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 Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) is one of the largest in the world, and comes into its own during the annual summer rains, usually from December to about April. 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 stays in both November and April, 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 enjoy the view.
With thick walls and good insulation, the chalets are designed to keep cool in the hot summer and warm in 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) twin-bedded room leading off the main bedroom.
To one side of the camp, there is an isolated sleep-out deck offering seclusion and tranquillity. As the light pollution is minimal star-gazing, whilst lying in bed before dropping off to sleep, is a fantastic experience. The elevated sleep-out deck has a double bed, and a basin and toilet. This is booked on a ‘first come first serve’ basis upon arrival in camp, however if you are staying 3 nights or more in Tau Pan, we can reserve this for you at time of booking.
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 April 2016 we enjoyed both game drives and an informative Bushman educational walk. While on our game drive, we saw cheetah, jackal, lion, wildebeest, oryx, and even the rare African wildcat, but the most unforgettable moment was seeing a female adult cheetah kill a female adult kudu right in front of camp.
Birding was most, most impressive! Our drive through Deception Valley was superb, with sightings of northern black korhaan, red-billed quelea, rufous-naped lark, desert cisticola, shaft-tailed whydah, Namaqua dove, brown-crowned tchagra, acacia pied barbet, fork-tailed drongo, fawn-coloured lark, and ant-eating chat. Further species put in an appearance at camp, including lilac-breasted roller, southern grey-headed sparrow, red-crested korhaan, chestnut-vented tit-babbler, black crake, crowned lapwing, kori bustard, double-banded courser and pale chanting goshawk.
On our last visit in June 2017 we popped in for a drink and relaxed by the pool. Tau 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. Furthermore, the birding here is unforgettable!
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
- 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.
- 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. For self-drive visitors, road conditions and therefore length of journey vary considerably, depending on the time of year.
- Accessible by
- Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- 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. Typically there is a meat dish accompanied by a variety of salads and 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.
Dinner at 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 most recent visit, in April 2016, before our traditional dinner, we enjoyed traditional singing and dancing before dinner, with two San Bushman staff members dancing much more enthusiastically than the rest of the staff! Dinner itself was a typical Setswana meal served buffet-style and consisted of beef seswaa, pap (similar to polenta) accompanied by a lovely tomato-based sauce, sautéed spinach and a vegetable medley.
- Family holidays
- Tau Pan is a good option for families with older children who have a keen interest in nature. Short walks are a great way of learning about the fauna and flora. The camp also offers a ‘family safari’, led by a private guide and tracker.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Even though the central Kalahari is largely a semi-desert it is home to a surprisingly high number of bird species. The best time of year for birding is the summer when the rain falls and resident birds are joined by migratory species.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- 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.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Minimum age six years
- 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.
- There is no special equipment available for children, but the camp has a two-bedroom family chalet, with a twin or triple room 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.
- 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.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Tau Pan Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Tau Pan Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- The generator operates during the day to charge batteries, with solar power used at night. Guests may only charge batteries in the main area as there are no electrical outlets in the chalets.
- 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
- Water supply notes
- All the tents have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flushing toilets.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Camp managers are first-aid trained and a first-aid kit is kept at camp. In an emergency, Tau Pan 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, so guests are escorted to their chalets after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival. Fog horns are provided in the chalets to attract attention in case of an emergency.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in the common areas of the camp and in each chalet.
Sleeping under the stars
- 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.
- 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.
Room types at Tau Pan Camp
The rooms at Tau Pan Camp are linked to the main area by simple sandy paths. Every room has an indoor sitting area and writing desk. The oversize double or twin beds face out, with views through full-length gauze screens on the sliding doors, leading out onto a viewing deck complete with comfortable sunloungers.
The bathroom is en suite with a separate flushing toilet, double handbasins, and both indoor and outdoor showers.
Separating the bathroom from the bedroom is a wall which incorporates shelves and hanging space for clothes, as well as a safe.
The rooms were designed with thick walls and built from materials to keep them cool in the hot summer and warm in the winter. The cooling action is aided by an overhead fan. However, whilst the rooms are airy and spacious, we felt they were quite dark with poor lighting and could seem a little gloomy.
Other lodges in Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Alternative places to stay in this same area.