King's Pool overlooks a permanent oxbow lagoon...
Kings Pool: Our full report
Kings Pool Camp overlooks a picturesque oxbow lagoon on the Linyanti River. It’s classed by its owners as a ‘premier’ camp, implying – amongst other things – relatively grand and luxurious accommodation, high levels of personal service and that the quality of its food (and the size of its price tag) will be well above average.
One of three permanent camps within the 1,250km² Linyanti Reserve (the others being DumaTau and Savuti Camp), King’s Pool lies in an environment similar to that of the Chobe Riverfront area – seasonal floodplains near the water, an adjacent band of riverine forest, and then dense (mostly mopane) forests stretching away south.
The main building at Kings Pool is an open-sided, sprawling structure of minimalist design. To the centre of this space is the bar, but it’s the water beyond – and the reasonably frequent spectacle of elephants crossing the Linyanti River – that tends to draw visitors straight through to the large viewing deck. Although there is a more formal covered lounge area, the two sunken seating areas overlooking the lagoon are understandably popular and well utilised. There is a covered dining area too, but if the weather is fine meals are usually served al fresco. A well-stocked curio shop and a communal infinity plunge pool complete the picture.
A desktop computer is available for downloading photos and burning them to disk (the camp can usually provide disks on request), but note that there is no internet access.
Connected by raised wooden walkways to either side of the main area are nine large thatched tented suites at Kings Pool, built on wooden decks along the edge of the water. The walls are largely canvas, although the overall feel of the suite is much more substantial than that.
Ornate wooden doors open into large rooms with high thatched roofs, which we thought were a bit dark and gloomy. However, each suite has a large deck with a small plunge pool, sunloungers and sala (shaded area with a double mattress and cushions), as well as an outside shower. On our last visit, in November 2011, we spent a lot of our siesta time out here.
Back inside, four-poster-style beds are set in the centre of the main bedroom area, with views out over the water. Note that some beds will be made up as twins, but due to the four-poster design they cannot be pulled apart. Each suite is also furnished with a sofa and coffee table and armchairs, as well as a writing desk, dressing table and large wardrobe. We thought that the ‘mini gym’ provided in each wardrobe was a great idea – there is plenty of room on the deck or inside for those wishing to use the weights or yoga mat supplied.
In addition, there are minibars in each suite, which the staff will gladly stock with a guest’s preferred drinks. There is usually also a tea and coffee making station, although when we last stayed at Kings Pool they were waiting for their tea chests to arrive.
The main bathroom is on one side of the tent, leading out onto the deck, and a flushing toilet is in a separate room to the other side. The bathroom is tiled and feels more suited to a modern hotel than a safari camp. Although there is a curtain across the entrance, there are still big gaps so it doesn’t afford much privacy. That said, the amenities in the bathroom are very good: double handbasins, double showers with large ‘rain-shower’ showerheads and, when we last visited , Charlotte Rhys toiletries including soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. Dressing gowns and slippers are also provided.
Activities at Kings Pool include both day and night 4WD game drives and, when water levels permit, boat trips through the nearby waterways. About seven minutes’ drive from camp is a sunken hide where you can spend time observing the wildlife that comes down to drink, which is usually most interesting during the dry season; it’s a popular spot during the afternoon siesta period.
There is also a bird hide next to suite one. The birding in the area is really varied and, in fact, the Linyanti Reserve is designated an Important Bird Area (or IBA; these are areas recognised as being globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations). In addition to many of the Okavango specials such as the slaty egret and wattled crane, this area has a good number of dry area species, as well as several raptors. We were fortunate to see a big breeding colony of southern carmine bee-eaters, which are summer migrants to the area.
Wildlife sightings in the Linyanti area are usually at their best when it’s dry from around June through to October. At the peak, the herds of elephants and buffalos can number hundreds or even thousands. As on previous visits to Kings Pool, our guide was very good. During our most recent visit, right at the end of the dry season, we had some outstanding game viewing. Over two game drives we saw three different leopards, a small pride of lions, abundant general game and a baboon eating a ground squirrel (baboons are omnivores so it wasn’t completely unexpected – but it was a first for all of us in the vehicle, including our guide).
That said, just after we left Kings Pool, driving east, we experienced first-hand how, when the first substantial rains arrive and water is more widely available, the wildlife disperses – seemingly overnight!
