Linyanti, Zarafa Camp 5*
The spirit behind Zarafa Camp comes from Colin Bell, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who together designed Zarafa to incorporate all the components of what they envisioned as the ‘perfect’ safari camp. It embodies authenticity, luxury and simplicity to create a camp that has been clearly considered, and thoughtfully planned to be as environmentally sensitive as possible. It is the culmination of years of safari experience.
Re-opened in June 2008 as Zibadianja Camp and later re-named Zarafa, its beautiful design, ‘green’ construction and spectacular new location made it an immediate recipient of numerous accolades. Zarafa Camp sits on an island in the floodplains of southern shores of the Zibadianja Lagoon, which is the source of the Savute Channel. Positioned in the extreme eastern side of the Selinda Reserve, its location is in prime wildlife territory.
Each of the camp’s four immense tented suites are raised up on wooden decking and shaded by a canopy of African ebony and Red ivory trees, each with uninterrupted views.
Zarafa means “the beloved one” or “the lovely one” in Arabic. The name comes from a giraffe, which was presented to Charles X of France in 1826 by the Viceroy of Egypt. The giraffe was a sensation to all who saw her, and provided inspiration. The new Zarafa Camp lives up to the name, inspiring even the well traveled, and renewing the spirit of all who visit.
There are few places in northern Botswana as dynamic as the Selinda Reserve, which is centred on the famous Selinda Spillway, which weaves its way east, linking the far reaches of the Okavango Delta in the south with the Linyanti water systems in the east.
The Selinda Reserve is west (upstream) from Savute Channel and Chobe, so it has all the advantages of both of those famous areas but with the tremendous advantage of exclusivity. It is a truly spectacular and unique landscape.
On safari it is possible to see a tremendous diversity of species, from resident prides of lion to huge herds of elephant and packs of wild dog. It is also home to the ungulates, from the rare roan to the ubiquitous zebra. Nocturnal wildlife is prolific as well, and there are frequent sightings of aardwolf and civet. Exploration of this vast area defies imagination… by foot, 4×4 open game drive vehicle, and pontoon boat.
Zarafa Camp is designed with exclusivity and privacy at its core. Each tent is positioned on the forest’s edge, rimming the shores of the floodplains and far from a neighbour. The 1,000 square foot ‘marquis style’ canvas tents are expansive and open-air without exposing guests to the elements. Each of the three “rooms” of the tent is decorated with custom-made furniture, handcrafted from recycled ancient hardwoods. The raised decks, constructed of recycled African railroad sleepers, form the tent’s foundation.
Upon entry is a large lounge appointed with a leather sofa, armchairs, personal bar and writing desk. Adjoining the lounge is the main bedroom and dressing area, where the overhead fans and seductive mosquito nets set the ambiance. Exiting the bedroom, a beautiful copper gas fireplace is strategically placed between the bathroom and the bedroom to allay the chill of the winter months. The main bathroom is comprised of a copper bath and shower, double sinks and private toilet. Off the bathroom, the raised walkway leads to the outdoor shower, complete with wrap around showerheads! The private verandah, running the length of the front of the tent, offers a private plunge pool, outdoor lounge and sweeping view of Zibadianja Lagoon’s waters.
Facilities and activities
In keeping with the style of the guest tents, Zarafa’s main lounge is also under ‘marquis style’ canvas. The emphasis of the architecture is on bringing the outside in. A grand African ebony tree provides shade while the breeze off the lagoon cools the air. Furnished in the same ‘campaign’ style furniture, the lounge evokes a traditional safari ambiance with dark woods and rich leathers. This style continues in the private library, home to a collection of prized works on Africa. After a day’s exploits in the Reserve, tales and stories are exchanged around the fire pit on the edge of the main verandah, with stargazing above.
Meals are generally table d’hôte and include a light breakfast at dawn, a hearty brunch on return from the morning activity, afternoon tea and snacks before the afternoon activity, rounded off with a sumptuous dinner in the evening. Special meals and requirements can be catered for on request. All local soft drinks, wines, spirits and beers are included in the tariff.
A small boutique shop stocks locally made goods and quality African artifacts. There is a small ‘jungle’ gym with rowing machine, treadmill, free weights and yoga equipment. In-room massage is available (at additional cost).
