Jack's Camp is built on the edge of an island overlooking the Makgadikgadi Pans.
Jack's Camp: Our full report
Jack's Camp is beautifully constructed in a very classical safari style. It has ten spacious, Meru-style tents, each with en suite bathroom, private outdoor shower and lots of early-settler charm. The camp is spread out beneath a grove of Mokolwane palm trees with vast views across grassy savannah fringed by palm islands. It’s well situated to experience the desolate beauty of the immense Makgadikgadi salt pans, discover the desert-adapted wildlife that survives here and learn about the culture and traditions of the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen.
This region of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park is arid for much of year and consequently big game is usually scarce, hence the activities from Jack's Camp focus on the uniqueness of the area. The guides are experts in this environment and they aim to give you an understanding of its fascinating geology, archaeology and anthropology, as well as a chance to observe its contrasting seasons and resilient wildlife. During the dry season (May-October) quadbike expeditions allow guests to explore the vastness of parched pans. During the wet season (November-April) the landscape transforms as the pans fill with rain water, attracting clouds of flamingo and other migratory birds, and lush grasslands teem with migrating herds of zebra and wildebeest followed closely by opportunistic predators.
Desert-adapted wildlife that may be seen here year round include ostrich, springbok, steenbok, black-backed jackal and nocturnal creatures such as brown hyena, aardwolf, porcupine, bat-eared fox, honey badger and scrub hare. Kalahari lion, cheetah and leopard also roam this area and though they are more elusive to find they are spotted occasionally. On our most recent visit to Jack’s Camp in June 2012 we were lucky enough to see two Kalahari black-maned lions pursuing a lioness and her cub. Perhaps the stars of the show are the meerkats and an encounter with these playful creatures can almost be guaranteed as there are a few habituated colonies nearby Jack’s Camp.
The camp itself is another highlight of a visit to Jack’s Camp. It provides an inviting oasis in this often harsh environment. Large custom-made marquee tents built on raised wooden platforms house the main areas. There’s a dining and lounge tent which is decorated with a wide variety of photos, maps, diagrams, natural history objects and an extensive library of informative books - an impressive collection that is registered as a national museum. A large table occupies the dining room and a variety of comfy seating areas fill the remaining spaces. Steps to the front lead down to the firepit where guests can enjoy social evening drinks under the stars. A short stroll away there’s another enormous open-sided tent which shelters the swimming pool, built into a wooden platform and surrounded by loungers.
The ten tents comprise of three double and seven twins reached along pathways – the furthest is about 5 minutes walk from the main area. These large, walk-in tents are raised on wooden platforms with a private wooden deck where the expansive views can be enjoyed from outdoor seating. A zippered entrance leads into the bedroom which is furnished with a double or twin custom-made four poster beds, a desk, seating area, a chest of drawers, a small library of natural history books and an open canvas shelving and wardrobe space. A canvas and cloth partition separates the en suite at the rear of the tent and a back zip leads out to the outdoor shower which is screened by wood. The en-suite bathroom also has an indoor shower, washstand with copper basin and mirror, canvas shelves and a quirky flush toilet fashioned into a wooden throne. Toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel, cotton wool buds and laundry liquid for washing underwear are provided.
There are no electric lights or plug points in the tents. Lanterns provide ambient lighting after dark and there is a charging station for batteries and electrical equipment in the main area (which works when the generator is on between 7am and 5pm). Each tent has a standing fan which also only operates when the generator is on; otherwise there is no electricity, heating or air conditioning in the tents. Hot water bottles are used to warm up the beds on cold winter nights.
All the tents are a khaki green canvas on the outside with a soft lining of colourful patterned material on the inside. The early settler décor throughout the camp is created by an attractive mix of rich mahogany furniture, Persian rugs, Moroccan and Ethiopian artefacts and natural objects such as ostrich eggs and feathers.
Guided activities at Jack’s Camp include nature drives in and around the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and to notable sites such as Chapman’s Baobab, often with spotlit night drives on the return to camp in the evenings; informative nature walks (usually lead by Bushmen trackers and translated by your guide); interacting with a habituated meerkat colony; and visits to sites of archaeological interest. During the dry season (May-Oct) 4WD quadbikes can be used to venture onto the saltpans without damaging its fragile crust. Given the range of activities we’d recommend a stay of three nights at Jack’s Camp, which generally also gives guests a chance to experience the Bushmen trance dance one evening. Guests who wish to guarantee an outside seat on drives will need to book a private vehicle at additional cost (as the vehicles have 2 rows of seats for up to 6 guests) and those that are particularly keen to see the breeding flamingoes (Dec-May) need a minimum of 4-5 nights and to request this full day trip well in advance.
