Kwara is a lovely traditional style camp situated in the Okavango.
Kwara Camp: Our full report
Situated on a forested island, and shaded by large trees overlooking floodplains and a seasonal lagoon in the Okavango Delta, Kwara Camp has the style of a fairly traditional safari camp. It offers its guests year-round land and water activities: big-game-viewing plus access to permanent channels of the Okavango Delta.
Along with its nearby sister camp, Little Kwara, Kwara lies within the private 1,750km² Kwara Reserve, which borders the north side of Moremi Game Reserve. The environments found near Kwara Camp are perhaps more varied than those around most Okavango camps. Seasonal floodplains and wooded islands surround the camp; papyrus-lined permanent waterways and lagoons cover the south of the reserve; and extensive dry land to the north supports mopane woodlands and open scrub savannah.
At the heart of Kwara Camp is a tented central area where you'll find a lounge, bar and curio shop alongside a separate thatched dining area - where colourful table runners and beaded lantern covers adorn the dinner table. Both are raised slightly on wooden decks, with open sides to overlook the lagoon. The comfortable lounge is constructed around the trunks of growing leadwood and mangosteen trees, while the bar is simply a hewn tree trunk with a well-stocked fridge from which you are encouraged to help yourself. This is a place to relax in a comfortable seat and read one of the camp’s small stock of books, play a traditional game of morabaraba or look out over the lagoon to spot visiting wildlife.
Watching from the camp on various stays at Kwara, we have seen plenty of hippo antics in the lagoon; a herd of red lechwe that leaped through the shallows; an entertaining troop of baboons; and plenty of great birdlife, including a crested barbet nesting in a nearby fallen tree.
Down some steps towards the lagoon is a sandy clearing with a firepit encircled by camp chairs. Here an early morning bite is served around a warming fire. It's also a magical spot to enjoy a drink or two after dinner, listening to the sounds of the African night.
Set amongst towering knobthorn and mangosteen trees, Kwara's small plunge pool is framed by a low deck and a few sunloungers. Close by is an elevated viewing hide on stilts and a separate information centre with maps and impressions of animal tracks to aid identification in the field.
Spaced out along sandy walkways under the riparian forest canopy, Kwara Camp's eight tents are raised on individual wooden platforms. Steps leading up to a veranda in front of each tent, where two deckchairs overlook either the lagoon or the floodplain.
Inside, the tents are reasonably spacious and simply decorated, with large gauzed windows and sliding doors that give an open, airy feel. A wood- framed double bed (or twins) with a luggage rack at its foot dominates the room and faces the view. Good-quality bedding in warm creams and browns complements the natural décor, while patterned cushions add a touch of colour. By way of storage, there is a small wardrobe with hanging space, while behind the bed, also acting as the bedhead, are two large wooden shelving units topped with electric storm lanterns. You'll also find a digital safe, flask of drinking water, wildlife magazines, tissues, mosquito repellent, bug spray and mosquito coils. There are no plug sockets, but batteries can be charged in the camp office.
When we last visited in November 2013 these tents felt a little dated, and in need of some care. The managers are acutely aware of this, but until some legal issues are sorted out regarding their concession lease, they’re unable to do the extensive re-furbishment that they know is necessary.
The en-suite bathroom is divided from the main room only by a canvas wall (with a Velcro flap that can be rolled down for a little more privacy). Here there's a flush toilet and double basins with a large overhanging mirror. A door leads to a lovely open-air shower, enclosed by lattice walls and lit at night by a paraffin storm lantern – although showering late evening or early morning during the winter months can be chilly. Conditioning shampoo, shower gel, soap and body lotion are provided. The honeymoon tent, which overlooks the lagoon, also has a claw-foot bath, but all other facilities are the same.
Kwara Camp offers a good variety of activities, including both 4WD safaris (day and night) and water-based excursions. Game drives always have a tracker as well as a driver-guide, which helps to produce some excellent wildlife sightings. The team here is enthusiastic (and sometimes quite single-minded) about tracking predators and the ability to drive off road within the reserve is often an advantage for this. Visibility is excellent too, as canopies are attached to the Land Cruisers only if requested by everyone in the vehicle. As a result, you'll need a hat, plenty of sunscreen and a waterproof bag for your camera gear during the rainy season (ponchos are provided).
For some visitors, Kwara’s highly focused approach to guiding, which usually aims just to track the predators, is exactly what’s wanted. Others who prefer a more relaxed approach – whereby the guide takes aims to make the most of interesting sightings, be they big or small animals, as they arise – probably shouldn’t visit Kwara.
Boat trips at Kwara are usually on an unusual double-decker boat, which has great views over the papyrus. In the past, a visit to a nearby heronry has often been a highlight, particularly between September and December, but on our last visit in November 2013, the variety and quantity of birds nesting at Gcodikwe Lagoon or the neighbouring Xobega Lagoon were sadly lacking. Nevertheless we did see African darters, yellow-billed heron and marabou stalks sitting on their nests, just in much smaller numbers than in previous years.
Kwara’s mokoro trips navigate the shallow edges of the lagoon in front of camp, under the watchful eye of resident hippos, and are often combined with a guided walk on the opposite island. Although not as scenic as some mokoro routes at inner Delta camps, the lagoon is still peaceful and gliding along gives you a close look at waterlilies and birds such as the African jacana and pied kingfisher. Fishing excursions are also available, except in January and February when a fishing ban is enforced by the Botswana authorities.
