Khwai Tented Camp

Khwai Tented Camp: Our full report

Rooms
6 tented rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 32 reviews
Children
Best for 14+
Open
All year

The small Khwai Tented Camp lies on a seasonal floodplain within the Khwai Community Concession, a beautiful, wildlife-rich area that's separated from the Moremi Game Reserve by the Khwai River. Once a nomadic camp, it was rebuilt in its current, more permanent location in 2017, with fabulous views over a tributary of the Khwai River. While its relatively simple style is still reminiscent of Botswana's old safari days, when intrepid travellers camped in the wilderness, it's now a far cry from the original.

The camp is small and intimate, with a very friendly, relaxed, yet classic feel. It's run by a team of passionate Batswana who manage the camp well, and their local guides are some of the best we've experienced in Botswana. The camp's owner is a professional guide himself, so he takes guiding very seriously. There’s a lovely story about one of their guides, who started as a chef, then retrained, and has been guiding at the camp since 2017.

The vegetation around Khwai Tented Camp is made up of great stands of leadwood and riverine forest, which line wide floodplains and the banks of the Khwai River and its tributaries. The river itself is the first permanent water source reached by wildlife moving between Botswana's northern reserves of Chobe and Linyanti and the Okavango Delta, and so attracts high concentrations of wildlife year round, with many sought-after species seen regularly – including elephant, lion, leopard and wild dog. For much of the year, areas of the floodplain fill with water to form shallow, lily-covered lagoons, which attract hundreds of colourful birds. Away from the river and plains are pockets of mopane woodland dotted with pans that naturally fill with rainwater and act as waterholes, attracting many different animal species.

The camp’s six modern Meru-style tented rooms come with raised verandas, wooden double doors and mesh windows. Step inside to find comfortable twin or double beds under a mosquito net, flanked by bedside tables and backed by a high wooden headboard that divides the bedroom area from the bathroom. A writing desk has a universal charging station; tea, coffee and a flask of mineral water sit on an occasional table; a standing fan helps to keep the room cool, and a wicker armchair invites relaxation.

At the rear of each tent, the en-suite bathroom features twin basins and mirrors, and a wardrobe with luggage bench. Curtains separate the flush toilet and shower into individual cubicles, both with unusual corrugated-iron walls.

The tents are simple but well thought out, albeit quite close to each other, so there is not a great deal of privacy on the verandas, and inside you may need to lower your voice if having a private conversation.

Sandy pathways link the tents to Khwai Tented Camp's canvas-sided main area, which is raised up on a wooden deck and open on one side, though large flaps can be lowered in inclement weather. A bar at the apex of the V-shaped structure links lounge and dining areas, both lit by wrought-iron ceiling lights and cooled by ceiling fans. Patterned cushions add a splash of colour to comfortable sofas and armchairs in the lounge, where there's also a large coffee table. In the simply furnished dining area a dark wooden sideboard stands alongside an old travel trunk, where you'll find tea, coffee and jars of home-made biscuits. Guests dine together at a long wooden dining table, with metal and wicker chairs, sharing stories and making new friends.

From here you can wander onto a shady deck set with more wicker chairs, a sofa and large umbrella, as well as another long table for alfresco dining. Steps lead down to a tidy sandy area with directors' chairs set around a firepit, where pre- and post-dinner drinks are often served.

Another lovely dining venue is the camp's traditional boma, where you feast under the star-filled sky. A boma dinner here is African outdoor dining at its best, usually made up of a tasty barbecue brought to you by friendly staff.

Set back from the tents, away from the riverfront, a splash pool is raised slightly on a wooden deck with shaded sunloungers – a peaceful place to relax when you're not out on safari.

Safari activities from Khwai Tented Camp focus on game drives and guided walks, and (water levels permitting) there's also the opportunity to get out in a mokoro (dug-out canoe). Game drives with knowledgeable guides take place in both the Khwai Community Concession and Moremi Game Reserve. As Khwai is a private reserve, your guide may drive off-road to get closer to an interesting wildlife sighting, and may take you on spotlit night drives – which are not allowed in Moremi, or any of Botswana's national parks. The same goes for guided walks, whose length and routes vary depending on wildlife movements and the time of year.

On most of our visits to Khwai, predator sightings have been prolific, and there are also a good number of elephant and plains game in the concession. Previously we have spent time with a pride of lions (including eight very entertaining cubs) with a zebra kill, and had two prolonged, close-up leopard sightings. On night drives, sightings have included a small spotted genet, a mother porcupine and her two little ones, a serval, and hyena pups emerging from their den.

It's worth mentioning here that both the Moremi and Khwai Community Concession are visited by a number of camps on their game drives, and are also accessible to self-drivers, so both are generally busier than the private concessions in Botswana, especially between July and October. For example, on one leopard sighting there were at least 12 vehicles all vying for the best position, yet on another sighting during the same trip, we were the only ones there.

