Shinde Camp is situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta.
Shinde Camp: Our full report
Shinde, meaning 'tree squirrel' in Setswana, is situated on the edge of an area of deep water and lagoons in the heart of the Okavango Delta. It's a well-established camp in a private reserve just to the north of the Moremi Game Reserve. Its wide open floodplains sit alongside some very pretty waterways, allowing for a mixture of both land and water activities.
The main area at Shinde has a wonderful tree-house feel, with a thick canopy of ebony, mangosteen and water-fig trees sheltering a split-level series of teak platforms linked by grand staircases, with scuff steps for safety. High above, an unusual 'wagon-style' canvas roof lends an airy feel and an atmosphere of relaxed opulence.
At the top of the flights of stairs is the dining room, where a spectacular triffid-style chandelier with crystals and lighted tentacles is suspended over a long table, stretching at least a couple of metres on either side. It was a real talking point at the dinner table during one of our visits, and more than once a guest or staff member commented, 'you either love it or you hate it'. For the record, we loved it, although there was talk on our last stay in November 2013 that it was to be removed!
Continuing down from the dining area, the various platforms are home to a series of reasonably secluded lounges, while perhaps more convivial is the informal bar area, fronted by a firepit and surrounded by comfortable canvas chairs. After-dinner drinks are often served here, and guests are welcome to help themselves from the large fridge. A beautifully designed and extremely heavy iron cabinet (apparently it took eight men to lift it!) forms the small curio ‘shop’, stocked with local crafts, including baskets made by Shinde’s staff.
Beyond, a single marula tree lies in the centre of a lawn, a particular favourite with the elephants between about January and March, when they shake the tree to collect the tasty fruits. Away from the main area, sandy paths lead to the rooms, and to a small but attractive pool. Set on a low rise and surrounded on three sides by a wooden 'fence', it has fantastic views over the floodplains in front of camp.
Shinde has eight tented chalets, quite traditional in design and fairly small by the standards of most modern camps. At the front there's a shaded porch with soft chairs, and inside, lively African fabrics give a warm, cosy feel. That said, the combination of dark wood and canvas can make some of the rooms seem a little dark, despite large mesh windows. These windows have flaps which can be lowered to let in extra light and a breeze, or closed for extra warmth and added privacy.
Small touches make the chalets feel quite homely: a jar of cookies baked by the chef; a decanter of sherry laid out for the evening; and a couple of comfortable armchairs. Wooden or tiled floors are dotted with rugs, and the colourful cushions and bedthrows really stand out against white cotton bed linen. In a twin configuration, the beds are separated by a bedside table with built-in lamps for reading, but they can be pushed together on request to make a double bed. There is an overhead fan, and mosquito nets above the beds.
A doorway behind the bed leads to an en-suite bathroom with twin ceramic washbasins beneath twin mirrors, a glass-fronted shower, and an entirely separate flushing toilet. Three of Shinde’s tents are built on individual, raised wooden decks to form their own private area, known as the Shinde Enclave. With its own small, open-sided lounge and dining area, this is an excellent option for families or parties of guests who are seeking a high degree of privacy, and can be combined with Ker & Downey’s ‘Young Explorers’ programme.
Activities at Shinde include day and night 4WD game drives, motorboat trips, mokoro excursions and guided walks. After a few days on the back of a vehicle, we particularly enjoyed a motorboat excursion to Gcodikwe Lagoon, which is best from about September to December – when the birds there are breeding.
On previous visits we have been treated to some outstanding wildlife sightings on game drives, including leopard and lion in November 2010. On our last visit in November 2013, however, big-game sightings were pretty scarce, although we did manage to spot a hyena with her two cubs, who had denned quite close to camp, and a large family of side-striped jackals playing on the open floodplains. Conversely, our mokoro ride through the immensely pretty waterways surrounding camp was a major highlight and we really enjoyed the insightful commentary from our guide, who pointed out many things that we would have missed as he poled us through the reeds.
The camp also offers fishing, with the possibility of catching bream, catfish and African pike, as well as tigerfish in November and December. The guides are all fishermen and are happy to impart their skills to beginners; on a previous visit we managed to catch four bream in one hour! Shinde operates a catch-and-release policy, although if the fish are of a suitable size then the chefs will prepare and cook them for you. Do note, however, that no fishing is offered in January and February, which is the breeding season.
