This month we feature Great Plains Conservation as our product of the month, these are some of the finest lodges in Botswana and Kenya.
Protecting Africa’s last pockets of pristine wilderness is more than just a philosophy or the passion that drives us… it is our way of life. You, our guests, are our partners in this lifestyle choice and every journey you take with us makes a difference, contributing directly to conservation and communities, helping to save big cats and other critically important African wildlife. Our camps are a testament to what we have achieved together on this incredible path we have chosen.
Thank you for walking it with us.
As the heat of the day dissipates and the dust of the plains settles, a beautiful peace descends on the Zibadianja Lagoon, source of the Savute Channel.
A Pel’s fishing owl softly purrs in the canopy of a giant ebony tree and the hippos’ mocking laughter echoes across the water…
This is where Dereck and Beverly Joubert, co-founders of Great Plains Conservation, lay their weary heads many long years ago, exhausted from filming. The tranquility they found as they slept under the tree stayed with them, and a decade and a half later, having raised enough money to begin their Great Plains journey, the magnificent ebony became the focal point of a camp whose name had a fascinating journey all of its own… Zarafa.
In 1826 the Viceroy of Egypt presented to Charles X of France a giraffe that had been discovered in Nubia. This giraffe was floated down the Nile in a dhow to Alexandria before being shipped to Marseille and then walked to Paris. Everyone who saw the giraffe fell in love with her and asked what she was called. The Nubians, having no name for the animal, called her simply “Zarafa,” which is Arabic for “the beloved one” and which the French then pronounced “giraffe”.
The camp was originally called Zibadianja when it opened in 2008, but its beautiful design, “green” construction and amazing position overlooking the lagoon quickly made it the beloved of all who laid eyes on it. So it became Zarafa, in name and in spirit.
Just four magnificent tented villas and a spectacular main area, all raised on decking to take advantage of views over the lagoon, reflect the desire for exclusivity and privacy which inspired Zarafa’s design.
Construction took eco-friendly principles to new levels of excellence and focussed on recycling, with repurposed teak railroad sleepers for flooring and furniture made from mahogany washed up in the 2005 tsunami, commissioned in an effort to give Indonesians affected by the disaster much-needed work.
The result is a safari camp like no other, and one that you will quickly fall in love with and want to return to, time and again.
Zarafa Dhow suites
The logical extension to Great Plains Conservation’s Zarafa Camp, the Dhow Suites, have quickly become the ultimate private retreat, offering 2200 sq ft (210m2) of understated opulence in one of Africa’s last great wildernesses – the private 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve.
Cut from the same cloth as Zarafa’s main camp, the suites are completely autonomous, having their own staff and catering exclusively for a small intimate group of friends or family who want to truly immerse them in the grandeur of a classic safari experience.
With two lavish bedrooms on either side of a sumptuous lounge and dining room, the ambiance is one of complete harmony with nature, with breathtaking, elevated views out over the Zibadianja Lagoon. A multi-level deck, with a pool, adds to the palatial expanse of living space, which has been inspired by the miracle of wild Africa.
That miracle is embodied by the story of Zarafa, the “beloved one” – a Nubian giraffe given to Charles X of France by the Viceroy of Egypt in 1826. Zarafa’s journey to Paris necessitated her being transported down the Nile in an East African dhow with a hole cut in its upper deck to accommodate her long, slender neck.
The Dhow Suites have been named for this most traditional of vessels, and the role it played in Zarafa’s own, fascinating “safari”.
The East African influence in the suites is tangible, with ancient Zanzibari doors adding unique flavour to the rich interiors. Each bedroom has its own fireplace and huge copper baths, positioned to make the most of the views out over the lagoon. Dinner takes place either in the indoor dining room or outside, under a canopy of stars.
