Lagoon Camp is located in an attractive spot on the Kwando River,...
Lagoon Camp: Our full report
Set in the north of Botswana's vast Kwando Concession, the relaxed Lagoon Camp was completely renovated at the beginning of 2011. It is shaded by trees on the banks of the Kwando River, where a band of lush riverine forest is interspersed with open plains. The wildlife around camp is particularly noted for the wild dogs that have habitually denned within the reserve since 1997.
***STOP PRESS*** In October 2015 we were advised that boat activities have been suspended owing to very low water levels. These activities should resume later in the year but contact us for more details.
The Kwando Concession is currently the largest private wildlife reserve in Botswana, covering 2,320km² of unfenced wilderness in the far north of the country. The Kwando River forms the boundary between the reserve and Mudumu National Park in Namibia's Caprivi Strip. It attracts superb big game, especially during Botswana's dry winter months (May to October), when elephants and buffalo seem to be everywhere. Lagoon Camp shares the reserve with its sister camp, Lebala, to the south.
Eight spacious thatched chalets enclosed by stretched canvas walls have replaced Lagoon Camp's traditional Meru safari tents. Connected to the main area via sandy pathways these chalets are elevated on wooden platforms with large mesh windows overlooking the river, where elephant often come down to drink. There is a small veranda with deck chairs at the front of each chalet to soak up the views.
Lagoon's chalets are entered through sliding wood and mesh doors. Inside the décor is simple with predominantly dark wood tones. The chalets are built on split-levels – on the lower level you'll find leather seats, a coffee table and writing desk with camp information, wildlife magazines and a flask of drinking water. Up a step are double or twin beds with bedside tables and reading lamps. There's no mosquito net over the bed, but the mesh windows and doors keep the bugs out whilst allowing the breeze through, and a ceiling fan above the bed helps to keep the room cool. Canvas flaps on the windows can be closed against stormy weather.
A wall partition behind the bed separates a luggage rack, open hanging space, shelving and an enormous mirror. A digital safe, umbrella, spare blankets, bug spray, insect repellent and mosquito coils are provided.
The en-suite bathroom is equally spacious with two handbasins, plenty of mirrors, a deep free-standing bath (unfortunately ours had no running water) and indoor shower, and a separate flushing toilet. A wooden door leads to the outdoor shower. Toiletries supplied include conditioning shampoo, shower gel, soap, body lotion and cotton wool, and there's laundry soap for washing delicates.
Set on its own to one side of the camp's main area, and reached via the pool deck, is Lagoon Camp's family chalet. This consists of an en-suite double bedroom with a wooden door through to a second twin bedroom.
The thatched communal areas at Lagoon Camp have been spaced out and expanded, creating a number of inviting spaces to relax. A circular structure acts as a central meeting point, with an exterior staircase that leads up to a cosy lounge and library with elevated views over the river. The bookcase offers a small selection of well-thumbed natural-history books.
To one side of the entrance is an open-sided dining room and to the other an attractive bar, lounge and swimming pool deck with pool-side furniture and towels. The open outlook and use of both textured and polished wood, neutral tones and a scattering of richly coloured cushions gives a natural, bright and airy feel. Wild dogs feature as the stars of the photographic artwork on the walls.
The main areas at Lagoon Camp, including a curio shop, are linked by wooden walkways. Steps down towards the riverfront lead to camp chairs around a sandy clearing where a campfire is lit in the mornings and evenings. Early morning breakfast is served here and it makes an equally nice spot for swapping the day's stories over a few drinks after dinner.
A wooden deck with yet more seating and a swing bench juts out over the river. Here you can also try your hand at fishing off the deck. Moored to the side is Lagoon's double-decker boat.
Run by an enthusiastic team, Lagoon Camp has retained its pleasant laid-back atmosphere, with service that, overall, we've found to be genuinely warm and professional. You are encouraged to make yourself at home and help yourself to drinks from the bar fridge and tea/coffee station.
