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Exploring the Okavango: A Botswana Traveler Story

By Valerie Gleaton

Posted: October 31, 2022


Exploring the Okavango: A Botswana Traveler Story from Natural Habitat Adventures features recent Nat Hab traveler Jan Cochran and her life-changing experiences with lions, elephants and African wild dogs on a Botswana safari in southern Africa.


Jan’s love of travel was evident from a young age. She went on her first trip to Kenya through a student exchange program at only 17. “That just reinforced how much I loved Africa, and I'd always wanted to go back,” Jan says. She and her husband, Dennis, got that chance a few years ago, when they went on safari in East Africa.

Jan and Dennis continued their travels, including a cruise to the Galapagos Islands, but they still felt the pull of Africa. For their next trip, however, they wanted to try something different.

“We had friends who visited Botswana, and they raved about it,” Dennis says. Most importantly, the country had an abundance of something the couple hadn’t seen in East Africa: African wild dogs, an animal at the top of his wildlife bucket list.

The couple discovered Natural Habitat Adventures (Nat Hab) online and booked two spots on one of the conservation travel company’s Botswana safaris in August 2021. As they set out, they crossed their fingers. They knew Botswana would be beautiful, but would they get a glimpse of the animals they’d traveled halfway around the world to see?

“The very first thing we really saw was the wild dogs,” Jan says in the short film, shot on location by filmmaker Andrew Ackerman. “All these pups, different ages, running around and playing. In my heart I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it! The first day out: wild dogs!’”

The rest of the trip would bring even more inspiring wildlife experiences. Their first night at camp, they watched a group of lion cubs—and even some adults—wrestling on the shore. Over the next few days, they’d have up-close encounters with leopards lounging in gnarled trees, elephants and giraffes ambling across the savanna, and hippos rising out of the waters of the Okavango.

“We’ve never been as close to the animals as we were in Botswana,” Jan says. “And because they've been protected for so long, they didn't pay any attention to us whatsoever!”

On average, 61% of Nat Hab’s travelers are women, including 25 out of the company’s top 30 repeat travelers. In fact, one female guest has joined the company on more than 50 trips across the globe!

The numbers are impressive, but, to Jan, they’re also not all that surprising. Although she and Dennis travel together frequently, Jan says many of her female friends are more interested in travel than their husbands and happily travel solo or in groups with other women.

Jan and Dennis would love to return to Africa, but in the meantime, they have plenty of adventures planned closer to home, including upcoming Nat Hab trips to Costa Rica and Alaska.

“There’s a certain kind of happiness when you’re in a place that, for whatever reason, touches you so deeply…that you cry,” Jan says in the film. “It’s powerful.”

Since 1985, Natural Habitat Adventures has delivered nature and wildlife experiences to small groups of passionate explorers. Nat Hab’s mission is conservation through exploration—protecting our planet by inspiring travelers, supporting local communities and boldly influencing the travel industry.