A friend of mine visited Ihaha in March 2016 and here are her tips: 'Stand 1 on the edge is secluded and great for a view down the length of the river, but site 10 is the prime spot for sundowners ... I'd avoid site 2 as baboon troops favour the branches of this big shady tree. Stands 8 and 9 were the smallest and bushes blocked the view a bit .... the only thing provided is a clean ablution block.'
We did see some 4x4s pulling trailers, so if you’re an Echo, Bushwacker or Conqueror owner – and you know how to drive it through deep sand without getting stuck – this is the place to go. We could maybe have pulled the Xplorer through the deep sand patches with a Land Rover Discovery 4, but we were pleased we’d played it safe. If anyone has made it through with a heavy caravan, I’d love to hear from them, though, so I know for next time!
Further consensus from those in the know was that if Ihaha wasn’t an option – it gets booked up far in advance – Chobe Safari Lodge campsite was the place to go. Unfortunately, they won’t take bookings for camping so it’s a first-come first-served bunfight, which isn’t something we wanted to rely on. (As it turned out, we met a young chap who had just driven 14 hours to get there but found no space available for him. He was gutted.)
The only place where we could get a booking was Toro Safari Lodge, which some people told us was horrible. One guy said it was nothing but a ‘collection of concrete ablutions’ dotted everywhere. Another warned that we’d be ‘right in’ Kasane town, so we’d hear dogs barking rather than hyenas calling. Our hindsight opinion couldn’t have been more different; we loved the place and didn’t agree with either of those negative comments. Find out why in more detail.
Note that Toro Safari Lodge no longer exists. The facility has been taken over and now trades as Big 5 Chobe Lodge. It still has camping and on a visit in May 2016 I noted that they had installed sprinklers so there may be green grass there by now. The chalets are also still there and were being renovated during my visit. You can book for this lodge through Temba, tel +27 21 8550395.
An option we didn’t check out for ourselves was Senyati Safari Camp, about 18km from Kasane. One benefit it certainly seems to have is an elevated bar overlooking a waterhole with flood lights, which is reported to draw elephant, buffalo, hyena and sable. It enjoys good reviews on TripAdvisor and gets booked up well ahead of time, which is usually a good sign. Anyone with first-hand experience of this camp is welcome to add their opinions in the comments below.
So what are my top picks?
Of the options we investigated personally, my first pick (if you’re tenting or trailering with a sturdy 4x4) would be Ihaha for the bonus of being inside the park itself. There’s no place better if you like the wilderness experience and aren’t freaked out by the notion of being surrounded by big game (think hippo, croc, elephant, buffalo, lion, hyena) or indeed anxious about your rig’s ability to handle heavy sand. Ihaha gets booked up far in advance, so book early – contact the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, tel (267) 3180774, fax (267) 3180775, email DWNP@gov.bw. Be warned, you need patience.
After that, and bearing in mind that I have no personal knowledge of Senyati, my second pick would be Toro Safari Lodge (now Big 5 Chobe Lodge). Many of the 8 reasons to camp at Toro Safari Lodge probably still apply, certainly in terms of the facilities, but I can't personally vouch for the service. [updated May 2016]
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