Khwai is a simple tented camp, now set on a floodplain in Botswana's Okavango Delta.
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 tented camp – its simple style is reminiscent of Botswana's old safari days when intrepid travellers camped in the wilderness. Until recently it was a nomadic camp but in September 2012 the camp was settled in a more permanent location on a seasonal floodplain that flows from the Khwai River.
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 hundreds of colourful birds. Away from the river and plains are pockets of mopane woodland dotted with pans that naturally fill with rainwater 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.
This tented camp has only six Meru-style tents with private raised verandas and mesh windows. Inside each 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 flask of fresh mineral water, and lighting comes from a battery-powered lantern and solar-powered lights. 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 of the camp’s tent leads to the en-suite bathroom, with a flush toilet, and a small washstand with cold running water and a mirror. A second zip-up door leads to an open-air bucket shower, shielded by canvas walls for privacy. There are also two canvas washbasins on the veranda for which hot water is provided in the mornings and on request.
In its new permanent position Khwai Tented Camp now has the use of a solidly built, thatched family cottage, which is situated at the far end of the camp. A lovely large veranda extends around two sides of the cottage, where on our last visit, we thoroughly enjoyed reading on the day bed provided. There’s a large dining table here, too, where families can choose to have their meals, or they can join other guests back in the main area.
Inside, the cottage is one large open-plan room. Curtained off in one corner is the bathroom with plumbed hot and cold running water, a shower, bath and washbasin. A stone-wall divider separates this from the main double bed with a mosquito net, also screened by a white curtain. In the centre of the room are a couple of armchairs and a coffee table, and in the far corner is another double bed (also with mosquito net). A small kitchenette is at the back of the room but kitchen implements are not supplied as guests at the cottage are fully catered for. Note, too, that although there are basic cooking facilities, there is no fridge.
This is a privately owned cottage, so Khwai Tented Camp may not alter the structure in any way. Despite the curtains, the open-plan layout means there is a distinct lack of privacy. Nonetheless we thought it was a nice if somewhat different addition to the camp and a good choice for families who are happy to all live and sleep in what is, effectively, one large room.
The main area at Khwai Tented is a raised canvas marquee, usually open on one side, leading to an open deck with deckchairs and boma where afternoon tea is often served. Inside, a large communal table and chairs and a small serving table make up the dining area. On the other side sits a sofa, a number of comfortable armchairs and a large coffee table. Behind this is a fridge and small table, which acts as a bar – guests are welcome to help themselves to drinks. It’s all very simple and quite rustic, with a friendly, relaxed yet classic feel.
Activities from Khwai Tented Camp focus on game drives and guided walks, and (water levels permitting) there's also the opportunity to get out in a mokoro. 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 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.
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.
Ideal length of stay: Two to three nights is ideal. Khwai Tented Camp is often combined into trips with one of its sister camps on the Linyanti Marshes: Linyanti Bush Camp , Linyanti Ebony and Saile Tented Camp.
Directions: A 30-minute flight from Maun will take you to Khwai airstrip, then it’s a game drive/transfer to camp of about 15–20 minutes, depending on any wildlife you see on the way.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
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: On our last stay at Khwai Tented Camp in November 2013 the food was simple and mostly tasty, although a couple of dishes were a little bland.
The day begins before your first safari activity with an early-morning buffet breakfast. This usually includes muffins, toast with a choice of spreads, yoghurt, cereals and porridge.
On return to the camp in Khwai from the morning activity, brunch is served. On our last visit the buffet included a delicious Bolognese pasta bake, avocado and feta salad, mixed corn and vegetable salad, a cold meat selection, cheese platter and fresh bread.
Afternoon tea consisted of a savoury snack of corncakes and a sweet option of a very tasty ginger cake. Iced tea and coffee were also available.
Dinner at Khwai Tented Camp is usually three courses. We thought the tomato and feta starter was quite bland, but the stuffed chicken breast with brie, brown rice and vegetables was delicious; dessert was a lemon pannacotta.
With advance notice, those with allergies or other dietary requirements can be catered for.
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 welcomes children aged six years and over, although children aged 6–12 must share a tent with an adult. 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).
Equipment: An extra bed or mattress can be put into one of the tents to accommodate a young child sharing a tent with the parents, though note that this would be a massive squeeze and take up a substantial proportion of the tent's space. Alternatively families have the option of using the more spacious family cottage.
Generally recommended for children: We do not recommend Khwai Tented Camp for children under the age of 14; 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: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is no direct phone or fax, or email from Khwai Tented Camp. Communication is maintained with head office in Maun via radio. There is also a telephone at the wildlife gate in Khwai Village. Some guests may pick up cellphone reception, as Khwai Village is close by, although this is not always possible.
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
Water supply notes: The tents at Khwai Tented Camp have bucket showers, which are filled upon request. Toilets are flushing and there is running cold water in the en-suite bathroom; hot water is brought each morning for the canvas basins on the veranda. A flask of fresh drinking water is kept by the bed. Guests are given a water bottle upon arrival and encouraged to top up from the mineral water dispenser situated in the main area. The family cottage has fully plumbed hot and cold running water.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: When we visited most recently, 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: The camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife moves through, so guests are escorted to their tents after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival. 'Fog horns' are provided in the tents, and can be used to summon help in case of an emergency.
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: A safe is provided in each of Khwai’s tents.
Accepted payment on location: Payment for any extras may be made in cash only; all major currencies are accepted.