Activities at Lagoon Camp focus on day and night game drives. They also offer short guided walks in open areas near camp. These are always at the discretion of the camp guides who will first assess the presence and movements of potentially dangerous animals. In practice, relatively little walking is done here, and Lagoon is not a camp that we recommend for travellers who are keen on walking safaris.
Lagoon has a double-decker boat for cruising along the Kwando River; ideal for exploring the waterway at leisure and birdwatching. This can't remain out after sunset, apparently due to local restrictions. On our last visit in November 2015, boat activities had been suspended owing to very low water levels. But on a previous visit we spent a very enjoyable part of the morning cruising through the water watching a large herd of buffalo drinking at the river's edge, as well as elephant, hippo and a large variety of birds. Fishing is also possible for most of the year – though national regulations forbid this in the 'closed season', during January and February.
The vehicles at Lagoon have been recently upgraded to Land Cruisers with a three-by-three configuration. They are deployed for a maximum of six guests per vehicle, so everyone gets a 'window' seat.
As at other Kwando camps, an able tracker, as well as a driver/guide, accompanies all of the 4WD excursions. This provides an extra pair of experienced eyes to search for predators and more elusive game and has meant some great game sightings on our past visits. In addition, whilst out on drives, the camps vehicles keep each other updated about sightings and all radio communications are in English - a fact that we appreciated so we could follow what’s happening.
Game sightings in this area are generally much more prolific during Botswana's dry season (May–October). However, we've had rewarding sightings here year round, and the rainy season often reveals more unusual sights as well as a greater variety of birdlife. On our most recent visit, we particularly enjoyed a visit to a colony of colourful carmine bee-eaters who rather unusually have chosen to nest in the ground – they typically burrow into sandy riverbanks. We also saw a couple of male lions and fresh tracks for the large pack of 20 plus dogs that moves between Lagoon and Lebala. We didn’t track them down this time, but on a previous visit we were lucky enough to follow an action-packed wild-dog chase, which ended without a meal for the dogs, but a very relieved impala!
The guides at Lagoon will usually make a great effort to actively track the big predators – especially lion and wild dogs. This provides one of the best chances of seeing these predators in the wild in Botswana – but often means bumping through the bush, off-road at speed and with a mission. This is seldom a leisurely meander through the bush, and those interested in more general wildlife sightings may end up disappointed by the focus.
Our viewLagoon Camp's attractive riverside setting, lovely accommodation and generally excellent game viewing have made it very popular amongst our travellers. Unforgettable predator sightings, especially of wild-dogs, are often the highlight and the experienced guides will make it their mission to try to keep up with the pack. Some travellers will love this firm focus on predator sightings; others find their pursuit, to the exclusion of other wildlife, frustrating and disappointing.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights at Lagoon or Lebala combine particularly well with one of their sister camps in the Okavango, Kwara or Little Kwara; as well as with Nxai Pan and Tau Pan in the drier reaches of the Kalahari to the south. Note: If you combine Lagoon with Lebala, Kwara/Little Kwara, Tau Pan or Nxai Pan for a total of six nights or more, we wil be able to include a long-stay discounted rate.
Directions: Lagoon Camp is reached by light aircraft – approximately one hour from Maun or Kasane. From Kwando airstrip, it usually takes 20–30 minutes to reach the camp, depending on time spent game viewing on the way. When combining a stay at Lagoon and Lebala camps, which are both in the same Kwando Reserve, a road transfer is possible between the two, usually incorporated into a morning game drive.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Kwando Safaris.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Overall, the food served during our latest stay at Lagoon Camp was of a good standard. Vegetarians and those with other dietary requirements can be catered for on request with advanced notice.
An early light breakfast is provided by the campfire before your morning activity and usually includes freshly baked muffins, porridge or cereals and a bowl of fruit as well as tea, coffee and juice.
