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Review of Jack's Camp

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Jack's Camp
Reviewed December 11, 2012

The funny thing about me writing this review now, is that it has been 3 years already since I had the (indulge me) Once In A Lifetime opportunity to visit Jacks Camp. And let me add as well, I live in Africa, I have lived here my whole life, I should have been less impressed with Jacks Camp. Ive seen this kind of place before. Yet... I was not prepared for this experience. And I thank my lucky stars for that.

Even for someone who is used to lots of empty space, walking onto the salt pans for the first time was a magical experience. For the first time in my life I was overwhelmed but nothingness, emptiness, open spaces, a thunderstorm playing on the horizon. It could not be scripted better.. The amazing staff from Jacks surprised us with a full bar, in the middle of the salt pans, perfection. Our guide, Super, in my opinion earned his named, for his super comprehensive knowledge, about anything and everything that moves in the beautiful country of Botswana.

Back at Camp I was stunned by the little details, the quirkiness of the decor, the food, OH MY, the amazing food, the beautiful tents.. How can one not like this? Or be impressed by the stunning personalities of the staff we met. This group of extraordinary people had everything under control, with an effortless friendliness. In the middle of nowhere we were welcomed by a family of knowledgable and unreal efficient staff.

Our days were filled with seeing (and hearing about) a massive variety of wildlife. What a treat. Spending a whole morning walking and learning from Bushmen. A mind altering experience.

As a summary: beautiful, unique, lush, stunning, Africa-at-its-Best, treat, amazing, life-changing, A-Must. I want to throw all the stars (more than five) at you, and thank you for one of the best things I ever had the privelage of calling a memory. I want to go back. Tomorrow. And stay for good. It is that good. Put Jacks Camp in your priority list, as number one.

Izak Brink
Johannesburg

  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled with friends
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2  Thank Izak_Brink
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed November 30, 2012

Jack's Camp is on the edge of the pans. We arrived when everything was very dry; animals were few and far between; and the temperature was searing one minute then windy and dull the next. But take nothing away from this place - a mesmerising walk back to colonial days with an astonishing array of museum-like pieces of African natural history. The classy decor and furnishings were a throwback to the good old days but the warmth, friendliness and knowledge of the current camp staff was top drawer. The habituated meerkats provided wonderful photo opportunities; the trip out onto the salt pans was truly mind-blowing; and our time spent with the Kalahari Bushmen was both fascinating and humbling. This is a camp where quad bikes can sometimes play their part in game drives - but alas, we were not afforded that opportunity during our stay. My advice? Go after the rains when everything is greener; the herds of plains game return; and the predators come out to play....

Room Tip: Pick your time of year carefully - so the area is a little greener and richer in wildlife.
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  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank Media1994
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 24, 2012

This was our first camp in a four camp Botswana safari. We were looking for something other than the delta - and this fit the bill. Of all the camps - I was looking forward to this camp the most because of the location and camp ambiance portrayed on the website.

The scenery is beautiful in a different way. The Makgadikgadi Pans are really cool. It is a bit gimmicky with bushman walk and baobab tree but there isn't a whole lot out there. Our guide did his best and we saw more game than I would have thought: meercats, ostrich, zebra, spring hare, brown hyena, etc.

The management is the problem with this camp. We were glad to leave after two sleepless nights. I believe the other 2 couples felt the same way. On the first night the room was filled with bugs that were attracted to the paraffin lamps. Even after we blew the lanterns out, mosquitos buzzed us all night. There are NO mosquito nets around the beds. It was also stifling hot that night. It never cooled down. (We were told it got to 50 degrees Celsius during the day). The other 2 couples didn't sleep either.

The second night was WORSE! They told us they would leave the lamps on the porch and not inside the tent and light a mosquito coil. Well - they didn't do as they promised and the bugs were in the tent again. About 10:00pm, the wind started to blow and we thought that maybe we would be able to sleep because it would keep the bugs down and cool down the temperature. Well it did lower the temp a bit...but the wind turned into a sandstorm - YES a sandstorm! I think the winds gusted to at least 50mph. The wind was so strong it ripped the screening and blew the front of the tent in. There was no way to repair it! We were sitting in a three sided tent in the middle of the desert at 10pm. It was scary. We started blowing the air horn that they leave in each tent for emergencies. NO response. We could hear another tent blowing its horn also. The tents are spaced far apart. You can't see another tent. While we were waiting for help to arrive, we packed up all our belongings because we know we had to move from that tent. When they finally came, they moved us to a tent that was a bit more protected toward the interior of the camp - but we couldn't sleep with the wind and the sounds of the tent creaking and shaking.

