Sandibe Safari Lodge: Our full report
Adjacent to the Moremi Game Reserve, Sandibe Safari Lodge stands among towering stands of palm trees, thick riverine vegetation and several huge old baobabs. It's a lovely mix of forested areas interspersed with floodplains and permanent deep-water channels. The lodge has recently been fully rebuilt and was re-opened in September 2014. Lucy and Ellie of the Expert Africa team visited shortly after, in March 2015, and were impressed with what they saw.
The new structure of Sandibe Safari Lodge is significantly different from the original: much more luxurious, yet much more environmentally efficient. The owners describe it as their new flagship camp in Botswana – and we tend to agree.
On past visits to Sandibe, we have always felt that the team was friendly and helpful, and made sure we were very well looked after. That warm and welcoming feel remains, despite the size of the new and rather imposing structure, and Sandibe still offers equally attentive standards of service.
The main lounge and dining area is an elongated multi-level structure, open-faced, and covered by a large curved roof. Designed to mimic the scales of a pangolin, the roof is made up of thousands of little tiles of yellow cedarwood (which have yet to fade and blend into the natural environment), carefully fitted together like a body of armour.
Inside it feels a bit like the inverted hull of a wooden ship, with light wooden tones dominating both the buildings and the décor. At the top, up a series of stairs, sits the bar and lounge area with comfortable seating and a fireplace for those chilly winter evenings. This leads out along an open wooden deck to a raised outdoor area where tables and chairs overlook the floodplains, ideal for private dining or drinks.
Centrally and closer to ground level is Sandibe’s main dining area, a large open space with another smaller lounge and various comfortable seating areas. An interactive kitchen complete with a pizza oven stands behind the long wooden buffet bar, where a large chalkboard displays the daily menu. To the front, the deck extends out beyond the roof, allowing for dining under the stars, but in cool or wet weather the tables can be brought in under cover. A sandy boma area at ground level is used for traditional outdoor dinners. .
On the opposite side, a few more steps take you down, past his and hers toilets, to a separate lounge area, entered through large glass, folding doors. Here you’ll find a small library, some board games and even a large-screen TV (although it’s yet to be connected). There’s also a very impressive curio shop where locally made baskets, beaded and silver jewellery and nature books stand alongside some very stylish safari clothes.
Sandy paths lead to a separate building which houses a massage room with a single treatment table, and a small gym, complete with a rowing machine, treadmill, bicycle and bench with weights. We’ve been told that the yoga mats and pilates balls are still to come!
Given the luxury of the new camp, we were surprised, but pleased, to see that the paths between the main area and all the rooms are still sandy, lit at night by very soft solar lights.
Sandibe has 12 suites, each elevated to maximise the views over the permanent Santantadibe channel and tall reed beds. Like the main area, these new suites are decorated in light wooden tones, and they are vast. Each has an open-plan lounge area with air conditioning for hot summer days, and a free-standing fireplace for chilly evenings. There’s a comfortable leather ‘beanbag’ sofa, a polished tree-stump for a coffee table, a well-stocked minibar, and a discreet hatch where staff outside can put your tray of morning tea/coffee ready for you to grab it from the comfort of your enormous king-size bed, covered by a walk-in mosquito net.
The en-suite bathroom has twin basins with copper trimmings and two large oval mirrors suspended above. There’s a cylindrical open shower with a skylight, a separate toilet behind a solid wooden door, and a spacious walk-in wardrobe – which feels a bit like a Swedish sauna. You’ll find dressing gowns, slippers, insect repellent and spray, a safe, umbrellas and even a hairdryer!
Large wooden sliding doors at the front of the bedroom can be opened up completely onto a private multi-level wooden deck. Here you’ll find a rim-flow plunge pool, a sala area, an outdoor shower and a daybed. For colder nights there are enormous folding shutters which enclose the front of the bedroom.
In our experience, the wildlife in the area around Sandibe has generally been very good, with red lechwe, impala, tsessebe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest and plenty of giraffe. Buffalo and elephant are permanent residents. Lion and leopard are the dominant predators, but cheetah and hyena are not uncommon. The birdlife here is often good too – although you won't see the full range of water birds found elsewhere in the Delta. Birding here, like much of the rest of the Delta, is at its best in the green season, between December and March.
Activities are land-based at Sandibe and include 4WD game drives (day and night), as well as guided walks. Guides are accompanied by trackers, which can improve the chance of seeing the more elusive animals, particularly on spotlit night drives.
On our most recent visit in March 2015 the game did not disappoint. We saw a female leopard and her two cubs, plenty of tsessebe, an active hyena den, giraffe and a few lonely elephants. On our way back to camp, after a quiet and relaxing sundowner drink overlooking a very busy hippo pool, we spotted a spring hare and bushbaby. Our guide was fun and entertained us with African riddles, whilst our tracker kept an eagle-eye out for more nocturnal creatures.
