The main area at Tubu Tree Camp is raised on wooden decking.
Tubu Tree Camp: Our full report
Tubu Tree Camp is a small, traditional tented safari camp on a large island in the 600km² (60,000 hectare) Jao Reserve, on the west of the Okavango Delta. Although this reserve is dominated by permanent wetlands with deep-water channels, seasonal floodplains and islands, Tubu is built on Hunda Island, the largest dry island in the reserve – so when the floods arrive, the game drives from Tubu Tree offer the best game sightings in the area.
The Jao Reserve is shared by Tubu's sister camps Kwetsani, Jacana and Jao, which are based on much smaller islands within the seasonal floodplains. The reserve receives a lot of water during the annual floods (around May to September), when it is for the most part best suited to a water-based Delta experience; thus these camps put much more emphasis on water-based activities than Tubu Tree.
An Expert Africa team member visited most recently in April 2013 – and this write-up is based on that visit. Three months later, in June 2013, the camp was totally renovated, increasing in size from five to eight rooms (including one family unit). There are also plans to switch to solar power as their energy source. We’ll report on these changes when we next visit!
The raised main area at Tubu Tree feels like an enormous tree house and the views over the seasonal plains in front of the camp are fantastic. On our most recent visit , we were welcomed by a vast number of red lechwe and a family of warthog right in front of the camp. Although the plains were dry when we visited, the view changes completely during the flood season when the plains in front of the camp fill with water.
Off to one side of the building is the open-air lounge with a number of comfy sofas and chairs, and the adjacent loo with a view. There’s a good selection of reference books available, and the deck in front has a viewing scope for guests to use.
The dining area at the opposite end is large and simply decorated, but we felt it lacked some of the atmosphere created with the rest of the building. One of our favourite features, however, is the quirky bar, hand carved from a large sausage tree and built around trees to the front of the camp. From here a wooden walkway leads down to a small plunge pool and sundeck, and – just beyond – a firepit, where a fire is lit most evenings and early mornings. The camp also has a small curio shop.
Tubu Tree Camp now has eight tented chalets, each built on individual decks (with super views), giving them the feel almost of tree houses. All are reached from the main area along raised wooden walkways. In keeping with the style of the camp, the design of the rooms is very traditional. The tents have big windows and a large sliding door with mesh panels, making them feel quite light and spacious. At present, the tents are smaller than at some more modern camps we've visited, but we were shown the skeleton of one of the new tents at Tubu Tree (built in May 2013), which are a fair bit larger; hopefully they will remain as bright!
Each room has a veranda with a couple of directors’ chairs, providing a perfect spot to sit and contemplate the surrounding plains. Inside, the rooms are simply but adequately furnished with a desk, decent reading lamps above the beds, a couple of chairs, a free-standing fan, tea- and coffee-making station and a collection of international adaptors.
A simple reed divider separates the sleeping area from the bathroom, which we felt was a little gloomy, but we understand that this will be rectified in the new tents. Here you’ll find a stone basin with a selection of toiletries, some shelves and hanging space, and an electronic safe. The tents have both an indoor and an outdoor shower.
Activities at Tubu Tree vary with the water levels in the Jao Reserve. For a good portion of the year, the emphasis is usually on day and night game drives, but when water levels permit – usually between May and end of September – then motorboat trips and fishing are possible. Mokoro trips are available all year round but have different launch sites depending on the water levels. When at their highest, the mokoro excursions leave from the front of camp; once the waters recede the mokoro station is moved to a spot just a short drive from the camp.
We had some memorable game viewing on our last visit to Tubu – not least from camp, with the resident elephant, Frank, regularly coming to eat amongst the trees throughout the day. Aside from this we had sightings of kudu, elephants, zebra and giraffe. Although lion used to be the dominant predator here, the leopard appears to have taken on that role in the last couple of years. On one game drive here from the neighbouring camp – Kwetsani – we saw a young male leopard stalking a herd of red lechwe right in front of Tubu Tree Camp. And on a previous visit, we followed a leopard that our guide realised was stalking something – which turned out to be another female leopard and her nine-month old cub. A very noisy confrontation ensued but the leopard mum and her cub won the day. An extraordinary encounter!
