Kings Pool: Our full report
King’s Pool Camp overlooks a picturesque oxbow lagoon on the Linyanti River, which forms the border between ...... Botswana and Namibia. It's classed by its owners as a “premier” camp, implying – among other things – relatively grand and luxurious accommodation, high levels of personal service, and a standard of food (and the size of its price tag) that is well above average.
In December 2019 one of the guest rooms at King’s Pool was struck by lightening and burnt down. Thankfully on-one was in the room and no-one was injured fighting the fire. Thus King's Pool now operates as an eight roomed camp.
One of three permanent camps within the 1,250km 2 Linyanti Reserve (the others being DumaTau and Savuti Camp), King's Pool lies in an environment similar to that of the Chobe Riverfront area – seasonal floodplains near the water, an adjacent band of riverine forest, and then dense (mostly mopane) forests stretching away south.
The main building at King’s Pool is an open-sided, sprawling structure of minimalist design. To the centre of this space is the bar, but it's the water beyond – and the reasonably frequent spectacle of elephants crossing the Linyanti River – that tends to draw visitors straight through to the large viewing deck. Although there wasn’t too much action in front of camp on our last visit in September 2018, on a previous visit, at least a dozen hippos could be seen basking on the island in the lagoon, heaped together like a pile of boulders!
Although there is a more formal covered lounge area, the two sunken, semi-circular seating areas overlooking the lagoon are understandably popular and well utilised. This is an especially pleasant area in the evening when a central firepit provides a lovely atmosphere and – sometimes – much-needed warmth. There is a covered dining area too, but if the weather is fine meals are usually served al fresco. A well-stocked curio shop and an infinity plunge pool complete the picture.
Connected by raised wooden walkways to either side of the main area at King's Pool are nine large thatched tented suites (one has 4 beds), built on wooden decks along the edge of the water. The walls are largely canvas, although the overall feel of the suites is much more substantial than that.
Ornate wooden doors open into large rooms with high thatched roofs, which we thought were a little on the dark side. However, each suite has a large outside area with its own small plunge pool, sunloungers and sala, as well as an open-air shower. Shaded by magnificent jackalberry and leadwood trees, this is a great place for a siesta.
Back inside, four-poster-style beds are set in the centre of the main bedroom area, with views out over the water. Note that some beds will be made up as twins, but due to the four-poster design they cannot be pulled apart. Each suite is also furnished with a sofa, coffee table and armchairs, as well as a writing desk with a charging station, a dressing table and a large wardrobe. We thought that the 'mini gym' provided in each wardrobe was a great idea – there is plenty of room on the deck or inside for those wishing to use the weights or yoga mat supplied.
In addition, there are minibars in each suite, which the staff will gladly stock with your preferred drinks. There are also tea- and coffee-making facilities and a selection of sweet and savoury snacks.
The bathroom is on one side of the tent, leading out onto the deck, with a flushing toilet in a separate room to the other side. Tiled walls make the bathroom feel more suited to a modern hotel than a safari camp, and although there is a curtain across the entrance, privacy is limited. That said, the amenities are very good: twin handbasins, double showers with large “rain-shower” heads, Africology toiletries and even a hairdryer, along with dressing gowns and slippers.
Activities at King’s Pool include both day and night 4WD game drives and, when water levels permit, (around April to August) boat trips through the nearby waterways. On our last visit the water level in the main channel of the Linyanti River was high enough for us to do a short boat trip on the Queen Sylvia as part of our game drive. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the birdlife, and mammals such as baboons, red lechwe, kudu and impala on the riverbank.
Wildlife sightings in the Linyanti area are usually at their best when it's dry, from around June through to October. At their peak, the herds of elephants and buffalos can number hundreds or even thousands. Leopard is the most commonly seen predator, with a particular leopardess having developed a penchant for taking warthogs as they emerge from their burrows. Wild dogs can also be seen – although no dogs den in this area, there are packs that use it as their hunting ground. Lions are around too: at the time of our last visit there was a small pride of two lionesses and two cubs in the vicinity, and transient males move through the area, sometimes staying for a while.