The villa concept takes its lead from the old-world elegance of the 1920s, when safari was in its infancy and yet managed to encompass a style and grace all of its own. Think Karen Blixen, lead crystal and Limoges, Mozart playing on a gramophone and a million stars twinkling in the Milky Way overhead…
It is a “beloved suite” and the ideal place for people to not just connect with Africa, but also reconnect with one another.
The sky slowly lightens and then turns dark orange, with groves of magnificent borassus palms thrown sharply into silhouette against the onset of dawn… Sunrise at Selinda Camp is nothing less than spectacular and to be savoured as only life-changing memories can.
Set in one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on our planet, the Selinda Camp rests on the banks of the eastern Selinda Spillway in northern Botswana’s startlingly beautiful and remote 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve.
The Selinda Spillway is an ancient waterway which flows in two directions, weaving its way as it links the far-reaches of the vast Okavango Delta in the south with the Linyanti wetlands in the west, receiving water from both. Further west is the Savute Channel, Chobe and the mighty Zambezi. North lays Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Angola…
Home to some of the largest herds of elephant and buffalo left in Southern Africa, this powerful place is one of the last great bastions of the endangered African wild dog – lycaon pictus – the “painted wolf”.
Designed with the elements in mind, Selinda Camp pays homage first and foremost to water, with splashes of blue and a crystal-clear swimming pool offering views over the equally immaculate Selinda Spillway. The billowing silks, which adorn the ceilings of the lounge area, are a tribute to air, and the afternoon breezes that ripple the endless sea of grasses. Earth is represented in the cornucopia of home-grown meals lovingly prepared in our kitchens and the bright flames of our evening fire complete the ethos of being in harmony with nature.
Extensive raised decks give a sense of being part of forever as you gaze out over seemingly endless floodplains where wildlife abounds. But it wasn’t always this way. When Great Plains Conservation took over the Selinda Reserve in 2006 it was to rescue it – the concession and its wildlife had been hunted down to virtually nothing. Now it’s one of the finest wildlife areas in Botswana, if not Africa, and provides a base from which researchers are taking important strides in the effort to conserve and protect iconic species like elephants and Africa’s big cats.
Selinda Explorers Camp
There’s an old saying that great things come in little packages… Selinda Explorers Camp is no exception! Small – catering for only 8 guests – but perfectly formed, its “wow” factor lies in the experience it offers, treading in the footsteps of Livingstone and Selous, both of whom wandered right through the area in which the camp is situated. It’s also in the grandeur of the expedition-style decor, with campaign furniture and vintage travelling trunks lending an authentic, transient atmosphere to the camp’s traditional canvas tents.
The camp is located on a remote stretch of the Selinda Spillway, close to the heart of the pristine 320,000-acre private Selinda Reserve. It used to have another home – the Selous game reserve in Tanzania – but was moved here in its entirety a few years ago and has never looked back since opening in 2012.
Under a canopy of towering jackalberry and mangosteen trees, the four custom-designed tents embody the philosophy of exploration, sitting squarely on the earth, connecting guests directly with the pulse of the wild. They’re spacious and stay true to the classic age of safari, when the journey was more important than the destination.
In an effort to rekindle the magic of a proper expedition camp, hot and cold water are provided in large jugs on demand for the copper vanities and the en-suite flush toilet and bucket shower, although enclosed at the sides, are open to the stars above.
Hot water for the bucket shower is brought to your tent on request, and should the hopeless romantic in you prove to hard to resist, brass hipbaths could be portered to a nearby sandbank on the edge of the Selinda Spillway for a bath like no other – it doesn’t get more spectacular than that!
With the wildlife viewing activities mainly focused on guided walks and canoe trips followed by open vehicle game drives, this area is a wildlife hotspot which is home to huge herds of elephant and buffalo. It is here that lion, wild dog, sable and roan antelope are all spotted on a regular basis.
And because at Selinda Explorers Camp the focus is on walking, you will be seeing the small, incredibly interesting things often missed on vehicles.