Our viewSandibe Safari Lodge has long been a substantial lodge by Botswana's standards, the guiding has been good, and the staff very attentive. The private concession around Sandibe also has an impressive track record for game viewing. We are very pleased that the new lodge and its staff, most of whom have worked at Sandibe for many years, continue to make this camp an excellent choice for those wanting a great game-viewing experience – but now with a lot more luxury!
Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend three nights at Sandibe Safari Lodge.
Directions: Sandibe is about 20 minutes by air from Maun. Guests fly into Chitabe airstrip, from where the game-drive transfer to Sandibe takes approximately half an hour.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Sandibe has always been excellent – well presented, varied and really tasty. On our most recent trip to the newly built lodge, those standards were maintained.
A light breakfast of toast, freshly cooked muffins, fresh and stewed fruit, cereal and oatmeal, and fresh pastries, along with tea and coffee, is served prior to your early morning game activity. There is also the opportunity to order eggs and porridge at the ‘omelette station’.
Brunch is offered upon return from the morning game activity. We skipped this as we had an early morning flight out of camp, but we were given a packed lunch of roasted nuts, a piece of fruit and a healthy sandwich on fresh bread. Guests in camp can expect a hot dish such as beef rib-eye, grilled marinated chicken fillets or grilled fish (as well as a vegetarian option), served with dishes such as chargrilled halloumi and chunky guacamole, roast vegetables or tabbouleh. A variety of salads are also on offer.
Afternoon tea is served just before the afternoon activity with a savoury snack, refreshing iced tea or lemonade, and a freshly baked cake or pie. We couldn’t resist a slice of their delicious lumberjack cake, a cup of tea and a selection of cheese and biscuits.
A plated, three-course dinner comes with a choice of two main meals. The chef is passionate about his food, and usually comes out from the kitchen to announce the menu to each individual table. We started with a tasty (but with slightly too much garlic) avocado and cucumber soup, followed by a choice of venison or hake accompanied by roasted vegetables and roast potatoes. For dessert we finished with chocolate and orange soufflé. Tea and fresh coffee, and liqueurs, are always on offer.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported 'premium' wines and spirits cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Further dining info: Traditional outdoor boma dinners will be group dining. Private dining can be set up on the deck and in your suite.
Wildlife safaris: Sandibe is situated in an excellent area for consistent big-game viewing. A variety of predators are regularly seen, alongside a good number of plains game. This is definitely a camp to consider for those wanting good year-round game viewing!See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Walking: Sandibe focuses primarily on day and night game drives, but they also offer guided walking safaris, with two specialist walking guides based in camp. Walking safaris focus primarily on the smaller things; you’ll learn about the Delta’s fascinating ecosystem, plant life, the ‘small five’ and how to read the tracks and signs left by animals.See more ideas for Walking in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Sandibe but there are age restrictions on the individual activities for children under 16. Children under the age of five may not participate in any activities. Children aged 6–11 years may participate in game drives only at the lodge manager's discretion. Children of 12 years or above may join in with game drives, but not guided walks.
Special activities & services: Sandibe has a ‘WILDChild Programme’, which involves a number of fun and educational activities around the camp. Activities are carefully selected according to the interests and ages of the children, and they range from tracking and fishing, to making traditional bows and arrows, crafting and painting. Kids will have fun around the lodge and in the kitchen. Children will also receive a WILDChild backpack on arrival filled with a scrapbook and some other surprise goodies.
Equipment: Childminding is available at extra cost (currently US$5 an hour) but must be booked on the day of arrival. It should be noted that the staff here are not professionally trained childminders.
Generally recommended for children: Sandibe does accept children of all ages, but we feel that it’s most suitable for children of 12 years and over.
Notes: Sandibe is very open with dangerous wildlife in the area, the camp suites are elevated off the ground and the plunge pools are unfenced. There is also open water surrounding the camp. An adult must supervise children at all times.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception and no direct phone or fax. WiFi is available in the main guest area and suites. In an emergency, radio contact can be made with the main office in Maun. Each bedroom has a telephone with a direct line to the camp’s reception area.
TV & radio: The new lodge does have a television in a separate library, but it’s currently not connected and they are unsure whether it’s going to be used for satellite television, or just DVDs and wildlife presentations.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the suites have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flushing toilets. Each suite is provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The camp managers are first-aid trained and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept at camp. In an emergency, Sandibe can arrange for travellers to be flown out.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Because of the Okavango's large population of dangerous game, and the fact that Sandibe Safari Lodge is unfenced, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. Sirens are provided in the rooms to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers on the balconies of all suites. A fire drill map can be found behind each bedroom door.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered. There are safe deposit boxes in the suites.
Accepted payment on location: Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Diners and Amex are not, and nor are debit cards. Cash payments may be made in British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.