Baines' Camp

Baines' Camp: Our full report

Rooms
5 suites
Traveller's rating
Excellent (92%) From 17 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' 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, these are 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 and/or floodplain at the front of each suite, with a couple of chairs and a table with umbrella to enjoy the outdoors during the day. Just inside each suite is a seating area with a very comfortable lounge chair, and in the opposite corner a small integral corner sofa. To one side of the bed 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, behind the bed is an open wardrobe with ample hanging space and shelving, a luggage rack, and a sideboard where there are plug points for charging batteries; unusually for an Okavango camp, a hairdryer is also provided. A small fridge/minibar is typically stocked with water, a few soft drinks, and G & T, but you have only to ask and the team will stock it with drinks of your choice. There is also a tea and coffee station with biscuits in a jar.

Off to one side, down a short passage, is the en-suite bathroom, where his and hers washbasins are incorporated into a dark wood cabinet beneath two mirrors with distressed white painted frames. To one side is an ample-sized indoor shower with a view; to the other a toilet in a separate cubicle. A range of Africology toiletries is provided, along with slippers and a bathrobe. There is even a full-length mirror!

High raised wooden walkways connect Baines' Camp's suites to the relatively small but cosy main area. Nestled amongst the papyrus reeds, it is built on raised wooden decking around a large termite mound. As well as a comfortable lounge, with ample space for guests, it incorporates a small library and the dining area – both open at one end onto the deck. 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 though on our last visit, in October 2017, we never had to. In warmer weather meals may be taken on the deck, where there is also a small firepit overlooking the Boro River. Hippos can often be seen wallowing (and heard snorting!) here, and the view is beautiful, even by Botswana standards.

A couple of glass cabinets at the entrance serve as a curio shop, where there is an interesting section showing how the camp walls are constructed from thousands of used cans collected by a local community in Maun. A fee was paid for every can: quite innovative and very eco-friendly.

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 large, shady 'salas' (day beds). Thoughtfully, the camp has also provided a fridge well-stocked with refreshments. You will often get elephant and hippo wandering through this area of the camp.

Activities from Baines' include both day and night 4WD safari drives which can go off-road to track game within the private concession. 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. Boat excursions and mokoro trips are both available, depending on water levels; in October 2017, both were still running. Walking safaris outside the reserve are available on request; if these interest you, let us know well in advance so the camp can try to ensure 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 and this was the case during our most recent visit. However we did see plentiful giraffe as well as elephant, warthog, reedbuck, red lechwe and three lions – two males and a female together. Other guests also saw a leopard with a fresh kill while we were out doing the morning elephant activity. Despite these sightings, leopard and lion in this area can sometimes be difficult to spot.

Birdwatching however seems to be consistently good here with sightings amongst the team that included coppery-tailed coucal, black-winged stilt, black-chested snake eagle, African harrier-hawk (gymnogene), Dickinson's kestrel, bateleur, lilac-breasted roller, Burchell's starling, and saddle-billed stork.

During our visit we took part in the mokoro activity, as water levels were still high enough – as they were on a previous visit in November. The birdlife we spotted from the water was very good and we also spotted the tiny but ‘twinkle-sounding’ painted reed frog. On our previous excursion 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 two semi-habituated African elephants on an amazing elephant activity. Tragically the third elephant, Thembigela (Thembi), passed away due to colic in March 2017. Nevertheless, we spent a magical morning with Jabulani (the bull) and Morula. It’s an incredible, memorable experience, under the guidance of the experts, Doug and Sandi Groves, when you can walk with the elephants, learn about them, and spend time interacting with them in their natural environment.

The elephants are gentle and clearly love human interaction, sometimes coming up to nestle the tip of their trunks into your hand. Doug (who the elephants seem to regard as their 'patriarch') and Sandi, explain the story of each elephant, and invite guests to come close and touch (under their 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 the trees, with the elephants eating in the background, and occasionally trying to join the guests at the table.

Our view

Baines' suites are smart, comfortable and well-equipped, and the option to roll the beds outside has been a highlight for us. The staff are always friendly and helpful. 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 possibly see more wildlife.

Directions: Access is by light aircraft to the camp's airstrip (15 minutes from Maun and 1 hour 15 minutes from Kasane), which is shared with its sister camp, Stanley's. From there it's approximately 45–60 minutes by vehicle 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: Over the years our meals at Baines' Camp, most recently on a visit in October 2017, have been delicious and varied. Guests normally eat in the evening 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 and lunch are usually at individual tables but again are flexible.

Breakfast is offered before heading out on the morning activity. As well as the usual coffee and tea, toast, fresh muffins and cereal, we had the choice of cold meats, fruit, yoghurt, cheeses, croissants and even a full cooked breakfast made to order.

Lunch is served from a small à la carte menu. For starters our choices were cauliflower and roasted tomato soup or pancakes with sweet and sour vegetables, served with home-made bread. For the main course we opted for a tasty chicken stir-fry with creamed lemon spinach; the other choices were Thai beef and egg noodles or mixed refried beans with poached egg). For dessert a fruit platter was a refreshing finish; though a white chocolate and passion fruit semifredo did look tempting!

For guests participating in the elephant activity, a buffet lunch is served under the cover of a large feverberry tree. The choice included grilled fishcakes, kudu stew, vegetable omelette, rice and a crisp green salad with tomatoes; we enjoyed a little bit of everything.

For afternoon tea, 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, again chosen from a small à la carte menu with a choice of two starters, three main dishes and two desserts. We opted for crumbed camembert with redcurrant sauce followed by grilled pork with fondant potatoes and roasted vegetables and finished with poached pear in red wine jus – all delicious.

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 the age of five are welcome.

Property’s age restrictions: Children aged six years and older are welcome at Baines'. There are further age restrictions on activities: for the elephant activity the minimum age is nine years, for mokoros the minimum age is 12 years, and children aged 15 and under are not allowed to take part in walking activities.

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 notes: Solar 60%; generator 40%. Baines’ is gradually switching to solar power, with the generator to be used just as a back-up. Power is available in camp 24 hours.

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 is 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 Maun or 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 GB pounds, US dollars, South African rand, euros and Botswana pula, with change given in pula.

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