Zarafa Camp overlooks the scenic Zibadianja Lagoon within the private Selinda Reserve.
Zarafa Camp: Our full report
Zarafa Camp (formerly called Zibadianja) was completely relocated and rebuilt in 2008. It remains small, accommodating only eight guests, and is now one of Botswana's most exclusive camps. Located within the private 1,350 km² Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana, which it shares with its sister camp Selinda, Zarafa occupies a scenic island setting beside the Zibadianja Lagoon, the source of the Savute Channel.
Zarafa is co-owned by renowned wildlife filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert who combined years of safari experience to create their ultimate safari camp. Their thoughtful touches are evident throughout, from the distinctive decor and personalised guest stationary to the Swarovski binoculars, digital camera and memory cards provided for guests use.
The camps environmentally friendly design incorporates recycled hardwoods and canvas, and electricity comes from a solar farm with battery and inverter system. All the canvas is double-sided so that the rooms remain cool in summer and warm in winter. There are three roofs to each tent, an inner lining for decoration and two outer roofs for protection and insulation.
The four sprawling marquee-style tented rooms are raised on old railway sleeper decks, each with a private plunge pool and outdoor needle-shower. An ornate Zanzibar door leads into a lounge area, and canvas partitions follow on to a spacious open-plan bedroom and bathroom. Polished wooden floors are lined with rugs, with leather furniture and wooden chests creating an early settler feel.
The bedroom has a large bed with overhead mosquito net and fan, behind which there’s plenty of hanging and shelving space where you’ll find bathrobes, a hairdryer, an umbrella, insect repellent and spray, and a digital safe. The bathroom facilities include a luxuriously deep copper bath, indoor rain-head shower, double basins and a separate flush toilet. For the winter months there is a copper gas heater to help keep the tent warm.
A large marquee-tent encompasses the main area with a lounge, dining room, bar, library and computer for viewing or downloading digital images. Guests can also view videos of the Joubert’s work. This leads out to an extensive deck where most meals are served, weather permitting. A neighbouring tent houses the curio shop which stocks locally made goods and quality African artefacts. Additional facilities include an outdoor 'jungle gym' and in-room massage treatments.
Each area of the camp overlooks the floodplains of the Zibadianja Lagoon, from under the shade of giant Jackalberry trees. Wildlife, particularly elephant and hippo, is a common sight in front of and around camp. On our last visit we were lucky enough to also see lion and spotted hyena pass through the camp.
With a maximum of eight guests, Zarafa Camp can be flexible when it comes to their activities. They offer day and night game drives - usually in the mornings and afternoons/early evenings, with full day game drives on request. These are conducted in custom-built Land Cruisers, with individual bucket seats and a removable canvas roof. A private vehicle and guide can be pre-booked at additional cost, though groups of four or more automatically get their own private vehicle at no extra charge.
Short or full morning walks can be arranged, led by an armed guide, as well as fishing trips using spinners or bait (catch and release), with the exception of January and February when a fishing ban is enforced by Botswana authorities.
A relatively new highlight at Zarafa is cruising the lagoon aboard the HMS Zibadianja pontoon. This large boat is furnished with couches, a dining table and chairs; ideal for brunch and sundowner cruises whilst watching hippos, elephant and other wildlife.
Though seasonal, wildlife viewing on the Selinda Reserve is typically good – particularly during the dry period from June to early-November. The combination of wet and dry habitats attracts a wide range of species, including a variety of birdlife. Sightings include various antelope species, zebra, cheetah, giraffe, spotted hyena, warthog, leopard, baboon, lion, wild dog and large herds of elephant and buffalo in the dry season. Some birding specials include slaty egret, black egret, secretary bird, coppery-tailed coucal and raptors such as African fish eagle and bateleur eagle. The reserve is typified by vast tracts of savannah, dotted by stands of Mokolwane palm, leadwood and Mopane woodland, interspersed with watercourses and floodplains. It's an attractive, open environment where wildlife can easily be spotted at a distance.
