Zarafa Camp overlooks the beautiful Zibadianja Lagoon in the Selinda Reserve.
Zarafa Camp: Our full report
Zarafa Camp (formerly called Zibalianja and then Zibadianja) was completely rebuilt and relocated in 2008. It remains a small camp, accommodating eight guests, but it now promises to be one of Botswana's most exclusive camps - with a very high price tag to match.
We visited the former camps here many times, and several of us have visited Zarafa Camp whilst it was being built, none of the Expert Africa team have stayed at this new 'premier' camp yet. We are told buy its owners that the focus here is on individual hospitality and privacy; whilst also placing strong emphasis on minimising its environmental footprint.
Meanwhile, the camp's owners sent us the following information about their new entrant:
Zarafa Camp is small four-roomed luxury tented camp located in the Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana. This camp has to have one of the most spectacular sites of any camp in southern Africa. Every part of the camp overlooks the beautiful flood plains of the Zibadianja Lagoon. Built under giant Jackalberry and Ebony trees, the camp is very shady and cool. Wildlife, particularly elephant, is a common sight in front of and in camp.
Zarafa must be the greenest luxury camp or lodge anywhere. Only recycled hardwoods and canvas was used in the construction and all the camps electricity (24/7) comes from its solar farm and a system of batteries and inverters.
There are only four large (100m² / 1000 square foot) marquee style, canvas tents –– plus a very comfortable pilot's or guide's tent.
Every guest tent has its own comfortable lounge, private pool, copper baths, indoor and an outdoor shower with amazing view.
A group of six guests can book the entire camp for their exclusive use at no extra charge. The camp's remaining tent gets blocked off to allow that group full exclusivity.
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 then two outer roofs for protection, style and insulation.
The tents are built on recycled 100 year old teak decks raised off the ground, with each tent having its own private pool overlooking the lagoon with exceptional bird and game viewing opportunities. Facilities available are use of a digital camera and lenses, fine whiskey bar and exercise mats.
The bathroom facilities include a copper bath, an indoor shower complemented by an outdoor shower, double basins for him and her and then a separate flush toilet. For the winter months there is a beautiful copper gas unit that helps to keep the tent warm and snug.
Zarafa has a large common area with a central lounge and bar area. A small curio shop stocks locally made goods and quality African artefacts. There is also a library with a computer for viewing or downloading digital images, and a basic 'jungle gym'.
With only a maximum of eight guests, Zarafa Camp offers complete flexibility when it comes to their activities. They offer game drives throughout the day and night - usually centred on early morning and afternoon / early evening times.
The camp has two new custom built Land Cruisers, with seven individual bucket seats and removable canvas roof. There is also one private vehicle which can be offered on a first come served basis with a private guide to enhance the experience. (This must be booked in advance with additional daily charge).
Groups of four or more automatically get their own private vehicle at no extra charge.
Short or full morning walks can be arranged and are led by licensed guides who are firearm experienced.
Fishing (fly or regular) can also be arranged.
Zarafa has to be one of the most active camps anywhere – both during the day and at night as the wildlife congregates around the Zibadianja waterways. Night noises are spectacular. As the camp overlooks the flood plains hippos can be seen while in camp and elephants coming to drink are common. Other frequent sightings include: wild dogs, lions, leopard, zebra, giraffe, red lechwe and a variety of antelope.
Zarafa has been designed to have no equal in terms of its greenness and its sense of place. Guests are extremely comfortable without feeling that they have lost that disconnect with Africa. Zarafa has succeeded in successfully balancing that delectate relationship between personal and informal, style, luxury, sense of place, romance and adventure.
Every tent is supplied with a Canon D40 digital camera, 35 to 135 and 100 to 400 Canon lenses, Backpack, Tripod and digital memory cards. On departure, guests are given a complementary CD with the images that they took with that camera.
Sleep outs at Mokoba open area are for guests wanting to go home with an exciting story of having done something different. Sleeping on an elevated platform with only a mosquito net over your bed in the Selinda Reserve has to rate as one of the finest experiences available.
