Motswiri Camp: Our full report
Motswiri Camp is situated on the banks of the Selinda Spillway in the far western corner of Botswana’s Selinda Reserve. The landscape around it varies from woodland to open floodplains; it feels part of the Okavango Delta system. The camp was taken over in 2010 by a small team who have enormous experience in Botswana’s safari industry. They switched its focus from hunting (which stopped here some years previously) to walking, horseriding and water-based activities.
The Selinda Spillway (sometimes known as the Magwegqana Spillway) is an ancient watercourse linking the Okavango Delta to the Kwando-Linyanti River drainage system. For many decades the Spillway seldom flowed, but after a particularly good rainy season in 2006, water entered the Spillway from both ends, and it has filled annually since.
Motswiri was extensively refurbished in 2010 and when we visited in November 2013 was looking fantastic. Its five large tents are built on raised decking with timber frames and canvas walls; each has a view out on to the Spillway and is entered from a wooden veranda at the front via wooden sliding doors. Mesh window and door panes keep insects out but allow a breeze to flow through.
The tents at Motswiri Camp are simply decorated and furnished with a writing table, a luggage rack and a wardrobe that contains insect spray, a torch and an electronic safe. The beds, which we found to be very comfortable, can be arranged as either double or twin beds; they face the door, and the view beyond.
A tall headboard screens the bed from the bathroom area, and on the reverse of this are his-and-hers washbasins and a couple of mirrors. On either side of this bathroom area, in the back corners of the tent, are the en-suite loo and shower, each with three sides enclosed and one side open to the bathroom. There is no loo door. There is ample room for hanging and storing clothing and luggage in the open wooden shelves at the back of the bedroom area. One of the camp’s five tents, aptly named ‘the honeymoon suite’ has a further door that opens to a secluded outdoor shower with great views across the Spillway.
Motswiri’s tents have lighting run on solar power, so while there is enough light to read by at night, and to navigate around your tent, this doesn’t allow to anything more sophisticated. Hair driers can’t be used here!
Sandy paths, which are lit at night by paraffin lanterns, link Motswiri’s tents to the main area, an open-plan construction with some very comfortable couches, a small bookcase of reference and fiction, and the dining area. There’s no bar as such but guests are welcome to help themselves to cold drinks as well as spirits and liqueurs from a large fridge or the drinks cabinet. A small plunge pool with a few sunloungers is a short way away from the main area.
Although there is a 4WD game vehicle, it’s used for short drives to and from walks, and perhaps the occasional foray to look for big cats when they’re around camp. Motswiri isn’t a camp that can offer full game drives. Instead it focuses on activities that don’t use engines – and we think it’s all the better for that! Guests can choose whether they walk, canoe (water levels permitting), or ride for each activity.
For us at Expert Africa, and for most of our travellers, one of the camp’s biggest draw cards is the opportunity to get out on foot and do some fantastic walking – often led by Grant Truthe, a renowned walking guide who has been leading and operating safaris in the Okavango for over 20 years.
On our last visit in November 2013 we spent an enjoyable afternoon walking through woodland, which opened out and spread around open grassland. Here wildebeest and impala were grazing, and a large troop of baboon were socializing on the surrounding termite mounds. It was an opportunity to learn about the smaller and less conspicuous flora and fauna, which our guide was very good at stopping to point out. On our attempt to return to the vehicle after the walk we found the vehicle surrounded by a breeding herd of elephant. Amusingly this did postpone our sundowners for a number of minutes as we waited for the elephant – who were in no hurry – to move on!
Unfortunately on our most recent trip in November 2013 the water levels were not high enough to allow for any water activities to take place. However at other times of the year when the Selinda Spillway is flowing it is possible to do canoe trips, mekoro and boat cruises from camp as well as a spot of fishing. The water in front of camp is not yet deep enough for crocodiles and hippos but the waters are home to myriad bird species.
The other main attraction to Motswiri is the opportunity to experience a horseriding safari. On our last visit we spent a number of days riding here, and rode five of the horses. All were well suited and trained to the safari environment, and all were more than capable of giving an enjoyable ride suitable for someone wanting something more then just a trail pony.