Some guests also choose to combine time at Shinde with a couple of days at their specialist walking camp, Footsteps across the Delta, which is reached by 4WD vehicle and mokoro from Shinde.
Our viewShinde is quite a traditional safari camp with a very atmospheric tree-house feel to the main area. The rooms are relatively small but we do like this camp for its mix of both water- and land-based activities, and for its team of experienced guides – although big game can be a little sporadic. Shinde also works well in combination with dry-area camps in both the Delta and the Kwando–Linyanti/Chobe areas.
Ideal length of stay: We would recommend a stay of three nights at Shinde, as there is the opportunity to do both land- and water-based activities. Note that when Shinde is combined in an itinerary with one of its sister camps – Kanana, Footsteps or Okuti – then there's usually a discount in the total cost, which we'll naturally factor into any quote.
Directions: Access to the camp is by light aircraft to Shinde airstrip, then it is about a five-minute drive to camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Ker and Downey
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Shinde in November 2013 we enjoyed the communal dining, and the food, while not fancy, was good.
Breakfast is served early for those heading out on game drives and a little later for those going out on water-based activities. It is a substantial meal with a full cooked option available, in addition to toast, muffins, cereal, porridge and fruit.
Lunch is usually served after the morning activity, and on our last visit included cheese and spinach filo pie, mixed bean salad, red cabbage salad, rice, a cheese platter, fresh homemade bread and fresh fruit.
Afternoon tea is served just before the afternoon activity and usually includes a savoury snack and a freshly baked cake, pie or biscuits. During our stay we enjoyed the small pizza pastries with peppers and cheese, and the coffee cake was especially delicious.
Dinner is served upon returning from the afternoon activity. The cheese parcel we had to start was a little bland, but the roast chicken with roast vegetables was delicious and plentiful! This was finished off nicely with a chocolate pot and dessert wine.
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 will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Further dining info: None
Attitude towards children: Shinde accepts children above the age of ten years throughout the year. However, if booking the three tented chalets at ‘Shinde Enclave’ – which is on an exclusive-use basis – then the minimum age is usually seven years. Children younger than seven years may be accepted by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use.
Equipment: If arranged in advance, guests at the Shinde Enclave can take part in Ker & Downey’s ‘Young Explorers’ programme. They will be allocated with one of the company’s phenomenal specialist family guides, Paul or Opi, who are enthusiastic and passionate about their work and sharing their knowledge of the wilderness, and who have a lot of experience guiding families with children. For details, see Footsteps. The camp may be able to set up an extra bed or mattress to make up a triple room for one child to share with their parents.
Generally recommended for children: Shinde has a more relaxed child policy than most other camps in the Okavango Delta, where it's unusual for families with children under 12 years not to have to book and pay for a private vehicle. They also allow triple rooms, which can make Shinde more economical for a small family. However, because of the raised areas, the amount of water in the immediate vicinity of the camp and the fact that children will generally accompany adults on all activities, we suggest that the main camp is best for more mature children only. For more flexibility, we'd suggest booking either ‘Shinde Enclave' or a private vehicle.
Notes: The main area is raised, in some parts very high off the ground, with simple handrails only to prevent a fall. The decks can become very slippery when wet and both the camp and the pool are unfenced. Children will need constant supervision from their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no cellphone reception or email at Shinde, but the camp is in radio contact with Ker & Downey ‘s head office in Maun, with the camp's guides on activities and with other Ker & Downey camps.
TV & radio: There is no radio or TV at Shinde Camp.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the tented rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush toilets. 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 also provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Managers are first aid trained, as are the guides. The closest doctor is in Maun (about a 25-minute flight) and the camp has 24-hour radio contact with a Medivac nurse in case of need.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their chalets when it is dark. There is a fog horn in each chalet to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and common areas.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, as long as weather permits, items will usually be returned on the same day.
Money: Each chalet has a small safe. No exchange facilities are offered at Shinde Camp.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted, subject to a charge. Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.