Brunch is served buffet style at around 11.00am and includes a varied selection of cooked breakfast and lunch dishes. When we were last at Lagoon we were offered chicken kebabs, red onion galette, couscous and roast vegetable salad, green salad and eggs cooked to order on a hot plate. On the buffet there was also fresh homemade bread, a cheese board and a platter of fresh fruit.
High tea is served before the afternoon activity. This generally consists of a sweet and savoury snack. On our last visit we had cupcakes and samosas accompanied by jars of marinated feta and mushrooms and a very popular chilli jam. This was washed down with iced tea and delicious homemade lemonade.
Dinner is a three-course meal, often a plated entrée and dessert and various main dish choices from the buffet. We enjoyed a mildly spiced Mexican soup with guacamole as a starter; a lemon chicken casserole served with basmati rice, roast butternut, and green beans and a vegetable curry for the main; and an apple strudel for dessert. A choice of red and white wine is served with the meal.
Normally, all guests dine together, but private meals can be arranged on request. These are served on the pool deck or room verandas. Occasionally the camp will surprise everyone with an outdoor bush dinner or picnic lunch.
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 plus a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and must be requested in advance.
Family holidays: Lagoon Camp is a good option for families with older children who are enthusiastic about wildlife. Lagoon has a family chalet, and it also promotes the option of booking a 'family safari', which is privately guided by a very child-friendly guide and tracker.See more ideas for Family holidays in Botswana
Birdwatching: Drives from Lagoon cover riverine, savannah and mopane-dominated areas– whilst double-decker boat trips bring great views over papyrus reedbeds. Come for colonies of carmine bee-eaters from mid-September to early December.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Photography holidays: Avid photographers can take a private vehicle and guide, which is relatively inexpensive here allowing for ultimate flexibility in focus and pace of game drives.See more ideas for Photography holidays in Botswana
Wildlife safaris: Lagoon Camp excels at sightings of the large predators, particularly wild dogs, lion and cheetah. The best time for dogs is in June/July, the denning season, or within two or three months of that, when the pups are too young to move far.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Generally children over six years are welcome at Lagoon Camp, although families with children aged 6–12 are required to book a private vehicle at extra cost. Children younger than six are only accepted only when the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Equipment: Lagoon Camp has a dedicated family chalet, but does not provide highchairs, cots or other special equipment for children. Earlier mealtimes and children’s meals can be arranged in advance with the camp manager. Child-minding is also available on request, though please note that children are looked after by staff members who are not professionally qualified or trained in childcare. For a surcharge, a specialist family guide can be booked in advance.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Lagoon Camp only for older children with a genuine interest in wildlife.
Notes: Lagoon Camp is unfenced, abuts a deep-water channel, and often has very high densities of potentially dangerous wildlife in its area. Children must be under their parents’ supervision at all times. Parents should also note that the walkway to the family chalet is reached via the pool deck – and that the pool is not fenced.
Communications: For all intents and purposes consider yourself out of contact. There is no direct phone, fax or internet. Contact in an emergency is made via radio. Some cellphones with roaming may pick up reception here, as Lagoon is very near the Namibian border and cellphone network.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the chalets have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers and flushing toilets. Guests are usually given a water bottle 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, which is replenished daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Most camp managers and guides are trained in first aid and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept in camp. Each guide usually also has a basic field medical kit when out on activities. In an emergency, Lagoon Camp would arrange for clients to be flown out to the hospital 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: Because Lagoon Camp is unfenced and the Kwando Reserve is home to a large population of potentially dangerous wildlife, guests are escorted to their chalets after dark. An air-horn is provided in each chalet to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are kept in the common areas of the camp and on the veranda outside each chalet.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included, excluding delicates. Washing powder is provided in the chalets for this purpose.
Money: No currency-exchange facilities are offered. There are digital safes in each chalet.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and American Express are not. For curio shop purchases a 3% credit card commission is charged. Cash payments may be made in South African rand, British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswanan pula.