The camp Okuti nestles in the shade of large, old tree and overlooks the Xakanaxa lagoon.
Okuti: Our full report
Okuti lies beside Xakanaxa Lagoon, between Xakanaxa Camp and a public campsite, and on the tip of Moremi's Mopane Tongue. This is a prime, public area for wildlife in the heart of the Moremi Game Reserve.
Okuti is entered along a raised wooden walkway which extends to link all of the chalets to the main area, a useful safety feature given the high game densities in this location. The main reception, lounge and dining area sit under the rounded beehive-style thatched roofs of five huge rondavels. Inside, these are furnished in a contemporary style, with smooth wooden floors, comfortable woven seating and various ethnic carvings. There is a decent selection of coffee-table books and some board games too.
The large lounge stretches to one side of Okuti's entrance rondavel, with adobe walls under a high, tunnel-like roof, and plenty of chairs and tables. At one end, a huge area with partly open sides provides great views across the lagoon and floodplain.
On the opposite side is the long dining room, of similar construction, where brunch and dinner are usually served. Nearby, where the decked veranda extends towards Xakanaxa Lagoon, is a plunge pool with some sunloungers overlooking the waterway running past camp. On the open-air deck in front of the camp is a fireplace where a viewing scope is on hand to scan the wetland in front of the camp for game. It's a popular spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks, and a good spot for stargazing if the night sky is clear.
Raised walkways link the main lounge and dining areas at Okuti to seven chalets. Five of these have either twin beds, or a large double; two others are ideal for families – each has two bedrooms which share a bathroom. Indeed, Okuti promotes itself as a child-friendly lodge – though families with very young children should note that this area has particularly dense concentrations of dangerous big game.
Okuti's chalets are certainly innovative: brown plastic semi-circular structures internally-lined with a natural reed wall-covering. Inside these feel spacious and quite lovely; even if we feel that they're less attractive from the outside.
In terms of style, their interiors are similar to the main areas. Expect smooth wooden floors, and a superb view of the lagoon from the private balcony at the end of your own personal 'tunnel'. Low, matt-brown walls separate the bedroom from the en-suite bathroom – complete with shower and washbasin, and flush toilet in a separate cubicle. There is also an outdoor shower connected to the side of each chalet. Shampoo, conditioner and soaps all come as standard.
Activities at Okuti revolve around open-topped 4WD and motorboat trips on the particular lovely Xakanaxa Lagoon – all escorted by the camp's experienced safari guides. On our most recent visit in September 2012, we saw enormous herds of buffalo – at times we were right in the middle of the herd – as well as wild dog, large numbers of elephants and good concentrations of antelope and giraffe. A boat trip on Xakanaxa Lagoon rewarded us with fantastic birdlife, including what our guide called a 'mini heronry', a spectacle usually seen here between about Sept and December each year. It was fascinating watching beautiful white egrets, grey herons, ugly marabou storks and even reed cormorants roosting and vying for a perch on the little 'islands' in the lagoon.
Because all the activities take place inside Moremi Game Reserve, it's not possible to have night drives, walks, or to drive off-road – and you will probably see quite a few other vehicles whilst you're out on safari from the camp. However, there are compensations: the area around Xakanaxa is stunningly beautiful and it's one of the best game areas in Botswana.
Okuti is an established camp which occupies a relatively small section of the lagoon frontage. However, its clever design means that it makes good use of the space and we give its designers get top marks for innovation. Even if you don't like the look of the camp from the outside, it is lovely and comfortable inside – enhanced by a friendly, helpful team who made us feel right at home on our most recent visit in September 2012.
Being inside a national park has its restrictions – but then you are compensated by being in one of Botswana's most beautiful and game-rich areas.
Directions: Access to Okuti is by light aircraft into Xakanaxa Airstrip and then it's a short 20-minute drive to camp.
Owner: Ker & Downey
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our most recent visit to Okuti in September 2012 the food was generally excellent with a good variety of choice.
Before heading out on the morning activities, a light breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, muffins and fresh fruit is served. There is also the option of a cooked breakfast for those who would like something a bit more substantial.
Of particular note was a great brunch served at around 11:30 when we returned from our morning activity. Offerings included fish cakes with homemade tartare sauce, spinach quiche (very tasty despite an overbaked crust), two different salads and a fresh fruit platter. For those with room to spare, there was also freshly baked bread and a cheese platter.
Fresh cheese muffins were an absolute hit at afternoon tea, accompanied by chocolate and banana cake, a fruit bowl, homemade lemonade and a delicious homemade ginger drink.
Dinner is served at around 8pm and follows pre-dinner drinks around the fireplace. We loved the spicy melon and feta starter. Unlike many other safari camps, we were served round the table at Okuti. The main course was a choice between kudu steaks, which were unfortunately overdone and quite tough. However, this was made up for by the mild butter chicken curry, served with basmati rice and seasonal vegetables. Dessert was a rich chocolate mousse. However, our request earlier in the day for something a little less decadent was not a problem for the team, and a fresh fruit salad rounded off the meal nicely.
Occasionally, the team will prepare something with more of a local flavor and dinner will be a traditional affair with pap (maize meal – a staple food of Botswana), seswa (shredded beef) and morogo (a green, leafy vegetable similar to spinach).
With advance notice, the camp can cater for vegetarians and other dietary requirements. They can also prepare special meals for children, on request.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All local and South African soft and alcoholic beverages such as beer, cider, house wines and spirits are included at Okuti. Fine wines, imported spirits and liqueurs all come at an extra cost.
Attitude towards children: Okuti welcomes children aged 7 years and over.
Equipment: There is no special equipment for children, but the camp does have two family rooms. There are no specific activities for children at Okuti, although there are some board games in the main area for general use.
Generally recommended for children: We'd recommend this camp for children – and adults! – who are enthusiastic about wildlife. Just be aware that the rooms are relatively close together and thus all guests are asked to be mindful of others with regards to noise levels.
Notes: Because of the fence around the camp – on the land side - it can feel deceptively safe from wildlife. However, wildlife – including predators – are known to move through the camp. The pool is unfenced and there is no barrier or fence in front the camp, overlooking the water channel. Parents must keep their children under constant, close supervision.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no direct phone or fax and no email at Okuti. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio. There is occasional cellphone service at certain points in the reserve, but this is not reliable and is intermittent.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio at Okuti.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. Management and guides are first aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. ‘Fog horns’ are provided in the rooms, to summon help in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at all the rooms and in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full complimentary laundry service is included.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Okuti. There are small safes in all the rooms.