Baines' Camp: Our full report
Baines' Camp was built in 2005 in a beautiful area of Botswana's Okavango Delta, neighbouring the Moremi Game Reserve and facing the Boro River, one of the Delta's main arteries. Named after the famed Victorian explorer and artist, Thomas Baines, the camp stands in a 1,050km² private concession (NG32) – and is notable for its innovative construction, the opportunity to walk with elephants and it’s ever-popular roll-out 'star beds'.
Baines' is a lovely, intimate camp with just five suites (three twins and two doubles) with thatched roofs and 'solid' walls made from recycled drinks' cans and plaster containing elephant dung – unusual, but the finished effect is novel and much smarter than the ingredients might suggest!
The bedrooms feature four-poster beds, draped with mosquito nets, which can be rolled out onto your private deck beneath the stars. These decks overlook the river at the front of each suite, with a couple of chairs and a table to enjoy the outdoors during the day. Just inside each suite is a seating area with a very comfortable lounge chair and off to the side, is the en-suite bathroom. Here, his and hers washbasins stand next to an ample- sized indoor shower, and a toilet within a separate cubicle. There is also a small mini-bar fridge, typically stocked with water and a few soft drinks. However, you have only to ask and the team can arrange to stock it with your preferred drinks during your stay.
On the wall of each suite hangs a copy of one of Baines' famous paintings. Should you be inspired, the complimentary paint and paintbrush supplied in each room will come in very handy.
Raised wooden walkways connect Baines' suites to the main area. Built on raised wooden decking around a large termite mound, it incorporates a comfortable lounge and small library area, overlooking a perennial lagoon, where hippos can often be seen wallowing (and heard snorting!). Opposite, is the open-sided dining area, although when the weather is suitable meals - delicious and varied on our last visit in September 2012 - can also be taken on the open deck under the stars. Unusually for most camps in the Okavango, there is no bar. So drinks need to be ordered from a member of staff who will usually be on hand for any such requests. However, if there is nobody around, then it can mean a wait until you can get one.
WiFi is available in the main area and a laptop is provided for guests travelling without their own devices. We loved being able to share some of our recent safari experiences with loved ones back home, but it did feel a little less friendly than other camps we’d been to, as our fellow-guests tapped away on their computers or phones. There is also a small, but well-stocked curio shop.
Built away from the main area between rooms 3 and 4, there is a lovely plunge pool with a sun-deck and loungers, as well as two shady ‘salas’. For added convenience, the camp has also thoughtfully provided a well-stocked fridge with refreshments.
Activities from Baines' include both day and night 4WD safari drives which can go off-road to track game. Walking safaris are available on request; if these interest you, let us know as the camp will need to make sure that the suitably qualified staff and guides are available during your stay. As long as water levels permit, the camp also runs mokoro and motorboat trips to explore the particularly beautiful waterways around camp. The riverine forest and a network of papyrus- and sedge-lined channels play host to many smaller mammals and amphibians, and a great variety of bird species too.
Having said that, when we visited Baines' and its sister Stanley's Camp in early 2011 the Okavango Delta was experiencing one of the wettest periods it had encountered in many years. As a result, game-drive vehicles spent a lot of time in water, periodically at or above bonnet height. Thus during the peak flood season (March–June), the emphasis at Baines' moves towards water-based activities. In fact, on our most recent visit in September 2012, we found that not much had changed. While levels had definitely dropped, we found there was still quite a lot of water about. Historically, we’ve not had the best big game sightings here, as game densities have tented to be lower than other parts of the Okavango Delta. This was reflected in the afternoon game drive we took while here. It was a very quiet afternoon with very little to be seen that day. However, on the way back to camp we did spot not one, but two honeybadgers!
Also on offer from Baines' (and its sister camp) is the option of spending a morning with three semi-habituated African elephants on an amazing Elephant Experience. Under the guidance of the expert, Doug Groves, you can walk with the elephants, learn about them, and spend time interacting with them in their natural environment as they forage in the bush. We spent a magical morning with Jabulani (the bull), Thembigela and Marula.. The elephants are gentle - but by virtue of their size they still deman respect! - and are clearly comfortable with human interaction. Doug, who the elephants appear to regard as something of a 'matriarch', explains the story of each elephant. Under his close supervision and guidance, guests are invited to come close and touch. The walk is a gentle stroll with the elephants, stopping every now and then for them to forage for food. There are numerous opportunities for photographs with the elephants, and, at times, it may come across a little ‘gimmicky’. Nonetheless, for us this was an incredible and memorable experience. The morning ends with lunch under the shade of trees, with the elephants eating in the background, and occasionally joining the guests at the table!
