Baines' Camp

Baines' Camp: Our full report

Rooms
5 suites
Traveller's rating
Excellent (93%) From 14 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

Baines' Camp was built in 2005 in a beautiful area of Botswana's Okavango Delta: neighbouring the Moremi Game Reserve and facing the Boro River, one of the Delta's main arteries. Named after the famed Victorian explorer and artist, Thomas Baines, the camp is notable for its innovative construction, the opportunity to walk with elephants and its ever-popular roll-out 'star beds'.

Baines' Camp shares a 1,050km² concession (NG32) with its larger and slightly less costly sister camp, Stanley's Camp . Baines' Camp itself is a lovely, intimate camp with just five suites (three twins and two doubles), with thatched roofs and 'solid' walls made from recycled drinks' cans and plaster containing elephant dung – unusual, but the finished effect is novel and much smarter than the ingredients might suggest!

The bedrooms feature four-poster beds, draped with mosquito nets, which can be rolled out onto your private deck beneath the stars on request. These decks overlook the river at the front of each suite, with a couple of chairs and a table to enjoy the outdoors during the day. Just inside each suite is a seating area with a very comfortable lounge chair, and on the opposite wall is a copy of one of Thomas Baines' famous paintings, set on an easel. Should you be inspired to emulate the artist, the complimentary paint and paintbrush supplied in each room will come in very handy. More prosaically, there are plug points for charging and, unusually for an Okavango camp, a hairdryer is provided. A small minibar is typically stocked with water and a few soft drinks, but you have only to ask and the team will stock it with drinks of your choice.

In the en-suite bathroom, his and hers washbasins stand next to an ample-sized indoor shower with a view, and a toilet within a separate cubicle.

Raised wooden walkways connect Baines' Camp's suites to the relatively small main area. Built on raised wooden decking around a large termite mound, it incorporates a comfortable lounge and small library, overlooking a perennial lagoon, where hippos can often be seen wallowing (and heard snorting!). The dining area is open-sided, although in suitable weather meals may be taken on the deck under the stars. Unusually for a camp in the Okavango, there is no bar, so drinks need to be ordered from a member of staff; should nobody be around, you could have to wait. A well-stocked cabinet serves as a curio shop.

Built away from the main area, between rooms 3 and 4, there is a lovely plunge pool with a sundeck and loungers, as well as two shady 'salas' (day beds). Thoughtfully, the camp has also provided a fridge well-stocked with refreshments.

Activities from Baines' include both day and night 4WD safari drives which can go off-road to track game. Game drives may also traverse into the southern portion of the Moremi Game Reserve, although under park rules, all vehicles must be out of the reserve before sunset. Walking safaris outside the reserve are available on request; if these interest you, let us know well in advance as the camp can then try to make sure that suitably qualified guides are available during your stay.

Historically, we've not had the best big-game sightings at Baines’; game densities in this area tend to be lower than in other parts of the Okavango Delta. However, on our most recent visit, in November 2016, we saw giraffe, zebra, elephant, warthog, baboon, slender mongoose and plenty of hyenas. Although there are numerous leopard and lion in this area, they can sometimes be skittish and difficult to spot as this used to be a hunting concession. We were lucky enough to see a leopard the following day at Stanley’s, a short drive away.

We were more fortunate in terms of birdwatching, with sightings that included coppery-tailed coucal, black-chested snake eagle, African harrier-hawk (gymnogene), Dickinson's kestrel, Bateleur eagle, lilac-breasted roller, Burchell's starling, and saddle-billed stork.

During our visit, we also took part in the mokoro activity as water levels in November were still high enough. The birdlife we spotted from the water was brilliant, and we saw elephants and hippopotamus too.

Also on offer from Baines' (and its sister camp, Stanley's) is the option of spending a morning with three semi-habituated African elephants on an amazing elephant activity. This is an incredible, memorable experience as under the guidance of the experts, Doug and Cathy Groves, you can walk with the elephants, learn about them, and spend time interacting with them in their natural environment. On one of our previous visits, in April 2016, we spent a magical morning with Jabulani (the bull), Thembigela, and Marula, and agreed that this was probably one of the best elephant experiences we had ever had.

