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By Julian 02 September 2019

$7,000 Per Night – Find Out Why This Lodge Is Worth The Expense

The sky-high rates of Botswana’s top lodges have been a contentious issue in the travel industry for years. As a number of properties cruise into the multi-thousands per night, YZ co-founder Julian explains why it’s worth paying those prices:

It’s in Botswana’s finest private reserves that you’ll find the safari camps and lodges incurring some of Africa’s highest prices. Can these properties defend such extreme rates, when other amazing countries and other outstanding private reserves also offer great game viewing and incredible levels of luxury, at a significantly lower cost?

On occasion, I’ve certainly struggled to justify Botswana’s stratospheric rates to our clients. The reserves within places like the Okavango Delta are the most exclusive of their kind. They do offer exceptional wildlife viewing – and running a deluxe boutique hotel in one of the remotest destinations on Earth is a challenge in itself; it doesn’t exactly come cheap! But over $7,000 per night…? Wow!

Which lodge costs $7,000 per night?

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Wilderness Safaris’ camp Mombo epitomises the debate. Situated on the wildlife-rich Chief’s Island, the largest island in the Okavango Delta, Mombo is often referred to as Africa’s finest safari camp. Today, due to a recent complete refurbishment, peak-season rates come in at an eye-watering $7,000 per night for two people. A three-night stay at Mombo, including all flights from the US for example, costs approximately $25,000! How do you set about explaining the expense?

When clients ask me about prices like this, I’ll mention the private reserve factor and I’ve often found myself comparing high costs at safari camps with the price of a suite at London’s Ritz. Many of the world’s best hotels cost well over $10,000 per night. And what would you prefer – a night in London on a B&B basis or a night in the Okavango Delta inclusive of all activities, food, and drinks… and waking up the next morning surrounded by a herd of elephants?!

How can they charge this much?

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At the end of last year, I left Mombo with a new appreciation of what you’re paying for in Botswana. Of course the camp was aesthetically fantastic, the food was fabulous, and the game viewing – well, the game viewing was literally world class (see the great Battle of Botswana witnessed by YZ Emma recently). It really was some of the very best I’ve had in twenty years of safari.

However, it isn’t the game viewing that sets Mombo apart, and it isn’t the beauty of the lodge itself either. The truly special thing about Mombo is that the camp showcases one of the last truly pristine habitats on Earth. That’s the reason for the high prices – the habitat, the ecosystem as a whole. It’s what separates Botswana from everywhere else – no fences, no people, the Big Five roaming free on lily-scattered floodplains and palm-fringed islands.

In short, I’ve come to realise that, in a world of increasing environmental pressures, and an Africa that seems to be changing before my eyes, it’s worth doing all we can to protect environments such as the Okavango Delta. They simply have to be protected.

Why this lodge is worth the expense

Wilderness Safaris uses high-end ecotourism to conserve and restore Africa’s wilderness and protects more than 2.5 million hectares across eight biomes on the continent. The company constructs luxurious properties in areas such as the Okavango Delta and uses a large part of its revenue to fund ambitious conservation projects, not least the reintroduction of species into their former homes. I’ll always remember the highly endangered black rhino who was hiding deep in the bush just a 10 minutes’ drive from our suite.

If $7,000 per night is what it costs to preserve such a special environment, then so be it. Keep rising those prices Mombo…I never thought I’d hear myself say that.

If you'd like to hear more about the conservation efforts or wildlife encounters on offer in this area of the Okavango Delta, then take a look at these YZ expert blogs. Alternatively, give us a call if you're interested in staying at Mombo Camp or experiencing Botswana's fantastic northern reaches.