The management did not come to check on us for 1.5 hours. They claim they didn't hear the horns - but they should have been responsible enough to check on their guests during such a violent storm. Perhaps they need to install walkie- talkies or radios in each tent.

The next day they apologized for the storm but not their behavior. No apology was needed for the storm - that was Mother Nature. Our guide said they didn't want to risk the safety of their staff to check on the guests. That didn't make any sense at all because they did eventually come out during the storm.....the storm didn't let up until 5am.

Another note about the pool: yes it is freezing cold - which is a good thing in the desert but it had tons of bugs floating on the surface. We would have been happy to skim it - but there was no skimmer to be found. So - the pool remained unused by anyone in 50 degree temperatures.

Everything else about the camp was ok - but our two nighttime experiences and amateur management tainted our stay there. I could not recommend Jack's Camp.

If you are interested in a desert experience, I would try a different camp. All of the other camps we visited were run by Wilderness Safaris. We were very happy with them.

  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank mkbmkb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Simona Q, Sales & Marketing Manager at Jack's Camp, responded to this reviewResponded December 13, 2012

Dear Mkbmkb,

Thanks for your review about your stay at Jack’s Camp in November.

My name is Simona Quaglia and I’m the Marketing Manager for Uncharted Africa Safari co.
First of all I would like to thank you for choosing to visit us, and I truly apologise for failing to meet your expectations. We take everyone’s feedback really seriously and I’ve addressed your feedback with the company’s Director, General Manager and the Staff at Jack’s Camp.

I would like to highlight the following:

- In October and November the temperatures in the Makgadikgadi rise quite a bit, this year was particularly hot as the rains were so late in settling in. We do have a fan operating during day time, but since we have a very minimal footprint, we do not have air conditioners.
- The cross ventilation system of the tents should help getting fresh air in, but it will obviously not be as effective as an air conditioner.
- Light (electrical or the one from the paraffin lanterns) attracts bugs. We can’t leave lanterns outside the room if we might think that there is a storm coming. The lamps could fall and we do not want to have the possibility to set the whole camp on fire.
- We provide, in one of the wooden boxes in the room, mosquito repellent for the body as well as for the room and our house keeping can spray it for you or guests can do it directly if there is a need to.
- The “doors” of the tents are made of a black shade net / mosquito net, and this is why we do not have mosquito net over the beds. Small openings near the zips allowed insects in, and these issues have been pointed out to the managers. We also advised that it would have been better for staff to accompany you to your tent and light the lanterns for you once you were in your tent, thereby reducing the attraction of insects.
- There is no excuse for a dirty pool, and this issue has been addressed with all maintenance and front of house staff. We apologise for this.
- Staff not being attentive enough, is also not acceptable, and we have addressed this issue too.
We have just appointed a new management couple and a new front of House Manager, and we have used your feedback as an example to them of what we do not want to have happening ever again.
- The storm is a difficult issue – Note that this kind of storm (in terms of its intensity) is really not common, we have never had a tent body ripped like this during a storm at Jack's, and it is really a pity that it had to happen to you. The delay was caused by the severity of the storm and the fact that staff could not see beyond a few metres in front of them. As soon as the storm died down a bit and they could get to the tents, they did and moved you to a new tent. However, we understand how vulnerable you must have felt and that staff should have had more sympathy and should have attempted to reach you earlier. Our only defence is that in the past the only storm damage to Guest tents at Jack's has been to the exterior fly sheets, and so the staff assumed that you would not have been quite as exposed as you were.

As mentioned above, we have appointed new managers and we have used your feedback and any other negative feedback to illustrate what is not acceptable.

We thank you for taking the time to write this review, and assisting us in improving our service and standards.

I’m at your disposal for any further information or if you have any other comment that could help us improve our service you can contact me at marketing@unchartedafrica.com

My best regards,

Simona

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 25, 2012

We just completed a 4 camp experience in Botswana and our last camp was Jack's Camp.

I think it is important to preface this review with the fact that we started at Victoria Falls and had been to the Delta prior to our arrival at Jack's.

It should also be disclosed that we are serious nature lovers and seriously enjoy nature in an open and free environment.

Now to out experience at Jack's...

On our arrival we were taken to the communal tent where most social and dinning activities occur. What we encountered were endless cases of sculls and stuffed animals interspersed with jars of fetuses preserved in formaldehyde and multiple examples of skinned animals. Needless to say, after multiple live wildlife experiences this seemed somewhat disheartening.

