastic in any home or office. SHOP >

Leopard mother and son argue over a kill at Mashatu Game Reserve

BOTSWANA SAFARI 2024

Join a safari to the amazing Mashatu and Chobe in 2024, led by wildlife photographer and instructor Diana Andersen. Learn More >

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