Our viewAs commented, the Expert Africa team hasn't seen the completed Zarafa Camp for themselves yet – but we have for many years known one of the camp's owners, Colin Bell, who has had years of experience in the travel industry, having formerly headed up Wilderness Safaris.
Naturally, we will be updating this page with our own comments once we have visited the new camp; meanwhile please call us for any more information.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a 3 nights. If wild dogs are denning in the area (usually around June time) you may wish to stay longer in order to increase your chances of a sighting.
Directions: Inter-camp air charters from either Kasane or Maun airports in Botswana. The camp is a 10—15 minute drive from Selinda Airstrip, always depending on what you see on your way.
Staff: Camp/Lodge Manager: Stuart Bell and Tessa Campbell Guide: Sako Dux Motakatshipi Guide: Solomon Kanyetu Chef: Lindie Van Der Heever
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Whilst we haven't eaten at the new Zafara Camp, our meals at the former Zibadianja and the sister camps have always been good – and we'd expect the cuisine in this new camp to be exceedingly high-quality and well-presented.
We've been told that there are no meal times. Everything revolves around the guests and their schedule. As a guideline, all meals are table d'hôte and include a light breakfast at dawn, a hearty brunch on return from the morning activity, afternoon tea and a 3 course dinner with choice of main course.
All dietary requirements can be catered for (intolerances, allergies, etc) provided that you note these down in the 'special requests' section of our booking form.
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are included in daily tariff – with the exception of imported champagne and premium spirits. These are charged as an additional extra.
Family holidays: A family can book the entire camp for their exclusive use. Alternatively, families wanting exclusivity can book a private vehicle and guide for the duration of their stay. Children under 8 are welcome if the family books the whole camp. Children enjoy their own activities with professional guides.See more ideas for Family holidays in Botswana
Honeymoons: Zarafa is possibly the most romantic camp in Botswana if one considers its expansive rooms (suites) and private pools and outdoor showers. Anniversary and honeymooner guests have the option of private dining in their rooms overlooking the Zibadianja Lagoon. Outdoor dining (weather permitting) on Joubert's Island adds an additional culinary experience.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Botswana
Birdwatching: A wide variety of bird-life is present in the area. Zarafa has custom-built hides built along the Selinda Spillway. These are proving very popular with guests who now have the opportunity to stay out the entire day in comfortable raised decking that is shaded from the sun.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Photographic: Zarafa Camp is part owned by the wildlife photographers – Derek & Beverly Joubert – and hence the camp caters particularly well to photographers. Each tent has a Canon D40 digital camera, with 35-135mm and 100-400mm Canon lenses, a backpack, a tripod and memory cards. A computer is available, and guests receive a complementary CD with the images that they took. Serious photographers can also book a private vehicle.See more ideas for Photographic in Botswana
Wildlife safaris: As well as good birding, this area is notable for the wild dog that often den here (usually in June) and frequent honey badger sightings. Other species present include lion, buffalo, elephant, zebra, giraffe, roan, sable, polecat, cheetah and hippo.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over eight years of age are welcome, but those aged 8-12 must be booked onto a private vehicle for their activities. (Families of four, or more, can have a private vehicle free of charge!)
Equipment: Available on request
Generally recommended for children: Yes – although parents need to be aware that this is the bush! The camp is on the edge of the Selinda Spilway and is unfenced; so animals do roam freely through the camp.
Notes: There are no formal childcare / babysitting facilities so children must be under the care of their parents at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is no internet or mobile phone reception at Zarafa. Guests should consider themselves out of contact while here.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Senior staff have first aid training.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their chalets at night, and are not allowed to walk around alone after dark. (Zarafa is far from civilization, on poor Kalahari tracks, and so the camp regards itself as safe from security issues due to thieves or the like.)
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers at every tent.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: No money exchange available. Each room has its safety boxes and management can accept important travel documents for safe keeping if requested to do so.