The Selinda Reserve is located right in the center of the famous Selinda Spillway (which flows across the concession, linking the far reaches of the Okavango Delta in the South with the Linyanti systems in the East). It flows into the Zibadianja lagoon, then through the Savute channel and eventually ends at the Savute marsh.
Zarafa and Dhow Suites
Zarafa Camp and its private villa, Dhow Suites, are synonymous with exclusivity and perfection. The spirit behind Zarafa Camp originates with renowned wildlife filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Together, they designed Zarafa to be the ‘perfect’ safari camp.
This year, Dhow Suites opened to cater to families and small groups. Each of the camp’s four immense tented suites and the private Dhow Suites are raised up on wooden decking and shaded by a canopy of African ebony and red ivory trees. You are completely surrounded with uninterrupted views.
The four sprawling marquee-style tented suites, are raised on old railway sleeper decks, each with a private plunge pool and outdoor needle-shower. An ornate Zanzibar door leads into a lounge area, separated by canvas partitions from a spacious open-plan bedroom and bathroom. Polished wooden floors are lined with rugs, and rooms are filled with leather furniture and wooden chests to create an early-settler feel. All the canvas is double-sided, so the suites remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The roof of each suite has three layers: an inner lining for decoration and two outer layers for protection and insulation.
In each suite there are lovely extra touches, including a chest filled with watercolor paper and paints and a small range of wildlife books. There is even a yoga mat and weights. A number of well-stocked chests and leather and brass-trimmed boxes are filled with a selection of alcoholic beverages; tea and coffee; and mixers, ice and chilled fresh water.
The bedroom in each of Zarafa’s suites has a large bed with mosquito net and an air-cooling system. The bathroom facilities include a luxuriously deep copper bath, indoor rain-head shower, twin basins and a separate flush toilet. For the winter months a copper gas heater helps keep the tent warm.
A large marquee encompasses Zarafa’s main area, its lounge, dining room, bar and library are all beautifully decorated in the same early-settler style as the rooms. This main area leads out to an extensive deck where most meals are served. Neighboring the tent houses is one of the nicer curio shops in Botswana’s camps. It stocks locally made goods and quality African artifacts. Additional facilities include an outdoor ‘jungle gym’ and in-room massage treatments.
Each area of Zarafa overlooks the floodplains around the Zibadianja Lagoon. Wildlife, particularly elephant and hippo, are a common sight. Baboons have been a nuisance these days though as they have been “people watching” from the Sausage Tree in front of reception. Harmless unless provoked, they walk around the main areas leisurely and stay by the side if a man is to pass through. We also saw a number of warthogs sniffing around camp casually.
Though it is one of Botswana’s most exclusive and most costly camps, you will soon realize that what sets it apart are the thoughtful touches from the distinctive décor and personalized guest stationery to the Swarovski binoculars, digital camera and memory cards provided for guests’ use. Even the service is a cut above the rest. The doting chef who plated our buffet lunch and our guides’ are all experienced photographers as well who can assist guests in capturing perfect wildlife shots. That’s beyond expectations! I distinctly remember Mel’s story on how she had to accommodate a family on kosher diet. It was quite a challenge considering the camp’s remoteness and limitations but they were able to deliver.
If you’re looking for indulgence, great game viewing, polished guiding and service, this is the place. The best time to visit is without doubt during the dry season, from June to October. Zarafa has succeeded in combining luxury and adventure in an exclusive yet informal setting.
A partial morning game drive on the way to the dock area and a 15min boat ride brought us to Selinda Camp. It was the most convenient way to take us there but the camp is accessible by land as well. Wide, dry grasslands, dotted with waterholes and interspersed with palm-fringed ‘islands’ and stands of leadwood trees, cover the area as far as the eye can see. It’s a picturesque, open environment and guests can spot game a long way off. It’s perfect for following predators like wild dogs on hunting sorties.
The main area is an open-plan central area with panoramic views of the surrounding channels and floodplains. Constructed of wood and thatch, it has a lovely viewing deck and relaxing lounge area, with plenty of comfy sofas. The décor and design are influenced by a variety of African cultures. The camp also has a small circular pool which serves its purpose.
A short, sandy path from the main area leads to a well-stocked curio shop, and beneath is a gallery showcasing Beverly Joubert’s impressive photographic work. Should guests wish to buy copies, the camp can organise for these to be shipped anywhere in the world. Adjacent is the camp’s submerged wine cellar that keeps everything from house wines to premium champagnes cool.
Selinda Camp’s nine tented chalets (including one family suite) are spacious and luxurious, constructed of wood, with canvas walls under a canvas-and-thatch roof. Steps lead up to a large decked balcony with two chairs and a table, with striking views over the floodplain in front of camp. The chalets are entered through sliding doors at the front, with hook-latches to keep them closed. Inside, both the bedroom and bathroom are fully enclosed and insect-proofed by a mixture of canvas and mesh.
At the back of each room is a washstand, with a sturdy wrought-iron luggage rack and a large teak wardrobe: there is ample storage space. Double washbasins beneath a long mirror back onto the bedstead. Hidden behind double, sliding doors is the en-suite bathroom which features a large, stand-alone, egg-shaped bath. In one corner is an open shower – standing above a slatted wooden base for drainage; in the other is a separate flush toilet.
Activities at Selinda concentrate on morning and evening game drives, as well as mekoro (dug-out canoe), fishing and boat trips that utilise the surrounding waterways. Short guided walks can also be arranged. With the Selinda Canoe Trail operating in the same concession, many guests choose to use a couple of nights at Selinda Camp as an extension of their canoe adventure. Fantastic game sightings can be assured from June until about November, but at the beginning of and during the rainy season (November–March) the game disperses.
Just like the rest of the camps here in the Linyanti Region, it is best to visit during the dry season, if not it will not be worth it at all. Compared to Zarafa, this place is more open to families and groups as it promotes a more casual, lively ambiance. It’s also slightly lighter on the pocket but still at a substantial value.