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 its location within the game reserve does mean that the camp's 4WD and seasonal mokoro activities are restricted by national-park regulations which prohibit off-roading, night drives and walking.
Chief's Island was the location for the release of all the rhino that were recently reintroduced into Botswana. A fair number have stayed around this area (with the rest having spread out over central and northern Botswana), and although this is currently one of Botswana's best places for chance of spotting rhino they still remain rather elusive and consequently are not often seen. 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 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.
The camp's 12 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 an open-plan bar and lounge area. This, along with a spacious dining room to the right and a swimming pool on the lower deck to the left, overlooks the expansive floodplain where wildlife can be seen. Polished wooden floors lead out to the 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 thatched 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 al-fresco meals, and a further drop leads 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. The rooms when we visited last in April 2013 were generally in good shape, with new thatching and a fresh coat of varnish throughout. We understand that a soft refurbishment (and possibly structural changes to the rooms) are planned for November 2014.
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 (which were in need of replacing/repairing on our last visit), open into the room which is warmly coloured in cream, white and a touch of green, combined with mahogany and honey-toned wood. To one side are a minibar with soft drinks and chocolate; to the other a desk with information pack; and in between these is a lounge area with two suede armchairs, coffee table and a bookcase containing magazines and African artefacts. The four-poster bed, with overhead mosquito net and ceiling fan, takes centre stage 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 two open sided wardrobes with internal lighting ensuring that you can see inside your bag – something that is lack in most other safari camps in Botswana. Here there is ample hanging space as well as shelving, with a digital safe, umbrella, insect spray, air-horn, bathrobes, slippers and a shoe polish kit. We understand that since our last visit the rooms have undergone a soft refurbishment
Between the shelving, a doorway leads into the en-suite bathroom with separate toilet. A wooden washstand is topped by twin ceramic handbasins 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.
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. There's no tea and coffee station , but there is a small mini-bar/fridge where drinks and some chocolate bars are stored.
Activities at Chief's Camp focus on 4WD game drives (day only), and, subject to water levels, mokoro excursions - mokoros are not available in January and February; peak mokoro season is from May to the end of December; during the other months they are dependent when rains and the annual flood hit. During the 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 island's 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 armrests.
At extra cost, helicopter flights and spa treatments are available. A small, new wellness centre offers treatments which take place in a room, or outside on the deck, overlooking the floodplain. These include massages, facials, manicures, body scrubs and wraps.
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 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.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights - Given the game-viewing opportunities on Chief's Island we'd ideally 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 – a 25-minute flight from Maun or 1½ hours from Kasane. The airstrip is about 25 minutes’ drive from camp, depending on water levels.
Owner: Sanctuary Retreats
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We thoroughly enjoyed the food on our most recent stay at Chief's Camp in April 2013. The food was fresh, tasty and well presented 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, weather permitting, outside on the deck in front. Guests are encouraged to sit together but individual tables can be arranged on request, including private meals by the pool or on your 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. A cooked breakfast was made to order, with a variety of options – our omelette was excellent.
Once back in camp we had a wide selection of salads from the lunch buffet, as well as two types of homemade bread – wholemeal and olive. We particularly liked the way that the salad ingredients were served in separate bowls so you could mix to your taste – from a choice of lettuce, feta, chickpeas, cucumber, olives, tomatoes and so on. In addition to this there was three-course menu with a choice of hot meals to choose from. The starter was crumbed aubergine with mozzarella tomato and a caper sauce (which was lovely); the main dishes were ratatouille on penne pasta, grilled chicken with paprika sauce, or kingklip in butter soy sauce (which was very tasty) – the last two accompanied by parsley potatoes. For pudding we enjoyed a granadilla cheesecake, however there was also a good cheese platter if one preferred.
Yet more tasty treats were served for afternoon tea before the game drive. Spinach and feta pastry cups, scones, carrot cake, apple strudel, and chocolate muffins were beautifully presented, along with hot or iced tea and coffee and fresh lemon juice.
Dinner was again a plated meal. For starters we opted for a blue cheese tart (although a chilled soup was also on offer. For the main course we had a lovely chicken curry served creatively in a filo pastry nest, along with rice and vegetables - you could also choose to have lamb if preferred. For pudding we had vanilla ice cream.
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. A mokoro excursion here offers a tranquil way to approach the likes of African jacana, slaty egret and pied kingfisher as part of a Botswana birdwatching holiday.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 few rhino. A maximum of six guests per vehicle on Chief's Camp's game drives ensures that everyone has an outside seat.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children aged 9 years and over are welcome at Chief’s Camp, whilst noting the restrictions mentioned here.
Property’s age restrictions: Children aged 9–11 years are permitted on activities at the discretion of the camp managers. A private vehicle can be arranged for families (at extra cost and subject to availability).
Special activities & services: At present (2013) there are two guides working at Chiefs Camp who are very good with children. They will also spend time playing games etc. with the children in the afternoon whilst parents enjoy a siesta. There is no family room at Chief's Camp, although a rollaway bed can be added to create a triple room (though note that the camp can accommodate only one triple room at a time). Families with two children could take two rooms with an adult and a child in each.
Equipment: No special equipment is provided for children.
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: Combination of power
Power supply notes: Solar power was due to be installed in June 2013. They have a back up generator at Chief’s Camp. The rooms with 220 volt power points in the rooms, including universal plug sockets.
Communications: Complimentary wireless internet access is available in the main area of the camp. There is no direct telephone line or mobile reception. A satellite phone is used in emergencies.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: 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 medical evacuation 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 is provided in each room for use in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in both the rooms and 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: All extras can be paid for with Visa and MasterCard, travellers’ cheques or by cash (South African rand, British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswanan pula). Diners Card and American Express are not accepted.