Chiefs Camp lies beneath mixed woodland on Chiefs Island within the Moremi Game Reserve.
Chiefs Camp: Our full report
Chief’s Camp lies within the Moremi Game Reserve’s exclusive Mombo Concession, on the north-western side of Chief’s Island – the largest land mass in the Okavango Delta. This island is renowned for some of the best game viewing in Botswana, though the camps 4WD and seasonal mokoro activities are restricted by national park regulations which prohibit off-roading, night drives and walking. The camp’s twelve guest rooms form a horseshoe beneath mixed woodland, facing south over Piajio floodplain.
In the centre of this horseshoe the main area creates a welcoming entrance to Chief’s Camp. Neat sandy pathways direct you either side to the rooms or straight ahead between the curio shop and office to the open-plan bar and lounge area. This, along with a spacious dining room to the right and a swimming pool deck to the left, overlooks the expansive floodplain where wildlife can be seen. Polished wooden floors lead out to split-level decking built around existing trees, creating a shady spot to relax on comfy outdoor seating; or soak in the sun on loungers around the pool. A high thatch roof with ceiling fans shelters the bar, lounge and dining areas which are decorated in pale colours with leather, hide, wicker, sisal and wooden furnishings. Ornate light fittings, a pumice wall divider and an eye-catching photographic mural over the bar add unique touches to the smart décor. Fiction, reference books and games are found in a small library; near a laptop station with complimentary internet access. In front of the dining room, more decking allows for alfresco meals. This drops down to a sandy terrace jutting over the floodplain where an open firepit is encircled by camp chairs.
Chief’s Camp’s large, thatched guest rooms are elevated on individual platforms and approached from behind, ensuring a private outlook over the floodplain in front. Wooden frames support padded canvas walls – creating a tented feel to these otherwise solid structures. Steps lead up to the deck where two cushioned chairs are shaded by a lattice covering. Wood and mesh doors open into the room which is warmly coloured in cream, white and a touch of orange; combined with mahogany and honey toned wood. Upon entering you’ll find a minibar and desk with information pack to one side; and a lounge area with two armchairs, coffee table and bookcase containing African artifacts and magazines to the other. The four-poster bed, with overhead mosquito net and ceiling fan, takes centre place against the back wall. This is framed by a slatted headboard with reading lights, and flanked by bedside tables. A wicker chest containing extra blankets and towels sits by the outer wall. The inner wall has ample hanging space and shelving with a digital safe, umbrella, insect spray, air-horn, bathrobes, slippers and a shoe polish kit.
Between the shelving, a doorway leads into the en-suite bathroom with separate toilet. A wooden washstand is topped by twin ceramic hand basins and overhanging mirrors. There’s a tiled shower cubicle, laundry basket and a well-lit vanity table with tissues, hairdryer and extra mirror. Soap, shower gel, shower cap, vanity and sewing kits, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion are provided. Through an outer door you’ll find the outside shower, partly walled for privacy whilst still allowing views over the floodplain.
Notable exclusions in the rooms are a tea and coffee station and alcoholic beverages in the minibar (stocked with water, juice and chocolate). These are delivered to the room on request.
A number of thoughtful touches are worth a mention; electric blankets and hot water bottles in winter, feather and hollow fibre pillows, universal plug points, and a thorough turndown service where even drinking water and a short bedtime story are set out with the bathrobe and slippers.
Activities at Chief’s Camp focus on 4WD game drives (day only), and mokoro excursions subject to water levels. During the annual flood, mokoro trips start from the front of the lodge and offer a relaxing activity for those wanting a bit of a lie-in. Game drives occur year round, allowing guests to experience the islands varied terrain and generally prolific wildlife – including an array of bird species. A maximum of six guests on the open-sided vehicles affords everyone an outside seat, though groups of up to nine can be accommodated. The vehicles have good legroom and comfortable arm rests. In addition, helicopter flights and spa treatments are available at extra cost. A new wellness room offers treatments which take place on a deck overlooking the floodplain in front of camp. These include massages, facials, manicures, body scrubs and wraps.
Chief’s Island is currently Botswana’s only haven for rhino – giving guests a chance to see the ‘big five’. More regular sightings include elephant, lion, giraffe, vervet monkey, leopard, spotted hyena, a variety of antelope, zebra, baboon and buffalo; and occasionally wild dog. Indeed, on our last visit to Chief’s in October 2012 we had a fantastic afternoon game drive watching, amongst other things, some very bold wild dog harassing some rather unimpressed zebra.
