Lagoon Camp

Lagoon Camp: Our full report

Rooms
8 thatched chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 226 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

Set in the north of Botswana's vast Kwando Reserve, the relaxed Lagoon Camp has a spectacular setting 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, and the densities of elephants can also be spectacular.

The Kwando Reserve – or Concession – is currently the largest private wildlife reserve in Botswana, covering 2,320km² of unfenced wilderness in the far north of the country. Bordered by the Kwando River, which forms the boundary between the reserve and Mudumu National Park in Namibia's Caprivi Strip, or Zambezi Regio. 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.

Lagoon Camp has eight spacious thatched chalets, including one designed for a family, all 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. A small veranda with deck chairs at the front of each chalet allows you to soak up the views – which was absolutely justified during our last stay in August 2018, when hundreds of elephants came to the river and the floodplain during the afternoon. Watching elephants frolicking in the water from our comfortable deck or the swimming pool was spectacular.

Lagoon's chalets are are enclosed by stretched canvas walls and entered through sliding wood and mesh doors. You'll find leather seats, a coffee table and a 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 mesh windows and doors keep the bugs out while 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. Although perfectly comfortable, the rooms are fairly “no frills”, with little in the way of extra features to decorate the room and to us it felt a little sparse.

A partition wall behind the bed hides 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 an indoor shower – with a wooden door leading to the outdoor shower. A flushing toilet is in a separate cubicle. Conditioning shampoo, shower gel, soap, body lotion and cotton wool are supplied, 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, the family chalet consists of an en-suite double bedroom, with a wooden door through to a second twin bedroom, which shares the same bathroom.

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, and here you can try your hand at fishing off the deck (between March and December. Moored to the side is Lagoon's double-decker boat, this is normally available throughout the year, however we think it is best during the times of high water (usually between May-September, but this varies, so contact us for up-to-date information).

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. However, on our last visit we did feel it was a little stretched, with service quite slow during meals. However, you are certainly 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 game drives in roomy 4WD vehicles, with the number of guests limited to six guests per vehicle, so that everyone gets a “window” seat. The roof may be detached on request, allowing unobstructed views for photography and game viewing, but it does leave passengers open to the elements. Of course, if you're hiring a private vehicle and prefer not to have a canopy – for better all-round views – it is essential to 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. Most recently we had an enjoyable afternoon game drive with some decent plains game, before seeing a leopard posing on a tree on the way back to camp. But the highlight for us was a brown hyena den just a few minutes’ drive from camp, the first time they have been recorded in the area, a very memorable sighting. The adults are still very shy so are rarely seen, but as we watched, the two cubs, which are now very comfortable with vehicles, played just metres from our vehicle. Only time will tell if they will continue to den here in the future.

The guides at Lagoon usually make a great effort to actively track the big predators – especially lion and wild dogs. This provides a very good opportunity of seeing these predators, but often means bumping through the bush, off-road, at speed and with a mission, so those interested in more general wildlife sightings may end up disappointed. We certainly experienced this on our morning game drive, following leopard tracks off-road but without a result.

Lagoon may also offer short, guided walks in open areas near camp, though these are always at the discretion of the camp guides who will first assess the presence and movement 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 (although the boat cannot remain out after sunset, due to local restrictions). We didn’t have a chance to explore the river on our last visit, 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.

Our view

Lagoon Camp's attractive riverside setting and generally excellent game viewing have made it very popular amongst our travellers. Unforgettable predator sightings 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 may 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 their sister camps: Splash in the Okavango,,as well as Nxai Pan and Tau Pan in the drier reaches of the Kalahari to the south. Note: If you combine Lagoon with Lebala, Tau Pan, Splash or Nxai Pan for a total of six nights or more, we will be able to include a long-stay discounted rate.

Directions: Lagoon Camp is reached by light aircraft – approximately an hour from Maun or Kasane. The drive to camp from Kwando airstrip usually takes 20–30 minutes, 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

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last visit we thought that the food was of a good standard, although the service sometimes left a little to be desired.

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. We were offered pork noodle salad, snow-pea and cherry-tomato salad, Waldorf salad, roasted beetroot and carrot salad dressed in plain yoghurt, and baby marrow, as well as a choice of eggs and toast. A cheese board and a platter of fresh fruit were on hand to round off our meal.

High tea, before the afternoon activity, generally consists of sweet and savoury snacks. 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, with various main dish choices from the buffet. We enjoyed deep-fried halloumi with lime and caper sauce as a starter. For main there was a choice of beef bourguignon with baby potatoes and stuffed butternut squash or baby marrow fried in garlic butter with baby carrots as the vegetarian option, followed by a lemon-and-lime cheesecake. 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: For those with older children who are enthusiastic about wildlife, Lagoon Camp is a good option for a family holiday in Botswana . As well as having a family chalet, the camp offers 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 Camp cover riverine, savannah and mopane-dominated areas – while double-decker boat trips bring great views over papyrus reedbeds. Colonies of carmine bee-eaters may enhance your birdwatching in Botswana from mid-September to early December

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana

Photography holidays: A private vehicle and guide is relatively inexpensive at Lagoon Camp, allowing avid photographers in Botswana the 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 dog, lion and cheetah, making it a good addition to a wildlife safari in Botswana. 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: 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.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age 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 (Splash, 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 parental' 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: Generator

Power supply notes: The generator is run in the morning and afternoon when guests are out on activities. Power is available in the 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 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.

Sustainability

Bucket Project for local community support

Settled along Kwando River, in Northern Botswana’s largest private concession covering 232,000 ha of unfenced wilderness and hosting only one other camp, Lagoon guarantees an exclusive wilderness experience. Comprising of eight newly-renovated tents, the camp is heavily invested in the empowerment and development of local citizens.
Lagoon Camp is part of Kwando Safaris, a 100% citizen-owned company hiring exclusively citizens in all guest-facing positions within the group. Moreover, the camp’s commitment towards employee development can be seen in the advancement opportunities it offers. For examples, the camp manager advanced from a junior position, the guides started as trackers, and receptionists as waiters or tent ladies. The company pay scales are also at the top of the industry in Botswana, with both merit and long service awards being offered to the staff.
Kwando’s Bucket Project stands as proof for the camp’s effort to give back to the community in which it operates. For Botswana’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, Lagoon Camp aligned its efforts with the other members of Kwando Safaris and rather than spending money on a party, it solicited donations of household supplies for locals and also purchased some in addition, allowing for more funds to be utilized to benefit those who need help. The staff also came together for a weekend to give out buckets to the more rural outskirts of Maun, the tourism capital of Botswana and Kwando's head office location.
The initiative was received with great appreciation by the local community, which is why the camp intends to continue this practice at the beginning of each year as well as during the anniversary period.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Most 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 Botswana pula.

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