The main area at Sandibe Safari Lodge is built two-storeys high, and very stylishly done.
Sandibe Safari Lodge: Our full report
Adjacent to 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 itself occupies a linear stretch of land along the Santantadibe River (from where the lodge gets its name): a deep, wide channel leading to several beautiful lagoons.
As I write in mid-2013, there is much excitement at the lodge: there’s a complete rebuild in the pipeline. We understand that it will ultimately see all the current concrete structures removed. The owners tell us that their aim it to create a luxurious, but more 'sustainable and environmentally efficient' camp. Plans of each room show elevated and spacious accommodation on a sizeable wooden deck. Features are likely to include a lounge area, walk in dressing room, double sided fireplace, indoor and outdoor bathroom, daybed, and small plunge pool; as well as a newly constructed main guest area.
The first phase of the rebuild is scheduled to commence in October 2013. The lodge will close for a week while three of the current rooms are demolished and removed. Thereafter the lodge will re-open and remain open for the remainder of 2013 with just five rooms. The lodge will close in January 2014 to begin the second phase of construction.
Upon completion the lodge will increase from its current eight-room capacity to fifteen, with plans to open with eight rooms in July 2014 and the remaining seven rooms a few months later in September.
Having said all of this, the comments below reflects the experience of our most recent visit, in November 2011. We will, of course, re-visit the camp once it's completed, and update this review.
The camp currently consists of a two-storey main lounge and dining area that is a soaring, open structure, somewhat reminiscent of a traditional tithe barn. The neutral colours, high ceilings and open plan give a light and breezy feel and the lodge is dotted with beautiful pieces of African art, and traditional reed baskets, some made by the lodge's staff. As at its sister camp, Nxabega Safari Camp, WiFi access is provided in this (and only this) part of the lodge. There’s also a guest laptop, though on our most recent visit this was in for repair after inquisitive monkeys had tried their hand at technology.
On the ground floor there is an appealing lounge area with a well-stocked fridge for helping yourself to drinks, and a covered dining area. That said, on our last visit to Sandibe, dinners were served outside, next to the open fire. In case of persistent rain, dinner is served individually in the rooms, as the dining area is very open to the elements. A wine cellar stocks not just house wines but premium wines and champagne too. There is also a well-stocked curio shop selling a range of items including traditional baskets, jewellery, African carvings, hats, T-shirts and toiletries.
Climb the stairs to the first floor and you will encounter more comfy chairs and sofas. From up here you get a better view of the colony of epauletted fruit bats that have made their home in the rafters.
A stone's throw from the lodge is a small splash pool built into a raised deck, which is partially shaded, and is dotted with sunloungers.
You are acutely aware that there is wildlife all around you while staying at Sandibe and it is quite likely that you will be awoken by the sounds of the bush at day break – francolin, hippo and sometimes even elephant acting as your African alarm clocks!
Sandibe's eight 'cottages' are of solid construction, each of them en- suite and with an outside shower, and each facing the river, under a canopy of trees. Although they can seem rather dark, and views from the rooms are obscured by the surrounding bush and reed beds, this is well compensated for by raised private decks which allow broad vistas of the surrounding area.
The spacious cottage-style rooms are of stone construction, and have large gauze windows. A thatch roof, screened flooring and ceiling fan keeps them cool in summer. Like the main area, they are decorated in neutral tones, and the comfortable beds sport rather unusual copper-coloured mosquito nets. There are electric lamps beside the beds, a built in desk and plenty of storage and hanging space. All the rooms have safes, charging facilities and hair dryers and you are also provided with bathrobes, toiletries, mosquito spray and coils, which are lit nightly by the staff.
Outside each room are a couple of deck chairs on one level and, down a few steps, a small table with chairs. This is a great place to relax in the afternoons and the elevated shaded deck in front of the cottage maximises your chances of seeing game from the comfort of the lodge.
The wildlife in the area around Sandibe is generally 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 lodge even has a 'resident' elephant who is often on the paths or visiting the pool!
Sandibe is refreshingly flexible about the timing of activities, which include 4WD game drives (day and night) and bush walks. Guides are accompanied by trackers, which improves the chance of seeing the more elusive creatures, particularly on spotlit night drives. On our last visit, our guide was very knowledgeable and positioned us well when photo opportunities arose during game drives.
On our last visit to Sandibe, we felt that the fairly new management team were still finding their feet, but the lodge ran smoothly and was well maintained, and an army of friendly, helpful staff make sure you're very well looked after. In fact some may find the sheer number of staff to be a little imposing, but there are plenty of quiet, secluded areas to retreat to and feel as if you're totally alone.
Our viewFor many years Sandibe Safari Lodge has been a substantial lodge by Botswana's standards, and its solid 'cottages' make it feel more permanent than most of the Delta's camps. The guiding here has been great, and the staff very attentive. Soon, in January 2014, the lodge will close to be completely rebuilt.
A very different Sandibe is scheduled to re-open in July 2014 with just eight rooms. Later, around September 2014, more rooms are scheduled to open, increasing the total number to fifteen. Watch this space for news…
Ideal length of stay: 2 or 3 nights
Directions: Guests fly in to Chitabe airstrip, from where the game-drive transfer to Sandibe takes approximately half an hour. You can transfer by road if you are staying in one of the lodges nearby (for example Chitabe Lediba or Chitabe Main Camp).
Owner: & Beyond (formerly CC Africa)
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Sandibe is excellent – well presented, varied and really tasty.
A light breakfast of toast, freshly cooked muffins, fruit and cereal, along with tea and coffee, is served prior to your early morning game activity.
Brunch, quite a substantial meal, is offered at around 11.00am. This includes a hot option which, on our latest visit, was vegetable pizza with pesto pasta, lentils with Chinese cabbage and a Greek salad along with fresh bread rolls and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
You can expect tea at around 4.00pm with a savoury snack, refreshing iced tea, and a freshly baked cake or pie.
Weather permitting, a lamplit dinner is served under the stars in the boma; the setting is magical. During our most recent visit, the lamb kebabs with mashed potato and vegetables, followed by a crème caramel dessert, were the highlights.
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.
Solo Travel: Sandibe Safari Lodge is unusual amongst Okavango safari camps in that it does not usually charge a single supplement to solo travellers. Holidays here are friendly and relaxed, and activities (game drives and bush walks) provide great opportunities for stunning wildlife.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Botswana
Birdwatching: Sandibe is great for a Botswana birdwatching holiday. Guests are provided with a birdlist for their own use on arrival, and may be able to tick off specials like long-winged falcons, black coucals, black egrets and brown firefinches.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Generally children are welcome at Sandibe but please take into account the restrictions below. Children of 12 years of age and over are accepted. Children under this age may be accepted by prior arrangement, but generally children under 12 will not be able to participate in any of the game activities.
Special activities & services: None.
Equipment: No special equipment is available.
Generally recommended for children: Recommended for children of 12 years and over.
Notes: Sandibe is very open with dangerous wildlife in the area (elephants regularly wander through the camp). It is also open to the water.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no mobile reception, no direct phone or fax and no email – this is the bush! In an emergency radio contact can be made with the main office in Maun.
TV & radio: No television or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All camp managers are first-aid trained and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept at camp. In an emergency, the camp can arrange for clients 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. Alarms, sirens or whistles are provided in the rooms in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are extinguishers on the balconies of all rooms. There is no fire drill as such.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered. There are safe deposit boxes in the rooms. Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Diners and Amex are not, and nor are debit cards. No commission is charged on credit card transactions. Rand, £, $, Euros and Botswana Pula are accepted.