Mapula Lodge

Mapula Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
Nine chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 19 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

Mapula Lodge occupies a stunning position in a game-rich, private concession, or reserve, within the northern Okavango Delta. Set on a large tree island at the edge of seasonal floodplains, it overlooks a permanent lagoon complete with resident hippos and varied birdlife. Following a change of ownership in 2018, there have already been some significant changes, with plans to rebuild the chalets and main area in 2020 – and potentially to change the name to Jack's Island Lodge.

The lodge lies in the NG12 concession, slightly north of the renowned Vumbura and Duba Plains reserves, in an environment that's fairly similar to that found at Vumbura. The wildlife in this region is varied and there can be excellent sightings of big cats, wild dogs and large herbivores.

Mapula shares the reserve with two other camps (neither of which we feature), so guests do occasionally come into contact with their game vehicles when out on drives.

The camp’s nine canvas-and-thatch chalets are fairly well spaced along sandy pathways. They are built about six steps up on raised platforms among some lovely old trees, in harmony with their surroundings, and maximising the views over the lagoon. When the chalets are rebuilt, which is planned for 2020, the aim is to enlarge them and space them out even further.

The current rooms have large, almost floor-to-ceiling mesh windows, with an extra window at the back to allow a through breeze and better ventilation. The floors are constructed from old wooden beams, which extend to each chalet's private sheltered balcony.

Inside you'll find twin or double wrought-iron four-poster beds with overhead fans and mosquito nets, their fabric canopies giving a slightly ornate feel. Either side of the beds are bedside cabinets with good reading lights; the switches are accessible from inside your mosquito net, which is handy!

The small living area has a wicker sofa scattered with cushions, a wooden trunk with a tray and flask of ice water, a small coffee table and a chest of drawers with a charging point for international plugs.

The en-suite bathroom is behind a curtain, allowing a little privacy. Dark-wood clads the walls at the back, with shelving and hanging space, and ample lighting. Here you'll find dressing gowns, towels, sarongs, insect repellent in a little wooden box, and complimentary toiletries. Twin basins with copper taps sit beneath a large mesh window, and there are two showers: one inside with exposed copper piping and a large copper showerhead; the second through a solid wooden door on a separate small deck. Everything is compact, neat and tidy.

The traditional thatched main area of Mapula Lodge features reed-and-stick walls at the back, and a completely open front to make the most of the views. The open-plan layout incorporates a comfortable dining room and lounge, whose focal point is an antique dresser that serves as a drinks cabinet. Two small seating areas are furnished with simple, if slightly dated, couches in bright fabrics, and decorated with wooden carvings, brass ornaments, grass baskets and woven chandeliers. A wooden table with canvas directors' chairs runs the full length of the dining area, while tucked away is a rather uninspiring tea and coffee station – though afternoon tea is set up outside in a far more attractive setting.

On the large deck, you can sit in the shade of an ancient African ebony, while a walkway leads out from the deck to a jetty, which comes into its own when water levels rise. There is also a boma (a firepit surrounded by more directors' chairs), where we enjoyed a nightcap, watching the fruit bats flying to and from the sycamore tree.

Off to the side on a separate deck is a swimming pool with sunloungers and a shady sala – along with a few yoga mats, skipping ropes, weights and an exercise ball.

Activities at Mapula focus on day and night game drives and guided walks. If you're particularly keen on walking, we recommend that you let us know in advance so we can make sure the camp has a trained walking guide available. Water levels permitting (usually around end April to mid-October), Mapula offers mokoro (dug-out canoe) and motorboat excursions from its own jetty, but on our last two visits – in March and November 2019 – these were not possible.

The Okavango's main “buffalo fence” runs through part of the Mapula reserve. Although this can detract from the aesthetics of some views, the game largely ignores it, easily passing from one side to the other through its many gaps. Game drives operate on both sides of the fence, and the range which these can cover varies depending on flood levels. Due to the different eco-systems, wildlife on both sides is plentiful and varied, and the birding is excellent.

