Shinde Camp has 8 spacious tented rooms
Shinde Camp: Our full report
Shinde, meaning ‘tree squirrel’ in Setswana, is situated on the edge of an area of deep water and lagoons in the heart of the Okavango Delta, and is notable for its lushness and first-rate game. It's a well-established camp in a private reserve just to the north of the Moremi Game Reserve, and has long retained an excellent reputation for its guiding and wildlife.
The main area at Shinde has a wonderful tree-house feel; a thick canopy of ebony, mangosteen and water-fig trees shelters a flowing split-level area comprising teak platforms linked by grand staircases with scuff steps for safety. The whole area is underneath unusual ‘wagon-style’ canvas roofs, set high above, lending an airy feel to the rooms and an atmosphere of relaxed opulence.
The camp consists of three separate lounge levels, with other seating areas tucked away on the walkways. At the top of the flights of stairs is the dining room, with a long table, above which is a spectacular triffid-style chandelier with crystals and many lighted tentacles stretching seven or eight feet on either side. It was a real talking point at the dinner table and more than once a guest or staff member commented, ‘you either love it or you hate it’. (For the record, we loved it.)
At the front of camp is the bar area and a firepit, surrounded by canvas chairs. The bar is informal, simply a large fridge from which guests are welcome to help themselves. A beautifully designed and extremely heavy (apparently it took eight men to lift it!) iron cabinet forms the small, but well-stocked curio shop. This all overlooks an area of lawn, with a single marula tree in the centre. The tree is a particular favourite with the elephants which, when the fruit is in season - about January to March - shake the tree to collect the tasty morsels.
There is also a small but lovely pool in the middle of an open area. It's reasonably secluded, as it's surrounded on three sides by a wooden 'fence', but with fantastic views over the floodplains in front of camp.
The camp is joined by teak walkways in the main area, with sandy paths leading to the rooms. Shinde has eight tented chalets. The design of these Meru-style tents is quite traditional, and they’re fairly small by the standards of most modern camps. At the front there’s a shaded porch with soft chairs for relaxing, and inside, lively African fabrics give a warm, cosy feel. That said, the combination of dark wood and canvas can make some of the rooms seem a little dark, despite large mesh windows. These windows have flaps which can be lowered to let in extra light and a breeze, or closed for extra warmth and added privacy.
Small touches make the chalets feel quite homely: cookies baked by the chef in a small jar; a decanter of sherry laid out for the evening; and a couple of comfortable armchairs to relax in. Wooden or tiled floors are dotted with rugs, and the colourful cushions and throws on the bed really stand out against the white cotton bed linen.
In a twin configuration, the single beds are separated by a bedside table with built-in lamps for reading. However, on request they can be pushed together to make a double bed. There is an overhead fan, and mosquito nets above the beds.
The bathroom is behind a dividing wall, with a doorway to the side. Double hand washbasins have mirrors above, albeit a bit too high for those of us who are not very tall. A door from the bathroom leads to a separate flushing toilet. There is a selection of toiletries: shampoo, soap, shower gel, shower cap, sewing kit – all by Charlotte Rhys when we visited in May 2011. We were delighted to see that the plastic shower curtain – which had a habit of blowing onto you in the shower – had been replaced by a more substantial glass door.
Three of these tents are built on individual, raised wooden decks to form their own private 'enclave'. With the added facility of a small lounge and dining area, it's an excellent option for small parties of guests who require a high degree of privacy.
Activities at Shinde include day and night 4WD game drives, motorboat trips, mokoro excursions and guided walks. On previous visits we have been treated to some outstanding wildlife sightings on the game drives, including leopard and lion in November 2010. But on our last visit in May 2011, after a few days on the back of a vehicle, we particularly enjoyed the motorboat trip. In addition to an abundance of birds, we were fortunate to spot a monitor lizard and a rock python in the grass reeds, as well as a spotted-necked otter.
Of particular note are the motorboat excursions to Gcodikwe Lagoon, which are best from about September to December – when the birds there are breeding.
The camp also offers fishing, with the possibility of catching bream, catfish and African pike, as well as tigerfish in November and December. The guides are all practised fishermen and are happy to impart their skills to beginners – on a previous visit we went fishing one afternoon and managed to catch four bream in one hour! The camp operates a catch-and-release policy, although if the fish are of a suitable size then the chefs will prepare and cook them for you. Do note, however, that no fishing is offered in January and February, which is the breeding season.