If you're staying in the Jao Reserve for more than a few days, you might think about including a night sleeping out at the hide – a simple raised platform in the bush about 20 minutes' drive from camp. These sleep-outs don't cost any extra, but are obviously weather dependent and need to be requested in advance.
Tubu Tree has become very popular, and sometimes gets booked up even a year or more in advance. So if you'd like to stay here then we suggest that you book early!
Our viewTubu Tree Camp is comfortable and its (current) small size appeals to travellers who prefer a more intimate feel. Our experience here in previous years has been that, in the dry season, the game viewing on this western side of the Delta tends to be quieter than in other parts of the Okavango – a trend that's often reversed during the rainy season. That said, with its location on the permanently dry Hunda Island, Tubu Tree offers the reserve's best game viewing – and has a track record of particularly good leopard sightings even during the drier months.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: Access to camp is usually via a light-aircraft transfer to Hunda airstrip, followed by a drive to camp of approximately ten minutes. Tubu Tree can sometimes be accessed by boat from Jao, Kwetsani or Jacana, depending on the water levels.
Owner: Marketed and managed by Wilderness Safaris.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Food at Tubu Tree is served buffet style and was of a reasonably good quality during our most recent stay in April 2013.
A light breakfast of yoghurt, cereal, fruit, muffins, tea and coffee is served before heading out on the morning activity.
A more substantial buffet brunch is offered at around 11.00am. We had a choice of eggs, bacon, sausage, macaroni cheese, sticky chicken, chickpea salad, coleslaw with raisins, a mixed salad, freshly baked bread, a cheeseboard and a selection of fresh fruit.
Tea time is usually a highlight for our team and we were treated to puff-pastry chicken wraps, milk tart and gluten-free chocolate brownies, along with fresh fruit, iced tea and homemade ginger lemonade.
Dinner is a three-course meal with such offerings as curried apple soup and freshly baked bread rolls to start, followed by roast lamb, mashed potato, peas, a carrot, onion and cauliflower mix, and a green salad, and ending with a yoghurt terrine. However, once a week they put a cultural twist on the evening meal and prepare traditional fare.
Vegetarians and any other special requirements can be catered for if notice is given.
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.
Wildlife safaris: Being situated on Hunda Island, Tubu Tree Camp has access to both land- and water-based activities, so offers the biggest diversity of game viewing within the Jao concession. There are good numbers of elephant and other plains game on the island, plus hippo in the deeper channels nearby, and there is a good chance of seeing leopard during a stay here.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 12 years are welcome at Tubu Tree. The camp may accept children aged 6–12 years old, but private activities must be booked and these will be at an extra cost. Children younger than six may be accepted by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use. Note that minimum age requirements also mean that children are allowed on boat trips from the age of six years, but on mokoro trips only from the age of 13 years.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services for children.
Equipment: No special equipment is available.
Generally recommended for children: We think that Tubu is suitable for more mature children over the age of 13 years. There are other camps more suited to younger children.
Notes: Tubu Tree is unfenced, and dangerous wildlife, including leopard, are known to move regularly through camp. The buildings are all raised high on stilts with only basic railings which are mostly open except for the handrail. The pool is unfenced. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, direct phone or fax or email at Tubu Tree. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. All management and guides are first aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies. There is a nurse on call (via radio) 24 hours a day.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. 'Fog horns' are provided in the rooms, to summon help in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside all the rooms and in the main area.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting. For cultural reasons and because the clothing is generally hand washed, the staff do not wash underwear. Detergent is provided in each chalet for guests who wish to do a little hand washing.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Tubu Tree. There are small safes in all the rooms, as well as a larger one in the office.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.