For safety reasons in this big-game area, riding is an option only for skilled and experienced riders at Motswiri. Even then, don’t expect to track dangerous game such as lion. In fact on our last visit, we did catch a glimpse of two lionesses’ that had come quite close to camp, and we actively avoided the areas that they were likely to be when riding; we had the opportunity to jump in the vehicle later to search for them instead.
On one afternoon ride we were lucky enough to find a large male sable antelope who was exceptionally relaxed with the horses and allowed us to walk beside (at a space of about 20-30 metres, much closer then we would ever have got in a vehicle) for a considerable period of time before he disappeared into the mopane trees.
For enthusiastic riders, the horseback safaris from Motswiri are a fantastic experience and a great activity to do alongside other more traditional safari activities. Riding from camp is done mostly at a slower pace, to spot the animals, however there are plenty of open flood plains that allow riding at a faster pace if the group wishes. The morning rides here, when riders and horses are fresher, are usually longer and sometimes faster than the afternoon rides.
One of the most enjoyable mornings we had was spent cantering for miles through the Spillway. This was fabulous fun and greatly appreciated by both riders and horses in equal measure as the water was refreshing on what was a very hot November day! Please note that Motswiri make it entirely the responsibility of the guests keen on riding to supply their own well fitted hard hat or helmet. The camp neither provides such hats nor accepts any liability for injury sustained as a result of failure to wear appropriate protection.
Those wanting a more extensive and slightly more adventurous outing there is the opportunity to walk, ride or canoe to Motswiri’s fly camp, Kala Bushcamp, where you can spend the night, or several, depending on your length of stay. Kala’s accommodation is far more simple then Motswiri’s.
If water levels are high enough there may be the option to canoe to Kala Bushcamp. Or alternatively there is a small holding corral for horses allowing guests to ride to the camp and stay a number of nights exploring the area by horseback.
We’ve visited Motswiri a number of times in the last decade. When we visited in 2007, the game densities around the camp were low. They were certainly not as good as that around our other camps in the Kwando/Linyanti region. Also we found that many of the animals there were very skittish. So for its first couple of years as a photographic camp, Motswiri had very limited big-game sightings.
Over the years, this has greatly improved as the animal densities have improved, and as they have become more habituated to walkers and riders. In November 2013 we saw good populations of the region’s common game species: impala, tsessebe and giraffe, as well as elephant and buffalo. We also had some great sightings of some rarer species such as the roan and sable antelope, both of which we saw from horseback. There have also been recent sightings of wild dog in the area, although we weren’t lucky enough to see them during our stay at the camp.
So whilst the game here still doesn’t rival the densities found in Mombo, Moremi, or the Kwando-Linyanti camps further east, there is enough to make for plenty of varied signtings and a good safari.
Our viewMotswiri Camp is a remote and secluded little camp with a laid-back approach and great guiding. A diverse range of environments leads to a very good range of game species – although its game densities aren’t as high as in some of the neighbouring areas to the south and east. That said, Motswiri’s focus on walking and riding, with perhaps the occasional canoe trip, do lend themselves to a safari that’s a refreshingly different from Botswana’s norm. We loved it!
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of at least three-nights at Motswiri Camp to enjoy all of the activities on offer here – and more if you’d like to combine it with a few nights at Kala Bushcamp.
Directions: The camp is reached by a 45-minute flight from Maun (or 50 minutes from Kasane) followed by a very short drive into camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Ride And Walk Botswana
Staff: Camp Manager: Sam Shepherd-Baron Head Guide: Grant Truthe
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Motswiri the food was simple but good.
At morning wake up call (around 5am or 6am depending on season) guests are brought a drink of there choice, tea, coffee or juice accompanied with a biscuit or flapjack.
On arrival at the fireplace before the morning activity (at around 5.00am or 6.00am depending on the time of year) we were met with a light breakfast of muesli, cereals, porridge, yoghurts, toast, muffins and tea and coffee.
