“From tracking elephants on foot in the deep mopane forests of northern Botswana to the crystal clear lagoons of the Okavango Delta to the eerie calmness and quiet of the Makgadikgadi salt pans, there are very few places where I have not guided guests. My inspiration came from listening to my grandfather’s tales about Zambia: shooting man-eating crocs and catching Nile perch the size of a human.” Clint Gielink
Okavango Expeditions was established in 2009 by Clint Gielink, a fifth-generation African with more than 17 years’ guiding and mobile safari experience in Botswana. Clint is assisted by his partner, Pieter Sollitt, a Kiwi who has been managing lodges and mobile safaris for the past decade.
As a family-run business, Okavango Expeditions is perfectly positioned to provide personal service combined with attention to detail. Clint and Pieter – plus their friendly and knowledgeable team of assistants – can provide itineraries that ensure a memorable African safari experience.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN THE SAFARI INDUSTRY? WHAT MADE YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
Close on 18 years ……believe it or not I started in the big game hunting industry but moved to mobile safaris after about 4 years. Mobile Safaris gives you the same feeling of wild and untouched Africa in very remote areas.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON SAFARI IN BOTSWANA?
This is a very difficult question as a mobile safari is in essence a journey and for most people it’s a journey of discovery, not only in Africa but also with the staff and fellow travellers they meet on the way. Every day is different and there are so many things happening in the bush it’s difficult to single one out. The most interesting thing on safari and the highlight ….. definitely the people I have met on the way.
YOUR MOST SCARY MOMENT ON SAFARI IN BOTSWANA?
Safaris should not be a scary experience….. this is why it’s extremely important to choose a safari with an experienced guide. They make all the difference and are in fact THE difference. I have had few close encounters over the years but generally all the standard run of the mill elephant and lion charge stuff !! It’s not always the animals actions that are scary but our guests reactions ………I got stuck in the mud at night late November and having to get on top of the Landrover’s roof to get away from a pride of lions in Khwai. You never know how someone will react in a situation like this. The lions were not threatening at all but the situation dictated we get on the roof and to top it all off it was dark …………………
WHERE DO MOST OF YOUR CLIENTS COME FROM? WHAT IS THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACE A CLIENT HAS COME FROM?
The recent recession has taught all of us to market throughout the world but Europe is our largest source of foreign guests. Strangest place ……….probably London haha. If you asked our safari staff that question you would get a very interesting answer!
HOW DOES YOUR SAFARI EXPERIENCE DIFFER FROM OTHER COMPANIES?
For a client wanting a very special safari experience, a mobile safari in Botswana would have to top that list. It’s a very special safari experience and an experience they carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The advantage of mobiles is that they are run and guided by some highly experienced guides. Our guides have huge character so they are fun to be with in the bush.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU COULDN’T DO WITHOUT ON SAFARI IN BOTSWANA?
My trusty 8×30 Swarovski Binoculars which are now 15 years old.
WHAT LUXURY DO YOU TAKE WITH YOU ON SAFARI?
Although not luxurious our safaris are very comfortable and authentic. Luxury in the bush is relative and would have to be a G&T at sunset. My favourite saying to guests is that we are not a five star hotel but rather offer a five star experience ! Nothing beats our million star hotel ………..
HOW ECOLOGICAL ARE YOU ON SAFARI? ANY TOP TIPS FOR SAVING WATER?
A mobile safari is in essence about the most ecologically friendly safari experience available. Using bucket showers and not having running water cuts water usage right down. I’m sometimes amazed at how little water our guests use. All the water has to be driven in daily and is carried in water tanks on the back up vehicles so it is used sparingly.
ARE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY PROGRAMMES?
I feel very strongly about what safari companies can give back to the communities we live in.
Our carbon footprint is very low and to do this we ensure we source food from local suppliers that support the local community rather than using imported food. We have started our own gardens and have empowered our staff to sell the produce back to the company.
Living in Africa you get an insider’s view of real life and it sometimes can be harsh especially for orphaned kids and the destitute elderly folk. There are a number of organisations caring for orphaned kids so we have chosen to work for the destitute elderly.
We support the AGLOW BOTSWANA destitute elderly program and our key focus is to reduce the suffering by destitute elderly folks in Maun. As Botswana is a relatively wealthy country in African terms but AIDS and HIV has had a debilitating effect on the younger generation.
Culturally the elderly folks would be cared for by their children but as the HIV scourge affected young people this is not happening. We now have situations where 8 year olds are trying to care for their 80 year old grandparents. Basic things we take for granted like running water, flushing loos, electricity and a cupboard full of clothes are denied to many elderly folks in Botswana. Destitute elderly folks have to walk to fetch water and firewood which many are unable to do …..the result they don’t eat and bath for days……..
The projects focus is to visit as many people as possible with a team of volunteers and provide clothes and food for the destitute elderly. We have for the last few years done a very successful Christmas Party which is always popular with the old folks and last year we were able to celebrate the 100th birthday of one lady. For more information go to www.aglowinternationalbotswana.org and look for the destitute elderly care program.