Selinda Camp

Selinda Camp: Our full report

Rooms
9 tented chalets including one family unit
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 54 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

The upmarket Selinda Camp is situated in the 1,350km 2 Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana, which incorporates game-rich floodplains, the Zibalianja Lagoon and the Selinda Spillway. There’s long been a camp here and its focus has always been big game safaris in the dry country of the Spillway. Now it’s part-owned by famous photographers, and so has a strong accent on the art of photography.

Partly owned by renowned film-makers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the Selinda Reserve has been made famous in their films for National Geographic. Wide, dry grasslands, dotted with waterholes and interspersed with palm-fringed 'islands' and stands of leadwood trees, cover the area as far as the eye can see. It's a picturesque, open environment and guests can spot game a long way off. It's perfect for following predators like wild dogs on hunting sorties.

Selinda Camp shares the reserve with its sister camps, the relatively simple Selinda Explorers, and the opulent Zarafa Camp. It overlooks the Selinda – or Magwegqana – Spillway, a vital ancient watercourse linking the Okavango Delta to the Kwando–Linyanti River drainage system. Although dry for decades, the spillway has flowed annually since a particularly good rainy season in 2006.

The main area at Selinda Camp is spread across one vast, open-plan central area with panoramic views across the surrounding channels and floodplains. Constructed of wood and thatch, it has a lovely viewing deck and relaxing lounge area, with plenty of comfy sofas. The décor and design are influenced by a variety of African cultures, combining west African carvings, a heavy Zanzibar-style door frame and objects made from old mekoro. Many of these objects feature paintings by the late Keith Joubert – artist and brother to Dereck.

The furniture comprises a mixture of dark leather sofas and stained teak tables and chairs. Unusual semi-circular tables in the dining area are pushed together in the evenings to form a large circular dining table, which we thought was a very sociable way to dine.

Another sociable spot is Selinda's firepit area, where breakfast is served around the fire before your early-morning game drive. The camp also has a lovely pool, built on a deck leading off the main area and overlooking the spillway. There are comfortable sunloungers surrounding the pool for relaxing in between activities.

A short, sandy path from the main area leads to a large and well-stocked curio shop, and beneath is a gallery showcasing Beverly Joubert's impressive photographic work. Should guests wish to buy copies, the camp can organise for these to be shipped anywhere in the world. Also in the gallery you'll find a coffee machine, a small library of reference books and a computer to download photos or possibly watch one of the Jouberts' films.

Sought after during the heat of the day is the camp's submerged wine cellar, which keeps a large stock of everything from house wines to premium champagnes cool. Guests are encouraged to select wines they would prefer with dinner and Selinda also occasionally holds wine tastings.

Reached along a sandy and well-lit path, Selinda Camp's nine tented chalets are constructed of dark wood, with canvas walls under canvas-and-thatch roofs. Steps lead up to a deck with two chairs and a table, and picturesque views over the floodplain.

The chalets are entered through sliding doors at the front, with hook-latches to keep them closed. Inside, both the bedroom and bathroom are fully enclosed and insect-proofed by a mixture of canvas and mesh; it's quite cleverly designed and lets in lots of light, which offsets the dark wood of the furniture and wooden floor. Each room is dominated by twin beds, or a double, under a large walk-in mosquito net, with a fan above that gives a fairly good airflow through the netting. One of the chalets has two bedrooms, so works well for families.

Each of Selinda's chalets has two very comfortable rattan chairs, and a desk topped with miniature decanters of port and sherry, along with ice and filtered water. There's a tea and coffee caddy, too, with a Thermos of hot water brought to the room nightly or on request. Plug sockets enable guests to charge cameras and other electrical equipment; mosquito repellent and bug spray are provided; and mosquito coils are lit nightly by the staff.

More personal touches come in the form of beaded decoration on the mosquito nets, watercolor paints and paper, reference books and Swarovski binoculars. For those wanting a gentle workout, there’s also a yoga mat, resistance band and weights, and we were told on a recent visit that a rowing machine and an exercise bike can be brought to your room on request.