Our viewZarafa has succeeded in combining luxury and adventure in an exclusive yet informal setting. The camp is beautifully designed, well run and goes the extra mile to cater for its guests wishes. If you’re looking for indulgence, great game viewing, polished guiding and service, this is the place – with a price tag to match. Though there’s a good variety of wildlife here year round, the dry season from June to October is no doubt the most optimal time to visit.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend 3 nights or more at Zarafa Camp, or possibly a night or two at the start and/or end for those joining the Selinda Canoe Trail.
Directions: Zarafa is accessible only by light aircraft; roughly a 45 minute flight from either Maun or Kasane. The camp is about 1 hours’ drive from Selinda Airstrip, depending on wildlife sightings on the way.
Owner: Great Plains Conservation
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Zarafa matches the high standard you’d expect of a high-end camp. Meals are a social event with guests seated around one table, though private meals can be arranged on request.
On our last visit we began our day with a light breakfast of bacon and egg quiche, croissants, yoghurt, sliced fruit and mixed nuts.
On return from the morning activity we were met with a satisfying buffet brunch of beef patties with tomato and balsamic salsa, vegetable quiche, herbed couscous, a choice of salads, homemade bread, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, eggs prepared to order, juice, tea and coffee.
Afternoon tea of sweet or savoury snacks are served before the afternoon activity, accompanied by a selection of hot or cold drinks.
Dinner was a three-course plated meal with a choice of Cajun chicken, steak with blue cheese sauce or a vegetarian ‘basket’ with rice and mixed vegetables for the main. A refreshing and tasty cheese and tomato salad, and decadent chocolate dessert complemented the meal.
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, spirits and a selection of (generally) South African wines are included. Imported wines, spirits and champagne cost extra – and may even need to be requested in advance.
Photographic: Zarafa is co-owned by wildlife photographers Dereck & Beverly Joubert, hence it caters particularly well for photographers. A digital camera, lenses, backpack, tripod and memory cards are provided on request. There’s a computer for downloading and viewing images, and guests receive a complimentary CD with images taken during their stay. Private activities can be arranged for serious photographers.See more ideas for Photographic in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children aged eight and over are welcome, but those aged 12 and under must be booked onto a private vehicle for their activities (families of four, or more, will be provided with a private vehicle free of charge). Children under the age of eight are permitted if their family has booked exclusive use of the whole camp. An additional bed can be added to the tents to create a triple.
Special activities & services: Children enjoy their own activities with professional guides learning basic survival skills, such as where to find water or what plants are good to eat. They are encouraged to collect and identify anything that is of interest to them – leaves, grasses, even dung!
Equipment: No special equipment for children is provided.
Generally recommended for children: As Zarafa is unfenced, and animals do roam freely through the camp, we’d recommend it for children aged 12 and over.
Notes: Special activities are offered for children such as learning tracking skills and creating plaster casts of spoor, collecting and identifying things of interest, board games and watching educational wildlife videos at ‘cinema Zarafa’. There is no professional babysitting service, though camp staff can mind children on request. At all other times children must be kept under constant, close parental supervision.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is no internet or cellphone reception at Zarafa Camp. Guests should consider themselves out of contact whilst here. There is a satellite phone and radio to contact Maun in an emergency.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: A comprehensive first-aid kit is kept in camp and guides carry field kits on activities. Both managers and guides are first-aid trained. In an emergency, medical evacuation to Maun can be arranged.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Due to the presence of big-game, and the fact that Zarafa Camp is unfenced, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. Alarms are provided in the rooms for use in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the common areas and in each tent.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: The camp does not offer any money-exchanging facilities. Each tent has a digital safe. MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. No commission is charged on credit-card transactions. Cash payments may be made in GB pounds, US dollars, euros, South African rand and Botswanan pula.