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. Accommodating just eight guests, it is now one of Botswana's most exclusive camps. Shaded by giant jackalberry trees within the private 1,350km² Selinda Reserve, Zarafa occupies a scenic island setting beside the Zibadianja Lagoon, the source of the Savute Channel.
Zarafa and its sister camp, Selinda, are 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 décor and personalised guest stationery to the Swarovski binoculars, digital camera and memory cards provided for guests’ use.
Zarafa Camp’s 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, which helps the rooms to remain cool in summer and warm in winter, then each tent is roofed with three layers: an inner lining for decoration, and two outer layers for protection and insulation.
The four sprawling marquee-style tented rooms at Zarafa 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 through 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.
Each bedroom at Zarafa Camp 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 a copper gas heater helps to keep the tent warm.
A large marquee encompasses the main area with a lounge, dining room, bar, library and computer, which can be used both for viewing or downloading digital images, and to watch videos of the Jouberts’ work. Weather permitting, most meals at Zarafa are served on an extensive deck, while a neighbouring tent houses a 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 Zarafa overlooks the floodplains of the Zibadianja Lagoon. Wildlife, particularly elephant and hippo, is a common sight in front of and around camp. On our most recent visit we were lucky enough to see lion and spotted hyena pass through the camp, too.
Zarafa is the flagship camp of the Selinda Reserve, which is covered by vast tracts of savannah, dotted with stands of mokolwane palm, leadwood and mopane woodland, and interspersed with watercourses and floodplains. It's mostly an attractive, open environment where wildlife can easily be spotted at a distance. Though seasonal, wildlife viewing from Zarafa is typically very good – particularly during the dry season from June to early November. 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. The birdlife is varied too, with birding specials including slaty egret, black egret, secretary bird, coppery-tailed coucal and raptors such as the African fish eagle and bateleur eagle.
With a maximum of eight guests, Zarafa Camp can be flexible when it comes to activities. They offer day and night game drives – usually in the mornings and afternoons/early evenings, with full-day game drives on request. All 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 led by an armed guide can be arranged, as can catch-and-release fishing trips using spinners or bait – though note that these are not available during 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.
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 – albeit with a price tag to match. Though there’s a good variety of wildlife here year round, the best time to visit is without doubt during the dry season, from June to October.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend at least three nights or more at Zarafa Camp. For a little more adventure, it combines very well with Selinda Canoe Trail and also the Selinda Explorers Camp, which are both in the same reserve, but offer totally different experiences.
Directions: Zarafa is accessible only by light aircraft: roughly a 45-minute flight from either Maun or Kasane. The camp is about 1 hour’s 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 standard you’d expect of a very high-end safari camp in Botswana. 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 is 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 course. This was complemented by a refreshing and tasty cheese and tomato salad, and a decadent chocolate dessert to finish.
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.
Honeymoons: Zarafa offers an opulent, exclusive and intimate honeymoon in Botswana. Set right on the edge of a lagoon; you can enjoy game viewing from the comfort your luxurious and romantic rooms. Indulge in delicious food, and enjoy thoughtful touches and excellent service throughout.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Botswana
Photographic: Zarafa is co-owned by wildlife photographers Dereck & Beverly Joubert; it is one of Botswana’s best camps for photographers. A digital camera, lenses, backpack, tripod, and a computer for downloading can all be provided – and guests receive a CD with images taken during their stay.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, but an additional bed can be added to the tents to create a triple.
Generally recommended for children: As Zarafa is unfenced, and animals 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 plastercasts 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
Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator in camp.
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: A full laundry service is included at Zarafa Camp.
Money: Zarafa does not offer any money-exchange 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.
Accepted payment on location: 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 Botswana pula.