Our viewBaines' suites are comfortable, and the option to roll the 'star bed' outside has been a highlight on many of our stays here. The main area is relatively small, but ample given that it’s a small camp and the suites and pool area are well-equipped for whiling away the hours. The staff are friendly and helpful, although not always readily visible between mealtimes.
The activities here vary and adapt to the changing flood levels of the Delta. The game isn't always remarkable in this concession, but for many the biggest attraction is probably the elephant experience, which is excellent. This activity is optional and will cost extra, and because it is popular with just 10 places a day available, it should be pre-booked to avoid disappointment.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights is usually ample here and will give you the opportunity to fit in the elephant experience as well as a few game drives or water-based activities.
Directions: Access is by light aircraft to the camp’s airstrip, which is shared with it’s sister-camp, Stanleys. From there it’s approximately 45-60 minutes by road to the camp, depending on water levels. When water levels have allowed over the last couple of years, the camp has also introduced a boat transfer instead.
Owner: Sanctuary Retreats
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: As on previous visits, the food was, with only a couple of exceptions, of excellent quality on our most recent visit to Baines’ in September 2012. Previously, meals had been served as a buffet, but on this visit we found they’d recently switched to an experimental plated menu.
The meals follow the fairly traditional format of many camps in the Okavango, although we found the selection a lot larger than most. Breakfast is offered before heading out on the morning activity. As well as the usual coffee and tea, toast, fresh muffins and cereal, we also had the choice of cold meats, fruit, yoghurt, cheeses, croissants and even a full cooked option made to order.
Lunch is served in the dining area on returning from the morning activity, although note that if you are on the Elephant Experience, then brunch is served as a buffet out in the bush. We had the choice of crumbed fish, beef stir fry, sauteed potatoes, rice, a mild and very tasty vegetable curry, fresh green salad and freshly baked bread rolls. If dining at the camp, then a typical lunch menu might be a choice of two starters such as a Waldorf salad or Bruschetta with olives, capers and basil; followed by the choice of beer battered fish and chips or chicken breast on Tabouleh with yoghurt dressing (this was our choice and it was light and delicious!), followed by a dessert of strawberry cheesecake, cheese platter or fruit platter.
Afternoon tea is taken just before the afternoon activity and accompanying the hot and iced tea/coffee, we had a lovely homemade lemondade, scones with jam and cream, as well as moreish cookies. The cinnamon and coffee cake was delicious, if a little dry, although we found the savoury tuna empanadas a little odd for our taste.
Dinner follows a similar format to lunch with a choice of dishes for each course. We had a choice between sesame crusted baked camembert or a carrot and lentil soup. The main was a choice between beef or port fillet, served with rosemary roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. The beef was succulent and well prepared. Dessert was a choice between a fruit platter and rooibos creme brulee, or a cheese board.
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 and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Honeymoons: Baines' is a lovely, romantic camp. The star beds, which can be rolled out on to your own private deck at night, offer something quite special and private dinners can be arranged on request.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over 12 years of age are welcome at Baines'.
Equipment: No special equipment for children is provided.
Generally recommended for children: The elephant experience would be quite memorable and a real learning experience for children and parents alike. Otherwise, the game drives, especially when water levels are high, can be hard going. So because of this and the intimacy of the camp, we’d recommend Baines for older children or more mature children over the age of 12.
Notes: Wildlife is known to wander through Baines Camp on a regular basis. The pool is unfenced and there is open water in front of camp with very little to act as a barrier. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: The camp is in radio contact with the Maun office. There is wifi available in the main area, but there is no cellphone reception.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio at Baines Camp.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The managers and guides have first-aid training. The closest doctor is in Maun and medical evacuation is available in extreme cases.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a radio in each room, so that guests can contact the managers in an emergency. Guests are escorted between the main area and their rooms after dark.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at each of the rooms and in the main area. The camp also has a water-trailer which can be utilized in the event of fire.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Included.
Money: The camp does not offer currency exchange facilities. There is a small safe in each of the rooms.