Somewhat hidden behind the bed by a partition are a washstand with twin basins and a long mirror, a sturdy wrought-iron luggage rack and a large teak wardrobe with ample storage space. But the main en-suite bathroom is hidden behind double, sliding doors, and is truly spectacular. The centrepiece is a large, stand-alone, egg-shaped bath, with a brass towel rail. In one corner is an open, powerful shower; in the other is a flush toilet, with a wooden wall built next to it for privacy. Hot and cold water are on tap, and various complimentary toiletries are supplied, along with white waffle-weave dressing gowns and matching slippers. The bathroom feels almost as though it is open to the air, as the slatted wooden walls reach only just above head height, where mesh screening fills the gap between them and the thatched roof.

Activities at Selinda concentrate on morning and evening game drives, as well as fishing (in season) and boat trips on the surrounding waterways. Short guided walks can also be arranged. With the Selinda Canoe Trail operating in the same concession, many guests choose to spend a couple of nights at Selinda Camp at the beginning or end of their canoe adventure.

One of the current Expert Africa team first visited Selinda Camp in 1992, and since then we've returned regularly. We’ve usually had fantastic game sightings from June until about November, but with the first rains, usually around November, the game disperses. During the rainy season (November–March), it tends to be much harder to find – a pattern that's followed by most Botswana camps, although it's probably more marked in the Selinda Reserve, and the wider Kwando-Linyanti area. That said, a little luck can be had at any time of the year. In November 2013, for example, our visit was notable for a lovely sighting of a leopard that was guarding its kill up a tree; a small herd of the uncommon roan antelope; and the many newly dropped young such as tsessebe, impala and even a new-born elephant. Then on another visit in March 2015 we saw lions with their cubs, and followed a hunting pack of wild dog until they killed a baby puku.

Our most recent trip was in April 2016, when we enjoyed a catch-and-release fishing excursion. Assisted by our guide, we had successful catches of redbelly tilapia, catfish and bream. For those looking for a different activity on safari, or just wanting to be out of a vehicle for half a day, we highly recommend the fishing activity at Selinda.

In terms of guiding, Selinda Camp has sometimes been uninspiring. However, in November 2013, our guide was enthusiastic and more then willing to share his vast knowledge, and the guides we had in March 2015 and April 2016 were also knowledgeable and willing. Based on these more recent visits, we feel that the guiding is now very good.

Our view

We know Selinda well, and it’s long been one of our favourites. Game sightings in the rainy season can be hit or miss, but they improve substantially as the dry season progresses – a pattern that’s followed by most Botswana camps, although it’s probably more marked in the Selinda Reserve, and the wider Kwando-Linyanti area. The camp’s quality, service levels and food are all currently high – and the guiding is currently excellent. Hence Selinda continues to be one of our favourites that we’re happy to recommend.

Geographics

Location: Kwando-Linyanti area, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: A stay of three or four nights is typical at Selinda. The camp is usually combined with a camp in the Okavango delta, and occasionally used as a start and/or end point for the Selinda Adventure Trail.

Directions: Selinda Camp is accessed by light aircraft from either Kasane (50-minute flight) or Maun (45-minute flight); it is then a 40-minute drive from the airstrip to the camp depending on what you see en route. During high-water season, the transfer from the airstrip is made via vehicle and boat.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Great Plains Conservation

Staff: Ross (manager)

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: When we last stayed at Selinda Camp in April 2016, the food was excellent. With advance notice, the camp can cater to vegetarians and most special dietary requests.

Meals follow the usual safari-camp format, but with a very healthy and tasty twist. There is limited gluten used in the cooking and very little sugar too. So you can enjoy eating more than you would at home, without feeling guilty.

Start your day with an early breakfast around the fire before your morning game drive. We had the option of homemade granola to which you could add various seeds, almond flakes and other nuts, together with plain yoghurt, freshly baked muffins, a fresh fruit platter, cheese and biscuits, pancakes and maple syrup, toast, porridge, tea and coffee, and a very yummy freshly made smoothie!

