Machaba Camp

Machaba Camp: Our full report

Rooms
10 tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (91%) From 30 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

Opened in 2013, Machaba Camp is located along the Khwai riverfront, looking across to the Moremi Game Reserve. The camp lies to the east of the Khwai Community Concession, a tranquil, open spot along the river, backed by a sparse forest of sycamore figs, and with plenty of wildlife. Machaba is spacious yet traditional in feel, and very comfortable.

The wildlife in the Khwai region is fantastic, with good game year-round. This consistency is because, unlike the Okavango Delta, the Khwai River is not dependent on the annual floods from the Angolan highlands, so the rise and fall of water levels is largely based on local precipitation. As a result, Machaba makes an excellent place to visit in Botswana's quieter “shoulder” season, and with the camp’s proximity to the game-rich Moremi Game Reserve, it's possible for guests to explore there as well.

Accommodation at Machaba re-defines the meaning of the word “tent”, with en-suite, spacious and very sturdy structures classically decorated to a high standard. That said, on our last visit in November 2019 we felt the tents were looking a little tired, and while there are plans to replace them, no date has yet been set for this.

All ten tents are set back a little from the water's edge. Each has polished concrete floors beneath a canvas roof, covered by a taut flysheet and supported by a timber frame. Eight of the tents are standard, while the remaining two, designed for families, feature two linked tents with a shared bathroom at the rear.

From the veranda at the front of each tent, zipped canvas doors open to reveal a double or twin beds, a large teak writing desk complete with brass light fixtures, and a free-standing fan. Wall-to-wall mats topped by rugs add warmth and a softer feel under foot. A couple of comfortable chairs invite relaxation during the heat of the afternoon, or you can seek refuge on the concrete veranda where a pair of camping chairs face the river. There's even a masseuse's bed out there, with massages available by arrangement throughout your stay.

At the back of the tent, the en-suite bathroom comes with indoor and outdoor showers, his and hers washbasins beneath large hanging mirrors, and a flushing toilet in a separate “cubicle”. Complimentary toiletries are provided, and a shelving unit houses a washing basket, a small safe for valuables and both room and body sprays to keep the bugs away.

The main area at Machaba has a classic safari camp feel. A spacious, two-winged tented structure, it has high ceilings and open sides to maximise the views across the Khwai River and into Moremi Game Reserve. The polished concrete floors are dotted with Persian rugs and it's beautifully decorated in tones of grey, blue and beige.

One wing houses a large and comfortable lounge with a couple of intimate seating areas, detailed maps of the local region on the walls, and plenty of tables and bookshelves; we have been very impressed by the range of books and magazines on local geography, geology, flora and fauna. Guests are welcome to serve themselves from the drinks cabinet and fridge, although there's usually someone around to help.

The opposite wing is reserved for meals, with individual tables draped in white tablecloths for breakfast and lunch, and one longer table for communal dining in the evening. Dishes are laid out on another long wooden table with beautifully carved legs, and you can help yourself throughout the day to tea and coffee.

At the very east of the camp is a particularly attractive circular swimming pool near the river, where chairs and loungers are spread out on a wooden deck. Honeymoon couples or those celebrating a special occasion can arrange for a private dinner here – though for safety reasons, due to the distance from the main area, a guide will stay nearby throughout the meal. Private dinners are also available in the tents.

Machaba is situated in the Khwai Community Concession, which is shared by a number of camps and caters to self drivers, so it tends to be a little busier than some of the private concessions in Botswana. However it does have the same advantages as the private concessions, including walking and night drives, and guides are allowed to drive off road to get a closer look at animals.

We have stayed at Machaba four times since it opened and generally we have been really impressed by the guiding; the guides here really know their stuff and clearly enjoy their job. That said, on our most recent visit we felt our guide was a little quiet and could have shown a bit more passion.

Activities revolve largely around 4WD game drives, although safari walks can be arranged when a suitably qualified guide is in camp and the grass is short enough to make walking safe. Mokoro excursions can also be taken along the Sable Alley Channel, which feeds into the Khwai River, though it is a drive of around 40 minutes from camp.

The Khwai area is known for its leopard and wild dog populations, but lion – which have thrived here in the past – have been less apparent on our most recent visits in 2016 and 2019. During our last stay, we saw wild dog on three separate occasions, as well as, a serval right in front of camp. Hippo, elephant and giraffe were also present in good numbers.

