San is a beautiful camp.
San Camp: Our full report
San Camp is the sister camp of Jack’s Camp and Camp Kalahari. It closed in 2010 and re-opened in late June 2011 after being completely rebuilt. The camp is set in a sparse forest of real fan palms, in grasslands on the edge of the spectacular Ntwetwe Pan, overlooking the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
The environment here is similar to that around San’s sister camps, as are the activities on offer. They aim to give an understanding of the area’s geology, archaeology and anthropology, as well as an opportunity to observe its wildlife. You’ll find nature drives and walks (some guided by Bushmen trackers), night drives, and visits to sites of archaeological interest, including Chapman’s Baobab, considered to be the largest and oldest tree in Africa at an estimated three thousand years old.
During the dry season (generally late June to around October), 4WD quad bikes can be used to explore the surrounding saltpans without damaging their fragile crust. This was a real highlight for our team on one of our previous visits.
With an abundance of caution, we feel that it's important to let prospective visitors know that no safety helmets are provided for the quad-bike activity at San Camp. This camp, and its sister camps, advise us that they have been regularly operating quad-bikes 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 quad-biking activities without any problems or concerns.
However, it is for each prospective guest to make up their own mind about the safety of quad-biking 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.)
The Ntwetwe Pan, which covers an area the size of Switzerland, is not always dry. The pans often fill with water during the rains, from mid-November, and may retain their water as late as April or May. The "thirstlands" are then transformed into great sheets of water, which attract a spectacular array of waterbirds and trigger dramatic migrations of wildebeest and zebra.
In recent years, researchers have been studying a den of brown hyena and also a family of meerkats in the area of San Camp. Both have become habituated to human observers, which allows for some exceptionally good sightings of both species.
The tents at San Camp are, unusually, made from white canvas. The main area centers around the mess tent, which we believe has a small natural history museum and library. In the refurbishment, they added a tea tent which should also serve as a lounge area of sorts, as well as a tented yoga pavilion.
San has six Meru-style tented rooms and, walking the site, we could see that they are nicely spread out, with superb views of the pan. We’re told that the rooms are up to the usual standard we’d expect – and have experienced at San’s two sister-camps - and that they’re spacious, bright and airy. The unusual high beds are a trademark of these camps and there is an en-suite bathroom with flushing toilet and bucket shower for each tent. In keeping with the tradition of a bygone era, lighting is simple, using traditional old spirit lamps.
Our ViewThe camp was not yet finished on our most recent visit to the area in May 2011 – we were told the tents were still en-route all the way from India. But we thought the location and setting spectacular! The activities are similar, whether one stays at San, Jack’s or Camp Kalahari, so it’s likely that budget may have something of an influence over one’s choice of camp here. (Incidentally, San Camp sits somewhere in the middle of these three.)
Based on our previous visits to San Camp before the rebuild, it’s current location and our understanding of what the new camp has to offer; we suspect this camp may appeal to the traveler looking for a more romantic set-up.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: Access to San Camp is usually by light aircraft to the airstrip and then a road transfer to camp.
Owner: Uncharted Africa
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: A light breakfast is served prior to the early morning game activity, Brunch is usually a plated dish, served on returning from the activity or a little later – generally between 11am and 12pm. Afternoon tea is offered before the afternoon activity and dinner is a plated affair around the communal dining table on one’s return.
Our previous visits to San Camp have set the bar high when it comes to meals. Although we’re assured that they continue to aim for ‘delicious, fresh and original menus’. We can wait for our next visit!
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor 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 will cost extra and these may need to be requested in advance.
Riding holidays: At San Camp the quad bike riding activity takes the same format as at its sister camps. Guests have the chance to ride out on the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and even stay the evening on a ‘sleep-out’. Expeditions of up to four days right to the centre of the pans are also possible.See more ideas for Riding holidays in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at San Camp, but please take into account the restrictions below.
Property’s age restrictions: If travelling with children under the age of eight years, guests are required to book a private guide and vehicle (at extra cost). Children under the age of twelve years are not permitted to stay alone in their own tent.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services for children at San Camp, but all reasonable special requests will be considered. A child will be accommodated on a bed roll in their parents room if they are twelve years of age and under, but note that only one child may share with two adults.
Equipment: There is no special equipment available.
Generally recommended for children: Although San Camp welcomes children, we think that the facilities offered at Camp Kalahari are actually much better for families – where they have family-style accommodation and even access to a small pool.
Notes: San Camp is unfenced and although it may not appear immediately obvious due to the location; dangerous wildlife - including lion and elephants - are known to regularly move through the area. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is no mobile reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained via radio between the camps and head office.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers have first-aid training. The closest doctor is in Maun.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their rooms in the evenings after dark and in the mornings if it is dark. There is an emergency foghorn in the rooms.
Fire safety: The rooms and the main area have fire extinguishers.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included but please bear in mind that water sources are particularly limited in this arid region.