Our viewKwara is a relatively simple safari camp with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. It’ll suit those who are keen on seeing the big predators to the exclusion of smaller wildlife, and are happy to forgive their fairly traditional tents which prioritise the necessities, rather than the trimmings. Given that, it’s in a great area with excellent game densities and often delivers really great predator sightings.
Ideal length of stay: We would usually recommend three nights at Kwara. Kwara Camp works well in combination with its sister camps, Lagoon Camp and Lebala Camp, which are located in northern Botswana's Linyanti region within the extensive Kwando Reserve; and Nxai Pan and Tau Pan, in the drier reaches of the Kalahari to the south. Note: If you combine Kwara with Lebala, Lagoon, Tau Pan or Nxai Pan for a total of six or more nights, then we can usually offer a long-stay discounted rate.
Directions: Kwara is roughly 30 minutes by light aircraft from Maun. Guests fly in to Kwara airstrip, which is only a 10–15-minute drive from Kwara Camp, depending on the game spotted along the way.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Kwando Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Kwara during our most recent stay was adequate, with some very good dishes, but not consistently so. Meals are served buffet style and a good variety is provided including fresh vegetables and fruit. Guests are normally seated together for meals.
Before the morning activity, a light breakfast is served around the campfire, usually consisting of porridge or a choice of cereals, muffins or biscuits, a fruit bowl, tea, coffee and juice.
After your morning excursion, a wholesome brunch buffet is provided, with a good choice of dishes. We were offered all the components of a full cooked breakfast, as well as a hot dish (cottage pie one day, spinach lasagne the next), a mix of salads, a cheeseboard, home-made bread (including a very tasty focaccia) and a sliced-fruit platter.
High tea sets you up for the afternoon activity. We were treated to yummy chocolate muffins and spicy vegetable samosas one day, and pizza slices, iced lemon cake and sliced watermelon the next, accompanied by tea, coffee and homemade juice or iced tea.
Dinner is served at around 8.00pm – usually a plated starter and dessert, and a choice of main-course dishes from the buffet. Traditional local dishes are included on some nights. We were served a very tasty chickpea and coriander soup with bread roll to start; seswa (pounded beef), pappa (maize meal), gravy, spinach, danawa (beans), and a potato bake from the buffet; followed by apple crumble and ice cream. The next night the vegetable terrine starter was bland, but the main of tarragon-spiced chicken in coconut milk, crispy-coated fish, rice, fresh peas and carrots was enjoyable. This was finished off with a nectarine and chocolate tart. A choice of white or red wine is served with dinner.
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, plus a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne, imported wines and spirits will cost extra and must be requested well in advance.
Photography holidays: Kwara uses open-roofed vehicles for unobstructed wildlife photography. Hiring a private vehicle and guide here is relatively inexpensive and is highly recommended for keen photographers so you can dictate the focus of the game drives and the length of time spent at each sighting.See more ideas for Photography holidays in Botswana
Wildlife safaris: If you’re looking for a wildlife safari in Botswana that focuses on predators, look no further. Kwara’s game and environments are varied, with plenty of tsessebe, impala, zebra, red lechwe, reedbuck, kudu, giraffe, buffalo and elephant – as well as the big cats and wild dogs.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Generally children aged six or over are welcome, but families with children aged 6–12 are required to book a private activity vehicle at extra cost. Groups with children younger than six may be accepted only if reserving the entire camp for exclusive use.
Equipment: Early mealtimes and children's meals can be arranged on request. For a surcharge, a specialist family guide can be booked in advance to accompany a family group at Kwara and its sister camps (Little Kwara, Lebala, Lagoon, Tau Pan and Nxai Pan); please ask us for more details.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Kwara Camp for older children with a keen interest in the natural world.
Notes: Children must be supervised by parents at all times as the camp is unfenced and open to potentially dangerous wildlife, as well as a seasonal lagoon.
Communications: For all intents and purposes you should consider yourself out of contact. There is no cellphone reception, no direct phone or fax and no email – this is the bush! Communication is maintained with the other camps in the reserve via CB radio. In an emergency, radio contact can be made with the main office in Maun.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the tents have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush loos. Guests are usually given a water bottle on arrival with filtered water, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp’s main area. Each room is provided with glasses and a flask of drinking water, which is replenished daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All camp managers and guides are first-aid trained and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept at camp. Each guide also has a basic field first-aid kit to take on activities. In an emergency, the camp can arrange for clients to be flown out.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Because of the Okavango Delta's large population of potentially dangerous animals and the fact that Kwara Camp is unfenced, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. A safety talk is given on arrival. Air-horns are provided in the rooms to attract attention in case of an emergency. Baboons and vervet monkeys do come through camp so it is important to keep tents closed whilst unoccupied, and not to have any food visible (or preferably none in the tents at all).
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the communal areas of the camp and on the veranda of each tent.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included, but as laundry is washed by hand, the service excludes underwear. Washing powder is provided so that guests can wash personal items.
Money: No currency-exchange facilities are offered. There are digital safes in each tent.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and American Express are not. For curio shop purchases there is a 3% credit-card commission. South African rand, British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula are accepted for cash payments.