Noted that when Shinde is combined in an itinerary with one of its sister camps – Kanana, Footsteps or Okuti – then there’s usually a discount in the total cost, which we’ll naturally factor into any quote.
Our viewShinde is quite a traditional safari camp with a very atmospheric tree-house feel to the main area. The rooms are not particular special, but we have do like this camp for its generally excellent game-viewing and good mix of both water- and land-based activities.
It is a good year-round option for those wanting to sample a variety of activities in the Okavango, but spending a relatively short time in Botswana. It also works really well in combination with dry-area camps in both the Delta and the Kwando-Linyanti / Chobe areas.
Ideal length of stay: Three or four nights. This area is known for some good game viewing and there is a good variety of both land- and water-based activities.
Directions: Access by light aircraft to Shinde airstrip, then it is about a 5-minute drive to camp.
Owner: Ker and Downey
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Shinde in May 2011, meals followed a very slightly different format than we’ve been used to in other Botswana safari camps we’ve stayed at. We enjoyed the communal dining and thought the food was delicious (which was good news, as on previous visits some of the dishes have been overcooked and unappetising).
Breakfast is served early for those heading out on game drives and a little later for those going out on water-based activities. It is a substantial meal with a full cooked option available, in addition to toast, muffins, cereal, porridge and fruit.
Lunch is usually at around 12.00pm, and might include a selection of vegetables and a hot dish (on one occasion we had a very good lasagna), in addition to a range of cold salad dishes, cheeses and freshly baked bread.
Afternoon tea is then served at around 3 or 4 o'clock, depending on the season; you can expect a savoury snack and a freshly baked cake or pie or biscuits. We particularly enjoyed the carrot cake cupcakes and spicy spring rolls.
There is usually a choice between two possible main dishes for dinner – in our case, slow-roasted lamb shanks or bream fish. We thought the fish was wonderful and those who chose the lamb shanks commented how it just melted in the mouth. The side dishes are served and dished by the waiters to guests whilst seated around the table – it seems that ‘silver service’ is alive and well in the bush...well, to a degree! The starter was a little unusual, a roasted pepper and aubergine (eggplant) soup! The little chocolate pots for dessert were just the right amount to nicely round off the meal.
Dining style: Group Meals
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 wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Attitude towards children: Shinde will accept children above the age of ten years throughout the year. However, if booking the three tented chalets at Shinde ‘enclave’ – which is on an exclusive-use basis – then the minimum age is usually seven years. Children younger than seven years may be accepted by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Special activities & services: Shinde offers no specific activities or services for children. However, if arranged in advance, one of the company's guides, Paul, has a lot of experience guiding families with children and runs the 'Young Explorers' safari trips (see Footsteps for details.)
Equipment: None, but the camp may be able to set up an extra bed or mattress to make up a triple room for one child to share with his or her parents.
Generally recommended for children: Shinde has a more relaxed child policy than most other camps in the Okavango Delta, where it’s unusual for families with children under 12 years not to have to book and pay for a private vehicle. They also allow triple rooms, which can make Shinde more economical for a small family. However, because of the raised areas, the amount of water in the immediate vicinity of the camp and the fact that children will generally accompany adults on all activities, we suggest that the main camp is best for more mature children only. For more flexibility, we’d suggest booking either Shinde ‘enclave’ or a private vehicle.
Notes: The main area is raised, in some parts very high off the ground, with simple handrails only to prevent a fall. The decks become very slippery when wet and both the camp and the pool are unfenced. Children will need constant supervision from their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no cellphone reception or email at Shinde, but the camp is in radio contact with the head office in Maun, with the camp’s guides on activities and with the other Ker and Downey camps.
TV & radio: There is no radio or TV at Shinde Camp.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Managers are first aid trained, as are the guides. The closest doctor is in Maun (about a 25-minute flight) and the camp has 24-hour radio contact with a Medivac Nurse in case of need.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their rooms when it is dark. There is a fog horn in the rooms for use in case of a medical emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and common areas.
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, as long as weather permits, items will usually be returned on the same day.
Money: Each room has a small safe. There are no exchange facilities offered at Shinde Camp.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted, subject to a charge. Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.