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.
As you arrive at Shinde you'll be met by singing staff with enormous smiles and a very warm welcome. And this was our experience throughout our most recent stay in November 2015, when the staff was always willing to please. We were also very impressed by the recently renovated tents and the new furnishings throughout the camp, which was upgraded earlier in the year.
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 polished teak platforms. Linked together by staircases and ramps, with scuff steps to avoid slipping when wet, these house the reception, lounge and dining room. An unusual 'wagon-style' canvas roof lends an airy feel whilst stylish furniture adds an atmosphere of relaxed opulence.
At the front of camp you'll find an open reception area, where armchairs overlook a semi-circular deck with a firepit and comfortable canvas chairs. Afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks are usually served here, and guests are welcome to help themselves from the fridge and water cooler. A glass cabinet forms a small curio 'shop', stocked with local crafts, including baskets made by Shinde's staff and beautiful earrings made from recycled bottle tops. Behind a screen is a small desk with a laptop, which guests can use to access the internet. There is no WiFi available for guests wishing to use their own devices.
A gradual ramp leads up to the lounge area, tastefully decorated in soft shades of grey, beige and pale blue. There is plenty of comfortable seating, a bookshelf with a good selection of bird, mammal and reptile books, a few board games and a display of baskets. At night, guests may make use of the very retro spotlight to view any animals visiting the camp, notably hyena and genet.
Continuing up the ramp brings you to the dining room, where the views over the permanent waters of the Delta are spectacular. Previous guests may remember the impressive triffid-style chandelier with crystals and lighted tentacles that used to be a real talking point at the dinner table. The new style sees this replaced by smaller cylindrical lampshades that hang above the communal table.
From the dining room, steps descend to a series of reasonably secluded decks, where you can sit quietly in a deckchair, and enjoy the views over the Delta. The tree canopy is a haven for birdlife and small animals including paradise flycatchers, swamp boubous, crested barbets, squirrels and fruit bats.
Paths of sand lead away from Shinde's main area to the rooms, and the swimming pool. Set on a low rise and surrounded on three sides by a wooden fence, this has fantastic views over the floodplains frequented by wildlife in front of camp. Sunbeds lie under large umbrellas, there are fresh towels, and a coolbox is stocked with soft drinks and beers – with plenty of ice to keep them cool. Although you should always proceed with caution, don't be alarmed if an elephant ambles past the pool to browse on the nearby trees and shrubs.
Shinde has nine spacious tented chalets, quite traditional in design, and all raised on wooden decks. Five of these chalets look out towards the open plains, where grazing antelope are often seen. A sixth (the honeymoon suite) and the three tents belonging to the 'Shinde Enclave' all face in the opposite direction, overlooking the papyrus waterways.
At the front of each tented chalet there's a shaded porch with two cushioned wooden chairs and a small table. A wooden-framed sliding door with a mesh window leads inside to the bedroom, which is beautifully decorated in soft tones of green, cream, white and mustard. A large mosquito net hangs over either twin or double beds and a ceiling fan provides welcome relief from the heat in the summer months. Temperature control is aided by large mesh windows, with drop-down canvas blinds to help retain the warmth during the cold winter nights, and eyelet curtains to allow a breeze through during the summer.
Polished teak floors are dotted with rugs, and dark wooden furniture, leather trunks and bedside tables all complement the elegant feel. 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; a couple of comfortable armchairs; magazines, postcards and bird and animal checklists. There is a flask of ice water and two glasses, too, while tea and coffee will be brought to your room with your early morning wake-up call, and at other times on request.
A wooden door to the side of the beds leads to a very spacious en-suite bathroom with twin porcelain basins beneath a large mirror, a walk-in shower with a glass-screen, and a flushing toilet. Complimentary Charlotte Rhys products, bathrobes and slippers are provided, and guests can use the camp's hairdryer if required.
Three of the tents form the discrete Shinde Enclave, which comes with its own private area under thatch, as well as a kitchen, guide and vehicle, but guests here may also use the camp's other facilities. The enclave's small lounge and dining area has steps down to an outside deck with a firepit and camp chairs. When water levels permit, mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe) activities can set out from here. This is an excellent option for families or parties of guests who are seeking a degree of privacy, and can also 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. Water-based activities are subject to water levels, but Shinde can generally offer these throughout the year. After a few days on the back of a vehicle, we particularly enjoyed a motorboat excursion to Shinde Lagoon and making our way through the papyrus and reed channels – great for birding!
On previous visits we have been treated to some outstanding wildlife sightings on game drives, including lion, wild dog and leopard, that latter of which are regularly spotted here. On our last visit in November 2016, however, big-game sightings were scarce, although we did manage to spot a few elephants and giraffe, a good number of tsessebe with their new summer rainfall babies, plenty of impala, zebra and a few wildebeest. We did hear reedbuck and baboons alarm calling which likely meant a leopard was nearby, but unfortunately we weren’t able to find it. A definite plus is that Shinde’s safari vehicles have two rows of three seats, and they try to limit occupancy to four people per vehicle where possible. That means lots of space, more personal contact with the guide, and almost 360 degree views.