Although we didn’t see any predators on our last visit, we had some lovely sightings of elephant enjoying the riverfront environment as well as a good variety of plains game. As on previous visits to King’s Pool, our guide was very informative and our drives were well paced, with time spent appreciating the smaller things too – sunbathing warthogs, dwarf mongoose, playful vervet monkeys and numerous birds.
About ten minutes’ drive from camp is a sunken hide where you can spend time observing the animals that come down to drink. ,It's a popular spot during the afternoon siesta period, and usually most interesting during the dry season, from late July onwards.
There is also a bird hide at the camp itself, next to suite one. The birding in the area is really varied, with the Linyanti Reserve designated an Important Bird Area (or IBA: a globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations). In addition to many Okavango specials such as the slaty egret and wattled crane, you may spot a good number of dry area species, as well as several raptors. On a previous visit, we were fortunate to see a big breeding colony of southern carmine bee-eaters, which are summer migrants to the area, typically arriving in September and departing in late November.
Although King’s Pool usually commands a substantial supplement over the other Wilderness Safaris “premier” camps in the Okavango, Vumbura Plains, Jao Camp, and Mombo, we're not convinced that it quite measures up: the rooms at Vumbura Plains are larger, brighter and more luxurious; Jao's environment is in many ways more special, and Mombo's game viewing is much better year round. However, we hope that the makeover in 2018–19 will result in a calibre of camp that’s more in line with its price tag.
King’s Pool is already a very good camp. It's luxurious, the service is faultless, the food is very good and, when it's dry, the game viewing can be good. If you want a very high-quality safari camp where you can experience the riverine environment that's typical of the Chobe and Linyanti riverfronts, it's certainly a good option. However, in some areas the camp could do with updating to match comparative camps in northern Botswana, which may well be addressed by the refit in 2018–2019.
- Kwando-Linyanti area, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- Three nights is wise here – even if travellers pressed for time may stay only for two. In many ways King’s Pool is best combined with Wilderness Safaris other top-end “premier” camps in Botswana: Vumbura Plains, Jao Camp, and, Mombo.
- Access is by light aircraft transfer to Chobe airstrip, and then a 4WD drive of approximately 45 minutes to King’s Pool.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Wilderness Safaris' premier camps – such as King’s Pool – aim to be more adaptable to the needs of individual travellers than most of their traditional camps. One of the ways they do this is by offering travellers to choose individual table settings if they wish, and another is by being reasonably flexible on mealtimes.
On our last visit in September 2018, as on previous occasions, the standard of food was generally very good, with an extensive variety of dishes and all elegantly presented.
A light breakfast is laid out before you depart on your morning activity, with a selection of cereals, fruit, yoghurt, muffins, croissants, smoked salmon, cheeses, and even a cooked option if you wish.
Brunch is usually available from around 11.00am, although some travellers prefer to eat a little later. We enjoyed a fresh beetroot soup, followed by a very succulent beef fillet with roasted tomatoes and potato wedges, polished off by sorbet or ice cream for dessert.
Afternoon tea, served just before heading out on the afternoon activity, is usually a treat! In addition to freshly baked cakes and savoury snacks, there is often also the option of a freshly made smoothie. We also enjoyed an afternoon pick-me-up from the espresso pod machine.
More often than not, dinner at King’s Pool is is a plated service with two options per course – a departure from the traditional communal buffet setting at many camps in Botswana. The exception to this is the weekly traditional night, when the guides will talk about their traditions and culture, and the staff may even choose to sing, before a traditional dinner, which is served as a buffet. This is usually a very festive evening when guests dine together around a large table, swapping stories, but individual tables can be arranged for those who prefer to dine separately.
