Machaba Camp

Machaba Camp: Our full report

Rooms
10 tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (93%) From 16 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

Opened in 2013, Machaba Camp is one of the newer offerings along the Khwai riverfront, looking across to the Moremi Game Reserve. The camp lies to the east of the concession, on the site of the old Machaba Camp: a tranquil, open spot along the river, backed by a sparse forest of sycamore figs, and with plenty of wildlife. Botswana owned and run, it is spacious yet traditional in feel, and very comfortable.

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.

As you enter, the left ‘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; on all our visits, we were very impressed by the range of books and magazines on local geography, geology, flora and fauna. Guests are welcome to help 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. Meals are laid out on another long wooden table with beautifully carved legs, and you can help yourself throughout the day to tea and coffee.

Accommodation at Machaba re-defines the meaning of the word 'tent', with en-suite, spacious and very sturdy structures classically decorated to a very high standard. These ten tents are all 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. Inside, wall-to-wall mats topped by rugs add warmth and a softer feel under foot. 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. A couple of comfortable chairs invite relaxation during the heat of the afternoons, 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 each 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.

At the very east of the camp, past tent number one, 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 your guide is allowed to drive off road to get a closer look at animals. The wildlife in the Khwai region is fantastic, with leopard and wild dog populations, and with Machaba’s proximity to the game-rich Moremi Game Reserve, it’s possible for guests here to explore both. In the past, lion have thrived here, but this was less apparent on our most recent visit in September 2016, and the guides commented that lion have not been as prolific as in previous years.

We have stayed at Machaba three times since it opened and each time have been really impressed by the guiding; the guides here really know their stuff and clearly enjoy their job. 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 are also on offer along the Sable Alley Channel, which feeds into the Khwai River. The driving time is approximately 40 minutes from camp, however, so it does take time to get there.

We have found that the Khwai area provides good game year-round, making Machaba an excellent place to visit in Botswana’s quieter ‘shoulder’ season. (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.) During our last stay, we witnessed an unbelievable wild dog hunt, whose outcome was 14 dogs dining on their impala kill. Leopard, hippo, elephant and giraffe were also in evidence, while the birds we spotted included bateleur eagles, red-billed hornbill, African jacana, open-billed stork, helmeted guinea fowl and magpie shrike.

Unlike many camps in Botswana, Machaba is keen to continue activities after dinner. On our first visit we had been tracking leopard earlier in the day and we were really impressed with the camp’s attitude and willingness to get back out there and try for more sightings after dinner. Although we were unsuccessful on that score, we did see two smaller felines: African wildcat and genet.

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, which we found really interesting 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 neutralized before returning it into 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. A combination of excellent, hands-on management, very 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 region, 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 September 2016, the food was 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, with the added option of a cooked breakfast. Brunch is served after returning from morning activity and was very tasty. We enjoyed breaded tilapia filets, melon and avocado salad, corn salad with vegetables, fruit and cheese platters, as well as a garden salad with an assortment of dressings. Eggs are also available cooked to order.

Afternoon tea, just before the start of the afternoon activity, included miniature sausage rolls, almond and jam slice and chocolate fudge. There was a very tasty ginger drink, homemade lemonade and iced tea and coffee.
Dinner is served after the afternoon activity. We enjoyed a cold, tomato-based soup, similar to gazpacho, followed by braised leg of lamb with both a savoury and mint sauce, and a tasty chocolate cake with raspberry sauce for dessert.

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 are included (bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, spirits and a limited selection of generally South African wines). Champagne and premium or imported wines and spirits cost extra and must be requested in advance. Guests are usually 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

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 2016, 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: There is a telephone available to guests on requests at an additional cost. Some guests may pick up cellphone reception, as Khwai Village is close by, but this is not always possible. WiFi is available at a picnic table shaded by an umbrella 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.

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: In Place

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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