Nxai Pan Camp

Nxai Pan Camp: Our full report

Rooms
9 chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (91%) From 15 reviews
Open
All year

Nxai Pan Camp was opened in February 2009 and is still the only permanent camp within Nxai Pan National Park. It faces east over the open plains of Nxai Pan, a grass-covered fossil lake-bed that was once part of the great lake that covered central Botswana. Between about November and April, this area attracts large numbers of plains game, especially zebra.

Nxai Pan Camp is fairly similar in design to its sister camp at Tau Pan. Built in a crescent shape under thatch, the wide main area is slightly raised on a wooden deck, and is completely open to the front. There are canvas blinds which can be rolled down in case of cold or inclement weather, something which we were grateful for on a particularly cold night during our most recent stay in May 2011.

The dining area, with an exceptionally long communal table, flows seamlessly through the lounge to the well-stocked bar at the other end of the building. White-washed floors blend in with the lighter-coloured earth around the camp, and add to the overall light and airy feel.

The wide, wooden viewing deck at Nxai Pan Camp leads out to an open firepit area. Guests often enjoy pre- and post-dinner drinks around the fire, and breakfast is usually served here too, before the morning activity.

Off to one side of the deck is a small plunge pool, with sunloungers offering front row seats to the action at the permanent waterhole in front of the camp. We were quite entertained watching four bull elephants vying for a small, but clearly prime position in the water.

The curio shop was well stocked when we visited, with a good range of items available; we particularly loved the eye-catching tree hat stand – unfortunately not for sale!

The nine chalets at Nxai Pan Camp, including a family unit, flank either side of the main area, all with views of the waterhole in front of camp from their individual decks. (Read more about Nxai Pan's chalets here…)

Game viewing in Nxai Pan National Park is erratic, but it can be exceptional. During the rains (usually from November to April), the pans become covered in lush, sweet grass. This abundance of nutritious food attracts swathes of plains game, including zebra, springbok, wildebeest and gemsbok; a veritable buffet for predators – including lion, cheetah, black-backed jackals and (because of the woodlands dotted around the pans) even leopard.

Of note are the unusually large herds of giraffe that have been spotted here, sometimes more than 30 in any one group. It was interesting to us that, because of the mixed vegetation, this is one of the few places in Botswana, and probably the most northern part of the country, where you are likely to encounter impala and springbok together.

Activitiesat Nxai Pan Camp centre around morning and afternoon game drives in 4WD vehicles. Game drives here 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.

We were fortunate to come across a pride of lions with cubs of just six weeks old. They were on the move and, in truth, it was a bit frustrating not being able to follow. That said, we made the most of the time we did spend with them and perhaps that is why it remains one of the most memorable sightings of our most recent visit. Sitting at the waterhole in the morning, we also spent time watching a Gabar goshawk hunting Namaqua doves – quite fascinating and an altogether different experience.

In the southern section of Nxai Pan park is an unusual group of giant baobab trees. Known as Baines Baobabs, they were immortalised by the Victorian artist Thomas Baines, who painted them in 1861. If you were to look at his picture today, you'd note that they remain almost exactly as he painted them around 150 years ago. They are quite a drive from the camp, so it's usually worth visiting these on a full-day trip. And although the entire park is open to the public, this was the only spot where we came across other visitors during our stay.

Our View

Nxai Pan Camp is modern and spacious, run by a fantastic, cohesive team who are passionate about the area they work in and offer a genuinely warm welcome. Although the game can be erratic, game drives from camp can yield great summer game-viewing opportunities – and the camp is also well situated to visit the renowned Baines Baobabs.

Geographics

Location: Kalahari's Salt Pans, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: Two nights here is usually ideal; but during the summer months when summer game-viewing opportunities are potentially very good, we might suggest three nights.

Directions: Access is usually by air. It is approximately a 25-minute light aircraft flight from Maun Airport to the airstrip for Nxai Pan Camp, followed by a 15-minute game drive to the camp. The airstrip will be approximately 5km from the camp and the flight time from Maun is approximately 25 minutes.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Kwando Safaris

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: A light breakfast is served, around the fire in winter, before your morning activity. Breakfast usually consists of porridge, freshly baked muffins, homemade muesli, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and fruit juice.

We didn't get a chance to sample brunch when we stayed, but this is served on returning from your morning excursion with various salads and hot dishes, as well as eggs cooked to order.

Afternoon tea generally comprises both a savoury and a sweet dish. The homemade spicy chutney served with the chicken and vegetarian pizza slices was delicious and, along with pineapple cake, very satisfying. Tea, coffee, refreshing homemade lemonade and iced tea are also on offer.

Dinner is a three-course affair, usually served a little earlier than at camps in private concessions as you'll arrive back in camp within about 30 minutes of sunset. The eggplant and mozzarella starter we were served was tasty, but – like the dessert of berry cheesecake – a little rubbery. However, the Thai chicken curry, basmati rice and vegetables were fantastic and perfectly prepared.

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.

Further dining info: There is no room service at Nxai Pan Camp.

Children

Attitude towards children: Nxai 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 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, 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 a two-bedroom family chalet at Nxai Pan Camp, but no special equipment is available.

Notes: Nxai Pan Camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife can wander through the camp at any time. There is no fence around the pool. Parents must supervise their children at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Communications: There is no mobile reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained with head office in Maun via radio.

TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at Nxai Pan Camp.

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 walkways are slightly raised off the ground but the camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife is known to move through camp. Therefore guests are escorted to their chalets after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival and 'fog-horns' are provided in the chalets in case of an emergency.

Fire safety: There are extinguishers in the common areas of the camp and in each chalet.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

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.