Selinda Adventure Trail
The high waters flowing through northern Botswana in 2009, together with subtle tectonic movements, caused the waters of the Okavango River to flow in a way that it has not done for nearly three decades, pushing east along the previously dry Selinda Spillway to meet the waters of the Linyanti. This enabled adventurers the opportunity to experience a rare first, canoeing along the Selinda Spillway.
As the waters of the Selinda Spillway ebb and flow each year, some years with higher flood levels than others, so the name of the Selinda Canoe Trail was changed to reflect a more inclusive experience that now includes guided walking safaris and is thus now known as the Selinda Adventure Trail.
The trail replicates safari experiences of old as we chart a course along the Selinda Spillway and head into the remote woodlands of the vast 320,000 Selinda Reserve over five days. As we are governed by the availbility of sufficient water in the Selinda Spillway, we offer two distinct adventures here for you to enjoy. Depending on water levels at the time of a your arrival, we will offer either a canoeing and walking experience, or a purely guided walking experience.
The canoeing experience entails a traditional canoe and walking safari following the course, and exploring side channels, of the Selinda Spillway.
The pure guided walking experience is an amazing, exclusively guided walking safari along exciting sections of the Spillway and inland portions of the famous Selinda Reserve.
All adventure trails start at the Selinda Airstrip where you are met and immediately transferred by helicopter to the remote starting point of your relevant adventure.
The distance of the Selinda Adventure Trails differ depending on whether it is a walking or canoeing adventure. Over the 5 days the walking distance is just over 20 km and canoeing is approximately 40km. Along either routes we expect to come across many species of wildlife.
The Selinda Reserve is well known for some of Botswana’s largest herds of buffalo and elephant, roan antelope and African wild dog. Other possible sightings include cheetah, lion, leopard and variety of other species. It is also a birder’s paradise with over 300 species possibly seen.
All four nights are spent in fly camps along the Selinda Spillway at pre-arranged sites. The days are spent paddling or walking along the Spillway and into the woodlands of the reserve, depending on which option is available at that time, with regular stops whenever there is something of interest to be seen along the way.
When canoeing, each canoe has two guests as well as their bed rolls and soft bags. Participants paddle their own canoes each day. No previous paddling, canoeing or walking safari experience is needed as tuition and safety briefings are given – but participants must be fit enough to paddle their own canoes and be prepared to walk between camps when water levels are not sufficiently high on the Selinda Spillway.
Guests are not expected to put up their tents or help with the cooking and camp chores as our staff are on hand. Walk-in 3m x 2.4m Flex-Bow tents are provided as they are comfortable and large enough for two people. Screened, bucket showers with hot and cold water are also supplied.
On the pure walking trail each guest will be supplied with a day backpack which will include water. An armed, qualified walking guide as well as an experieced tracker will be with you at all times as you explore the banks of the Spillway water as well as slightly more remote areas of the Selinda Reserve.
Ideally you could and should elect to stay on for an additional night or two after the you have completed the Selinda Adventure Trail at either Selinda Explorers Camp, Selinda Camp or Zarafa and the Zarafa Dhow Suites.
The Selinda Adventure Trail’s camps bring you closer to nature. The overnight camp sites create that sense of wilderness with a clear emphasis on essential camp comforts and maximum wilderness experience.
Duba Expedition Camp
The brand new Duba Expedition Camp sits in the heart of classic Okavango Delta habitat. A matrix of palm-dotted islands, flood plains and woodland, the 77,000-acre private concession typifies the region’s unique landscape. Located here, exclusively, is the six tent Duba Expedition Camp, a wildlife connoisseur’s getaway. Built on a wooded island, connected to the prolific wildlife area by an elaborate set of bridges, the area is the base of many famous wildlife documentaries by National Geographic filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert. It is the only camp on the concession, thereby offering guests the ultimate opportunity for private sightings. Duba Expedition Camp, and the Kwedi Reserve, where it is located, is part of a joint venture partnership between Great Plains Conservation and the Okavango Community Trust, the representative body for five villages in the Okavango Panhandle. This partnership ensures that these communities receive tangible and substantial benefit from using their ancestral land for wildlife conservation. Botswana is a leader in such partnerships, and our working relationship is a testament to this long-standing example of success in this area.
