Stayed here for 4 nights having flown in from Kasane airport, about a 1 hour and 20 minute flight with Mack Air, including one 5 minute stop at Sanctuary Chief's Camp airstrip. Baines' Camp is located within a private concession adjacent to Moremi Game Reserve, therefore game drives are able to go "off-road". The actual camp is a good 50 minute drive away from the airstrip - you pass Stanley's Camp along the way.
I will comment first upon the accommodation, meals, staff and then the game drives. My ratings are as follows:
. Accommodation - 4/5
. Meals - 5/5
. Staff - 5/5
. Game drives and cruises - 4/5
This camp has only 5 very private thatched huts that radiate out from one side of a central lounge/dining/reception area and are connected to this central area and the other rooms by an elevated wooden plank and rope walkway. Both the individual huts and the central area appear to be about 2/3 metres above the ground. There is a swimming pool that is also accessed via a separate walkway. There is no spa.
We were advised that the individual thatched huts were uniquely built using aluminium cans placed within chicken wire which was then covered with elephant dung, soil and other material together with commercially cut timber. There are timber floors in each of the individual huts and the central area.
Of the 4 safari camps/lodges that we stayed in during our time in South Africa/Botswana this was the least luxurious. In fact I wouldn't call the individual huts luxurious at all, more fairly basic and rustic, simply furnished but very comfortable, very clean and the "extras" (sleeping and bathing under the stars) certainly lifted this rating. The main piece of furniture in the fairly large bedroom was the king sized 4 poster bed with mosquito netting that was also on wheels (so that it could be wheeled out onto the balcony if you wished to sleep under the stars). There was also a large wardrobe (with plenty of hanging and drawer space and a safe), a sideboard with a mini-bar (free beverages although didn't include boutique wines), a lounge chair with foot rest, a coffee table, a padded seat attached to the wall in one corner and a Thomas Baines painting on an easel. Ceiling fans provided the cooling system. There was a table and chairs on the large uncovered wooden deck that ran off the bedroom. We were in unit 5, right at the end of the walkway, and did not have a view of the water, rather of the bush and although there was a large tree next to the deck (often occupied by baboons during the day) it was fully open to the afternoon sun, such that it became quite warm sitting outside.
The bathroom was down a wide but short corridor with the hand basin visible from the bedroom. On one side was a large shower that had good water pressure but we did run out of hot water one morning (quickly fixed). The toilet was located on the other side to the shower behind a little wall. Laundry was a same day free service.
As details are contained on the Camp's website I don't believe that I am betraying any secrets in advising that on one evening we came back from a game drive to find two separate bathtubs on our balcony, with their own water supply, filled with bubble bath and surrounded by candles. Just fantastic sitting outside in a bubble bath with a glass of champagne looking at the stars.
We also slept outside on the deck on 2 evenings just looking up at the stars and, at times, nervously listening to the noises emanating from the bush. Our very kind house maid, Merapelo, had put a couple of very welcome hot water bottles in the bed and provided extra blankets.
The central reception/dining/lounge area was located, in part above the water, and was built in effectively a full circle around an open area to the sky that contained an old termite mound and a couple of trees. There was both a covered and uncovered lounge area as well as a covered and uncovered dining area although part of this total area was open at the sides. There were a number of comfortable lounge and deck chairs. WIFI (free) worked reasonably well in this area (not however in our room). On the open part of the deck there was also an open fireplace where we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks and snacks. They also had a couple of wood burning heaters on wheels that they moved closer to the dining table during our evening meals.
All of the meals were very good and the chef also supplied some gluten/wheat free options. Breakfast consisted of a small but more than adequate cold selection, some cereals, meats, cheese, fruit, juice, bread/cakes plus a hot option ordered separately which included eggs (scrambled, boiled, poached), bacon, tomato etc. plus tea and coffee.
Lunch. There were generally a couple of choices of hot dishes with several large bowls of separate salads that you served yourself. Some of the choices included chicken curry, pasta with eggplant (separate dish of gluten free pasta provided), bobotie, shepherds pie with vegetables, quiche, tempura fish plus others which I have forgotten.
Dinner - generally dined around 8-00pm and consisted of 3 courses with a soup, main meal and dessert. The mains include Eland, Beef, Chicken and on another night we had a barbecue. Desserts included Crème brulee and pavlova.
Good selection of wines which were included in the overall price.
High Tea - good selection of home baked cakes and slices.
3. Staff - All very good. We were met at the airport by Chippy (who was to be our guide during our stay) and Kaiser ( a tracker from the local community). Both of these gentlemen had an excellent knowledge of the local wildlife. Upon arrival at the Camp we were greeted by John (relieving Manager), Florence and a choir consisting of the other staff members - excellent welcome. Some cold refreshing towels (which we received after each game drive/cruise) and a drink before Florence booked us in whilst we sat in the lounge area and explained the routine. John was very interesting to talk to and generally around but we thought that the Camp pretty much ran itself under the watchful eye of Florence. Enjoyed exchanging messages with Merapelo, our house maid. Charity and DK excellent with the meals. There was a range of local craft available for purchase that had been made by various staff members.