On our last morning, our group was surprised with a ‘bush brunch’, which greeted us as we turned a bend on horseback while riding through the spillway. The grooms were in attendance and took the horses back to the stable while we stayed and ate from a large dining table that had been set up under the trees. We were greeted with champagne and enjoyed brunch, which consisted of homemade beef burgers and bread buns, with a mixed salad finished with a large platter of freshly cut fruit.
While the camp will arrange bush brunches and dinners on occasions, usually after the morning activity, we returned to a lunch back at camp of roast beef accompanied by a selection of salads, a four-bean salad, a green salad and freshly baked chilli and cheese bread.
Before the afternoon activity afternoon tea was served in the main area and on one afternoon a very Moorish lemon drizzle cake was served with tea and coffee.
Dinner started with a tomato soup and fresh bread rolls. A main course of vegetable lasagna, and a mixture of different salads which was followed by chocolate pots for dessert.
Both lunch and dinner were accompanied by a noteworthy homemade chilli-brandy dressing, made by infusing chillies and garlic in bottles of sherry.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of South African wines are included. Imported wines and spirits and champagne cost extra – and may even need to be requested in advance.
Further dining info: No
Birdwatching: Motswiri Camp overlooks a shallow waterway fringed with reeds, from where (especially when you are canoeing) you can spot a good variety of water birds. The riverine woodland around the camp also attracts a good diversity of species, many of which can be watched from your private veranda.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Riding holidays: Motswiri offers experienced riders some fantastic riding in Botswana, as well as first-class walking and (in season) canoeing safaris. You have the flexibility to choose different activities each day, and when you ride Motswiri’s horses are well-schooled.See more ideas for Riding holidays in Botswana
Walking safaris: The emphasis at Motwiri is on non-motorised activities and Motswiri is one of the few camps we’d recommend for walking safaris in Botswana. Motswiri’s walking guides – led by Grant Truthe – are very experienced and its environments and game are varied.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Botswana
Walking: Found at the end of the Selinda Spillway, Motswiri Camp specialises in walking safaris. The area around Motswiri and Motswiri’s fly camp; Kala Bush Camp offers a lovely backdrop for walking, with open floodplains and plenty of game to view throughout the year.See more ideas for Walking in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Motswiri really welcomes children however participation in activities does carry age restrictions. The minimum age for walking activities is ten years old, and for riding it is 12 years old. However, the camp will be very flexible on these restrictions if you book a private guide for your time there.
Equipment: While there is no special equipment provided. Motswiri does have a specially designed three-day family safari for children which is usually run by a private guide. This incorporates a range of activities from fishing, mekoro poling, canoe safari, game drive, riding lesson and pony club workshops and tracking and spoor ID, among many others. Babysitting is also available – although it is worth mentioning that none of the staff are specifically trained for this.
Generally recommended for children: Recommended for more mature children, who are genuinely interested in wildlife. For families with younger children, we suggest a specialist family safari.
Notes: All children will need to be constantly and closely supervised by their parents, as there is big and dangerous game around, and no fences.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There are no plug points in the rooms. Batteries can be charged in the main area of camp, where there is have a range of adaptors. It’s a good idea to bring spare batteries with you!
Communications: For most purposes, consider yourself out of contact here. There is no cellphone reception, no direct fax or phone and no email! Swift radio contact can be made with Maun if there is an emergency.
TV & radio: None
Water supply notes: All the tents have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush loos. Guests are usually given a water bottle on arrival with filtered water, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp’s main area. Each room is also provided with glasses and a jug of filtered water beside the sink for drinking purposes – which is replenished by the staff daily. Whilst the camp’s team drinks the water from the taps, we wouldn’t recommend that travellers do this.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: A comprehensive first-aid kit is kept at camp and for medical emergencies there is a medical evacuation service covering the whole Delta.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. A fog-horn is provided in each room for attracting attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around camp and fire-assembly points are identified to guests when they arrive at the camp.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Included
Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Motswiri. There are small safes in all the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Payments may be made only in cash; Motswiri accepts US Dollars and Botswana Pula.