We didn't have a chance to experience a mokoro ride on this trip, but previously we've enjoyed the pretty waterways surrounding the camp and the insightful commentary from our guide, who pointed out many things that we would have missed from the back of a game vehicle – including a fantastic sighting of sitatunga, which we gather that though we were lucky to get so close, it wasn't that unusual.
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 – delicious! Do note, however, that no fishing is offered in January and February, which is the fish-breeding season.
For an additional cost, scenic helicopter flights lasting 30, 45 and 60 minutes can be arranged from Shinde Camp. The doors of the helicopters can be removed on request for serious photographers, and the costs (2016) vary from US$445-695 per person depending on the flight length. It’s best to pre-book this activity in advance of travel, but it may be possible to arrange on arrival with the camp managers.
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 from Shinde.
Our viewShinde is quite a traditional safari camp with something of a tree-house feel to the main area. The tented chalets are spacious and beautifully decorated and we like this camp for its mix of both water- and land-based activities, it’s very warm welcome and for its team of experienced guides – although big game viewing can be a little sporadic between November and May. Shinde works very 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 a very easy drive of about five minutes to camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Ker & Downey Botswana
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We’ve always found the food at Shinde to be of excellent quality, and on our last visit in November 2016, there was no exception.
Breakfast is served early, before the morning activity, and is a substantial meal with a full cooked option available, in addition to toast, muffins, a choice of cereal and fruit.
A buffet lunch is offered after the morning activity. In the past we have enjoyed curried chicken on a bed of rice, stuffed peppers with fried onion, mushrooms and pine nuts, a green salad with a selection of oils including the most tasty homemade salad dressing, and fresh homemade bread, followed by a cheese platter and fresh fruit. More recently we had chicken kebabs, peppers stuffed with tasty couscous, lentil and feta salad, mange tout and sprout salad and fresh garden salad, also followed by a cheese platter and fruit.
Afternoon tea, just before the afternoon activity, usually includes a savoury snack and something sweet. During our visits we’ve enjoyed delicious cheese and herb scones, tomato and cheese parcels and a freshly baked cakes, along with iced tea and coffee, lime juice, tea and coffee.
Dinner is announced upon returning from the afternoon activity. It's not quite palatial service, but it is very good and each course is served to the table, so you don't have to queue for a buffet. On one visit we started with a very tasty caramelised onion and feta parcel, then went on to kudu fillet slices, with green beans, roasted carrots, potato bake and gravy. This was finished off nicely with baked pear drizzled in a syrup sauce. On a later visit the smoked salmon salad entrée was followed by lamb shanks, mashed potatoes, green beans, roasted butternut and spiced chickpeas. Desert was a poached pear with salted caramel sauce. You’ll be well fed here!
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. To try and minimise the wastage of plastic water bottles, the camp offers guests mineral water in reusable glass bottles whilst on activities, and from a water cooler in the main area or jugs in the rooms whilst in camp.
Further dining info: Private dinners can be arranged on your deck for a special occasion.
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' on an exclusive-use basis, then the minimum age is 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.
Special activities & services: If arranged in advance, guests at the Shinde Enclave can take part in Ker & Downey's 'Young Explorers' programme. They will be allocated one of the company's phenomenal specialist family guides, Mozeeh (know as Moses) 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 across the Delta.
Equipment: Shinde can set up an extra stretcher bed in a tent to make up a triple room for one child to share with their parents. There are no family rooms, so a family of four would need to divide between two rooms – one adult and one child in each.
Generally recommended for children: Shinde has a more relaxed child policy than most other camps in the Okavango Delta, where private vehicles at an additional cost are often required for families with children under 12 years. Shinde Camp does not require families with children to book a private vehicle. But with the maximum number of passengers per vehicle usually kept at four (unless there’s a family group of five or six), families will typically be allocated a private vehicle anyway. However, because of the raised decks in the main area, 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 the 'Shinde Enclave' on a private basis.
Notes: The main area is raised, in some parts very high off the ground, with only simple handrails 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
Power supply notes: When the generator is on it charges large batteries, which keep the lights operating throughout the times when the generator is turned off. Each room has a strip of multi-national charging points, which means an adaptor is unlikely to be required.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception or WiFi at Shinde, but they do have a laptop that guests can use to access the internet. The connection can be slow so this is best only used to send emails. 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 chalets have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush toilets. Guests are usually given a water bottle on arrival, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp's main area. Each chalet 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 medical evacuation nurse in case of need. 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: The camp is surrounded by an electric elephant fence to keep these animals away from the camp interior – although all other animals can pass through freely. Guests are escorted to and from their chalets when it is dark. There is an air horn in each chalet to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the chalets and common areas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, as long as weather permits, items will usually be returned on the same day. A pot of washing powder is provided in each room should guests wish to hand wash any delicates themselves.
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.