It was my fiftieth birthday. A boatman silently propelled the mokoro boat through a labyrinth of hippo-carved channels. The liquid beauty of the vast Okavango Delta shimmered beneath the setting African sun. Gin and tonic sundowners were on ice. I was among friends. “Does it get much better than this?,” I thought as my heart swelled in gratitude.  

When I unravel the thread of planning involved in crafting unforgettable travel memories like this one, I see the handiwork of trusted professionals—a network of travel insiders with firsthand experience and local connections—whose specialized knowledge and expertise informed and inspired them.

Fifteen years of working with travel specialists and tour operators for articles and photo assignments has given me a well-vetted network of people who know the best places for spotting wildlife, experiencing culture, or luxuriating in awe-inspiring settings. And I love to share these insider contacts with travelers. 

In this case, it was thanks to the referral of luxury adventure travel advisor, Susan Kelly, that I came to celebrate half a century of life in Botswana. And, it was the expert planning of Africa safari specialists, Extraordinary Journeys, that led to the mokoro experience at &Beyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp on this very special day.

Is Africa on your bucket list? Do you have a life event coming up that you’d like to celebrate somewhere special? Use the comments below to let me know. I’d love to put you in contact with a trusted insider to help you create your dream trip and get the most value for your dollar.

 Click here to view more photography from &Beyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp.

Read more about my Botswana adventures.


About Ellen Barone: Consumer travel expert Ellen Barone is the founder and publisher of and Learn more here and connect on Twitter at,FacebookGoogle+Pinterest, and LinkedIn.