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 is notable for its innovative construction, the opportunity to walk with elephants and its ever-popular roll-out 'star beds'.
Baines' Camp stands shares a 1,050km² concession (NG32) with its larger and slightly less costly sister-camp, Stanley's Camp . Baines’ Camp itself 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 on the wall hangs a copy of one of Thomas Baines' famous paintings. Should you be inspired to emulate the artist, the complimentary paint and paintbrush supplied in each room will come in very handy. More prosaically, there are plug points in the rooms for charging and, unusually for an Okavango camp, a small hairdryer is provided. A small minibar is typically stocked with water and a few soft drinks, but you have only to ask and the team will stock it with your preferred drinks.
In the en-suite bathroom, his and hers washbasins stand next to an ample-sized indoor shower, and a toilet within a separate cubicle.
Raised wooden walkways connect Baines' Camp’s suites to the relatively small main area. Built on raised wooden decking around a large termite mound, it incorporates a comfortable lounge and small library, overlooking a perennial lagoon, where hippos can often be seen wallowing (and heard snorting!). The dining area is open-sided, although in suitable weather meals – delicious and varied on our last visit in September 2012 – may be taken on the deck under the stars. Unusually for a camp in the Okavango, there is no bar, so drinks need to be ordered from a member of staff; should nobody be around, you could have to wait.
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 sundeck and loungers, as well as two shady ‘salas’. Thoughtfully, the camp has provided a fridge well-stocked 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 well in advance as the camp can then try to make sure that suitably qualified guides are available during your stay.
Historically, we’ve not had the best big-game sightings here; game densities in this area tend to be lower than in other parts of the Okavango Delta. This was reflected in a very quiet afternoon game drive we took while here, with little that was noteworthy to be seen that day – although on the way back to camp we spotted not one, but two honey badgers!
Relatively recent is the introduction of mokoro and motorboat trips, when water levels permit. In early 2011, the Okavango Delta experienced one of the wettest periods it had encountered in many years, and although, on our most recent visit in September 2012, water levels had dropped, there was still quite a lot of water about. As a result, between March and June, the emphasis at Baines' moves towards water-based activities, exploring the area’s particularly beautiful waterways; 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.
Also on offer from Baines' (and its sister camp, Stanley's) is the option of spending a morning with three semi-habituated African elephants on an amazing elephant experience – albeit at extra cost. Under the guidance of elephant expert Doug Groves, you can walk with these elephants, learn about them, and spend time interacting with them in their natural environment. We spent a magical morning with these gentle giants – which are clearly comfortable with human interaction, although by virtue of their size they still demand respect! Doug, who the elephants appear to regard as something of a 'matriarch', explains the story of each animal, and under his close supervision, guests are invited to come close and touch. The walk is a gentle stroll, stopping every now and then for the elephants to forage for food. There are numerous opportunities for photographs, and, at times, it may come across as a little gimmicky, yet we still felt 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! Note, however, that with just ten places available per day, and up to twenty-six visitors in the area, this should be pre-booked to avoid disappointment
Our viewBaines' suites are comfortable and well equipped, and the option to roll the beds outside has been a highlight for us. The staff are friendly and helpful, although not always readily visible between mealtimes. Although activities vary, and adapt to the Delta’s flood levels, we wouldn’t suggest this area for its general game; by the high standards of many Okavango camps, Baines’ game densities are limited. The biggest attraction is the elephant experience – which is excellent.
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 its sister camp, Stanley’s. From there it’s approximately 45–60 minutes by road to the camp, depending on water levels. In recent years, when water levels have allowed, the camp has 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 minor exceptions, excellent 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 on returning from the morning activity, although for those on the Elephant Experience, brunch is served as a buffet out in the bush. In the bush, we had the choice of crumbed fish, beef stir fry, sautéed potatoes, rice, a mild and very tasty vegetable curry, fresh green salad and freshly baked bread rolls. In camp, 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 either 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 strawberry cheesecake, cheese platter or fruit platter.
Afternoon tea is taken just before the afternoon activity. Along with hot and iced tea/coffee, we had a lovely homemade lemonade, scones with jam and cream, and some very 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 course was either beef or pork fillet, served with rosemary roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. The beef was succulent and well prepared. To finish we could choose between a fruit platter and rooibos creme brulée, or a cheeseboard.
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 a private dinner table 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'.
Special activities & services: None.
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, although the minimum age for this activity is 10. Otherwise, the game drives, especially when water levels are high, can be hard going. Because of this and the intimacy of the camp, we’d recommend Baines for older or more mature children over the age of 12.
Notes: Wildlife wanders through Baines Camp regularly. 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. WiFi is available in the main area, but there is no cellphone reception.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers and guides have first-aid training. The closest doctor is in Maun and medical evacuation is available in case of emergency.
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 utilised 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.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in the form of South African rand, GB pounds sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.