With an abundance of caution, we feel that it's important to let prospective visitors know that no safety helmets are provided for the quadbike activity at Jacks Camp. This camp, and its sister camps, San Camp and Camp Kalahari, advise us that they have been regularly operating quadbikes in this area since 1992, and at time of writing (Aug 2012) there has never been a serious accident here. The camp comments that they regard this activity to be safe even without helmets, especially as they generally keep to specific tracks and don't speed, and as the area is largely flat and free of other traffic. We're not aware of any of our travellers having any problems over the years, and all of our team members who have visited there have enjoyed quadbiking activities without any problems or concerns.
However, it is for each prospective guest to make up their own mind about the safety of quadbiking here without a helmet. If you aren't likely to be happy with the safety aspects of this activity, then please tell us in writing before you travel. With advanced notice, we can arrange for the camp to drive you across the pans in a vehicle instead. If you leave this decision until you're at camp, and then decide that you don't want to do this activity, then such alternative arrangements may not be possible – although, of course, you can always omit this activity, and relax around the camp and swimming pool instead. (Sadly, refunds aren't possible if you choose to miss activities like this at camp.)
Our viewJack’s Camp is a unique experience in many ways. It offers an attractive blend of classic safari adventure, luxury, romance and remoteness. Though this isn’t usually a destination to see great concentrations of wildlife, the activities provide a variety of experiences and the landscapes of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park are hauntingly beautiful. The environments and the desert-adapted wildlife here are a remarkable contrast to the more lush regions of the country, providing a fascinating addition to any Botswana safari. Though some may find the lack of electrical lighting in the tents an inconvenience, we feel it adds to the romantic classic safari feel of this camp.
Ideal length of stay: A three night stay at Jack’s Camp is ideal, or at least a minimum of two nights.
Directions: Jack’s Camp is 50 minutes by light aircraft from Maun, followed by a 4WD transfer to camp which takes roughly 15 minutes. Alternatively it can be reached by road, approximately 4 hours drive from Maun, going via Planet Baobab to meet an escort or transfer vehicle for the last section requiring 4WD.
Owner: Uncharted Africa
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Particularly given its remote location, we’ve typically been very impressed with the excellent quality, variety and presentation of food at Jack’s Camp. With advance notice, dietary requirements and private dinners are catered for on request.
On our latest visit to Jack’s Camp we began each day with a breakfast buffet of cereals, yoghurt and fruit salad; tea and coffee; plus bacon and eggs cooked to order.
For lunch we were served delicious Moroccan kebabs with lentils, accompanied by home-made bread.
Afternoon tea is a selection of savoury and sweet treats – mini sandwiches, parmesan cheese biscuits and a range of extravagant sweet biscuits one day; and sponge cake and mini savoury balls the next day.
Nibbles before each dinner comprised of cheese triangles with dipping sauce and vegetable samosas with sweet chilli sauce.
For dinner the first night we enjoyed butternut soup to start; sirloin steak in red wine jus with fresh asparagus and potato wedges for the main; rounded off by an excellent chocolate tart for dessert. On the second night we had carrot, orange, ginger and coriander soup; followed by butter chicken curry with ginger and garlic paste, yoghurt, raita, home-made mango chutney, mint sambal and poppadoms; and lemon cream and shortbread cookies for dessert.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: There is a well-stocked bar from which all the drinks are included in the price (bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, spirits and a selection of (generally) South African wines). Any special or exotic drink requests can be ordered in with advance notice, at additional cost.
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Jack’s Camp.
Property’s age restrictions: Families with children aged under 8 years are required to book a private guide and vehicle at additional cost. There is no family tent at Jack’s Camp and parents with younger children must share a tent with each child (one parent and one child per tent).
Special activities & services: Camp staff are happy to provide child-minding services on request, though they are not qualified child-carers. Activities which are popular with children, such as visiting the meerkats, can be repeated on request. There is a kids menu available and meals can be served earlier if required.
Equipment: There is no special equipment provided for children.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Jack’s Camp for families with children aged 8 and over. Families with younger children may prefer to consider Camp Kalahari where there is no requirement to book private activities at additional cost.
Notes: This arid environment does not support great concentrations of wildlife, but lion, leopard and other potentially dangerous animals do sometimes pass through the unfenced camp. Children should always be supervised closely by their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: The generator is on at set times during the day, usually from 7am to 5pm.
Communications: There is no internet, telephone or cellphone coverage at Jack’s Camp. There is a satellite phone and VHF radio to contact Maun in the case of an emergency.
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Guides carry field kits in their vehicles and a comprehensive trauma first-aid kit is kept at the camp. Both camp managers and guides are first-aid trained. Medical evacuation to Maun can be arranged in case of an emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: In case of potentially dangerous wildlife passing through this unfenced lodge, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. An alarm is provided in each room for use in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each tent, in the common areas and in each safari vehicle.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included – excluding underwear for which washing liquid is provided in each tent.
Money: The camp does not offer any money-exchanging facilities. There is a main safe in the camp office which guests are welcome to use, but there are no safes in the tents.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Amex and Diners is not. Cash payments may be made in GB pounds, US dollars, euros, South African rand and Botswanan pula.