Most visitors combine Mapula Lodge with one or two of its sister camps: Sable Alley or Tuludi in the Okavango, or San Camp or Camp Kalahari in the Makgadikgadi Pans.

Our view

Mapula is an old favourite of ours. Standards did slip for a while but on our two most recent visits we have witnessed some promising changes, and there are plans to completely rebuild the rooms and main area. For now, don't expect five-star luxury, though for travellers seeking a good-value Botswana safari in an area of plentiful game area with good guiding, Mapula would make a sound choice.

Geographics

Location: Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend a stay of two or three nights at Mapula Lodge.

Directions: Mapula Lodge is approximately 40 minutes by light aircraft from Maun, followed by a game drive of about 30 minutes, depending on water levels and the wildlife you see on the way. When the water is high (usually from around end April to mid-October) you are more likely to boat into camp after a short ten-minute drive from the airstrip.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Natural Selection

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On past visits we have found the food at Mapula variable, but on our most recent two visits in 2019 the food was very good. With advance warning most dietary requirements can be accommodated.

Our early-morning breakfast before the day's first activity was a full continental buffet of cereals, pastries, yoghurt and fruit. A cooked breakfast was on offer too, along with coffee and tea.

An early lunch, generally plated, is served after your morning safari activity. On our most recent visit, in November 2019, we enjoyed battered hake served with a fresh green salad and steam vegetables. This was followed by a platter of cheese with biscuits and fresh fruit.

Afternoon tea before your second activity usually includes a savoury snack and something sweet, along with iced tea, homemade lemonade, tea and coffee. We had assorted sandwiches, pizza slices and a freshly baked carrot cake.

Dinner is a full three-course plated meal. Our starter was a spicy carrot soup, which was followed by a juicy rump steak served with creamy mash, gravy and steamed vegetables. For dessert we had a fresh lemon tart.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (generally) South African wines are included. Imported wines and spirits and champagne cost extra – and need to be requested in advance. The camp has a filtration process to purify borehole water for drinking. Fresh bottled water is also available.

Special interests

Birdwatching: Having a variety of habitats on its doorstep Mapula Lodge is a superb camp for birding. Over the years, we have spotted dwarf bittern, wattled crane, saddle-billed stork, brown snake eagle, Meyer's parrot and lesser grey shrike.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana

Wildlife safaris: As part of a wildlife safari in Botswana, Mapula Lodge offers plenty of plains game, including zebra, buffalo, lechwe and giraffe, as well as elephant, and predators such as lion, leopard and wild dogs.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Mapula welcomes children aged six years and above.

Property’s age restrictions: Private game-drive vehicles must be booked, at an additional cost, for families with children under 12 years. Although children under 12 may join mokoro excursions at the manager's discretion, we wouldn't recommend this. Only children aged 16 years and over may join walking safaris, but for younger children, shorter walks in the vicinity of the lodge may be arranged with the manager.

Special activities & services: Aside from shorter walks in the vicinity of the lodge there are no special activities for children.

Equipment: No special equipment is available.

Notes: Mapula Lodge is very open with dangerous wildlife walking through the camp, so children will need constant and close supervision by a parent or other adult.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator.

Communications: For most purposes, consider yourself out of contact here. There is no cellphone reception and no email. Satellite phone contact can be made with Maun in an emergency.

TV & radio: No radio or television!

Water supply: Borehole

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a first-aid kit kept at camp. The nearest doctor is in Maun, a 40-minute flight away. 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: Because of the Okavango Delta's large population of dangerous game, and the fact that Mapula Lodge is unfenced, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark.

Fire safety: You will find fire extinguishers in all the rooms.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included but for cultural reasons, this excludes underwear. Washing power is provided in your chalet for you to handwash these items.

Money: No exchange facilities are offered.

Accepted payment on location: Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted, but Diners and Amex are not. Cash can only be accepted for tipping.

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