Baines' Camp: Our full report
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 stands 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 if you are interested in this option. 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 set on the bottom of the wall adjacent to the lounge chair for charging and, unusually for an Okavango camp, a small 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 your preferred drinks.
In the en-suite bathroom, his and hers washbasins stand next to an ample-sized indoor shower, and a toilet within a separate cubicle.
During the evenings, an outdoor bubble bath is drawn for guests in a traditional metal bathtub on the deck. Branches of large fever-berry trees are placed on the deck to set the outdoor ambience, and a floor mat and comfortable slippers are also provided.
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 – delicious and varied on our last visit in May 2016 – 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’. Thoughtfully, the camp has 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 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 here; game densities in this area tend to be lower than in other parts of the Okavango Delta. On our most recent visit, in April 2016 visit, we saw giraffe, zebra, elephant, warthog, baboon, and slender mongoose. We also had a sighting of cute hyena pups playing with their mothers at a permanent den inside the concession. Then luckily at the end of our last morning game drive, we were lucky to spot a female leopard passing through the concession with her sub-adult male club. Our guide mentioned that leopards were not permanent residents of the concession, which leads us to believe that leopard sightings or big cats in general are not common in the area.
We were more fortunate in terms of birdwatching with sightings of coppery-tailed coucal, black-chested snake eagle, African harrier-hawk (Gymnogene), Dickinson's kestrel, Bateleur eagle, lilac-breasted roller, Burchell's starling, and green (red-billed wood hoopoe. Also spotted was a leopard tortoise.
During our most recent visit, we did not participate in any water activities as they were suspended temporarily due to low water levels.
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 as they forage in the bush. 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 viewBaines' 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, although 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.
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).
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 have allowed, the transfer may be by boat instead.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Sanctuary Retreats
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Baines' Camp are group meals serves in the intimate dining area. However, should guests prefer, individual dining can be arranged in another part of the main area or on the outside deck of their 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.
Lunch is served buffet-style on returning from the morning activity, although for those on the Elephant Activity, brunch is served as a buffet out in the bush. On our April 2016 visit during the Elephant Activity, we enjoyed light grilled chicken breasts and cooked vegetable medley with grilles tomatoes, inions, and red bell peppers.
Afternoon tea is taken just before the afternoon activity. We enjoyed a strong black coffee, a banana, and a slice of coffee cake. Tea, lemonade, and various fruits were also provided, in addition to more sweets.
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 a lovely local beef fillet dish, which was excellent.
Dining style: Group Meals
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.
Further dining info: Individual in-room dining is available upon request.
Honeymoons: Baines' is a lovely, romantic camp for a Botswana honeymoon. The star beds; double beds which 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 Stanley’s Camp for the elephant activity, especially for guests passionate about elephants. Please do note, however, that the elephants always have their annual break between January 15 - February 15.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over seven years of age are welcome at Baines'.
Special activities & services: Mokoro training with parents, which is done with a guide while parents enjoy sundowners.
Equipment: No special equipment for children is provided.
Generally recommended for children: The elephant experience would be quite memorable and a real learning experience for children and parents alike, although the minimum age for this activity is nine years. Otherwise, the game drives, especially when water levels are high, can be hard going. Because of this and the intimacy of the camp, we’d recommend Baines for older or more mature children over the age of 12.
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.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: Power is available in camp 25 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 stabilize any situation. 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 Mall Park Hospital in 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.
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.