Khwai Tented Camp is an intimate safari camp...
Khwai Tented Camp: Our full report
Khwai Tented Camp is located within the Khwai Community Concession found adjacent to the border of the Moremi Game Reserve with the Khwai River forming the boundary between the two. The river 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.
Khwai Tented Camp has recently been built on a permanent site after a few years as a semi-mobile operation. The camp is still small and simple with only six Meru-style tents all raised off the ground on concrete platforms, with a wooden deck in front facing onto the Khwai River as it passes by camp.
The interior of each spacious walk-in tent has 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 there’s sisal matting throughout. If you’re looking for air-conditioned luxury then Khwai Tented Camp 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, with mesh windows meaning you are able to view whatever might walk through camp at eye level, then this is the place for you.
Each tent has an en-suite bathroom reached through a zipped opening at the rear of the ‘bedroom’. There’s a hanging canvas wardrobe here which provides storage space for clothes. The compartment immediately reached contains a flush toilet and ‘wash basin’ meaning you don’t have to leave your tent in the night. Although there is no running water at Khwai Tented Camp, a large tin jug and basin are provided in the bathrooms as well as canvas wash basins on each private verandah. The used water is regularly cleared out and fresh water supplied. Walking on through to the next section at the very rear of the tent, through a zip-up door, one finds the open-air bucket shower. The whole of the shower area is shielded by canvas walls which are high enough to prevent anyone seeing in but allow you to be able to see the stars in the evening. Luxurious lotions and shower gels as well as large mirrors are all supplied meaning that although the accommodation here is simple you won’t want for anything.
The main area at Khwai Tented Camp is an open plan marquee with canvas walls and timber frames, again raised up to accommodate for the varying levels of the river. This has been fitted with comfortable furniture covered with well-chosen, stylish linens and cushions. There’s a large wooden deck at the front of this main area which stretches out a little way over the water and here is where a teak drinks chest is set up for afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks. Back inside, under the canvas, there’s a serving table as well as antique loungers which give the camp a relaxed yet classic feel. This is where meals are taken, on a communal table large enough for the whole camp to eat around including your guide.
Activities offered from Khwai Tented Camp include game drives in the Khwai Community Reserve as well as in Moremi Game Reserve. As Khwai is a private reserve, your guide is able to drive off-road should you want 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 from Khwai Tented Camp but the length and routes are dependent on wildlife movements and the time of year.
Mekoro excursions are also possible while staying at Khwai Tented Camp and are conducted inside Moremi Game Reserve at the Xakanaxa Boat Station. The boat station is about an hour or so’s game drive from camp itself and so the boat trip will include a game drive in Moremi Game Reserve through some beautiful Delta scenery.
Khwai Tented Camp usually has one guide per 6 guests in camp. Hence, with a maximum of only twelve guests, it's usual for all the activities to be done as a group. Although drives and walks are offered from the camp, exactly when will depend on the other visitors as well as yourself. So stay here for at least two or three nights to be fairly sure of experiencing all that is offered.
The vegetation in this area of Botswana is made up of great stands of leadwood and riverine forest which line wide floodplains and the banks of the Khwai River. For much of the year, areas of the floodplain fill with water to form shallow, lily-covered lagoons which attract a myriad of colourful birdlife. 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 in October 2012 we had brilliant sightings in lion, wild dog, a couple of leopard, many elephants and good densities of plains game. There were also many hippo right in front of camp, indeed one evening, after dark, we met one on the path back to our tent. The guide dealt with the situation expertly, although it was still a little disconcerting hearing the hippo crash through the bush (thankfully) in the opposite direction from us back to the water. It’s incidents like these however which make the bush camp experience so special - with little in the way of artificial light (the camp is lit by paraffin lantern) animals do not hesitate to walk right past, and sometimes through, camp.
Khwai Tented Camp is situated east of Khwai Village where many of the people are from the Bayei Tribe, sometimes referred to as the ‘river bushmen’. Whilst many villages in Botswana are situated in or near a wildlife area, most are effectively out of easy reach for travellers - not so with Khwai Village which sits just next to the North Gate of Moremi Game Reserve. While camp is set up well away from the village there may be the chance to pay it a visit while staying at Khwai Tented Camp. We think it’s important for our travellers to realise that at Khwai Village you’ll find genuine Batswana living their everyday lives. It’s really interesting to add a social perspective to your safari but we wouldn’t necessarily consider this a ‘tourist attraction’. Whether you visit Khwai Village or not you’ll still see signs of its presence in the areas around North Gate and we think it’s important for our travellers to know there are nuclei of human habitation in this area. We should also mention that Khwai Tented Camp sits not too far away from Khwai Airstrip, which by Botswana standards is quite a busy hub. Guests will hear and see perhaps one or two Cessna’s coming into land every hour or so.
Khwai Tented Camp isn’t a luxury lodge yet modern comforts and expectations are catered for. The area surrounding camp is beautiful and rich with wildlife, when we last stayed here the game visited our campsite as much as we went out to look for it. The is now on its permanent site and is still very new. Activities here focus on game-drives and walking excursions and there’s also the opportunity to get out on the water in a mokoro (water levels permitting). This camp won’t suit everyone but if you’re looking to spend some time in a very comfortable camp which is all about getting close to the wilderness environment, then two or three nights at Khwai Tented Camp is 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 10 minutes, depending on what 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.
Begin the day 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 cheese board.
Dinner is usually a three-course affair. During our last visit we enjoyed a filo-parcel filled with pureed butternut and served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms for starters, roast chicken, roast potatoes, fresh vegetables and gravy for main course and a scrumptious raspberry cheesecake for desert.
In case three good meals are not enough, 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. Afternoon tea usually includes at least one cake along with a savoury choice.
Whilst enjoying each Botswana sunset you will be served with drinks and a selection of bar snacks which when we visited last included homemade 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 Khwai Tented Camp bar cabinet and included in the price. Any premium brands such as malt whiskies or French champagne can be requested in advance for an additional charge.
Attitude towards children: Khwai Tented Camp welcomes children aged 10 years and over throughout the year. Only children over the age of 14 years will be able to join walking safaris (and even then, the final decision is always at the management's discretion).
Equipment: An extra bed or mattress can be put into a tent to accommodation a young child sharing a room with the parents. Note though that this will take up quite a bit of the 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.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Khwai Tented Camp is in radio contact with their safari vehicles, its sister camp Linyanti Bush Camp and their base in Maun. They can also use the telephone at the wildlife gate in Khwai Village should they need to.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The camp manager is trained in first aid. For any serious injury guests will 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 just in Guests are escorted to their tents after dark just in case wild animals are walking through the camp. Any valuables can be handed over to the manager to lock up in the camp's safe.
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 may delay the usual same day return.