You were escorted by a staff member to and from your rooms after dark.
4. Game drives - there are a number of issues that I consider here including:
. private concession or National Park;
. timing of game drives;
. type of game drives;
. range of game.
Fortunately we saw a good range of game but only one lion during the whole 4 days and no leopards or cheetahs (not sure if the latter are seen in this area).
Baines is in a private concession so the game drives could go "off road" to follow tracks and you generally encountered game of some sort within a 5 minute drive from camp. Vehicles did not have any cover over them. Also, there were only 2 vehicles from Baines' Camp and some from Stanley's Camp permitted in this concession area so you generally did not see the other vehicles except perhaps for "cat" sightings. The boat safaris generally went up the river channels into the Moremi Game Reserve but had to leave this Reserve by 6-00pm.
Timing of the drives. The schedule was that you received a wake-up knock on your door in the morning at 6-00am, had breakfast from 6-30am and at 7-00am went on the game drive (provided your fellow guests didn't dawdle). We were lucky to be away by 7-15am most mornings. We returned any time between 11-30am and 12-30pm. The issue with this timing is that once you left Camp it was still a 50 minute drive to the airstrip - where most of the "cats" tended to be located, if you were lucky enough to find them. Whilst clearly we saw various game during that 50 minute drive we were all very anxious to see some lions and/or leopards. My preference would have been to leave earlier to give us a better chance of seeing some more lions and leopards - recognising of course, that you are in the bush, not a zoo, and that it is always pot luck as to what you get to see.
High tea in the afternoon before you were generally on your game drives/cruises by 3-30pm. The boat cruise was generally back before 6-30pm (when it was starting to get dark) but the game drives got back a little bit later.
. Type of game drives. My preference was the open topped 4x4 vehicles. Amazing and also exciting to see how these vehicles continued to plough through water filled tracks that were over 200 metres long and so deep that we had to lift our feet up as the water flooded across the floor. On one evening coming back to Camp the headlights disappeared below the water. In the mornings we were given warm ponchos, blankets and hot water bottles. We stopped during the game drives for tea/coffee in the mornings and sundowner drinks in the afternoon.
The boat cruises were interesting, darting through narrow channels with high reeds and foliage blocking any view until we reached sections of the main river and the lagoon inside Moremi National Park before turning around. We saw a lot of interesting birdlife but, on the two boat trips we did, no hippos - which we were advised are often in that area. The boat cruises left from the Camp's main reception area. We also had sundowner drinks on the boat in the afternoon.
Mokoro cruise. The Mokoros (aluminium canoes - government no longer allows teak trees to be cut down for this use) are located about a 20 minute drive away from Camp. We went for about an hours ride on the afternoon of our arrival. Very pleasant but channels are through very thick reeds which is about all you see. We had sundowners on the bank upon our return.
Foot safaris - these were not on offer during our visit as we were advised that the rifle was away being serviced/fixed.
Range of game - we saw hundreds of buffalo, also hundreds of impala, baboons and warthogs, plenty of giraffes and elephants, some reedbuck, zebra, kudu, tsessebe, red lechwee and hyenas, a caracal, a serval and a genet and some magnificent birdlife. We were advised that there are no rhinos in this part of the concession. Also, despite the great efforts of Chippy and Kaiser and the fact that we saw numerous lion and leopard tracks that they assiduously followed, we only saw one lion (the same one on each of 3 days) and no leopards. Clearly our luck was out.
Other guests that we chatted to during our stay who had been to Chief's Camp advised that the range of game viewing there was far better and I think that I would opt to stay somewhere in the Moremi Game Reserve if we visited again.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is our smallest and most intimate camp, built on raised platforms high above the Boro River in a huge private concession bordering the Moremi Game Reserve. An eco-friendly property built using only commercially grown wood, with over 150,000 recycled aluminium cans incorporated within the walls to provide insulation. The camp is raised above the permanent water of the Boro River while wooden walkways connect the main areas and luxury rooms. The swimming pool and the wide wooden deck that surrounds the main dining and sitting room is the ideal place to relax while observing the varied wildlife present here. See prowling lions looking for prey at the edge of the lagoon that the camp overlooks, or watch one of the many elephants who live in the area. The five suites at Sanctuary Baines’ are opulent and luxurious, with ensuite facilities and four-poster beds. Traditional safari ceiling fans create a cooling breeze at even the hottest times of the year. Should you wish, your bed can be wheeled out onto the private wooden deck for a night under the stars, overlooking the shimmering waters of the Boro River where hippo can often be spotted. Or take an indulgent soak under the stars on your own private viewing deck in our opulent star bath. At Baines’ Camp, the sky’s the limit. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sanctuary Baines` Camp Hotel Okavango Delta
- Sanctuary Baines' Camp Botswana/Okavango Delta