The view from Tau Pan camp...
Tau Pan Camp: Our full report
The first permanent camp to open inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (or the CKGR as it is usually known) – and still one of only two within the reserve – Tau Pan Camp sits on a low sand ridge with commanding views over the surrounding plains to Tau Pan and beyond.
Built in a crescent shape under thatch, the main area at Tau Pan Camp is completely open to one side. When we visited in May 2011, we were entranced by the expansive view as soon as we walked through the entrance. At one end of this building is an imposing communal dining table; at the other a bar, with a small lounge area between. The evening temperatures were quite comfortable during our stay but there are canvas blinds which can be rolled down in case of cold or inclement weather.
Outside, the focal point is a firepit in the middle of an enormous viewing deck, which overlooks a permanent waterhole. Guests might enjoy pre- and post-dinner drinks around the fire, and breakfast is usually served here too, before the morning activity.
At the end of the deck is a plunge pool with sunloungers, and a small curio shop. The camp has a telescope for star gazing which, rather disappointingly, neither we nor the camp staff could get to work on our visit.
Tau Pan Camp has just nine chalets set on either side of the main area, with the same impressive views. (Read more about these chalets here.)
In addition to the normal rooms, there is a 'family room'. This is essentially the same as the other rooms, except that it has an additional (smallish) bedroom room with twin beds leading off the main bedroom.
Activities at Tau Pan Camp include an informative nature walk with one of the Bushman trackers, as well as morning and afternoon game drives in 4WD vehicles. Game drives at Tau Pan Camp feature a guide and tracker team which can really help to maximise possible game sightings. Because the camp is in a national park, however, no off-road driving or night drives are allowed. Drives focus mainly on the Tau Pan area, although at present they rely on a limited network of existing public roads. However, full-day trips to Deception Valley, Sunday, Piper and Passarge pans can usually be arranged on request.
At around 52,800km2, the CKGR is one of the largest game reserves in the world, and it is during the annual summer rains, usually from December to about April, when this region really comes into its own. Animals such as springbok and gemsbok (or oryx), as well as migrating zebra and wildebeest, congregate in their thousands on the pans after the rains. This plethora of plains game in turn attracts predators, including cheetah, Kalahari black-maned lion and black-backed jackals. Then it is one of the best game-viewing areas in Botswana and there are usually very few others to share the spectacle with.
On our most recent visit in May 2011, we saw an impressive number of black-backed jackals, shy steenboks and large herds of springbok interspersed with wildebeest and gemsbok. We didn't see any of the big cats on this visit, but a glance through the camp visitors' book revealed that sightings of lion and cheetah seem to be quite a regular occurrence.
The birdlife is surprisingly varied and on just one drive we identified numerous species, including the kori bustard, black korhaan, double-banded sand grouse, crimson-breasted shrike, ostrich and a variety of raptors such as pale-chanting goshawks, bateleurs and tawny eagles.
Our viewTau Pan Camp has comfortable accommodation in an area which offers some of Botswana's best summer game viewing, with some species not found in the Okavango or Kwando-Linyanti areas, like springbok and gemsbok. It's also a good place to come looking for cheetah. We were impressed by the enthusiastic young team which we are confident will improve in time as their skills are developed and the camp becomes more established.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights at Tau Pan Camp is recommended, ideally when the grass is green (Dec-May), which is the prime season for this area, when the wildlife tends to be more abundant. In the latter parts of the dry season, 2-3 nights is probably better, and the experience is then perhaps more about experiencing the wide open spaces of the Central Kalahari.
Directions: Access is usually by air. It is approximately a 40-minute light-aircraft flight from Maun Airport, and about a 10-minute drive between the airstrip and the camp. The camp can, however, also be reached on a self-drive itinerary.
Owner: Kwando Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: A simple breakfast is served around the fire before your morning activity, usually consisting of porridge, freshly baked muffins, homemade muesli, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and juice.
A brunch buffet is served on returning from the morning excursion. We had to leave before brunch on our most recent visit, but you'll usually find various salads and hot dishes, as well as eggs cooked to order. If you are taking a day excursion to Deception Valley, the camp will pack you a picnic lunch instead.
We particularly enjoyed the treats served up for afternoon tea, which are generally a savoury and a sweet dish. The homemade spicy chutney beautifully complimented the mini chicken pies, and the carrot cake was rather more-ish. Tea, coffee, homemade lemonade and iced tea are all offered.
Dinner is a three-course affair, usually served a little earlier than at camps in private concessions as one arrives back in camp within about 30mins of sunset. The lentil soup that we tried was delicious, although the portions seemed large for a starter to us. The main course is usually served buffet-style; we had a hearty beef stew with mashed potatoes and vegetables – warming and satisfying.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. There is a 'help-yourself' drinks fridge at the bar, as well as tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Attitude towards children: Tau Pan Camp has a positive approach to children on safari and, generally, children are welcome. However, please take into account the restrictions below.
Property’s age restrictions: Children of 6–12 years old are accepted, but the family is required to take a private vehicle on game drives. Depending on the size of the family group, there may be an additional charge for this vehicle. Children younger than six are accepted only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Special activities & services: The lodge does not generally provide any special activities or services for children. However, they will try to be as flexible as possible with meal times when it comes to children, as well as cooking favourites such as macaroni cheese. However, guests travelling with children have the option of booking a specialist 'family safari' (at extra cost). The family will travel with a specialist guide who is trained and passionate, inspiring children to learn and love the wilderness. They will also benefit from a private vehicle with their own guide and tracker who will look after them both on game drives and in camp.
Equipment: There is no special equipment available but there is a family room which has as an extra room with twin beds leading off the main bedroom area. There is one shared bathroom in the family room.
Generally recommended for children: Recommended for more mature children over the age of 6, who are genuinely interested in different aspects of nature.
Notes: Tau Pan is unfenced and dangerous wildlife, including lion, can wander through the camp at any time. The main deck has quite a significant drop to the ground in front of the camp, and there is no fence around the pool.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is no mobile reception, no direct phone or fax and no email – this is the bush! Communication is maintained with head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: Tau Pan Camp is in the bush and there is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Camp managers are first aid trained and a first-aid kit is kept at camp. In an emergency, the camp can arrange for clients to be flown out.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: The camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife is known to move through camp, so guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival. 'Fog horns' are provided in the rooms in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are extinguishers in the common areas of the camp and in each room.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included (excluding underwear). Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting. Washing powder is provided in the room for guests to wash their smalls.
Money: There is a safe in each room. Please note that no exchange facilities are offered.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Diners and Amex are not. No commission is charged on credit card transactions, but there is a 3% surcharge on curios if a card is used in payment. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.