King's Pool overlooks a permanent oxbow lagoon...
Kings Pool: Our full report
Kings Pool Camp overlooks a picturesque oxbow lagoon on the Linyanti River, that forms the border with Namibia. It's classed by its owners as a 'premier' camp, implying – amongst other things – relatively grand and luxurious accommodation, high levels of personal service, and that the quality of its food (and the size of its price tag) will be well above average. ***STOP PRESS*** the boat activity on the Queen Sylvia is not possible at the current time due to low water levels and is unlikely to resume in 2016.
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 Kings 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. On our last visit, at least a dozen hippos could be seen sunbathing 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 seating areas overlooking the lagoon are understandably popular and well utilised. 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 a communal 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 , built on wooden decks along the edge of the water. The walls are largely canvas, although the overall feel of the suite 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 a 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 and coffee table and armchairs, as well as a writing desk with a charging station, dressing table and 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 a guest's preferred drinks. There is also a tea and coffee making station and a selection of sweet and savory snacks.
The main bathroom is on one side of the tent, leading out onto the deck, and a flushing toilet is in a separate room to the other side. The bathroom is tiled and feels more suited to a modern hotel than a safari camp. Although there is a curtain across the entrance, there are still big gaps so it doesn't afford much privacy. That said, the amenities in the bathroom are very good: double handbasins, double showers with large 'rain-shower' showerheads, Africology toiletries including soap, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, and even a hairdryer. Dressing gowns and slippers are also provided.
Activities at Kings Pool include both day and night 4WD game drives and, when water levels permit, boat trips through the nearby waterways. On our last visit in July 2016, the water level in the main channel of the Linyanti River was very low and we were told that it was unlikely that boat trips would take place this year.
Wildlife sightings in the Linyanti area are usually at their best when it's dry from around June through to October. At the peak, the herds of elephants and buffalos can number hundreds or even thousands. Leopard is the most commonly seen predator in this area, and we were not disappointed on our last trip, with a lovely sighting of an adult female napping in a tree. Wild dogs are also seen fairly regularly – although no dogs den in this area there are three packs that use it as their hunting ground. There’s also a small resident pride of four lionesses, whose numbers have remained low due to presence of too many male lions, and the ensuing instability their rivalry brings to the pride.
As on previous visits to Kings Pool, our guide was very informative and our drives were well paced with time spent appreciating the smaller things – sunbathing warthogs, dwarf mongoose, playful vervet monkeys and numerous birds, as well as the bigger game. His detailed knowledge of the surrounding ecosystem also provided interesting insights into the changing dynamics in this area, which appears to be entering another dry cycle. With the Savuti Channel having dried up again in 2015, changes are already taking place, for instance hippos are migrating north to the Linyanti River for water.
About seven minutes drive from camp is a sunken hide where you can spend time observing the wildlife that comes down to drink, which is usually most interesting during the dry season from late July onwards; it's a popular spot during the afternoon siesta period.
There is also a bird hide next to suite one. The birding in the area is really varied and, in fact, the Linyanti Reserve is designated an Important Bird Area (or IBA; these are areas recognised as being globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations). In addition to many of the Okavango specials such as the slaty egret and wattled crane, this area has 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.
Looking at its costs, Kings Pool usually commands a substantial supplement over the other camps in the Okavango – on a par with the other 'premier' camps in northern Botswana: Vumbura Plains, Jao Camp, Zarafa and Mombo. However, we're not sure 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. Incidentally, on our last visit we learned that Kings Pool is scheduled for a make over in late 2017, which will hopefully result in a caliber of camp more in line with the price it commands.
Our viewKings Pool is 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 superb. However, the camp itself is old and in our opinion in need of some updating, and as such we found it a little underwhelming for the high price tag when compared to its sister camps in northern Botswana. That said, if you want to visit the riverine environment that's typical of the Chobe and Linyanti riverfronts, and you want a very high quality safari camp – then it's certainly a good option.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights is wise here – albeit some rushed travellers will stay only for two. In many ways it’s best combined with the other top-end ‘premier’ camps in Botswana. Its sister camps are Vumbura Plains, Jao Camp, and the origin of the genre, Mombo.
Directions: Access is by light aircraft transfer to Chobe Airstrip, and then approximately 45 minutes by 4WD vehicle to Kings Pool.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Wilderness Safaris' premier camps – such as Kings 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 more flexible on mealtimes.
On our last visit in July 2016, as on previous occasions, we found the quality of the food was generally very good, with an extensive variety of dishes on offer and all delicately presented.
A light breakfast is laid out before guests depart on the 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. A varied buffet is set up and will generally include soup, salads, cold meats, fresh bread and dishes such as quiche. We weren’t in time for brunch on this trip but on a previous visit, we found the menu to be imaginative: fresh Thai pineapple salad; broccoli, cauliflower, feta cheese and tomato salad; venison casserole; as well as a really good vegetable quiche with melted camembert.
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 the expresso pod machine for an afternoon pick-me-up.
More often than not, dinner at Kings Pool is a departure from the traditional communal buffet setting at many camps in Botswana, and will usually be a plated service with two options per course. The exception to this is the traditional night, which is held once a week. Then, 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. However, individual tables can be arranged for those who prefer to dine separately.
As it happened, our last visit coincided with the traditional evening, where to start we were served a mildly spicy sweet corn soup presented in small enamel cups and accompanied by mini ciabatta. For the main course, we were offered a choice of fillet steak, chicken kebabs, and oxtail stew accompanied by a tasty aubergine and coconut curry, roast sweet potatoes, pap (maize meal), and roasted vegetables. Desert was a platter of miniature custard slices, malva puddings, and fruit skewers.
The camp can cater to vegetarians and any other special dietary requirements if notice is given.
Dining style: Individual Tables
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 selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra. The camp has a better-than-average stocked bar, but can order in special requests if advance notice is given.
Further dining info: There is no room service, but the suites do have minibar fridges which the camp will gladly stock with requested drinks.
Family holidays: Kings Pool has a family unit 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 more ideas for Family holidays in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 12 years are welcome at Kings 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, 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 sleep-outs and walking only from the age of 13 years.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services.
Equipment: Although suites are large enough to accommodate a third bed, a second suite will still 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 Kings Pool should be more conducive to flexibility and thus to accommodate the needs of families with children. However, we don’t believe the style of the camp would necessarily make families with young children feel particularly welcome, so we’d recommend Kings Pool only for families with more mature children over the age of 12 years.
Notes: Kings 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 pool is unfenced and is in close promixity to the river. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply notes: Kings Pool uses solar power as the main source of power but has a generator for back up. Each room has a number of plug sockets for charging batteries with a variety of the more common adaptors.
Communications: There is no direct phone, fax and no 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: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush toilets. 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 also provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water. We don't recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Kings Pool Camp's managers are first-aid trained, and a first-aid kit is kept on site. In the event of an emergency, guests can be flown out to the nearest doctor in Maun. There is a nurse in Maun who is on call and can be contacted by radio 24 hours a day. 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 kept on the balconies of all suites and in the main area.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, wherever possible, will be returned to guests on the same day.
Money: All suites are equipped with small electronic safes. There are no money-exchange facilities.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit 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.