The intimate camp consists of six expedition-style tents of light airy canvas on slightly raised decking, each with views of the surrounding floodplain. Each tent has a small desk and private verandah plus en-suite facilities consisting of flush loo, double basins and indoor shower. Fans and careful open-air design maintain comfortable climate for rest and relaxation. The main area is under sweeping marquis canvas, on raised decking and consists of an open-concept dining and lounge area which opens to the outdoors on all sides. In the evenings, the fire pit is always a popular spot to enjoy an Amarula and recount the day’s events. Duba Expedition Camp prides itself on its extraordinary wildlife experiences, and rightly so. The homogenous experience of wildlife is renowned with regular sightings of a diverse range of species, including large herds of Red lechwe along with Greater kudu, tsessebe and even giraffe which in previous years has been a rare sighting. Of course, elephant and hippo trudge through the swamps happily, and are regularly seen. Leopard, and nocturnal species such as Brown hyena can be sighted as well. Wildlife is a regular sight right in camp! Birds abound, and the area is reputed as a birdwatcher’s paradise. Okavango ‘specials’ include the rare Wattled crane, Pel’s Fishing owl, White-backed Night heron and Marsh owl.
ol Donyo Lodge
It began with a conversation between friends and has evolved into one of East Africa’s premier wildlife destinations.
When Richard and Tara Bonham got together with Great Plains Conservation’s co-founders Dereck and Beverly Joubert to discuss a partnership proposal for ol Donyo Lodge, talk revolved around the conservation of this incredible, forgotten paradise.
Wedged between Kenyas Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks in the heart of the Chyulu Hills, this is a place of timeless wild beauty presided over by the magnificent summit of Africa’s greatest icon – Mount Kilimanjaro.
The latent spirituality of this vast landscape resonated with everything that Great Plains Conservations stands for and the deal was a foregone conclusion and such the ol Donyo Lodge you see today came into being.
Set on the Mbirikani Group Ranch – 275,000 acres of immaculate, private wild Africa bordering the foothills of the Chyulu Hills National Park – ol Donyo Lodge blends contemporary design with the rich culture and history of the people of this area – the indomitable Maasai.
The group ranch is owned by 4,000 Maasai and is leased from them by Great Plains Conservation. The full lease fee as well as a per person conservancy fee goes directly to this community on the understanding that they will ensure the conservation of the ranch and the wild animals which call it home.
The result is an area rich in wildlife, where some of Africa’s last giant elephant bulls roam freely, where the haunting calls of leopards interrupt the night and where lion are being pulled back from the brink of annihilation.
The lodge itself was rebuilt in 2008 and sits in thick woodland on a gently sloping hillside with views out over the plains to a distant Kilimanjaro. Designed to merge your outdoor and indoor living, a series of unique suites and villas (no two are the same) appears to emerge from the arid landscape on either side of a palatial lounge and dining area. Eight of the ten private cottages have their own swimming pool whilst all enjoy roof terraces where intimate “star beds” can be set up, allowing guests the thrill of sleeping in style under a canopy of endless stars while connecting with their sense of place and self.
Mara Plains Camp
If a camp’s success lies in its details, then Mara Plains Camp is truly blessed, located as it is on a bend in the Ntiakitiak River in the heart of the 35,000-acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy which abuts Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve to its south
Upon arriving at the camp, you walk across a bridge over the river, through a thick, riverine forest, up a small slope to some giant steps, only to be greeted by an endless horizon with one, single, flat-topped tree – the quintessential shape of East Africa – right in your line of sight.