In addition to being very comfortable and well-run, Machaba is an excellent example of the new generation of sustainable safari operators springing up in the region. The managers are more than happy to take interested guests on a back-of-house tour to show how the camp is designed to limit any negative impact on the environment. This includes a sophisticated system of solar panels, and low-energy appliances (including fridge-freezers that require little more energy than a couple of light bulbs), both of which keep the need for the generator to a minimum. In addition, organic waste is neutralised before being returned to the environment in a harmless form, while all non-organic waste is taken to Maun for recycling.

Our view

Since our first visit to Machaba in 2013, we have been consistently impressed. Excellent, hands-on management, good guiding, a secluded location and fantastic game viewing all combine to make the camp superb value. Although the Khwai area can sometimes feel busy by the standards of Botswana's private concessions, Machaba is located in a relatively quiet sector, with the option of game drives in both the Khwai Community Concession and the Moremi Game Reserve opposite.

Geographics

Location: Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: A stay of three nights would be ideal at Machaba Camp.

Directions: It’s roughly 30 minutes by light aircraft from Maun to Khwai Airstrip, followed by a 20-minute game drive to camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Skybird Pty Ltd (C Hatshe, A Rankin, M Collins)

Staff: Shaun & Elcke Malan (September 2016)

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our most recent visit to Machaba, in November 2019, the food was again excellent. With advance notice, the camp can cater for vegetarians and other dietary requirements. They can also prepare special meals for children, on request.

Before heading out on the morning activities, there's a light breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, muffins and fresh fruit.

For brunch, served after our morning activity, we enjoyed chicken and mushroom pie, carrot and pineapple salad, a green salad, wild rice salad, broccoli and apple salad, an assortment of fruit and a cheese platter. Sausages, eggs and bacon can also be cooked to order.

Afternoon tea, just before the start of the afternoon activity, included beef crostini, churros with chocolate sauce and a lemon cake. There was a very tasty ginger drink, homemade lemonade, iced tea and coffee.

Dinner is served after the afternoon activity. To start we enjoyed a cold, tomato-based soup, similar to gazpacho. This was followed by braised leg of lamb with roast potatoes and a mix of vegetables. For dessert we had a tasty chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.

Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: All beverages stocked in camp (bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, spirits and a limited selection of generally South African wines) are included. Champagne and premium or imported wines and spirits cost extra and must be requested in advance. Guests are given a water bottle on arrival, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp's main area. Each tent is also provided with glasses and a flask of drinking water that is replenished daily. We don't recommend that travellers drink from the tap.

Further dining info: Bush dinners, bush picnics, and private dining in the rooms are available upon request

Special interests

Family holidays: Machaba has two very spacious family tents and is a good option for a family safari in Botswana with older children who are enthusiastic about wildlife.

See more ideas for Family holidays in Botswana

Birdwatching: Machaba Camp is located in the Khwai Community Reserve. The camp is built in riverine forest on the edge of the Khwai River. The Moremi Game Reserve, the floodplains of the Khwai River and mature woodland are all home to a good variety of species.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana

Cultural experiences: Machaba can arrange excursions to meet local villagers, so you can see what life is like in this fairly remote corner of Africa. This takes time, but can be fascinating and always varies depending on what's happening in the village when you visit.

See more ideas for Cultural experiences in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Machaba Camp. However families with children younger then six years must book a private vehicle at additional cost.

Property’s age restrictions: None

Special activities & services: As the camp wants to get to know both parents and children before arranging activities, these can be organized on arrival. In 2019, the management couple at Machaba had young children of their own living on site, and were very familiar with entertaining children in the bush.

Equipment: There are two very spacious family rooms at Machaba.

Notes: Machaba is unfenced, and dangerous wildlife, including lion and leopard, can wander through the camp at any time. There is no fence around the pool. Children must be supervised by an adult at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator, and the camp has 24-hour electricity, with charging stations in each tent.

Communications: Some guests may pick up cellphone reception, as Khwai Village is close by, but this is not always possible. There is a telephone available to guests at additional cost. WiFi is available at a shaded picnic table at the back of camp, near the kitchen.

TV & radio: There is no television or radio at Machaba.

Water supply: Other

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

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. Management and guides are first-aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies. 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: Guests are escorted to their tents after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. 'Fog horns' are provided in the tents to summon help in case of emergency.

Fire safety: Each tent has a fire extinguisher.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included (including smalls). Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting. Washing powder is provided in the room for guests to wash their smalls.

Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Machaba. There is a small safe in each tent that can fit travel documents, cash and wallets.

Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted (with a surcharge); Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.

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