Please don't miss understand me, the desert environment was spectacular and had it not been for the camp environment it would have been beautiful but we found the camp unbearable.

October is probably not the best time to visit and we truly sympathized with our guide as he tirelessly sought to find ANYTHING alive. We encountered the following assortment of animal life:
Cape Hare, Ground Squirrels, small Antelope and a few other creatures the most impressive being herds of Ostriches.

We also felt that the camp management was exploiting the "Bushman" as they provide a walk with the "Bushman" that was sad at best. These people were imported from another area of Botswana and lived in the camp for their visit. They are representative of the age old people that have inhabited Botswana for hundreds, if not, thousands of years. We were taken on a bush walk with these fine people wherein they showed us how to dig roots,start a fire and survive on other limited resources available in this arid environment.
,
They were introduced in loin clothes, both men and women, while their children in were in more contemporary clothing. Some were obviously uncomfortable in this garb but it was obviously part of the "show". In conversations with the guides/bushman acting as interpreters they clearly said that they were provided normal clothing at home by the government.

It all reminding me sadly, of the American Indians and their miss treatment by the US government.

I admire the management for their attempt to find gainful employment for these people but come on, treat them with respect.

We were in the wrong place at the wrong time but one needs to seriously consider the season before venturing this far out. This camp is out in the middle of one of the greatest deserts in the world and timing is everything.

If you have limited time stick to the Delta, it is worth every second you have and at the cost of a serious Botswana safari Jack's has limited value.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank ramehrer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Simona Q, Sales & Marketing Manager at Jack's Camp, responded to this reviewResponded December 2, 2012

Dear Ramehrer,

Thanks a lot for reviewing Jack’s Camp on Trip Advisor.
I’m Simona Quaglia, Marketing Manager at Uncharted Africa Safari co.
It is a pity you did not enjoy Jack's Camp, and we would really have appreciated you informing our staff immediately of your unhappiness, so that we could give you both a more in-depth explanation of the company and how we operate. It might have been better to talk and interact instead of writing a bad review once you are back home, maybe your stay would have been more positive.

We understand that Jack’s Camp is not everyone's cup of tea – it is very different to any other safari camp. This difference is what we are most proud of and what has set our camps apart in a sea of hotels/camps/lodges sameness.
It is a very eccentric, sophisticated and layered décor, which has seen our company win several awards.

Jack’s Camp is registered as a museum with the Botswana Government, and therefore allowed to collect and display artefacts such as stone tools, fossils of extinct mega-fauna (i.e. giant zebra), historic etchings, maps and a collection of Bushman bead work, found in the area and collected by Ralph’s family. The "jars full of foetuses in formaldehyde are placed in a display case behind glass along with other artefacts, and form part of the display which is dedicated to the development of various animals. Unfortunately we cannot appeal to everyone's taste, and we do state that we have natural history displays at San and Jack's Camp. The stuffed animals are all vintage and from a bygone era – our company does not support hunting or cruelty to animals. All these aspects are clearly shown in all our marketing material, and anyone who has visited any of the camps knows first hand that we have this type of décor.

For what it concerns the wildlife please note that there are species that have been adapting to live in the harsh desert environment such as Aardwolf, Aardvark, Bat-eared Fox, Jackal, Honeybadger, Porcupine, Meerkat, Brown Hyaena. Those species are resident and they will not move from the area regardless of the period of the year, so even if October is a peak Summer month these animals will be there.
Since you are nature lovers I’m sure you are aware of the fact that some of the above mentioned species are extremely elusive. We have been very lucky in our Brown Hyaena spotting and lots of our guests have seen them in our concession.

Finally Uncharted Africa Safari co. works in a close relationship with the Bushmen from the Western Kalahari. It is clearly stated in all our promotional material, and do not pretend that the Bushmen are from this area. We have been working with this group of Bushmen for many years and do mobile expeditions with this community in the Far Western Kalahari. The collaboration is a partnership between Uncharted Africa and the community. This relationship is mutually beneficial, and offers our guests the opportunity of meeting a different culture and to learn from the oldest inhabitants of the Kalahari Desert - their empirical knowledge of the desert is incredible and varied, and allows everyone to understand how much there is to see and to be found, if you know how to. The partnership allows these people to earn money while keeping their social group together and pass their tradition from one generation to the other. As you may know, theirs is an oral tradition and the skills and ancient wisdom is passed down from one generation to the next.

Please note that the Bushmen are free to decide if they prefer to wear traditional clothes or not, as you mentioned some wear loin cloths and skins, and some not. The community are very proud of their skins and their traditions, and want to share that with the Guests.