It’s a small detail, perhaps, but one which Great Plains co-founder Dereck Joubert spent days considering as he paced the approach to ensure the impact of arrival in camp was maximised. On deciding the best route, his only hope remained that an elephant didn’t flatten that all-important tree!
Such are the apparently unimportant decisions which, when added up, go towards making Mara Plains Camp the marvelous combination of romance, adventure, discovery and exploration that it is.
When sitting in the middle of one of the richest wild ecosystems in the world it’s exceptionally important not to try and upstage what nature has provided, so the design of Mara Plains is one of understatement and quiet class. The decor pays homage to the essence of East Africa and its chief influences – Maasai and Arab culture. Ancient Swahili heritage is reflected in large wooden doors from the coastal island of Lamu, and accents of deep red and purple honour the great Maasai chiefs and warriors who have roamed this land for millennia.
Add to this cultural melting pot a nod to the colonial era, with rich leathers, copper and brass used in expedition-style campaign furniture and you have a lavish, residential atmosphere which complements, rather than overwhelm the surrounding wilderness.
One of only five camps on the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, guests at Mara Plains have unrivalled access to more than 100,000 acres of exclusive, low-vehicle density tourism land, home to extensive areas of important habitat for a vast number of wildlife species, while still having unfettered access to the Maasai Mara’s additional 375,000 acres.
Botswana free flights
• Free flights to/from any Great Plains Conservation camp. Valid for all scheduled air transfers, that we book for you, starting/ending at Maun / Kasane airports and or all other camps within the greater Delta, Linyanti and Chobe regions;
• Not valid for additional camera (freight) seats, pilot / guides rates;
• Free inter camp air transfer offer applicable to all standard guest rate accommodation reservations. No minimum stay requirements, however, for stays of a combination of 6 nights or more at Duba Expedition Camp and or Selinda Camp/Zarafa Camp & Dhow Suites, a free helicopter transfer is available; See our Heli The Spillway special offer;
• This offer is valid for all new reservations that travel between 01 October 2016 – 31 May 2017.
Botswana free helicopter transfer
For guests staying at Selinda Camp, Zarafa Camp or Zarafa Dhow Suites combined with Duba Plains for a minimum of 6 nights, the inter-camp air transfer will now be a FREE helicopter transfer!
This 35 minute helicopter flight offers a uniquely spectacular aerial view of the Northern Okavango Delta region between the Selinda Reserve and Duba Plains.
BOOKING TERMS AND CONDITIONS
• Valid for all new reservations travelling until 10 January 2018;
• Not valid for guides and tour leaders;
• Minimum 6 night stay required between Duba Plains and either Selinda or Zarafa camp in any combination of nights;
• Minimum 2 guests per transfer;
• This offer can be combined with our Botswana Fly Free special offer for stay between 01 October 2016 and 31 May 2017
Kenya free flights
Stay 3, Fly Free – Stay 3 nights at either ol Donyo Lodge or Mara Plains Camps and
receive FREE ROUND-TRIP FLIGHTS between Nairobi and ol Donyo Lodge or between Nairobi and Mara Plains.
BOOKING TERMS AND CONDITIONS
• Valid from 01 June to 19 December 2017;
• Note: for flights to ol Donyo Lodge from 01 November – 19 December 2017, minimum traveler loads may be required;
• Applies to all Great Plains Kenya properties with the exception of ol Donyo Lodge’s non-pool suites;
• A six night stay can combine two properties and receive both sets of free flights;
• Free seats on scheduled flight services from and return to Wilson Airport, Nairobi;
• Minimum 2 pax;
• Not combinable with other offers and does not apply to existing bookings.
Please CONTACT US for other special offers on all the Great Plains Conservation properties
To view the Great plains Conservation Electronic catalogue CLICK HERE
Zarafa Dhow suites
Selinda Explorers Camp
Selinda Adventure Trail
Duba Expedition Camp
ol Donyo Lodge
Mara Plains Camp
*Images and content courtesy of Great Plains Conservation