San is a beautiful camp.
San Camp: Our full report
San Camp is a strikingly beautiful tented camp with an ‘Arabian Nights’ feel that seems well suited to its dramatic location. The camp is set on the edge of the Ntwetwe Pan, which covers an area the size of Switzerland, and has spectacular views that stretch all the way to the horizon.
The Makgadikgadi Pans area is made up of a series of salt pans with sandy grasslands and palm-tree islands that are thought to have been created by elephants in between. It a complete contrast from the landscapes of the Delta, and the wildlife is different too. This is not traditionally a game viewing area but nevertheless there is a surprising amount of it around. The presence of four artificial waterholes that were dug in 2014 has helped attract resident herds of zebra and wildebeest that are several hundred strong. Other hardy, desert-adapted wildlife that may be seen year round include ostrich, black-backed jackal, African wildcat, bat-eared fox and playful meerkats. Some rare and elusive nocturnal creatures – brown hyena, aardvark, and aardwolf are also more easily spotted here.
Big game such as elephant and lion are scarce, but they are around and on average are seen every few months. On our two-night stay here in July 2016, we were extremely lucky to spot a cheetah – the last sighting of which was over a year ago!
The tents at San Camp are, unusually, made from white canvas – a choice that complements the starkness of the environment in which it sits. The main pavilion holds an elegant dining room and also houses a small natural museum with an interesting collection of fossils, skeletons and tools found in the area, as well as old Africa maps. On one side of the dining area is a library and well stocked bar; the charging station for electrical equipment is here too. On the other side is a tea tent which also serves as a lounge, the floor of which is layered with oriental rugs and scattered with bright cushions on which to relax. This central area is open sided and feels cool and breezy in the day. At night heavy canvas curtains can be closed to keep out the chill.
A little distance from the main area is a tented yoga pavilion. Indeed this supremely remote and peaceful spot seems ideal for some yoga or meditation!
Behind the main area, are six Meru-style tented rooms that are nicely spaced out for privacy in a semi circle facing the shimmering Ntwetwe Pan. Two rooms are made up as twins and two as doubles. Inside, the rooms are furnished in a style that is faintly reminiscent of Edwardian times. The interior canvas walls are striped cream and pale green, the hardwood floor is covered with sisal matting, and the high four-poster beds are covered with rich paisley bedspreads. To the rear of the tent is an en-suite bathroom with flushing commode style toilet, shower, and brass sink set into a wooden vanity unit backed by a large mirror. In keeping with the tradition of a bygone era, lighting is simple, using traditional old spirit lamps.
The environment here is similar to that around San's sister camps – Jack’s Camp and Camp Kalahari, as are the activities on offer. They aim to give an understanding of the area's geology, archaeology and anthropology, as well as an opportunity to observe its wildlife.
Activities include 4WD safaris in and around the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, often with spotlit night drives on the return to camp in the evenings. On our last visit we staked out a brown hyena den just before sunset; and waited patiently appreciating the absolute silence (and a glass of wine) for these shy creatures to emerge. We were duly rewarded when two hyenas streaked out in the semi-dark and loped off to start their nightly scavenging. This was a personal first! Other sightings included two elephant bulls, wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, steenbok, striped ground squirrels, yellow mongoose, and Cape hare.
The birdlife around the pans is a good contrast to the Delta too. The open grasslands are home to many typical Kalahari ground-nesting birds, such as the kori bustard, northern black korhan, capped wheat-ear, chestnut-backed finch lark and ant-eating chat.
Within reach of the three sister camps are four meerkat colonies that are semi-habituated to people so its possible to get very close to them. In fact, the meerkats ignore the presence of people and carry on busying themselves with digging, playing and keeping watch for predators. If you visit in the afternoon, you may get a chance, like we did to sit close to a burrow, and as the meerkats pop in and out scanning for danger while cleaning their night-time accommodation, you could be used as a convenient vantage point!
Another highlight for us on our recent trip was walking with the bushmen, which provided many insights into their traditional way of life and use of the land. Typically, you will be accompanied by perhaps a dozen or so San villagers (men, women and children) on an exploratory walk in the bush. Interpreters amongst the group help explain what the various members discover and point out along the way – such as edible tubers, plants with a slew of medicinal and practical uses, numerous tracks, and how to dig up a scorpion! At some point in the walk, the group will stop, make fire in the traditional way, tell stories and demonstrate some traditional games. Our favourite was called lightening and steenbok - a complicated version of rock-paper-scissors. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience – it was both fun and eye opening.
During the dry season (generally late May to around October), it’s also possible to do 4WD quad bikes trips to explore the surrounding saltpans without damaging their fragile crust. We ran out of time to try this activity on our last trip, but other team members have enthused about it in the past.
With an abundance of caution, we feel that it's important to let prospective visitors know that no safety helmets are provided for the quad-bike activity at San Camp. This camp, and its sister camps, advise us that they have been regularly operating quad-bikes in this area since 1992, and at time of writing (July 2016) there has never been a serious accident here. The camp comments that they regard this activity to be safe even without helmets, especially as they generally keep to specific tracks and don't speed, and as the area is largely flat and free of other traffic. We're not aware of any of our travellers having any problems over the years, and all of our team members who have visited there have enjoyed quad-biking activities without any problems or concerns.
