Kanana Lodge stands in a lush near permanent watery environment.
Kanana: Our full report
Situated in the heart of Botswana's Okavango Delta, adjacent to Moremi Game Reserve, Kanana Camp nestles among towering jackalberry (ebony) trees, knobthorn acacias and sausage trees on the edge of a permanent stretch of channel. Kanana's environment is a mix of forests and open seasonal floodplains, combined with permanent channels and lush flood meadows – and it’s this mix which leads to it being able to offer a very full range of activities.
Kanana’s main lounge and dining area is an interesting and very open design, raised on decks around an impressive ancient strangler fig tree; we noticed orchids growing on the tree, and a variety of small birds hopping and scrabbling along the branches and base.
This open-sided structure is essentially split into three sections, including two comfortable seating areas with sofas and a selection of coffee-table books. One of these incorporates the bar area, where guests are invited to help themselves from a sideboard containing a selection of spirits and wines, and a wooden cupboard housing a large fridge. Then there is the dining area with a long dining table – where everybody normally eats together – as well as a tea- and coffee-making station.
One one side of this, steps leading down to a jetty and a sandy firepit with views over the water: usually a popular gathering spot to swap stories after dinner. A Swarovski scope (great for birdwatching and star gazing), usually to be found at the top of the steps, is available for guests to use.
Although there is no curio shop per se, a small selection of curios for sale is displayed in two glass-fronted cabinets. Just a short walk from the main area, there is a really nice pool deck with a larger-than-average-size pool for a camp in the Okavango.
The eight tented chalets at Kanana Camp are large, structured tents raised on wooden decks. Spread out along wooden walkways and elephant dung pathways (which are much nicer than they sound!), all overlook the channel or seasonal floodplains in front of camp. Each chalet is constructed around a solid frame of thick wooden beams, around which thick canvas is stretched, giving the feel of a much more substantial wall. On our most recent visit in November 2011, we found that although the chalets are not much to look at from the outside, the interiors are spacious, airy and quite attractive.
At the front of each chalet is a shaded deck with two comfortable wooden chairs. The front ‘wall’ is almost fully meshed, with sliding doors. This, together with the high roof and mesh windows running along either side, lends an open and airy feel to the rooms.
Taking centre stage in each chalet are three-quarter-size twin beds – which can be made into a double on request – beneath a large walk-in mosquito net. On the writing/vanity table is information about the camp and area, and a canvas wardrobe incorporates a small electronic safe and a luggage rack. On the opposite side of the room are a couple of armchairs and a floor-standing fan. We particularly loved the colourful cushions, rugs and throws, which add brightness and warmth, and the added touch of a tin of homemade biscuits.
The en-suite bathroom is at the back of the chalet, reached through a wooden door. Note that the wooden divider provides a degree of privacy, but it doesn’t reach all the way to the ceiling and sounds still carry. The white walk-in shower cubicle feels a little out of place in a safari camp, but it was one of the most efficient showers that we had on our trip! There is also a flushing toilet and ‘his and hers’ washbasins, plus a good selection of complimentary toiletries, which on our visit in November 2011 were Charlotte Rhys products.
Activities at Kanana are as varied as the landscape around the camp. They include day and night 4WD game drives, mokoro trips and motorboat excursions, as well as (usually) bush walks with an armed guide. We did one walk on our last visit, which proved excellent. You can also take a rod out on a boat trip, and try your hand at fishing.
Kanana also has exclusive access to what is one of the Okavango’s largest heronries, about 35–40 minutes by boat from the camp. The boats weave and wind their way through a series of papyrus- and reed-lined channels before reaching the breeding site for pink-backed pelicans, yellow-billed and marabou storks, grey herons, ibises and assorted egrets. This remarkable birding spectacle is usually best between around September and December.
When the water levels in the Delta rise each year, the seasonal floodplains and channels around Kanana are usually filled – affecting the concentrations of big game in the area. Although we thought the area very beautiful on our game drive in November 2011, game (even plains game) was very thin on the ground. This matches our observations of the game densities seen from other camps in this private reserve (Nxabega and PomPom) where, between around May and November – the focus is firmly on water-based activities rather than game-viewing.
That said, during the greener months of the year, around December to April, when game is generally harder to see wherever you are in the Okavango region, this reserve is probably one of the Delta's better areas for spotting game – although it still doesn’t tend to have the concentrations found in areas such as its sister camp, Shinde.
