Sandibe Safari Lodge

Sandibe Safari Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
12 suites (two are connected for a family suite)
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 71 reviews
Children
Best for aged 12+
Open
All year

Adjacent to Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, the luxurious and uniquely designed Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge sits among towering stands of palm trees, thick riverine vegetation and several huge old baobabs. It's a lovely mix of forested areas interspersed with floodplains and permanent deep-water channels.

Sandibe Safari Lodge was completely rebuilt in 2014, and its rather imposing structure is significantly different from the original: much more luxurious, yet much more environmentally efficient. The owners consider it their flagship camp in Botswana – and we tend to agree. That’s boosted by a friendly and helpful team, who have always made sure that we are very well looked after.

The striking main area is an elongated multi-level structure, open-fronted, and covered by a large curved roof that blends well into the environment. Designed to mimic the scales of a pangolin, the roof is made up of thousands of cedarwood tiles, carefully fitted together like a mammalian suit of armour.

Inside it feels a bit like the inverted hull of a wooden ship, with light wooden tones dominating both the buildings and the décor. At the top, up a series of stairs, comfortable seating marks out the bar and lounge area, with a fireplace for those chilly winter evenings. Open decking extends out into the reed bed and to a raised outdoor viewing area where tables and chairs overlook the floodplains, ideal for private dining or drinks. Keep a look out for elephants wandering past and the bushbuck that like to shelter under the relative safety of the raised platforms.

Closer to ground level is Sandibe's main dining area, a large open space with another smaller lounge and more comfy seating. An interactive kitchen complete with a pizza oven stands behind the long wooden buffet bar, where a large chalkboard displays the daily menu. As on the upper storey, the deck extends out beyond the roof, allowing for dining under the stars, but in cool or wet weather the tables can be brought under cover. As at all &Beyond lodges in Botswana, guests usually dine at individual tables, although there are plenty of locations to socialise with others – and traditional outdoor dinners, held in a sandy boma area at ground level, are usually communal events.

Back in the main building, a few more steps take you down, past his and hers toilets, to a separate lounge area, entered through large glass, folding doors. Here you'll find a small library, some board games and even a large-screen TV (which may be connected on request for events such as football matches, current events, etc). There's also an impressive curio shop where locally made baskets, beaded and silver jewellery and nature books stand alongside branded safari clothes.

Sandy paths lead to a separate building which houses a massage room with a single treatment table, and a small gym, complete with a rowing machine, treadmill, bicycle and bench with weights, as well as an area for yoga, Pilates and stretching.

Sandibe’s 12 suites – two of which connect to form a family suite – are all elevated to maximise the views over the permanent Santantadibe Channel and tall reed beds. From their spacious rooms, large wooden and mesh sliding doors can be opened up completely onto a private multi-level deck, where you'll find a rim-flow plunge pool, a sala area, an outdoor shower and a daybed. For colder nights, enormous metal shutters can be unfolded to enclose the front of the bedroom.

Inside, the suites are decorated in light wooden tones, and are very well thought-out. The open-plan lounge area has air conditioning and a free-standing fireplace complete with armchairs for chilly winter evenings. A polished tree stump forms an interesting coffee table and a well-stocked minibar is almost hidden in the wooden cladding. We liked the discreet hatch, where staff outside can put your tray of morning tea/coffee ready for you to grab from the comfort of your enormous king-size or twin beds. Enclosed within a box mosquito net, the beds face towards the deck, with far-reaching views beyond

Tucked away behind the bed you’ll find a spacious walk-in wardrobe – which feels a bit like a Swedish sauna, but helpfully houses dressing gowns, slippers, insect repellent and spray, a safe umbrellas and a hairdryer.

In the en-suite bathroom, twin copper basins are set beneath two large oval mirrors. While the cylindrical open shower doesn’t offer much privacy, the separate toilet is behind a solid wooden door.

In our experience, the wildlife in the area around Sandibe has generally been very good, with red lechwe, impala, tsessebe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest and plenty of giraffe. Buffalo and elephant are permanent residents. Lion and leopard are the dominant predators, but cheetah, wild dog and hyena are not uncommon. The birdlife here is often good too – although you won't see the full range of water birds found elsewhere in the Delta. Birding here, as in much of the rest of the Delta, is at its best in the green season, between December and March.

Activities from Sandibe are land-based, and include both morning and afternoon 4WD game drives, and guided walks. Guides are accompanied by trackers, who sit on the front of the vehicle and can improve the chance of spotting more elusive animals.

The game viewing at Sandibe was superb on our most recent visit in September 2017. A highlight was watching a mother and her very small cub break from the safety of their cover and come to the waterhole to drink. The reflection of the two cats in the flat pool made for some great photographs. We also saw a group of lionesses lazing in the shade of a tree just a stone’s throw from where a young male leopard had cached a fresh kill in another tree.

The birdwatching at Sandibe can also be excellent with sightings that included grey-headed kingfisher, Dickinson's kestrel, white-backed vulture, grey go-away-bird, loads of spur-winged geese, African grey hornbill, brown snake eagle, double-banded sandgrouse and lilac-breasted roller.