I’m at you disposal if you want to communicate further.
My email is marketing@unchartedafrica.com

My best regards,

Simona

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 8, 2012

Nothing like an outdoor shower in the middle of a hot day to cool you off. Or you could plunge into the tented pool for a few seconds - it is a polar bear plunge because it gets so cold in the desert at night. Either way, the dry heat was easy to beat. What I liked most about Jack's was the dining tent/museum and the food. Wonderfully prepared and presented. The condiment of hot peppers steeped in gin was truly amazing. Our stay included quad biking on the salt pans which was a blast! We actually encountered a sand storm just after dusk and had to curtail our evening on the desert, but what a memory!!! The staff rallied and prepared a wonderful meal after we all used copious eye drops to clear the sand.. Just thinking about it now gives me thrills!

Room Tip: Some individual tents are a bit of a hike to the main tent.
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  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with friends
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1  Thank funinthesunmidwest
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2012

Like others, we did not expect this to be such a highlight of our Africa trip. We planned our trip through Africa Inscribed and were encouraged to try this camp, despite the lack of electricity. Not only did I not mind the lack of electricity, I loved the serenity. We came here after 6 nights in the Delta (in Little Mombo and Little Vumbura) and loved the contrast. The activities take place mostly in the early morning and at night, so one gets a whole chunk of the day to just relax (nap, read, etc.). The food, especially the beef and vegetarian options, was probably some of the best we had during out 4 week Africa journey. The staff and guides are great - knowledgeable and very upbeat. They make a genuine effort to engage everyone in what seems like membership in a special club - of those who visit Jack's Camp. It sounds silly but it works. We had a great time.

Room Tip: We had room 7 which is very private, although a bit of a hike to the dinning tent. We were happy to...
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  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank shildon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 1, 2012

This posting is one of several reporting on our Aug. 2012 family trip (2 grandparents, 2 parents, two 10 year olds) to Johannesburg (Westcliff Hotel), Victoria Falls (Royal Livingstone Hotel), Botswana (Camps: Kwetsani, Little Mombo, Jack's Camp). All booked through the tour operator Africa Odyssey. An add-on trip was done by myself & husband to Cape Town, Plett Bay & Franschook in the winelands, booked through Travel Butlers.

When Africa Odyssey recommended Jack's Camp, I wasn't sure. Seemed kinda barren, not much wildlife, would the kids like it. They convinced me that it would be a great opportunity for the kids to move around after the days in safari jeeps at other camps; they said all kids like the meerkat experiences & riding the 4X4s. They were right. We are all so glad we had this camp.

There is no electricity, but other than no hairdryer, you will not miss it. Candle llight at dinner is perfect; plenty of hot water; and kerosene lamps in your room at night. There is a charging station in the main tent the works during the day. There is a cold pool under an open sided tent with incredible views of the pans.

We had an amazing evening with the San Bushmen...they walked about showing us how they trap, start fires, discover food. There was a healing dance. I cannot say what an incredible experience this was for our family!!!

The other reviews details the awesome stark beauty of this area. The quiet was so intense on the pans that - when alone and away from the jeep & others - I found it almost overwhelmingly emotional. Even the 10 year old kids liked it! You will never see a sundown or a night sky or a sun rise the way you'll see them here. This is truly a place to go for experiences you will not have anywhere else on earth.


Our guide was Chabba. He was wonderful & quite funny. Per other posting, he & Super do have a fun rapport! Meerkats were great for the kids...adults would probably be underwhelmed as stated elsewhere.

Read the history of the camp on their website. Fascinating. You will feel like Lawrence of Arabia!

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank jjssi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Jack's Camp

Address: Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Botswana
Location: Botswana > Central District > Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Amenities:
Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 9 Specialty Lodging in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Jack's Camp 4.5*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Jack's Camp is an oasis of style and comfort in the middle of Botswana's Kalahari Desert. An authentic, 1940's style tented safari camp, which houses a private museum, shop, drinks tent and pool pavilion. Spectacular vistas, creative surprises, expert guiding, old-world safari styling and superb cuisine all come together to create an experience that is completely different to any other. Activities vary, combining wildlife with culture, history, archaeology and geology. Activities on offer all year round include: interacting with incredibly friendly habituated meerkats, walking with Bushmen Guides, game drives to experience unique desert wildlife, Chapman's Baobab - one of the oldest and biggest trees in Africa, birding and night drives. Dry season activities: 16h April - 31st October Quad bike across the saltpans Wet season activities: 1st November - 15th April Zebra and wildebeest migration ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Jack`s Camp Hotel Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

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