Our Story Videos:

African Game Changers

Savage Kingdom Trailer

Diving with Deadly Predators

Africa’s River Giants

The Flood

Fishing Leopards

Our Story Videos:

African Game Changers

Savage Kingdom Trailer

Diving with Deadly Predators

Africa’s River Giants

The Flood

Fishing Leopards

FAMILY HISTORY IN AFRICA

Do yourself a favour and read the colourful biography of the Bestelink family history. It will leave you spellbound
and in awe of their courageous, if not slightly crazy, spirits. Adventure doesn’t run in their veins, it gallops.
Concerned that the Botswana tourism industry was becoming more and more exclusive, the Bestelink’s felt there
was an opportunity to listen to what guests were asking for: fewer frills, and more focus on adventure and
experiences. Enter Under African Skies.

A Family of Founders

The Bestelink family lineage is drenched with discoverers, leaders who have always marched to the beat of the sound of their own African drums. Their history is littered with many of Botswana’s firsts: the first crocodile hunters in the early twentieth century, the first hunter to be killed by a black mamba in the Okavango swamps, the first fuel and supply depots in the Okavango, builders of the first airstrip in the Okavango near Chief’s Island, the opening of the first Okavango photographic safari camp and the first baboon research center, pioneers of the first fly fishing lodge and the first horse safari camp, the youngest person to get a Botswana Professional Guides license and the the first in the world to research crocodiles by scuba diving under water with them in the Delta’s labyrinth of underwater caves (yup you read that correctly).
Talk about a family of firsts..

The Early Days

A family biography of the early days in the Okavango includes the following excerpt: “Safari life in the previous century was not for the faint hearted and you had to be pretty tough to survive. It was not unusual to steal a freshly killed antelope from a pride of lions for the sole purpose of procuring fresh supplies for the table.” This therefore is not surprising that Brad’s great grandfather was attacked and mauled by a lion, but luckily survived.

PJ Bestelink recalls the early days as follows: “In those beginning years we were living the dream. The Okavango was a way of life. Most of our guests would fly direct from Johannesburg to Maun in a light aircraft. I would have to hire the pilot to go back to Maun to get supplies to enable us to service the guests. When we didn’t have guests, the only way we got to Maun was by boat which would take around 5 hours. When we arrived in Maun, we would load up the boat with supplies and fuel and start the return trip home which would take over 18 hours, often arriving in the early hours of the morning around 2:00am. When Barney and I married I mentioned we would never be wealthy but by God, never bored.”

The Pioneer: PJ Bestelink

PJ Bestelink is a gentleman of utter integrity and an icon on the African continent. Born in South Africa and raised in Namibia, he returned to South Africa to complete university. He then moved to Botswana to join an exploration for base metals. He very quickly fell in love with the safari lifestyle that Botswana had to offer and has been in the country ever since. PJ is a proud father to Nina and Brad, and adoring husband to his wife Barney. For months PJ searched for the perfect location to build a home and eventually settled on a spot in the Nxamaseri Channel based in the Okavango pan handle for its magnificent beauty and seclusion. Nxamaseri Island Lodge was the labour of his love. In doing so he pioneered fly fishing in the Okavango and the lodge has delighted discerning fishermen ever since. In 1982 PJ met and married second wife, Barney, and quickly realized that where ever Barney lived, horses would follow. Together they pioneered the first ever horse safari in southern Africa which has turned out to be a life-long joy. Since its inception Okavango Horse Safari has been nominated and won many prestigious titles including best horse safari in Botswana and Africa but PJ and Barney are quick to point out that

they were in the game long before the industry ever gave out awards. For them it’s not about titles and accolades but about sharing their love of wildlife and horses with the world and playing their part to uplift and conserve crucial wilderness areas for generations to come.

The Visionary: Brad Bestelink:

Brad, PJ’s son, was born in the Okavango and spent his early days between Xaxaba Camp (which was later sold), Nxamaseri Island Lodge and Okavango Horse Safaris. This perfect mix of water and bush based safaris meant he spent hours studying animal behavior which ultimately seeded his passion and understanding of the bush. As soon as Brad finished school he started his film career as an apprentice for National Geographic’s Beverly and Dereck Joubert. He has never looked back. After leaving the Jouberts in 2006, he freelanced for a bit before starting his own company: Natural History Film Unit.

It was in this time that he and his wife, Andrea Crawford, pioneered scuba diving with crocodiles for research purposes. This caught the attention of CNN’s Cooper Anderson, who came to see it for himself and televised his heart-stopping adventure on the 60 Minutes Show.

Since then Brad has produced more than 30 hours of original commissioned films, including National Geographic’s returning series “Savage Kingdom” that has been seen by over 100 million viewers internationally. His list of wildlife documentary film awards are too numerous to mention and include Emmy Awards for Cinematography and Narration. In 2019 Brad was nominated as an African Game Changer by CNN

The Story of Under African Skies

Under African Skies is the brain child of PJ and Brad Bestelink. They have been fortunate to call their Okavango home since before cheetah got her spots and hippo’s were still hairy. Over decades they have witnessed the tourist industry charging higher and higher prices, each competing with the other on sheet thread counts and acquiring vintage wine from far flung places across the globe. Lodges were becoming more and more exclusive and removed from what guests really wanted: authentic African experiences. Under African Skies is a portfolio of family owned lodges that promise guests absolute comfort and supreme service levels, but with the biggest focus on ‘experiencing’ instead of “staying’ in Africa. Rediscover the Okavango, the authentic African way.