We had the choice of corn soup with basil oil or smoked bream bites with avocado cream for starter. The choice of mains were slow-cooked venison shoulder with roast potatoes and baby carrots with rosemary jus, or crispy chicken served with cauliflower risotto and green beans, or a vegetarian option of polenta cheese stack with roasted vegetables, spinach and mushroom sauce. Dessert was a croissant bread-and-butter pudding, seasonal fruit platter or a selection of cheeses and preserves.
- Family holidays
- King’s Pool has a family suite consisting of two en-suite interleading rooms. It would best suit families on safari in Botswana with children aged over 12; those with younger children have to book a private vehicle.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Ornate wooden doors, vast rooms with four-poster beds, private decks with a plunge pool and an open-air shower are only a few of Kings Pools luxurious fittings. Add hard-to-fault service, excellent guiding and very good food, and you have the makings of a luxury safari.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Children over the age of 12 years are welcome at King’s Pool. The camp may accept children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, but private activities must be booked and this will be at an extra cost. Children younger than six may be accepted by special arrangement, but only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Minimum age 12 (but see notes above). Children are allowed on boat trips from the age of six years, but sleep-outs and walking only from the age of 13 years.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special activities or services.
- Although suites are large enough to accommodate a third bed, a second suite would need to be booked and paid for due to complex limits on guest numbers and vehicles within the Linyanti Reserve.
- Generally recommended for children
- The more individual approach at “premier” camps such as King’s Pool should be conducive to flexibility and the needs of families with children. However, we don't believe the style of the camp would make families with young children feel particularly welcome, so we'd recommend King’s Pool only for families with more mature children over the age of 12 years.
- King’s Pool is unfenced, and dangerous wildlife, including leopard and hippos, is known to move regularly through camp. The walkways and suites are all raised off the ground. The pools are unfenced and is in close proximity to the river. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
- Power supply notes
- There’s a generator for back up. Each suite has a number of plug sockets for charging batteries with a variety of the more common adaptors.
- There is no direct phone, fax or email. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio. Some cellphones with roaming may pick up reception here, as King's Pool is very near the Namibian border and cellphone network.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV or radio.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All the suites have plumbed hot and cold running water and flush toilets.
Protecting Africa’s endangered predators
Feared by many for its ruthless hunting style, but highly intelligent and with great paternal instincts, the African wild dog makes for a fascinating sight, admired by many researchers. However, the packs which would once roam the African wilderness at will are now under serious threat and have become the second most endangered African carnivore (the first being the Ethiopian wolf), suffering a substantial decline– both in numbers and in the areas that they historically occurred.
Today only a population of around 6,500 individuals has survived – inhabiting mostly isolated areas of southern Africa. Some factors which contributed to this significant drop include habitat loss and fragmentation, human persecution and conflict, diseases such as rabies, getting caught up in wire snares, loss of suitable prey and competition with other carnivores like lion and spotted hyaena.
Conservation and breeding programmes were implemented in an attempt to halt the decline in wild dog numbers. The team at King’s Pool works closely with local government bodies and the Wilderness Safaris Trust to ensure the conservation of wildlife in the area.
Recently, a wild dog den site was found close to the camp. Ever since, camp guides and the environmental team have been monitoring the newly-discovered site and making efforts to protect it. They first closed the site to protect the pups and avoided driving in a straight line to minimise the risk of other predators following them. Staff members are now using a winding and roundabout track leading to and from the area, adding a 20-metre border all around.
See more great sustainability projects in Botswana
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- King’s Pool Camp's managers are first-aid trained, and a first-aid kit is kept on site. There is a nurse in Maun who is on call and can be contacted by radio 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency, guests can be flown out to the nearest doctor 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.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Air horns are provided in the suites to alert attention in case of emergency. There are raised walkways between the main area and the suites, but guests are escorted to and from their suites after dark.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are placed on the balconies of all suites and in the main area.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included and, wherever possible, items ill be returned to guests on the same day.
- All suites are equipped with small electronic safes. There are no money-exchange facilities.
- Accepted payment on location
- Mastercard and Visa cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.
Other lodges in Kwando-Linyanti area
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