Looking at its costs, Kings Pool usually commands a substantial supplement (typically £270–406 per person per night) over the other camps in the Okavango – on a par with the other ‘premier’ camps in northern Botswana: Vumbura Plains, Jao Camp, Zarafa and Mombo. However, we’re not sure that it quite measures up: the rooms at Vumbura Plains are larger, brighter and more luxurious; Jao’s environment is in many ways more special, and Mombo’s game viewing is much better year round.
Our viewKings Pool is a very good camp. It’s luxurious, the food is very good and, when it’s dry, the game viewing can be superb. However, it comes at a high price and we’re not sure that it measures up against its sister camps in northern Botswana, or delivers really good value for money, particularly outside of the dry season.
That said, if you want to visit the riverine environment that’s typical of the Chobe and Linyanti riverfronts, and you want a luxurious safari camp of very high quality – then it’s certainly the best option.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights is wise here – albeit some rushed travellers will stay only for two. In many ways it’s best combined with the other top-end ‘premier’ camps in Botswana. Its sister camps are Vumbura Plains, Jao Camp, Zarafa and the origin of the genre, Mombo.
Directions: Access is by light aircraft transfer to Chobe Airstrip, and then approximately 45 minutes by 4WD vehicle to Kings Pool.
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Wilderness Safaris’ premier camps – such as Kings Pool – aim to be more adaptable to the needs of individual travellers than most of their traditional camps. One of the ways they do this is by offering travellers to choose individual table settings if they wish, and another is by being reasonably more flexible on mealtimes.
On our last visit in November 2011, as on previous occasions, we found the quality of the food was generally very good – despite a gas shortage in Botswana! We think the chefs did a marvellous job of adapting modern recipes to cooking on open fires and baking dishes in traditional oven pits in the ground.
A light breakfast is laid out before guests depart on the morning activity, with a selection of cereals, fruit, yoghurt, muffins, and even a cooked option if you wish.
Brunch is usually available from around 11.00am, although some travellers prefer to eat a little later. A varied buffet is set up and will generally include soup, salads, cold meats, fresh bread and dishes such as quiche. The menu on our visit was imaginative: fresh Thai pineapple salad; broccoli, cauliflower, feta cheese and tomato salad; fruit salad; venison casserole (perhaps a bit heavy for brunch); as well as a really good vegetable quiche with melted camembert.
Afternoon tea, served just before heading out on the afternoon activity, is usually a treat! In addition to freshly baked cakes and savoury snacks, there is often also the option of a freshly made smoothie.
More often than not, dinner at Kings Pool is a departure from the traditional communal buffet setting at many camps in Botswana, and will usually be a plated service with two options per course. The exception to this is the traditional night which is held once a week – usually on a Monday evening. Then, the guides will talk about their traditions and culture, and the staff may even choose to sing, before a traditional dinner which is served as a buffet. This is usually a very festive evening when guests dine together around a large table, swapping stories. However, individual tables can be arranged for those who prefer to dine separately.
The camp can cater to vegetarians and any other special dietary requirements if notice is given.
Dining style: Individual Tables
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 selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra. The camp has a better-than-average stocked bar, but can order in special requests if advance notice is given.
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 12 years are welcome at Kings Pool. The camp may accept children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, but private activities must be booked and this will be at an extra cost. Children younger than six may be accepted by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use. Note that minimum age requirements also mean that children are allowed on boat trips from the age of six years, but sleep-outs and walking only from the age of 13 years.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services.
Equipment: Although suites are large enough to accommodate a third bed, a second suite will still need to be booked and paid for due to complex limits on guest numbers and vehicles within the Linyanti Reserve.
Generally recommended for children: The more individual approach at ‘premier’ camps such as Kings Pool should be more conducive to flexibility and thus to accommodate the needs of families with children. However, we don’t believe the style of the camp would necessarily make families with young children feel particularly welcome, so we’d recommend Kings Pool only for families with more mature children over the age of 12 years.
Notes: Kings Pool is unfenced and dangerous wildlife, including leopard and hippos, is known to move regularly through camp. The walkways and suites are all raised off the ground. The pool is unfenced and is in close promixity to the river. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Kings Pool Camp's managers are first-aid trained, and a first-aid kit is kept on site. In the event of an emergency, guests can be flown out to the nearest doctor in Maun. There is nurse in Maun who is on call and can be contacted by radio 24 hours a day.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Air horns are provided in the suites to alert attention in case of emergency. There are raised walkways between the main area and the suites, but guests are escorted to and from their suites after dark.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are kept on the balconies of all suites and in the main area.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, wherever possible, will be returned to guests on the same day.
Money: All suites are equipped with small electronic safes. There are no money-exchange facilities.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.