For brunch, a selection of fresh salads, cornbread and grilled meats was served. All were tasty and very fresh but not too filling.

The afternoon tea on our most recent visit was quite delicious. Different strawberry ‘shooters’ were prepared in tiny glasses along with cucumber and tomato concoctions stuffed with a cream-cheese filling.

At dinner, guests are offered a choice of two main meat courses as well as a vegetarian option which they select before departing on the afternoon activity. We were treated to a tasty cold cucumber-based soup followed by a light grilled chicken dish with mushroom sauce. While we did not enjoy dessert on our most recent trip, in the past we have enjoyed yummy chocolate mousse made with avocado (which was much tastier than it sounds).

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (usually) South African wines are included. Champagne costs extra – and may need to be requested in advance. Each room is provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water that is replenished daily. Although plastic bottles of water are available, guests are encouraged to top up from the filtered water in the camp's main area. We don't recommend that travellers drink from the tap.

Further dining info: Not available

Special interests

Birdwatching: Selinda Camp's location on the Selinda Spillway is an excellent place for birdwatching in Botswana. Many waterbird species can be viewed here, from cranes and herons to kingfishers and cormorants, and our predator sightings have included a black-shouldered kite and an African fish eagle pursuing a monitor lizard. Honorary ‘membership’ of the ‘111 Club’ is bestowed on guests who spot 111 or more birds during their stay!

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana

Photography holidays: Part-owned by renowned film-makers and photographers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Selinda Camp is a great spot for photography in Botswana. The guides are good at positioning vehicles, and finding good angles and light, and some will even give a little instruction if asked.

See more ideas for Photography holidays in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Children over six years are welcome at Selinda Camp, but families with children aged 6-12 must book a private vehicle. Younger children may be accepted if the whole camp is reserved for one private party.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age six years

Special activities & services: Selinda Camp has guides who are great with children, and can offer alternative and slightly tailored activities such as fishing or short canoe trips. The camp also offers the ‘Young Explorers’ programme, which includes child-friendly activities such as animal tracking, plaster casting tracks, and making traditional bows and arrows. The camp aims to be flexible with children's mealtimes, and can offer child-friendly meals. They can offer child-minding from one of their housekeeping team, but not someone specially trained in childcare.

Equipment: No special equipment is provided but Selinda has a two-bedroom family chalet, and activities specifically geared towards children can be arranged. The camp aims to be flexible with children’s mealtimes, with cooking child-friendly meals.

Notes: Selinda Camp is very open with dangerous wildlife walking through the camp, so children will need constant and close supervision by adults.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: The generator is run for three hours in the morning and three in the evening, when guests are out on activities. There is a plan to upgrade to solar power, but a timetable had not been established at the time of writing. Each chalet has a series of plug points: a UK-style square three pin, the large round three pin, or the European two pin; those with other plugs should bring their own adaptors. There is a hairdryer in each chalet for guests to use.

Communications: WiFi is available in the chalets, however, there is no cellphone reception, no direct fax or phone access. Swift radio contact can be made with Maun if there is an emergency and there is also a satellite phone for emergency use only as well.

TV & radio: No radio or television!

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: All the chalets have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flushing toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: All camp managers and guides are first-aid trained and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept at camp. In an emergency the camp can contact flying doctors.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Because of the Okavango's large population of dangerous game, and the fact that Selinda Camp is unfenced, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. Alarms, sirens or whistles are provided in the chalets to attract attention in case of an emergency.

Fire safety: There are extinguishers on the verandas of all chalets.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included, including smalls. Washing powder is also provided in the rooms.

Money: No exchange facilities are offered. There are safe deposit boxes in the chalets.

Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. No commission is charged on credit-card transactions. Cash payments may be made in GB pounds, US dollars, Euros, South African rand and Botswana Pula.

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