The views from Tau Pan camp are impressive
Tau Pan Camp: Our full report
The first permanent camp to open inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) – and still one of only two within the reserve – Tau Pan sits on a low sand ridge with commanding views over the surrounding plains to Tau Pan itself, and beyond.
At around 52,800km2, the CKGR is one of the largest game reserves in the world, and it is during the annual summer rains, usually from December to about April, that this region really comes into its own. Animals such as springbok and gemsbok (or oryx), as well as migrating zebra and wildebeest, congregate in their thousands on the pans after the rains. This plethora of plains game in turn attracts predators, including cheetah, Kalahari black-maned lion and black-backed jackals. At this time of the year it is one of the best game-viewing areas in Botswana and there are usually very few others to share the spectacle.
Built in a crescent shape under thatch, the main area at Tau Pan camp is completely open to one side. We love the expansive views, which command nearly a 180-degree view of the landscape. At one end of this building is an imposing communal dining table; at the other a bar, with a 'help-yourself' drinks fridge and tea- and coffee-making facilities. A small lounge area lies between. The evening temperatures were quite comfortable during our stay but in cold or inclement weather, canvas blinds can be rolled down to maintain warmth.
Outside, the focal point is a firepit in the middle of an enormous viewing deck, which overlooks a permanent waterhole. Guests might enjoy pre- and post-dinner drinks around the fire, and breakfast is usually served here too, before the morning activity. To one side of the deck is a plunge pool with sunloungers. Simple sandy paths lead to Tau Pan’s nine chalets, set on either side of the main area, and with the same impressive views. Each chalet has a large veranda with deck chairs, which proved a fabulous place to sit and watch on our last visit in November 2013, when five simultaneous lightning storms played out across the horizon.
With thick walls and good insulation, the chalets were designed to keep cool in the hot summer and warm in the winter. With low thatched roofs and rendered walls, they blend in well with their desert location.
Inside, all is natural, simple, airy and spacious. Oversize double or twin beds face out, with views through full-length gauze screens on sliding doors, and every chalet has a sitting area and writing desk. Shelves and hanging space, as well as a safe, are incorporated within a wall that separates the bedroom from the en-suite bathroom. Here you’ll find twin handbasins, a separate flushing toilet, and both indoor and outdoor showers.
The family chalet at Tau Pan is essentially the same in layout and décor as the others, but has an additional (smallish) bedroom with twin beds leading off the main bedroom.
Activities at Tau Pan camp include an informative nature walk with one of the Bushman trackers, as well as morning and afternoon game drives in 4WD vehicles. Game drives feature a guide and tracker team, which helps to maximise game sightings. Because the camp is in a national park, however, no off-road driving or night drives are allowed. Drives focus mainly on the Tau Pan area, although at present they rely on a limited network of existing public roads. However, full-day trips to Deception Valley, Sunday, Piper and Passarge pans can usually be arranged on request.
On our most recent visit in November 2013 we saw many shy steenboks, giraffe, small herds of springbok and gemsbok, a group of lionesses, and a number of lone Kalahari black-maned lions. Most impressively, though, while eating breakfast on the deck early one morning we spotted a large male lion making for the waterhole. And coming in from the opposite angle was a large male cheetah. Within seconds we were in the vehicles and heading to the waterhole for a closer look. We spent an hour with the excessively nervous cheetah, which was well aware that a large male lion was just through the bush. Although the lion seemed oblivious to the company, it took a long time for the cheetah to lower its head and take a much-needed drink!
The birdlife is also surprisingly varied and on just one drive we identified numerous species, including the kori bustard, black korhaan, double-banded sandgrouse, crimson-breasted shrike, ostrich and a variety of raptors such as pale-chanting goshawks, bateleurs and tawny eagles.