Our view

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge is a uniquely designed lodge, where in our experience the guiding and service match the high standards of the lodge itself. This, coupled with an impressive track record for game viewing in the private concession around the lodge, makes Sandibe well worth considering for those in search of serious comfort and luxury in the Delta.

Geographics

Location: Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana

Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend three nights at Sandibe Safari Lodge.

Directions: Sandibe is about 20 minutes by air from Maun. Guests fly into Chitabe airstrip, from where the game-drive transfer to Sandibe takes approximately three-quarters of an hour (or one hour in the green season)

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: &Beyond

Staff: Raquel & Greg (co-managers)

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: The food at Sandibe has always been excellent – well presented, varied and really tasty. On our most recent visits, those standards have been maintained.

Tea and coffee are brought to the hatch in your room before a breakfast of toast, freshly cooked muffins, meats, cheeses, fresh and stewed fruit, cereal, oatmeal and fresh pastries, along with tea and coffee. You can also order eggs and porridge at the 'omelette station'.

For brunch, served on our return from the morning activity, we were invited to 'build your own burger' in the interactive kitchen. From a choice of, beef, chicken, or kudu burger with various toppings, we enjoyed the beef with cheddar cheese, grilled mushrooms and onions, and sliced tomato.

Afternoon tea, served just before our second activity, was impressive. Decadent freshly cooked doughnuts with chocolate sauce, a light cream and jam sponge, fruit kebabs and savoury options of a Spanish omelette and cheese with flatbread and crackers was substantial fare, which we washed down with a delicious glass of iced coffee.

Dinner at Sandibe is usually a plated, three-course meal with a choice of two main courses. However on our most recent visit we enjoyed a more traditional dinner. The menu, which was announced by the chef, who seemed passionate about his food, started with garam masala chicken-liver parfait with melba toast and fig-and-cranberry sauce. We were then invited to choose items from the grill, including fillet of beef or pork belly, along with roasted vegetables, potatoes and chakalaka – a spicy vegetable relish. For pudding we enjoyed chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream.

Dining style: 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 'premium' wines and spirits cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. Each suite is provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water.

Further dining info: Private dining can be set up on the deck and in your suite.

Special interests

Wildlife safaris: Sandibe is situated in an excellent area for consistent big-game viewing. A variety of predators are regularly seen, alongside a good number of plains game. This is definitely a camp to consider for those wanting good year-round game viewing.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana

Walking: Sandibe focuses primarily on day and night game drives, but they also offer guided walking safaris, with specialist walking guides based in camp. You'll learn about the Delta's ecosystem, plant life, the 'small five' and how to read the tracks and signs left by animals.

See more ideas for Walking in Botswana

Luxury: Each of the stylish and modern rooms at Sandibe Safari Lodge come with air-conditioning, private decks with a plunge pool and a large seating-area making it an extremely comfortable option in a prime game viewing area.

See more ideas for Luxury in Botswana

Children

Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Sandibe but there are restrictions on participation in individual activities.

Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions, but children under the age of five may not participate in any activities. Children aged 6–11 years may participate in game drives only at the lodge manager's discretion. Children of 12 years or above may join in with game drives, but not guided walks.

Special activities & services: Sandibe has a 'WILDChild Programme', which involves a number of fun and educational activities around the camp. Activities are carefully selected according to the interests and ages of the children, and range from tracking and fishing, to making traditional bows and arrows, craftwork, painting and cooking. Children will also receive a WILDChild backpack on arrival filled with a scrapbook and various surprise goodies.

Equipment: Childminding is available at extra cost (currently US$5 an hour) but must be booked on the day of arrival. It should be noted that the staff here are not professionally trained childminders.

Notes: Sandibe is very open with dangerous wildlife in the area; the camp suites are elevated off the ground and the plunge pools are unfenced. There is also open water surrounding the camp. An adult must supervise children at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: Generators are run at night, but we did not hear them during our recent trip. Guests can charge batteries in their suites at all times.

Communications: There is no cellphone reception and no direct phone or fax. WiFi is available in the main guest area and the suites. In an emergency, there are two fixed phone lines in the main office that can be used to dial out. Each suite has a telephone with a direct line to the camp's reception area, as well as an air horn to attract attention in case of emergency.

TV & radio: The lodge has a television in a separate library

Water supply: Other

Water supply notes: All the suites have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flushing toilets. Note that the hot water is shut off between midnight and 4.00am.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The camp managers, guides and trackers are first-aid trained and a comprehensive first-aid kit is kept at camp. In an emergency, Sandibe can arrange for guests to be flown out.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Because of the Okavango's large population of dangerous game, and the fact that Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge is unfenced, guests are escorted to their suites after dark. Air horns are provided in the suites to attract attention in case of emergency.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers on the balconies of all suites. A fire drill map can be found behind each bedroom door.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.

Money: No exchange facilities are offered. There are safe deposit boxes in the suites. The camp does not keep a large amount of cash.

Accepted payment on location: Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Diners and Amex are not, and nor are debit cards. Cash payments may be made in British pounds, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.

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