The elephants are gentle and clearly love human interaction, sometimes coming up to nestle the tip of their trunks ointo your hand. Doug, who the elephants clearly regards as their ‘patriarch’, explains the story of each elephant, and invites guests to come close and touch (under his supervision). The walk is a gentle stroll with the elephants, stopping every now and then for them to forage for food. It ends with lunch under the shade of trees, with the elephants eating in the background, and occasionally joining the guests at the table.

Our view

Baines' suites are comfortable and well-equipped, and the option to roll the beds outside has been a highlight for us. The staff are friendly and helpful, if not always readily visible between mealtimes. Although activities vary, and adapt to the Delta's flood levels, we wouldn't suggest this area for its general game; by the high standards of many Okavango camps, Baines' game densities are limited. The biggest attraction is the elephant experience – which is excellent.

Geographics

Location: Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: Two nights is usually ample here and will give you the opportunity to fit in the elephant experience as well as a few game drives or water-based activities (subject to water levels). During the peak season (July–October), three nights would give more chance to explore and see more wildlife.

Directions: Access is by light aircraft to the camp's airstrip, which is shared with its sister camp, Stanley's. From there it's approximately 45–60 minutes by road to the camp, depending on water levels. When water levels allow, the transfer may be by boat instead.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Sanctuary Retreats

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Meals at Baines' Camp, most recently on two visits in 2016, have been consistently delicious and varied. Guests normally eat as a group in the intimate dining area, but should you prefer, individual dining can be arranged in another part of the main area or on the outside deck of your suite.

Breakfast is offered before heading out on the morning activity. As well as the usual coffee and tea, toast, fresh muffins and cereal, we also had the choice of cold meats, fruit, yoghurt, cheeses, croissants and even a full cooked option made to order. However, during warmer periods you may wish to have breakfast on your return to camp, making the most of the cool temperatures while on your activity.

Lunch is served buffet-style after the morning activity, although for those on the elephant activity, a buffet brunch is served in the bush. On our April 2016 visit during the elephant activity, we enjoyed light grilled chicken breasts and a cooked vegetable medley with grilled tomatoes, onions, and red bell peppers.

Afternoon tea is taken just before the afternoon activity. We enjoyed iced coffee, a slice of coffee cake and a vegetable spring roll. Tea, lemonade, and various fruits were also provided, in addition to other sweet treats.

Dinner at Baines' Camp is a three-course meal. Main dish options are presented by the staff, with two meat choices and one vegetarian. We chose an excellent local beef fillet dish.

Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. There is borehole water for brushing teeth and bathing, but drinking water is imported from Maun.

Further dining info: Individual in-room dining is available upon request.

Special interests

Honeymoons: Baines' is a lovely, romantic camp for a Botswana honeymoon. The star beds – double beds that can be rolled out on to your own private deck at night – offer something quite special, and an intimate private dinner table can be arranged on request.

See more ideas for Honeymoons in Botswana

Wildlife safaris: We highly recommend Baines' Camp for the elephant activity, especially for guests passionate about elephants. Please do note, however, that this option is not available between 15 January and 15 February, when the elephants have their annual break.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Children over seven years of age are welcome at Baines'.

Equipment: No special equipment for children is provided.

Notes: Wildlife wanders through Baines’ Camp regularly. The pool is unfenced and there is open water in front of camp with very little to act as a barrier. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: Power is available in camp 24 hours. The generator can be heard running at times while guests are in camp.

Communications: The camp is in radio contact with the Maun office. WiFi is available in the suites, but there is no cellphone reception.

TV & radio: No

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: There borehole water for brushing teeth and bathing. Drinking water is imported from Maun. All rooms have plumbed-in showers and flush toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: All the managers are first-aid trained and there are full trauma kits on site. Nurses are in direct contact with management to help stabilise patients if necessary. Medical evacuation is available from the camp, with a helicopter able to land three minutes' walk away. In an emergency, guests can be flown to Johannesburg.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: There is a radio in each suite, so that guests can contact the managers in an emergency. Guests are escorted between the main area and their rooms after dark.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at each of the suites and in the main area. The camp also has a water-trailer which can be utilised in the event of fire.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: Included (including smalls). Clothes are both line and tumble-dried.

Money: The camp does not offer currency exchange facilities. There is a small safe in each of the suites that is large enough to store a wallet and/or travel documents.

Accepted payment on location: Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in the form of GB pounds, US dollars, South Afrian rand, euros and Botswana pula, with change given in pula.

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