Khwai Tented Camp is an intimate safari camp...
Khwai Tented Camp: Our full report
The small Khwai Tented Camp is located within the Khwai Community Concession, a beautiful, game-rich area that’s separated from the Moremi Game Reserve by the Khwai River. This isn’t a luxury lodge – its simple style is reminiscent of Botswana’s old safari days when intrepid travellers camped in the wilderness – yet modern comforts and expectations are catered for. The camp is currently nomadic while a permanent site is developed, but it should have a long-term home very soon.
The vegetation around Khwai Tented Camp is made up of great stands of leadwood and riverine forest, which line wide floodplains and the banks of the Khwai River. The river itself is the first permanent water source reached by wildlife moving between Botswana’s northern reserves of Chobe and Linyanti and the Okavango Delta, and so attracts high concentrations of wildlife. For much of the year, areas of the floodplain fill with water to form shallow, lily-covered lagoons which attract a myriad of colourful birds. Away from the river and plains are pockets of mopane woodland dotted with pans that naturally fill with rain water and act as waterholes, attracting many different animal species.
Wildlife viewing is excellent in this region year round, with many sought-after species seen regularly – including elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog. On our last visit to Khwai Tented Camp, during April, a lioness and her cub walked within 100 metres of camp during our dinner, on their way to the river. It’s incidents like these that make the bushcamp experience so special: with little in the way of artificial light at the camp (it is lit by paraffin lanterns), animals do not hesitate to walk right past, or even through, camp.
Khwai Tented Camp has only six Meru-style tents with private verandas and mesh windows that allow you to see animals that walk through camp at eye level. Inside each spacious walk-in tent are comfortable twin beds with more than enough bedding to keep guests warm, even in the cooler winter months (June–August). A bedside table is kept constantly stocked with a couple of bottles of water, and lighting comes from a battery-powered lantern. With a hanging canvas wardrobe, a luggage bench and sisal matting throughout, it’s simple but well thought out.
A zipped opening at the rear of each tent leads to the en-suite bathroom, with a flush toilet accessed immediately, and a second zip-up door to an open-air bucket shower and washbasin, shielded by canvas walls which afford privacy without blocking out the view. There’s also a canvas washbasin on the veranda. Although there is no running water at Khwai Tented Camp, a large tin jug is provided in the bathroom and hot water brought on request for the shower. Luxurious toiletries are supplied, and there are a couple of large mirrors, so creature comforts are not lacking!
The main area at Khwai Tented Camp is an open-sided canvas marquee. This has been fitted with comfortable furniture covered with well-chosen, stylish linens and cushions. Touches such as hammocks, antique loungers and a teak drinks’ chest and serving table give the camp a relaxed yet classic feel, and there’s a communal table large enough for both guests and guides.
Activities from Khwai Tented Camp focus on game drives and guided walks, and (water levels permitting) there’s also the opportunity to get out on the water in a mokoro. That said, the camp usually has one guide for every six guests, so with a maximum of just 12 guests, it's usual for all the activities to be done as a group. Thus the timing of activities will depend on other visitors as well as yourself, so you’ll need to stay for at least two or three nights to be fairly sure of experiencing all that is offered.
Game drives take place in both the Khwai Community Concession and Moremi Game Reserve. As Khwai is a private reserve, this means that your guide may drive off-road to get closer to an interesting wildlife sighting, and take you on spot-lit night drives – activities not allowed in Moremi, or any of Botswana’s national parks.
Guided safari walks are also possible, with the length and routes dependent on wildlife movements and the time of year. Mokoro excursions, in the Moremi Game Reserve, leave from Xakanaxa Boat Station, about an hour or so’s game drive from camp .
Guests at Khwai Tented Camp may also have the chance to visit Khwai Village, where many of the people are from the Bayei group, sometimes referred to as the ‘river Bushmen’. Situated next to Moremi Game Reserve’s North Gate, this is an ordinary village that could well add a social perspective to your safari, but we stress that it’s not a ‘tourist attraction’. Whether you visit the village or not, you’ll see signs of its presence around North Gate.
When we visited Khwai Tented Camp it was moving between campsites within the community area, but we envisage that it will be on its permanent site during August 2012. As soon as we receive news we’ll update the information on our website, but please do give us a call if you’d like to discuss the camp in more detail.
Khwai Tented Camp won’t suit everyone. If you’re looking for air-conditioned luxury then it won’t be the place for you. If, however, you want to experience sleeping with nothing more than a thin canvas wall separating you from the pristine wilderness of northern Botswana, and some of Africa’s best game-viewing, then it could be a great option.
Directions: A 30-minute flight from Maun will take you to Khwai airstrip where you’ll be met by your guide for a game drive/transfer to the camp of about 30–50 minutes, depending on any wildlife you see on the way.
Owner: African Bush Camps
Staff: On our last visit to Khwai Tented Camp we were looked after by the multi-talented Ike who was both our guide and camp manager - he did a great job, as did the rest of his team. Everyone was always friendly, efficient and clearly very keen to help make Khwai a success.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Considering Khwai is a fairly simple tented camp, we were pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the food. Visitors can expect to be well fed with tasty, fresh and well-presented meals.
The day begins with an early-morning buffet breakfast before you set out on your first safari activity. This meal usually includes muffins, toast with a choice of spreads, yoghurt, cereals and porridge.
Returning to camp in the late morning there is often time for a quick freshen up before brunch is served. On our last visit the buffet included a delicious lentil stew (tasty enough to attract non-vegetarians!), avocado and feta salad, a cold meat selection, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, fresh bread and a cheeseboard.
Dinner is usually three courses. We enjoyed a filo parcel of puréed butternut squash served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms for starters, roast chicken, roast potatoes, fresh vegetables and gravy as a main course, and a scrumptious raspberry cheesecake for dessert.
There are always plenty of snacks too. Whilst on your morning activity it is usual to stop for a tea break which will be accompanied by biscuits, rusks and/or muffins, while afternoon tea usually includes at least one cake along with a savoury choice. Then sundowner drinks are served with a selection of snacks such as home-made sausage rolls and mini quiches.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: A wide selection of drinks is available from the bar cabinet at Khwai Tented Camp and they are included in the price. Premium brands, such as malt whiskies or French champagne, can be requested for an additional charge.
Attitude towards children: Khwai Tented Camp welcomes children aged 10 years and over, but only children over 14 years will be able to join walking safaris (and even then, the final decision is always at the management’s discretion).
Special activities & services: None
Equipment: An extra bed or mattress can be put into a tent to accommodate a young child sharing a tent with the parents. Note, though, that this will take up a substantial proportion of your tent’s space.
Generally recommended for children: Expert Africa doesn't recommend Khwai Tented Camp for children under the age of about 16; there is very little to entertain youngsters in between guided safari activities.
Notes: This is a very open safari camp and dangerous game is likely to pass through. Children must be under a parent’s supervision at all times.
Communications: Khwai Tented Camp is in radio contact with their safari vehicles, its sister camp Linyanti Bush Camp, and their base in Maun. There is also a telephone at the wildlife gate in Khwai Village.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The camp manager is trained in first aid. In the event of serious injury guests would usually be evacuated by air to the nearest hospital (Kasane, Maun or Johannesburg).
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their tents after dark in case wild animals are walking through the camp.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers placed throughout Khwai Tented Camp.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Note that clothes are sun dried so inclement weather may delay the usual same day return.
Money: Any valuables can be handed over to the manager to lock up in the camp’s safe.
Accepted payment on location: Payment for any extras may be made in cash only; all major currencies are accepted.