Banoka Bush Camp is situated on the banks of a seasonal lagoon
Banoka Bush Camp: Our full report
Named after the Banoka people or river Bushmen, who first settled in the Okavango Delta, Banoka Bush Camp is situated in a former hunting concession, now part of the Khwai Community Concession. The camp overlooks a lagoon connected to the Khwai River, close to the northern border of Moremi Game Reserve. ***STOP PRESS*** In October 2016, we learned that Banoka Bush Camp has been taken over by new management and is currently closed. We are awaiting news on its re-opening.
Banoka's open-sided main communal area and its expansive deck overlook the lagoon, with views on to the lily-covered waterway. To one side is a bar area, often used for pre-dinner drinks, while at the water’s edge is the main dining area. A very comfortable and tastefully decorated seating area provides a great place to relax in the afternoon.
A walkway leads to sunloungers on a wooden deck surrounding the swimming pool, which is quite large by Delta standards, and shares the water view in front of camp.
Long, sandy pathways lead out from each side of the main area to Banoka’s ten tented chalets. Spacious, timber-framed, canvas-walled structures, these are elevated on stilts, with wooden steps up to a veranda in front with a couple of camp chairs. Wooden doors lead inside to reveal twin beds, or a double, with a substantial wooden headboard that dominates the room. Behind is a shelving unit for clothes that incorporates an electronic safe. His and hers washbasins, a large mirror and an open-plan shower are also positioned here, while a door leads to a separate toilet. The chalets are
simple but well built and very clean cut in design. The windows are mosquito mesh, which can be covered by canvas flaps in the cold winter but provide a cooling breeze in summer.
For families two family units can effectively be created at Banoka Bushcamp, since two pairs of chalets sit opposite one another, and can be connected via a single set of steps. Although this arrangement would be too far apart for families with younger children, it would suit those with older teenagers.
Activities at Banoka Bush Camp include day and night game drives in 4WD vehicles, seasonal mokoro (dug-out canoe) excursions and, on request, visits to Khwai village. Game drives are conducted both within the Khwai Concession and to the Moremi Game Reserve – which is entered across the Khwai Bridge, about 75 minutes drive from camp, making it a full day activity.
The Khwai Concession itself incorporates some of the most diverse habitats in northern Botswana and the Okavango Delta. Riverine woodland and open floodplains flank the river and attract herds of plains game, along with the predators that hunt them. Away from the river and Delta lagoons, the environment changes to mopane woodland dotted with open grasslands which, together with the abundance of water, draw herds of elephant and buffalo.
Although we have found the guides at Banoka to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic, it is one of the less-costly camps run by Wilderness Safaris, and this is primarily a reflection of the game densities in the immediate area. For this reason, game drives from Banoka are usually conducted nearly an hour east of camp, closer to the North Gate of Moremi along the Khwai River.
The camp itself is located in a former hunting concession and the game on all our visits has been very limited. Added to this, the thick mopane bush lining the roads around camp can make it difficult to find game, especially in the earlier months of the year. Over the years we have been fortunate to spot a leopard with a kill up a tree, however in May 2014, although we spent some time tracking wild dog that had passed through just an hour or two earlier, neither they nor the lion that had been through camp that night could be found amongst all the mopane. We did however come across a pair of very irate honey badgers, who were not impressed that we had interrupted them!
We also really enjoyed our first mokoro excursion, which was led by our guide, but with polers from the local community who shared a wealth of information with us about the area.
Our viewWe have mixed feelings about Banoka. The accommodation and main area are of a high standard with a fantastic swimming pool area and an expansive, open deck. The food is very nice, the staff friendly, the guiding good and the management always attentive. It's also good value, compared to similar-standard camps in the Moremi/Okavango Delta area. However, the lack of game around camp, and the need to drive far to find it, is a big drawback, and game densities have some way to go before sightings are consistently good. Travellers should also be aware that Banoka is sometimes used for groups touring through Botswana, which might not appeal to individual visitors.
Ideal length of stay: We'd suggest a stay of two nights at Banoka Bush Camp, probably combined with other camps in more watery parts of the Okavango Delta or areas with denser wildlife.
Directions: Access to camp is usually via light aircraft to Banoka airstrip. It is about a 15-minute drive between the airstrip and the camp.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Banoka in May 2014 the food was overall very good.
A light breakfast of cereal, toast, pancakes and muffins is offered before the early-morning game drive, together with tea, coffee, and fruit juice.
Brunch is served after the morning activity. A range of cooked options can be prepared on request, such as eggs of your choice with sides such as bacon, sausages and mushrooms. In addition we had lasagne and a huge selection of salads and freshly baked bread. If guests opt for a full-day game drive, the camp will arrange a packed lunch (usually sandwiches, fruit and biscuits).
Afternoon tea, served just before the afternoon activity, was delicious. We had blue cheese and walnut tart, pulled pork wraps, chocolate brownies and an apple and honey cake, as well as iced tea and coffee.
Dinner on our last visit was very tasty: a starter of cheese and vegetable spring rolls, with lamb stew, lebanese rice and roasted vegetables for a main course. As it was one of the guest’s birthdays that evening, the chef had cooked a very decadent chocolate cake with cream-cheese icing.
Once or twice a week the camp will prepare a traditional Setswana meal for dinner, which is usually accompanied by singing and dancing.
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 cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. There are usually tea- and coffee-making facilities available in the main building during the day.
Further dining info: None
Attitude towards children: Children of 6–12 years old are welcome at Banoka Bush Camp and are accommodated on game drive activities along with all other guests. It is not necessary – as it is with most other safari camps – to book a private vehicle, but please note that the minimum age for any mokoro (dug-out canoe) activity is 13 years. Children younger than six are accepted only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Equipment: There is no special equipment provided for children.
Generally recommended for children: Although children aged six years and above are welcome at Banoka Bush Camp, they share game drives with other guests, usually adults. Therefore, we recommend the camp only for older children with longer attention spans, as they may have to sit quietly for long periods of time.
Notes: The camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife can wander through at any time. There is no fence around the pool. The tented chalets and main buildings are all raised off the ground on decks, with open railings. Children need to be closely supervised by their parents/guardians at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: Similar to its sister camp (Kalahari Plains) in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Banoka Bush Camp can be 100% solar powered, although it also has a back-up generator, should this be required. It's worth asking for a back-of-house tour during your stay to learn how the camp functions and, in particular, about the efforts being made to promote sustainable and renewable energy usage at the new breed of safari camps like Banoka.
Communications: There is no mobile reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: Banoka is in the bush and there is no TV or radio.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the chalets have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers and flushing toilets. Guests are usually given a water bottle with filtered water, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp’s main area. Each room is also provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water, which is replenished daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. All management and guides are first-aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergency. There is a nurse on call (via radio) 24 hours a day. 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 rooms after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A safety briefing is given on arrival. 'Fog horns' are provided in the rooms to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There is a fire break near the camp and a fire hose outside each room.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included at Banoka. 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, which are not handled by the staff.
Money: There is a safe in each room. No exchange facilities are offered.
Accepted payment on location: Visa and MasterCard are accepted, as are cash payments in US dollars, euros, GB sterling, South African rand and Botswanan pula.