Each tent comes with its own Canon professional camera including a Canon 40D body and 35-135 mm and 100-400mm zoom lenses for use during a stay. Photos are then burned to a DVD as a souvenir at the end of your stay.
Laundry – Laundry is done on a daily basis and is complimentary.
Electricity – Zarafa Camp is among the only (if not the only) luxury camp in the world to be powered entirely by solar energy. The harnessed solar power is stored in deep cycle batteries, each of which delivers 220v electricity to the camp, 24 hours a day. A set of universal plug points is available in each tent. It is recommended to bring a spare set of batteries so one set can be charged while the other is out on safari.
In keeping with the tradition of rising early to catch the morning light and the emerging activity, we usually depart camp at daybreak. At the peak of our dry winter months, we have counted at least 8,500 elephants in the Reserve – on par with populations found in Chobe National Park. Their antics are a joy to watch and photograph, especially when they are frolicking in the Lagoon and Spillway.
As is expected in a reserve of this size, wildlife varies from area to area in response to changes in vegetation and hydrology. Zarafa, due to its location close to Zibadianja Lagoon, has impressive pods of hippo and crocodiles that are a regular sighting. Water birds abound with frequent sightings of the amusing Black egret and stately Saddle-billed stork. Pied kingfishers dive for small fish while African fisheagles call in the distance. The whole scene is quintessentially Botswana.
Selinda Reserve is known for a few ‘specials’. African wild dogs have denned near camp for the last three seasons (2008, 2009 & 2010). Given this species plight, it is a true blessing to have fairly common sightings.
The Selinda lions, affectionately known as the ‘surfing lions’ for their penchant for hunting hippo, are legendary. Their skill at hunting such large prey under trying conditions is unrivalled.
The open plains dotted throughout the Reserve provide ideal habitat for cheetah, and we’ve recently added two rescued young males to the population (from a rescue relocation operation near Ghanzi).
Botswana is renowned for its leopard sightings, and Zarafa is no exception. A few residents often come through camp on their nightly prowls.
As the sun rises high in the sky and temperatures follow, we retreat to Zarafa Camp for a well-earned brunch and siesta. This is of course, only if we so chose. If we are tracking a sighting or witness to an extraordinary event, then we will stay in the bush to watch it unfold. Brunch can wait!
And finally, as the sun lowers again and the light softens we depart for our afternoon exploration and continue past nightfall in search of nocturnal species such as civet, genet, and aardvark and possibly even some hunting.
After a full day, the sound of the lagoon’s hippos or the call of a resident male lion lulls you to sleep. Another day in paradise.
Other common species include buffalo often in large herds, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, hyena, and a variety of antelope including Red lechwe, sable and possibly roan. Of course there is also the possibility of rare sightings of nocturnal species, such as aardvark and Honey badger.
Our Toyota Land Cruisers have been specially designed by the Jouberts. The thoughtful engineering provides all-round visibility with removable canvas roofs, and comfortable bucket seats. These rugged, 4X4 vehicles provide access to all of the Selinda Reserve’s diverse ecosystems, and do so with ease.
Short walks from camp with our fully qualified guides are offered as well. Arrangements can be made with management on site, but should this activity need to be guaranteed, then we recommend arranging it in advance.
Travel Documents, Visas & Health Requirements
It is the responsibility of each passenger to ensure that they are in possession of the correct travel documentation prior to departure.
Gateway Travel & Tours cannot accept responsibility for any consequences, of any nature whatsoever, arising from the passengers failing to ensure that they have complied with the necessary health, passport and visa requirements.
A valid passport is required for all international and cross-border travel. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months after your intended date of return and must have at least 2 blank pages for visa stamping purposes. In certain cases, foreign passport holders require re-entry or departure permits and it is advised to contact the relevant consulate before travel for up-to-date visa and health requirements.
We recommend that all travellers have comprehensive travel insurance from time of booking, and insurance packages are available for purchase though our offices.
Prices are from a starting price, per person sharing and subject to change, airfare increase, currency fluctuations and availability. Taxes are estimated and based on the current exchange rate and are subject to change. Advance purchase, peak season surcharges, block out periods and minimum stay conditions may apply. Please note that airport taxes, fuel levies and surcharges are approximate and subject to change, the exact amount will be confirmed at time of booking. Valid for dates as specified. Group rates available on request.