Meno A Kwena is a great old style safari camp...
Meno A Kwena: Our full report
Meno A Kwena is an old-style safari camp, run by David Dugmore, an experienced guide with a real passion for Botswana's bush and for community development . It is situated on tribal land on a cliff edge overlooking the Boteti River, which began to flow again in late 2008, having been dry for over 15 years. The name Meno A Kwena is the local name for the area, which translates as 'teeth of the crocodile'.
The transformation since the river began to flow again is remarkable. On our last visit, in May 2011, the late afternoon was a great time to see elephant and zebra coming down to drink on the opposite side of the river. Indeed, many visitors, especially in the dry season, choose to stay around the camp – enjoying the friendly atmosphere, the views and the wildlife. That said, the return of the river has changed the dynamic of the game in the area somewhat. Meno is no longer the hive of lion activity it once was and, whilst they can still be heard at night, lions now visit the camp only occasionally.
The tents at Meno A Kwena don't aim to be palatial – although royalty have been known to stay. It's effectively a permanent bushcamp with a traditional Batswana twist. Eight individual kraals enclose comfortable, walk-in mini-Meru tents, a private bucket shower with a view and a small thatched rondavel with a flush toilet. For more on Meno A Kwena's accommodation click here .
Sand paths through the bush link the tents to Meno A Kwena's main area. A large L-shaped marquee makes up the kitchen, bar, dining area and lounge, complete with well-stocked reference library and comfortable sofas scattered with cushions covered in bright eastern and kikoi (striped African sarong) fabrics. The whole area – even the toilet – is filled with interesting skulls, bones, artefacts and photographs. There is also a small curio shop selling locally produced souvenirs with proceeds going towards the lodge's Water for Life Project .
In front, a campfire and plunge pool built of rock overlook the Boteti River and onward into the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. There are a couple of chill-out areas here, too, with comfortable sala beds and the odd hammock.
Halfway down the cliff is a hide, complete with chairs, a raised day bed and bean bags to aid keen photographers. It's our understanding that since our last visit to Meno A Kwena the camp has now started to operate a very successful floating pontoon hide, ideal for photography and game-viewing on the river (see the slideshow to the right of this page). We believe that there are also plans afoot to build a floating swimming pool area right in the Boteti itself – we'll wait to see the outcome of this but for now think a large shark cage, without the sharks (but lots of crocodiles instead).
Two bird baths near the main area are frequented by pied babblers, crimson breasted shrikes, buffalo weavers, red-billed francolins and the occasional goshawk.
Activities from Meno A Kwena include walking trips and cultural activities with the local community. On our last visit we went on a walk with some local Bushmen. While this was a new activity and needed a little refining, it was great to gain a cultural perspective of life in Botswana in addition to the usual wildlife focus. Since we visited this activity has grown to now include day-long walks into the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and even overnight trips (by vehicle) taking in the Salt Pans too. These are on request so please ask us if you're interested.
4WD safaris are also available, varying from short sorties in the local Khumaga area to full-day safaris with a picnic further afield in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park or Nxai Pan National Park. Visitors should be aware that although Meno A Kwena lies on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, the pans themselves are actually a two–four-hour drive away, so those arriving and expecting the saltpans on the doorstep will be disappointed. With the river now flowing again, access to the national park is via a one-vehicle 'ferry'.
For the tireless, small three- to four-day expeditions further afield can be organised (at extra cost), including trips to Nxai Pan, Baines' Baobabs and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
Meno A Kwena's relaxed atmosphere, warm welcome and the team's keen interest in the surrounding area and its wildlife shine through – as does the hands-on approach of the camp's committed owner and managers. It won't be to everyone's liking – it's fairly rustic, and if you are travelling to Botswana for a pure big-game experience then it's tempting to say Meno A Kwena will not be for you. The return of water to the Boteti has started to change the dynamic here however and often game-viewing from the camp is as good as it is from the vehicle.
Looking at the bigger picture, Meno exists right on the transition zone between the unique Okavango Delta region of the Kalahari and the more typical, dryer regions further south - it's this location which makes it special. So, if you are keen to experience something slightly different from the norm with a rather quirky feel and an emphasis on the human side of life in Botswana as well as the wildlife, Meno is certainly worth a visit for at least a couple of nights.
Ideal length of stay: We'd recommend Meno A Kwena for a couple of nights for first time visitor's to Botswana, perhaps longer if you are a regular to Botswana and want something more than just the big game experience. We think it works particularly well at the beginning of a trip, when it offers a chance to relax after a long flight.
Directions: Road transfers from Maun to Meno A Kwena take about 1½ hours and are included in the camp's accommodation rate. Alternatively, there is an airstrip 17km from camp at Motopi, with a 20-minute transfer to camp available.
Owner: Independent / Owner Run by David Dugmore
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We have visited Meno A Kwena many times and have always found the food delicious and of a high standard; this is particularly impressive as it is all cooked over an open fire. Plenty of fresh ingredients are used together with well-made sauces and flavours.
Breakfast usually consists of cereals, fresh fire-baked bread, yoghurts, juice and your choice of eggs. The timing is very flexible, depending on the morning activities you have planned.
Lunch is usually served at 1pm and includes a main dish such as quiche, pie or lasagne with a choice of salads, finished off with bread and a selection of cheeses.
Dinners are three-course affairs that often begin with soup and end with a light and delicious dessert.
Just in case you get peckish between meals there is often a freshly baked cake for afternoon tea, and snacks to accompany your sundowner drinks.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Yes, except premium brands. Most spirits are available including vodka, whisky and gin. Beers, wine, water (bottled or filtered borehole water), soft drinks, tea, coffee, hot chocolate are readily available throughout the day.
Photographic: Standing high above the Boteti River, Meno A Kwena has a cool and well-situated hide which makes a good spot for keen photographers to take unobtrusive pictures of busy wildlife scenes.See more ideas for Photographic in Botswana
Traditional Cultures: A village tour can be arranged at Meno A Kwena on request. This is a three- to four-hour activity including a visit to the local primary school. Your guide will introduce you to various members of the community as you pass through the village, including the headman and local police officer. There's also time to try the locally brewed beer or to visit the local craftsmen.See more ideas for Traditional Cultures in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Generally the camp accepts children of 8 years and older.
Equipment: A canvas dome tent (3x3 metre) with stretcher beds will be set up in front of the parent's tent for children under age of 16 who are not sharing a twin room with an adult. The bucket shower and toilet in the kraal will then be shared between the family.
Generally recommended for children: Although Meno A Kwena is a very relaxed camp, and the team very child-friendly, it does still get the odd visit from lion – which do, on occasions, walk along the footpaths and around the main kraals. For this reason, we don't recommend the camp for children under the age of about 12.
Notes: Meno A Kwena is not ideal for those who are looking solely for game drives to spot animals, but older children who are interested in taking part and learning about nature and the environment will love it.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: The camp has a VSat landline for their own use and in case of emergencies. There is no mobile phone reception.
TV & radio: No.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The camp has a full first aid kit available and the guides have had first aid training. Vehicle transfers to Maun hospital for relatively serious incidents. The Medivac helicopter in Maun is always on standby for emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their tents after dark. To one side of the camp is the Boteti River overlooking the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. The rest of the camp is surrounded by an electric fence. There are no safes, so guests are advised to keep valuables on them. Staff are always around during the day time but there are no security guards.
Fire safety: The camp is fitted with fire extinguishers which are checked every 12 months.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Included – collected in morning and returned the same day. A laundry bag is available in tents.
Money: There is no currency exchange at Meno A Kwena.