Our viewChief’s is a very comfortable camp with a great layout and outlook. Its higher than average price tag reflects the area’s reputation for prime game viewing. On our last visit in October 2013 we were thoroughly impressed by the thoughtful touches and friendly service from a cohesive staffing team who made us feel at home. We were also really happy to see that our previous comments that some of the room décor was dated and didn’t fit the overall smart look of the camp had been taken on board. The rooms were in great shape and very well maintained, there was new thatching and a fresh coat of varnish throughout.
Ideal length of stay: Given the game-viewing opportunities on Chief’s Island we’d recommend three nights here – particularly during the annual flood (May–October) when both game drives and mokoro trips are available.
Directions: Chief’s Camp is reached by light aircraft into Piajio Airstrip – 25 minutes from Maun and 1 ½ hours from Kasane. The airstrip is about 25 minutes drive from camp depending on water levels of course.
Owner: Sanctuary Retreats
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We thoroughly enjoyed the catering on our most recent stay at Chief’s Camp in October 2012. The food was fresh, tasty and varied and the service and social atmosphere amongst guests and staff made us feel at home.
Meals are usually served as a buffet in the dining room or outside on the deck near the firepit, weather permitting. Guests are encouraged to sit together but individual tables can be arranged on request, including private meals on the pool or room deck.
Breakfast is served before the morning activity. We helped ourselves from a continental buffet of cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, cold meats, cheeses and croissants. Cooked breakfast was made to order, with a variety of options - the omelette we had was excellent.
Once back in camp we had an assortment of hot and cold dishes from the lunch buffet. The hot wraps with beef or kidney beans and vegetables were full of flavour; accompanied by salad, homemade herb bread and passion fruit cheesecake to finish. We particularly liked that the salad ingredients were in separate bowls to mix to your taste – with lettuce, feta, chickpeas, cucumber, olives, tomatoes and so on to choose from.
Yet more tasty treats were served for afternoon tea before the game drive. Spinach and feta pastry cups, scones, date and pecan slice, sponge cake, fruit kebabs and a fruit bowl were beautifully presented, along with hot or iced tea and coffee and fruit juice.
Dinner was a traditionally themed buffet with barbecued meats (crocodile tail, pork ribs, chicken and steak), pappa (maize meal) and sauce, stuffed butternut, rice and salad. A variety of desserts included fruit salad and cakes.
Morning tea of muffins or cookies with tea and coffee, and a selection of canapés with sundowner drinks were served during the game drives.
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 limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Premier champagne and premium imported brands will cost extra and must be requested well in advance.
Birdwatching: The diverse habitats around Chief’s Camp attract over 450 bird species, from waterbirds to woodland varieties. Mokoro excursions offer a tranquil way to approach the likes of African jacana, slaty egret and pied kingfisher; whilst arboreal and grassland dwellers are seen on 4WD activities.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Wildlife safaris: Renowned as one of Botswana’s premier game-viewing destinations, Chief’s Island boasts a wide variety of wildlife, including some of the country’s rhino population – so there’s a chance of seeing the ‘big five’ if you are lucky. A maximum of six guests per vehicle on Chief’s Camp’s game drives ensures everyone has an outside seat.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children aged nine years and over are welcome at Chief’s Camp, although those aged 9–11 are permitted on activities only at the discretion of the camp managers. We recommend that families with children aged under 12 book a private activity vehicle.
Equipment: No special equipment or activities are provided for children. There is no family room at Chief’s Camp however one rollaway bed can be added to create a triple room, or families with two children can take two rooms with an adult and a child in each. The camp can only accommodate one triple room at a time.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Chief’s Camp for children aged 12 and over who have a genuine interest in wildlife.
Notes: Chief’s Camp is unfenced within a big-game area, so children must be under their parents’ supervision at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Complimentary WiFi access is available in the main area of the camp. There is no direct telephone line or cellphone reception. A satellite phone is used in emergencies.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The camp managers and guides are trained in first aid and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept in camp. Sanctuary Retreats has an on-call nurse who can be flown in to provide medical treatment, or Medivac can be arranged in an emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is no fencing around Chief’s Camp to prevent potentially dangerous wildlife passing through, so guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. An air-horn and two-way radio are provided in each room for use in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the rooms and in the common areas at Chief’s Camp.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included at Chief’s Camp and usually takes less than 24 hours.
Money: No currency exchange facilities are offered. There are digital safes provided in each room. All extras can be paid for with Visa and MasterCard, traveller’s cheques or cash (South African rand, British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswanan pula). Diners Card and American Express are not accepted.