Our viewTau Pan camp has comfortable accommodation in an area that offers some of Botswana's best summer game viewing (December–May), with some species such as springbok and gemsbok not found in the Okavango or Kwando–Linyanti areas. We were impressed by the enthusiastic young team and really liked the layout of the camp, which has fabulous views over the surrounding landscape.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights at Tau Pan Camp is recommended during the green season (Dec–May), which – in contrast to the Okavango Delta – is the prime game-viewing season for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In the latter months of the dry season, however, when the experience is more about the wide open spaces of the Central Kalahari, we would recommend just a two-night stay.
Directions: Access is usually by air. It is approximately a 40-minute light-aircraft flight from Maun Airport, then about a 10-minute drive between the airstrip and the camp.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Kwando Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: A simple breakfast is served around the fire before your morning activity, usually consisting of porridge, freshly baked muffins, homemade muesli, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and juice.
Brunch is served on returning from the morning activity. We had beef accompanied by a variety of salads, but there was also a choice of eggs cooked to order, bacon, sausages, a cheese platter, fresh fruit and freshly made bread. If you are taking a day excursion to Deception Valley, the camp will pack you a picnic lunch instead.
Afternoon tea generally consists of a savoury and a sweet dish. During our stay we had bean burgers and relish, served with marinated feta and mushrooms, and chocolate brownies – which were delicious. Tea, coffee, homemade lemonade and iced tea are all offered.
Dinnerat Tau Pan is usually served a little earlier than at camps in private concessions, as game reserve rules require all vehicles to be back in camp within half an hour of sunset. On our last visit our three-course meal started with corn fritters with avocado and cream cheese. This was followed by a pork and chickpea tagine, with a mixture of vegetables and potato mash, and finished off with a cheesecake.
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 cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. There is a 'help-yourself' drinks fridge at the bar, as well as tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Further dining info: There is no room service at Tau Pan Camp.
Family holidays: Tau Pan is a good option for families with older children who have a keen interest in nature. Short walks around camp are a great way of learning about the surrounding fauna and flora. Families at Tau Pan have the option of booking a ‘family safari’, with their own private guide and tracker.See more ideas for Family holidays in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Tau Pan Camp has a positive approach to children on safari and, generally, children are welcome. However, please take into account the restrictions below. Children of 6–12 years old are accepted, but the family is required to take a private vehicle on game drives. Depending on the size of the family group, there may be an additional charge for this vehicle. Children younger than six are accepted only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Special activities & services: Tau Pan, along with the other Kwando camps, offers families travelling with children the option of booking a specialist 'family safari' (at extra cost). The family will travel with a specialist guide and will benefit from a private vehicle with their own guide and tracker who will look after them both on game drives and in camp.
Equipment: There is no special equipment available for children, but there is a family chalet, which has as an extra room with twin beds leading off the main bedroom area. Both bedrooms share a bathroom. The camp will try to be as flexible as possible with mealtimes for children, and with cooking child-friendly meals.
Generally recommended for children: Recommended for more mature children who are genuinely interested in different aspects of nature.
Notes: Tau Pan is unfenced and dangerous wildlife, including lion, can wander through the camp at any time. The main deck has quite a significant drop to the ground in front of the camp, and there is no fence around the pool.For these reasons, children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, no direct phone or fax and no email – this is the bush! Communication is maintained with head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: Tau Pan Camp is in the bush and there is no TV or radio.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the tents have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush loos. Guests are usually given a water bottle on arrival with filtered water, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp’s main area. Each room is provided with glasses and a flask of drinking water, which is replenished daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Camp managers are first-aid trained and a 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: The camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife is known to move through camp, so guests are escorted to their chalets after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival. Fog horns are provided in the chalets to alert attention in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are extinguishers in the common areas of the camp and in each chalet.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included (excluding underwear). Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting. Washing powder is provided in the chalets for guests to wash their smalls.
Money: There is a safe in each chalet. Please note that no exchange facilities are offered.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Diners and Amex are not. No commission is charged on credit card transactions, but there is a 3% surcharge on curios if a card is used in payment. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.