An additional activity for guests at Khwai Tented Camp is the chance to visit Khwai Village, where many of the people are from the Bayei group, sometimes referred to as the river Bushmen. Situated next to Moremi Game Reserve's North Gate, this is an ordinary village that could well add a social perspective to your safari, but we stress that it's not a “tourist attraction”. Whether you visit the village or not, you'll see signs of its presence around North Gate.

In this context, it is worth noting that the camp is sufficiently close to the village that on our last visit, in November 2019, barking dogs could be heard at night. For this reason, there are plans to move the camp further away from the village in the not too distant future.

Our view

Khwai Tented Camp won't suit everyone. If you're looking for air-conditioned luxury with plenty of space then it won't be the place for you. But if you're after a classic tented camp without all the luxuries of many Botswana camps, excellent game viewing (albeit in a busy area at times), and some superb guiding, then Khwai Tented Camp would be a great choice.

Geographics

Location: Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: Three nights is ideal. Khwai Tented Camp is often combined with one of its sister camps on the Linyanti Marshes: Linyanti Bush Camp or Linyanti Ebony.

Directions: A 30-minute flight from Maun will take you to Khwai airstrip, then it's a game drive/transfer to camp of about 20 minutes, depending on any wildlife you see on the way. Although it is possible for self-drivers to access Khwai Tented Camp, this is not something that we offer.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: African Bush Camps

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last stay at Khwai Tented Camp, in November 2019, the food was very tasty and well prepared. With advance notice, those with allergies or other dietary requirements can be catered for.

The day begins before your first safari activity with an early-morning buffet breakfast. This usually includes muffins, toast with a choice of spreads, yoghurt, cereals, porridge, and cheese and biscuits.

You'll return to camp in time for a varied buffet brunch, which for us on this occasion included a delicious beef moussaka, layered mushroom crêpes, sautéed green beans, asparagus and onion, butternut with mayonnaise; a lettuce salad with apple and crispy croutons, a cheese platter and fresh bread.

For afternoon tea we were served a savoury snack of potato and pea samosa, alongside cupcakes topped with buttercream, with iced tea and lemonade.

Dinner at Khwai Tented Camp may be served in the main area, on the veranda or in the boma, and is usually plated. We started with tomato and basil soup and homemade bread rolls, followed by a trio of pork, beef and chicken stir-fries. Dessert was a homemade banana-cream pudding, rounded off by tea or coffee.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: A wide selection of drinks is available from the bar cabinet and is included in the price. Premium brands, such as malt whiskies or French champagne, can be requested for an additional charge. Each guest is given a water bottle upon arrival, and staff will fill this for you on request.

Special interests

Cultural experiences: Guests at Khwai Tented Camp who would like to experience a bit of Botswana culture may visit the nearby Khwai Village. This is an ordinary village, many of whose inhabitants are from the Bayei group, sometimes referred to as river Bushmen. A visit could well add a social perspective to your safari, but we stress that it's not a “tourist attraction”.

See more ideas for Cultural experiences in Botswana

Wildlife safaris: With access to both the Khwai Community Concession and Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai Tented Camp is arguably in one of Botswana's greatest wildlife areas (though note that it can get busy). Sightings are good year round, with lion, leopard and wild dog seen regularly, as well as elephant and many other species.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Khwai Tented Camp welcomes children aged seven years and over.

Property’s age restrictions: Children aged 7–12 must share a tent with an adult. Only children over 16 years will be able to join walking and mokoro activities, and even then, the final decision is always at the discretion of the camp manager and guide.

Special activities & services: There is a wide range of activities on offer and guides will tailor these to the age of your children. These include activities like game drives, short nature walks in the vicinity of the camp and baking with the chef.

Equipment: An extra bed can be put into one of the tented rooms to accommodate a young child sharing with his/her parents, though note that this would be a massive squeeze.

Notes: This is a very open safari camp and dangerous wildlife is likely to pass through. Children must be under a parent's supervision at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator.

Communications: There is no direct phone, fax, or email from Khwai Tented Camp. Communication is maintained with safari vehicles, sister camps and the head office in Maun via radio. Some guests may pick up cellphone reception, as Khwai Village is close by, but this is not always possible. There is also very weak, intermittent WiFi, which is best closest to the office, boma and pool, but please do not bank on being able to access this as it is very unreliable.

TV & radio: None

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: All bathrooms are fully plumbed with hot and cold running water and flushing toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The camp manager is trained in first aid. In an emergency, guests would usually be evacuated by air to the nearest hospital (Kasane, Maun or Johannesburg). However, 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: The camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife moves through, so guests are escorted to their tented rooms after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival. “Fog horns” are provided in the tents to summon help in case of an emergency.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers placed throughout Khwai Tented Camp and outside each tented room.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Note that clothes are washed in a machine and sun dried, so inclement weather may delay the usual same-day return.

Money: An electronic safe is provided in each of Khwai's tented rooms.

Accepted payment on location: As there is no curio shop there is essentially nothing to pay for here, but payment for any extras (such as premium brand drinks) should be made in cash only; all major currencies are accepted.

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