The environment around Kanana is particularly beautiful, the camp’s guides are generally very good and the water activities are excellent. If you visit between around September and December, we’d be surprised if even those with only a passing interest in birds failed to be impressed by the sheer magnitude of bird numbers at the heronry. However, this isn’t a camp for a first-rate game safari between around May and November, when water levels are high, and even during the greener months, it doesn’t tend to have the game concentrations found in other areas.
Ideal length of stay: Two to three nights is usually perfect here. Most visitors will use Kanana for water activities, particularly during the dry season, and combine it with a good camp for big-game and land-based safaris – such as its sister camp, Shinde. Also note that when Kanana is combined in the same itinerary with this or one of its other sister camps – Footsteps or Okuti – there may be a slightly reduced rate. Please ask us for more details and whether this might apply to your trip.
Directions: The camp is accessed by light aircraft, followed by a five-minute transfer from the airstrip.
Owner: Ker and Downey
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Kanana are usually sociable affairs around a communal table – although special requests can usually be catered for.
The day starts with a wake-up call and tea, coffee or hot chocolate served to your tent.
Breakfast is served before the morning activity, and we were surprised at how substantial it was compared with other safari camps in the Delta. We had a choice of cereals, fresh and stewed fruit, and toast, as well as a full cooked option.
On our most recent visit, we left before brunch, unfortunately, but a selection of salads, hot and cold dishes, and fresh bread is usually served shortly after returning from the morning activity.
Afternoon tea before departing on the afternoon activity includes a choice of sweet and savoury treats. We loved the walnut cake, although we were less sure about the chakalaka tartlets (thinly sliced curried vegetables in a pastry case). On a previous trip, though, both the mini pizzas and melt-in-the-mouth shortbread were delicious. This is usually all served along with iced tea, homemade lemonade, tea and coffee.
Dinner is generally three courses. We had a very good home-made chicken liver paté to start. The main course was pork chops and vegetables, rounded off with a light but delightful dessert of crêpes and blackberry sauce.
Guests at Kanana are offered a selection of complimentary wines with their meals, and house spirits are also available. At the end of every meal, coffee, tea and liqueurs are served around the fire.
One of us was ill on our visit in November 2011, so the camp arranged for a light dinner to be delivered to our tent: a sandwich, pot of tea, some biscuits and a much-needed hot toddy – all of which went down very well indeed.
The camp is able to cater for most dietary needs– vegetarian, vegan, coeliacs etc – but they must be informed well in advance.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (generally) South African wines are included. Imported wines and spirits and champagne cost extra – and may need to be requested in advance.
Birdwatching: Kanana offers birdwatchers exclusive motorboat access to the enormous heronry nearby. Between September and December many migratory water birds come to nest, including yellow-billed, open-billed and marabou storks plus reed cormorants.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Walking safaris: Guests can do bush walks with an experienced, armed guide from Kanana Camp. These are usually slow walks, often following old hippo paths through the bush. The guide will explain tracks and signs with the aim to give visitors a deeper understanding of their environment.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Generally children over the age of ten are welcome at Kanana, but between November and June, the camp will accept children over the age of seven.
Property’s age restrictions: The camp will accept children above the age of 10 years July to October. However, children over the age of seven years are accepted during the rest of the year.
Special activities & services: The camp will prepare special meals for children on request but no other special activities or services are offered.
Equipment: There is no special equipment for children at Kanana. However, it is usually possible to fit one or two extra beds in the tented chalets – but note that the additional beds won’t have mosquito nets.
Generally recommended for children: Kanana has a more relaxed child policy than most other camps in the Okavango Delta, where it’s unusual for families with children under 12 years not to have to book and pay for a private vehicle. They also allow triple rooms, which can make Kanana comparatively economical for a small family. However, because children will generally accompany adults on all activities, we suggest that families with younger children may want to consider booking a private vehicle, which will allow for much greater flexibility.
Notes: Both the camp and the pool are unfenced. The camp is also in close proximity to los of water. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, no internet and no telephone. Kanana uses radios to communicate with both its head office in Maun and its sister camps.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All the managers are first aid trained and there are first-aid kits on site. The closest doctor is in Maun, which is a 25-minute flight. Medivac is available from the camp in case of a serious medical emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Because the camp is unfenced and wild animals are known to move through, guests are escorted to their rooms when it is dark. There are foghorns in the rooms for use as alarms in an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and common areas, as well as in boats and vehicles.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included, including undergarments, although washing powder is provided for those who wish to do their own. If weather permits, laundry collected in the morning will be returned on the same day.
Money: There is a small electronic safe in each room. There are no exchange facilities at the camp.
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 sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.