However, it is for each prospective guest to make up their own mind about the safety of quad-biking here without a helmet. If you aren't likely to be happy with the safety aspects of this activity, then please tell us in writing before you travel. With advanced notice, we can arrange for the camp to drive you across the pans in a vehicle instead. If you leave this decision until you're at camp, and then decide that you don't want to do this activity, then such alternative arrangements may not be possible – although, of course, you can always omit this activity, and relax around the camp and swimming pool instead. (Sadly, refunds aren't possible if you choose to miss activities like this at camp.)
Our viewSan Camp’s tasteful classic style may appeal to the traveler looking for a more romantic set-up. Equally, the intimate size of the camp may suit small groups or families with older children looking to get acquainted with this unique area. It offers a refined remote camping experience - you can expect to be graciously hosted, very well looked after, and enjoy excellent guiding.
The activities are similar, whether one stays at San, Jack's or Camp Kalahari, so it's likely that budget may have something of an influence over one's choice of camp here. (Incidentally, San Camp sits somewhere in the middle of these three.)
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: Access to San Camp is usually by light aircraft to the airstrip and then a road transfer to camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Uncharted Africa
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we last stayed at San Camp in July 2016, the food was superb – fresh, healthy and really delicious.
A light breakfast is served prior to the early morning game activity and consists of cereals, freshly baked muffins, a fresh fruit platter, and plain yoghurt. A cooked option is also available – and the chef does a mean omelette…
Brunch is usually a plated dish, served on returning from the activity or a little later – generally between 11am and 12pm. We had an avocado and chicken stack with a small salad, sesame seed tacos and peeled cherry tomatoes!
Afternoon tea is offered before the afternoon activity. We couldn’t resist trying the delicate mini lemon meringue tarts and mini sandwiches – after all they were so small – what harm could they do!
Dinner is a plated affair around the communal dining table on one's return. To start we were treated to a tasty tomato bisque, followed by baked kingklip with caper butter sauce served on creamy mashed potatoes with broccoli and butternut. The desert of apple tart tatin with cream was a perfect finish to a lovely meal.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor 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 these may need to be requested in advance.
Honeymoons: San Camp's romantic tents of billowing white canvas are spaced out on the edge of a vast saltpan. The wide variety of activities include the option of sleeping out under the stars - San Camp offers a hint of adventure, and a very special honeymoon in Botswana.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Botswana
Riding holidays: At San Camp the quad bike riding activity takes the same format as at its sister camps. Guests have the chance to ride out on the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and even stay the evening on a ‘sleep-out’. Expeditions of up to four days right to the centre of the pans are also possible.See more ideas for Riding holidays in Botswana
Cultural experiences: San Camp offers Bushmen walks. As above you can expect a sensitive, authentic and really interesting experience. You’ll learn about the vegetation, maybe dig up some roots and even taste some of them! You’ll enjoy learning about this traditional culture out in the bush.See more ideas for Cultural experiences in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at San Camp, but please take into account the restrictions below.
Property’s age restrictions: If travelling with children under the age of eight years, guests are required to book a private guide and vehicle (at extra cost). Children under the age of twelve years are not permitted to stay alone in their own tent.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services for children at San Camp, but all reasonable special requests will be considered. A child will be accommodated on a bed roll in their parents room if they are twelve years of age and under, but note that only one child may share with two adults.
Equipment: There is no special equipment available.
Generally recommended for children: Although San Camp welcomes children, we think that the facilities offered at Camp Kalahari are actually much better for families – where they have family-style accommodation and even access to a small pool.
Notes: San Camp is unfenced and although it may not appear immediately obvious due to the location; dangerous wildlife - including lion and elephants - are known to regularly move through the area. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is no mobile reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained via radio between the camps and head office.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers have first-aid training. The closest doctor is in Maun. Please note that it is only possible to fly out of camp during daylight hours as the bush airstrips do not have any lighting at night.
Quadbike warning: with an abundance of caution, we feel that it's important to let prospective visitors know that no safety helmets are provided for any quadbike activities here, either at Jack’s Camp or at its sister camps, Jack's Camp or Camp Kalahari.
We understand that the camps have operated quadbikes regularly here since 1992, and that at time of writing (August 2012) there has never been a serious accident. The camp’s team comments that they regard this activity to be safe even without helmets, especially as they generally keep to specific tracks and don't speed; and that the area is largely flat and free of other traffic. We're not aware of any of our travellers having any problems over the years, and all of our team members who have visited there have enjoyed quadbiking activities without any problems or concerns.
If you are concerned about the safety aspects of this activity, please tell us very clearly and specifically in writing, before you travel; request that we confirm to you in writing that we have arranged for you to be driven across the pans in a vehicle instead of using a quadbike. If you leave this decision until you're at camp, and then choose that you don't want to do this quadbike activity, then alternative arrangements may not be possible. Although, of course, you can always omit this activity, and relax around the camp and swimming pool instead! (Sadly, refunds aren't possible if you choose to miss activities like this at a camp.)
As with any activity, please check the details of your travel insurance to ensure that you are fully covered in the case of quad-biking accident. Be aware that some insurances will provide cover for bikes up to a certain engine power, but not beyond - so you need to check such clauses particularly carefully.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their rooms in the evenings after dark and in the mornings if it is dark. There is an emergency foghorn in the rooms.
Fire safety: The rooms and the main area have fire extinguishers.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included but please bear in mind that water sources are particularly limited in this arid region.