Lagoon Camp

Lagoon Camp: Our full report

Rooms
8 thatched chalets, including one family unit
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 197 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

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.

***IMPORTANT NOTE***Boat activities were resumed on 6 November; boat cruises are departing from a location upstream of the camp.

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.

Completely renovated in 2011, Lagoon Camp now has eight spacious thatched chalets enclosed by stretched canvas walls, and connected to the main area via sandy pathways. The 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. 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. There are no power points in the chalet but electrical equipment can be charged either by the bar or in the camp office.

The en-suite bathroom is equally spacious and elegant with two handbasins, plenty of mirrors, a deep free-standing bath 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, which are linked by wooden walkways, create a number of inviting spaces to relax, and include a curio shop. 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 poolside 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.

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. On our last visit in April 2016 the water levels were unfortunately too low for the boat to operate, but in the past we have enjoyed cruising through the water watching a big herd of buffalo drinking at the river's edge, as well as elephant, hippo and a large variety of birds.

Run by an enthusiastic team, Lagoon Camp has a 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 in 4WD vehicles. . 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.

Fishing is possible for most of the year – though national regulations forbid this in the 'closed season', during January and February – and water levels permitting, there are boat cruises on the Kwando River. Note, however, that the boat cannot remain out after sunset, apparently due to local restrictions.

Lagoon’s game-drive vehicles are Land Cruisers with a three-by-three configuration, but they are deployed for a maximum of six guests per vehicle, so that everyone gets a 'window' seat. All vehicles now have a roof as standard, although this may be detached upon request. Driving without a roof allows unobstructed views for photography and game viewing, but it does leave passengers open to the elements. Should you wish to drive without a roof (and obviously this requires a consensus of all guests on board), we recommend bringing a good hat, plenty of sunscreen, a rain jacket (ponchos are provided by the camp), and waterproof covering for your camera gear. Of course, if you're hiring a private vehicle and prefer not to have a canopy – for better all round views – please let us know at the time of booking.

As at other Kwando camps, an able tracker, as well as a driver/guide, accompanies all 4WD excursions. This provides an extra pair of experienced eyes to search for predators and more elusive game and has resulted in some great game sightings on our past visits. While these are generally much more prolific during Botswana's dry season (May–October), 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 one visit, in November 2013, 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 view

Lagoon 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.

Geographics

Location: Kwando-Linyanti area, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: Three nights is ideal at Lagoon Camp. Lagoon and Lebala combine particularly well with one of their sister camps in the Okavango, either 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. For those combining a stay at Lagoon and Lebala camps, which are both in the Kwando Reserve, a road transfer is possible between the two, usually incorporated into a morning game drive.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Kwando Safaris.

Staff: Nelson & Angel (co-managers)

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: While we did not dine at camp during our most recent visit, we have on previous occasions found the food to be of a very good standard.

Vegetarians and those with other dietary requirements can be catered for on request with advance 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 last stayed at Lagoon, in November 2013, we were offered toast, fried garlic mushrooms, sausage, bacon, baked beans, and eggs cooked to order on a hotplate. The buffet also featured a cheese and vegetable bake, green salad, pasta salad, 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. We had chocolate brownies, and bean burgers with hollandaise sauce, 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 corn cake with relish as a starter; a potluck casserole with mixed roasted vegetables, squash and a very tasty chickpea and vegetable tagine for the main; and a lemon-and-lime cheesecake for dessert. A choice of red and white wine is served with the meal.

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. Guests are usually given a bottle of filtered water, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp's main area. Each chalet 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.

Further dining info: Private meals can be arranged on request, either on the pool deck or on your private veranda.

Special interests

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

Children

Attitude towards children: Generally children age six and over are welcome at Lagoon Camp, but families with children aged 6–11 are required to book a private vehicle at extra cost. Discounted child rates are available from April through mid-November (please call for exact dates) for children under the age of 12 only if they are booked into the family unit. Once a child reaches 12 years of age, full adult rates apply.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age of six years.

Special activities & services: Colouring books with crayons are provided for children, and the staff enthusiastically participate in marshmallow-roasting around the campfire. Early mealtimes and children's meals can be arranged on request. For a surcharge, a specialist family guide can be booked in advance to accompany a family group at Lagoon Camp and its sister camps (Kwara, Little Kwara, Lebala, Tau Pan and Nxai Pan); please ask us for more details

Equipment: Lagoon Camp has a dedicated two-bedroom family chalet.

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.

Infrastructure

Power supply notes: The generator is run in the morning and afternoon when guests are out on activities. Power is available in the tented chalets at all times, and guests can also charge batteries at a central location in the bar area. Inverters for CPAP machines are available.

Communications: For all intents and purposes, consider yourself out of contact. There is no direct phone, fax or internet, although some cellphones with roaming may pick up reception here, as Lagoon is very near the Namibian border and cellphone network. Contact in an emergency is made via radio.

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.

Extras

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.

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