Khwai River Lodge

Khwai River Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
15 tented chalets
Children
Best for aged 10+
Open
All year

Khwai River Lodge is one of the Okavango's oldest lodges and it had already been running for a number of years when Chris, from Expert Africa, first visited it in around 1992. He still has very fond memories of the original camp with its understated little bungalows dotted amongst leadwood trees on the edge of Khwai River's floodplain. Much of this venerable old lodge was demolished a few years later and today, apart from the basic structure of its old office which has been preserved as a small museum and curio shop, it’s a much more upmarket offering and from the rubble of this old camp, a new more opulent lodge has arisen.

Khwai River Lodge as it is today was built between about December 1998 and May 1999 and modelled on the same design as that used for its sister camp, Savute Elephant Camp.

The central area at Khwai River Lodge is slightly raised on a timber platform and topped by an enormous thatched roof. It includes a lounge with a fireplace and a bar. You will also find chess sets, a TV with a selection of wildlife videos, comfy couches and a small but well stocked bookcase. Next to this is a dining area with wooden tables for stylish dinners – adjacent to a wide area of decking overlooking the narrow, shallow river valley. Next to this main complex, an adjoining raised observation deck houses a small spotting scope.

There's a large swimming pool built a few metres from the deck at ground level and this enjoys fantastic views over the flood plain in front of camp.

The 14 canvas chalets at Khwai River Lodge are really far too opulent to be called tents. All are built on high timber platforms, facing the river. Because these are spread out in a line, each a distance from the next, the camp stretches for over a kilometre in length and the furthest tents are a significant walk from the central lounge. Each large platform has a wide veranda at the front, with safari chairs overlooking the river, and a huge canvas structure measuring about 18m x 6m. Khwai River Lodge also offers spa treatments, which take place on this veranda.

Inside, each 'tent' is fully furnished with polished wooden floors, rugs and plenty of proper, comfy furniture – not just the usual safari chair or two. Twin three-quarter-sized beds, which are usually pushed together, have high-quality cotton bedding, bedside tables, a fully-stocked mini bar, twin (battery-powered) lamps and electronic safes. The beds are surrounded by mosquito netting, and surmounted by two air-conditioning units which, when we visited Khwai one October, fought a valiant but losing battle to keep the room cool. There are also overhead fans in the tents and electric heaters, which we can imagine being very useful indeed during the colder winter nights!

At the back of the tent are a toilet and a large (two-person) shower, each behind a wooden door. The lodge's build-quality is very high, and clearly no expense has been spared.

Khwai River Lodge also offers a private suite, set away from the other tents. This suite shows an extended viewing deck and a heated splash pool. It also has an open air double shower and a beautiful deep copper-framed Victorian bath, with only the tree canopy as a roof.

Activities at Khwai River Lodge focus on two game drives per day. Many of the camp's drives are conducted within Moremi Game Reserve where park rules forbid night drives, off-road driving and walking. The morning game drive usually commences after a light breakfast, and returns in the late morning for a substantial brunch. The afternoon drive commences after afternoon tea, and aims to leave the park as it closes, at sunset.

The area around the lodge north of the river, outside of Moremi GR (known as the Khwai Community Concession), does offer walks and night drives with a spotlight and afternoon activities traditionally focus on this area. On our last visit to Khwai River Lodge in May 2015 we decided to go for a post-dinner drive in the area not too far from camp and were rewarded with a great sighting of a female leopard walking down the road and right past our vehicle.

Khwai River Lodge is not the only permanent camp in this area these days and it is also popular with self-drive travellers and mobile safaris too. This results in visitors seeing other vehicles when on game-drives and so it's not a totally exclusive experience any more ... however it is a very beautiful region of the Delta and the game densities are phenomenal.

Our view

Khwai River Lodge is a well-run and very substantial luxury safari lodge in a picturesque area. The game densities here are usually high, especially toward the latter parts of the dry season although there are a lot of other people around too, relatively speaking. The range of activities at Khwai River Lodge are a little constrained when they take place in Moremi Game Reserve where walking, off-road driving and night drives are banned but there is still the chance to walk (local conditions permitting) and drive at night in the local concession.

Geographics

Location: Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend a stay of around 2-3 nights as the ideal length of time to spend at Khwai River Lodge.

Directions: Khwai River Lodge is about 30 minutes flight from Maun airport – or a little longer from Kasane and then it’s a short drive of about ten minutes from the airstrip to camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Belmond Safaris

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: There's plenty of high-quaity food on offer at Khwai River Lodge, including the option of early morning tea/coffee that can be delivered to your tent.

Khwai usually serves a very light breakfast prior to the morning game drive/safari walk – and then during the morning game drive, the guide will usually stop for tea, coffee and biscuits at some point. A full buffet brunch is then served when you get back to camp – which is extensive and good.

Afternoon tea is always offered before the afternoon game drive – and whilst you're out the guide will usually stop around 'sundown'' time for a drink from the bar and a snack.

A 3-course dinner is served in the main dining area in the evening – and it's a fairly stylish affair.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Drinks are all included on a stay at Khwai River Lodge including all soft drinks and local (South African) wines, beers and spirits. Champagne, fine wine and premium brand spirits will come at an extra charge. Each guest receives their own refillable water bottle on arrival at camp which is theirs to keep.

Children

Attitude towards children: Children of 8 years and older are welcome at Khwai River Lodge.

Property’s age restrictions: 8 years and Older

Special activities & services: There were no special activities for children on offer when we last visited Khwai River Lodge, although there was talk of a ‘Junior Rangers’ programme in the works.

Equipment: None

Notes: Children aged between 8-12 years share accommodation with an adult and the family must have private game activities organized for them.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Communications: Each tent is equipped with an internal telephone to reception and other tents and there is WiFi throughout camp.

TV & radio: Satellite TV is available in the camp's main lounge.

Water supply: Borehole

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: All of the guides and camp managers are trained in first aid. The nearest doctor is in Maun and for anything very serious there is a Medivac system in place which can transport patients to the nearest hospital in Gaborone or even Jo’burg. 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: You will always be escorted to and from your tent after dark and night watchmen patrol the camp during the evenings.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main area and in all of the rooms.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A same-day laundry service is included at Khwai River Lodge.

Money: There are electronic safes in each of the rooms.

Accepted payment on location: The camp accepts payment in US Dollars, Euros, Rand and Sterling as well as being able to take payment via Visa, MasterCard and Amex.