Reviews of Khwai Tented Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Relaxing stay on the Kwai
The camp is a very convenient location in the private concession still very close to the Moremi game reserve, where we went twice. The staff was nice and always tried to accommodate our requests.
Compared to the experience with Savute Under Canvas, the game drives tended to be a little bit crowded since they used to have 7 people on one vehicle. They always tried to make everyone happy that led to "flexible" time schedule (that is starting a little bit later) for game drives and we had to put it as a special request to leave at 6.30 am one morning to see the sunrise.
The area is very nice and we had good game viewing, but itineraries were always quite similar to each others, in a short range from the camp (main constraints were brunch and dinner timing). The tent was comfortable but missing a clothes rack or hangers, we requested a chair to use for that purpose.
The overall stay was nice and relaxing, a little bit less focused on maximizing game drives (that was our main interest) compared to the Savute Under Canvas.
Khwai was nice but not all that different
We had a nice time at Khwai after four days in Chobe and Savute. We had set our expectations on a few things: it's in the delta (meaning: water activities), outside Moremi Reserve (meaning: walking safaris, night drives, off-roading). While the staff really tried hard, we found that this experience wasn't as different from Chobe and Savute as we thought and the operation wasn't as top notch.
Activities: We couldn't do walking safaris because the grass levels were too high and the guides felt it was too dangerous. Understandable. Night drives were merely a continuation of the afternoon drive, which was a nice add-on but not an activity in and of itself. Off-roading allowed for some closeups that we couldn't get in the reserves, but was also an add-on rather than the bulk of an activity. As for water stuff, it was awesome being in a tent that's just a few meters from water where hippos are doing their thing around the clock. But otherwise, there wasn't much of a water element to the activities. We did a 1-hour mokoro cruise but it was more of a novelty than an actual activity.
While we were right outside Moremi, we never actually entered the park. Our guide is a local Khwai resident and suggested that we stick to the Khwai concession. He knows that terrain extremely well, but we couldn't help but wonder what if anything we might have missed in Moremi.
We really had expected some elements that didn't exist at the Chobe camps (e.g. walking, water activities) but those didn't materialize. We did have a chance to visit the Khwai village and meet our guide's family which was a nice change from non-stop game drives.
As for the staff, they were very friendly. Terry runs a great kitchen and the team did a great job prepping our gluten-free meals. Our room and laundry was great. But compared to &Beyond, we felt that there was a bit of finesse missing. The operation was well run, but not clockwork like we had been spoiled with at &Beyond. It lacked the military precision. We noted a lot of staff turnover while we were there (many staff work for 3 months at a time, then get 3 weeks off) so the teams were in a state of flux. We also noticed that the two game vehicles they had were sharing one spare tire. Each car should have two spare tires all the time. We also noticed that our guide's vehicle had radio trouble intermittently with no backup handset. It's the little things like this that stuck out.
Overall we felt there was some polish missing that we had expected at this price point! We brought this up to the camp management and they tried their hardest to make our remaining time memorable. The highlight was a bush dinner where it was just us in the wilderness. It almost felt like a scene from The Bachelor complete with song, dance, and candlelit dinner surrounded by rhinos and elephants!
I'm glad we had this experience at Khwai. Looking back, if we were to do this again, we'd probably combine Khwai with only one other land-based camp (rather than two), or we'd combine the other land-based camps with a true water-based camp deeper in the delta. Khwai offers a little bit of everything but we didn't feel that it excelled at one thing in particular.
luck runs out at Khwai
After the excitement of the previous camps, Kwai turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. To be fair, I think we just ran out of luck here, and the wildlife experience, in contrast to the previous two camps, was rather pedestrian. Daniel, our guide, tried his best and the staff were helpful and friendly but we saw little in the course of the morning drives.
I think it needs to be said that the very early morning routine i.e. beginning the drives at 6am worked against us as the weather was so cold many animals had not emerged at this early hour. Starting game drives so early is fine in the summer when the temperatures rise quickly and the animals are most active in the relative cool of dawn and dusk, but in the winter this is not really an issue, and, as I said, can be inimical to great sightings. Camps should be more flexible in this regard and on cold mornings visitors could happily set out at 8 or 9am and get a better viewing experience in my view. Having said that, it was great to see the sun rising through the mists at Duba Plains.
The late afternoon drives were better and our highlight at Kwai was the hyena den where four youngsters had been whelped a few weeks previously. It was great to see these much maligned beasts playing with their cubs and showing a caring and gentle side to their natures.
On the winter note, the weather can be seriously cold overnight and in the mornings, so it's therefore important to take as much warm clothing as can sensibly pack in your suitcase. We did not pack enough despite Expert Africa's warning.
Friendly Khwai Tented Camp
Wonderful welcome by staff singing a Setswana song. Small, intimate, natural camp which allows you to experience bucket showers and campfire chats (meeting people from all over Europe and USA). Beauty is a lovely manager and Esse is an excellent guide.
