Arriving at Jacana Camp by boat can be quite adventurous!
Jacana Camp: Our full report
Jacana Camp is a fairly small camp built on a little island amidst the large open floodplains of the Jao Flats. The Okavango's levels fluctuate throughout the year but Jacana is usually completely surrounded by water, giving it a true island feeling. This also means that water-based activities can generally be offered year-round. When water levels permit, occasional dry-land 4WD trips to Hunda Island, for game viewing, are also an option.
Jacana Camp lies within the Jao Reserve, and its small palm-fringed island is typical of the Jao Flats, which is one of the Okavango Delta's largest areas of floodplains. The scenery is very beautiful, and corresponds to what many people expect of the Okavango Delta before they see it for the first time: it's very lush and tropical. We also felt that the camp itself had a particularly relaxed, laid-back air with friendly and efficient staff – perhaps aided by the watery surroundings and the naturally slow pace of mokoro activities.
Jacana Camp's main area is a double-storey building which faces east. So while eating muffins and toast before our morning activity, we had a prime spot to watch the sunrise over the water (and admire our elephant visitor who happily munched his own breakfast at the end of the deck).
Downstairs on the lower deck is the main lounge area with some comfortable sofas, a tea-and-coffee station, and polished wooden bar. Tucked away on a small landing about halfway up the stairs, there is a small library and sofa. The upper deck is the dining area, which is open-sided and thus offers even better views across the floodplains. A wooden walkway leads from the eating area to the fun 'loo with a view' which must be experienced during your stay!
Nestled off to the side of the main building is a small plunge pool with sunloungers and umbrellas. Behind the bar is an area with a central firepit, which is lit most evenings and is a popular spot for pre- and post- dinner drinks and animated discussions. There is also a small curio shop.
Although there are six fairly spacious tented chalets at Jacana Camp, they accept a maximum of ten guests at any one time. (Thus, if four people occupy the family unit then one of the other rooms will be left empty.) Accessed by sandy paths, the tented chalets were rebuilt in February 2012. Constructed on wooden decks, each has a small balcony overlooking the scenic floodplains. Sliding doors open into the main bedroom area, where a large bed beneath a walk-in mosquito net and cooling ceiling fan makes the most of the view. Bed linen and cushions are in muted tones. To one side are two comfortable chairs and to the other, a writing desk with camp information and a few magazines. At the back of the room are shelves and a hanging space, as well as a tea- and coffee-making station and an electronic safe. The room also has an assortment of international adaptors.
Another sliding door at the back leads to the open-plan, en-suite bathroom. Ceramic double basins are set into a wooden surface beneath an interestingly designed metal-framed mirror. Separated to some extent by head-height wooden poles are the indoor shower and flushing loo. Outside, leading off the veranda, is a double outdoor shower with stunning views!
One of the chalets is a family unit, which is designed in the same style as the other tented chalets – the only difference being that it has two separate bedrooms joined by one shared bathroom.
We're always impressed by the rich birdlife that can be viewed from an armchair on our balcony or the lounge at Jacana, and of course during activities. Species we've spotted include wattled crane, slaty egret, saddle-billed stork and rufus-bellied heron. Birding enthusiasts should keep an eye out for Pel's fishing owl, which are known to nest on a nearby island. On our last trip in April 2013 we were lucky enough to spot two in the same tree. Red lechwe are also frequent visitors to the floodplains surrounding the camp.
On activities at Jacana, we've found the guiding to be of a generally high standard. On one visit, water levels were high and we chose to go out in the motorboat for the morning and try our hand at fishing (much to the delight of our guide!). It was incredibly relaxing and we spent a wonderful few hours birding and learning to fish. Jacana also offers mokoro trips.
Day game drives are usually offered in the Jao area when the waters have receded, generally from around September until about April. On a previous visit our team saw a couple of lions and also a leopard, but more common sightings are antelope and elephant. So don't visit Jacana expecting abundant big game. Rather, visit for the opportunity to immerse yourself in a true water-based Delta experience.
Note that even when game drives are offered, night drives are not generally an option because it's usually necessary to boat into camp, and they won't run the boats at night for safety reasons.
Our viewThis authentic Delta camp is a firm favourite of our team. It stands out for its stunning location, excellent birdlife and informal, tropical air. Jacana Camp makes a particularly good place to end a safari, or when used in the middle of a trip, as a welcome break from the 'serious' business of big-game watching. Come for a classic water-based Delta experience, and we hope you enjoy this camp as much as we do.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights are fine here, because of the focus on water-based activities. However, if Jacana is the only water-based camp you are visiting or you'd simply prefer to slow the pace of your safari a little, then you may wish to stay a night longer.
Directions: Access to camp is usually via a light-aircraft transfer to Jao airstrip. Transfers to Jacana Camp from there are usually by boat, but may be by road (or a combination of both) if the flood waters have receded sufficiently. For the past two years the latter has not been an option due to high water levels.
Owner: Marketed and managed by Wilderness Safaris.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Food at Jacana Camp is served buffet-style and although some meals in the past have been disappointing, we really enjoyed all the meals on our most recent visits in 2011 and 2013.
Early morning breakfast is served on the deck before departing on the morning activity. This is a light meal of cereal, fruit, toast, muffins, tea and coffee.
On return from our morning activity, brunch was served. There was a good selection to choose from – chicken kebabs, mustard mashed potato, artichoke and asparagus salad, a green salad, freshly baked bread, sausages and eggs cooked to order. There was also a fruit platter and a cheeseboard, just in case you could squeeze in more after the main offerings!
For afternoon tea we were offered tuna samosas and a moist orange cake. On previous visits we've also been served pizza slices, mini quiches and banoffee pie. Several iced drinks – coffee and lemonade, plus tea and coffee, usually accompany this.
We had a really tasty dinner of corn chowder soup, breaded chicken escalope with patty pan (a type of squash) and green beans served with a mushroom sauce and a green salad, rounded off by a orange pancakes.
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.
Birdwatching: A large variety of bird species are found in the vicinity of Jacana Camp, including Pel's fishing owl, wattled crane, saddle-billed stork, African darter, reed cormorant, kingfishers galore, slaty egret, several species of heron including the goliath and rufus-bellied, and all the more common water-bird species. Ground hornbill are spotted regularly when water levels are low. Many of these can be viewed from the comfort of the camp itself.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 12 years are welcome. The camp may accept children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, but private activities must be booked and these will be at an extra cost. Children younger than six may be accepted by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Equipment: No special equipment is available, although there is a family unit with two bedrooms linked by one shared bathroom.
Generally recommended for children: We think this camp would suit older children with a keen interest in the natural world, possibly even fishing (note there is no fishing allowed January–February during breeding season). Game drives can be hard going, when they are offered, so we strongly recommend booking private activities for greater flexibility.
Notes: Wildlife, including hippos and bull elephants, wanders through Jacana Camp on a surprisingly regular basis. The balconies are on stilts and would not be suitable for small children. The pool is unfenced and the camp is often surrounded completely by water. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. All management and guides are first-aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies. There is a nurse on call (via radio) 24 hours a day.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife wanders through the camp. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. ‘Fog horns’ are provided in the chalets to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside all the rooms and in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included at Jacana. Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting. For cultural reasons, the staff do not wash underwear. Detergent is provided in each chalet for guests who wish to do a little hand washing.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered. There are safes in all the rooms.