At this camp, we probably had our best experience of close encounters with mainly sightings of individual animals: elephant, giraffe, kudu, lion, waterbuck, warthog, fish eagle and crocodile (on other side of water!). We had a very enjoyable 1/2 hour with a mother hyena and her cubs; literally 2m away. Good groups of red lechwe, impala and zebra; also dwarf mongoose, plus various large wading birds like Marabou, saddle-billed and gap-billed stork.
In June, the camp has enough water bordering it to support views of Hippos from your lodge veranda. We had an excellent sundowner, again with Hippos, allowing numerous photos to be taken at leisure, in stunning lighting.
A highlight - Kwai Tented Camp
A real contrast to Savute Safari Lodge. We were given a warm welcome by the wonderful camp staff who sang and danced for us. Bucket showers - no problem, in fact better temperature and water pressure than many camps we stayed in. Food and ambience fantastic.
We stayed in Tent 1 overlooking the floodplain. The only thing we missed was somewhere to hang our clothes as there was no canvas wardrobe.
Our guide was Pilot who seems to be famous throughout Botswana. Our drives were divided equally between the Moremi Game Reserve and the Kwai Community Concession. A one-off was Pilot simulating a lion's roar and enticing 2 male lions to emerge from the bush. The noise from all 3 was unbelievable. The lions belonged to a pride of eleven. We were able to see them all including tiny triplet cubs.
On our first night a child in Kwai Village had been attacked by a leopard and Pilot was on a mission to find the cat. Five game drives later Pilot was confident we found the guilty leopard. He claimed he could tell from the way the leopard looked at him!
Other sightings included a spotted hyaena den with 3 females and 5 small cubs; and a real-life bush baby. Our send-off was as special as our arrival, only this time we joined in the singing and dancing.
The greeting when we arrived at Khwai was unforgettable, but I mustn't spoil the surprises!
Our guide, Essie, was determined to thrill and amaze us. When we first met, I mentioned all of the incredible animals that I had seen- lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, sable, and more, but told Essie that I had not seen a leopard or a bush baby... By the end of the first day, I saw a magnificent leopard with eyes like fire. By the next night, the bush babies were hopping in the treetops! The following day we saw another leopard, unperturbed by us as she devoured an impala. There were more surprises as well- wild dogs and hyenas to name a few, and one night the hippos took over the entrance to our camp so we had to go in by the back route!
The tents were more basic than some of the over the top luxury camps, but we were always perfectly comfortable, with a deck overlooking the water with majestic birds of all shapes and sizes flying to and fro.
The staff were so warm, friendly and good natured, making us feel at home and bringing us into their world with song, dance and laughter. The highlight was the African dinner, with my favorite- pap and morogo! It was a warm, wonderful place and I am so happy that we had the good fortune to visit!
Khwai Tented Camp review
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Khwai. The staff were wonderful and the accommodation was fun (though not for those who can't do without their creature comforts!).
The game sightings vastly exceeded our expectations - although supposedly a sub-optimal time of year (late April), in our 3 days we saw lion, leopard, elephant, hyena + pups, giraffe, hippo, zebra, monitor lizards, wart hog, several different species of antelope and many wonderful birds.
The only criticism (which only became apparent to us after visiting another camp) is that Khwai is a relatively small concession with several operators in the vicinity. Hence good sightings (e.g. hyena pups or a lion kill) rapidly attracted 5 or 6 vehicles. In addition, the area is not as visually attractive as that at, say, Kwara.
small more basic camp but very enjoyable
A small basic camp with small tents but again a really enjoyable stay.
The staff did everything to make our stay excellent.
Best safari of our entire trip
What makes this place special are the people. It is a small camp--just six tents--so you really get to know the wonderful staff intimately. They join the guests for meals, so it feels like you are eating with family. Special kudos to Mercy, the camp manager, Kwest, the big boss, and Mwamo, our incredible guide. He has only been doing it for six months, but he is a complete natural at it.
Mention a type of animal you would like to see, and he seems to magically find one--in the pitch black dark, just by waving a flashlight into the bush. The entire camp sings a welcoming song upon your arrival, and wishes you off on departure with yet another song and dance.
We loved every minute of our stay.
Khwai Tented Camp
The tents, while small, were quite comfortable and contained all the necessary facilities. The bucket shower was a novelty and okay for a short stay.
The food was good and the staff was very friendly. Canaan and Abali (sorry if I misspelled that) helped my husband with his quest to learn some phrases in Setswana which he very much enjoyed.
The game viewing was good but our guide seemed to feel that he needed to get us to where the game was as quickly as possible and drove very fast over some bumpy tracks. I don't think the pressure came from us, we were quite happy to see any and all animals. A slower pace would have suited us just fine.