Jao Premium Camp is located in the Jao Concession which is 60 000 hectares and in the north-western area of the Okavango Delta below the Panhandle. The Moremi Game Reserve forms the eastern boundary of the concession. It is easily accessed from either Maun or Kasane, if you are coming in directly. It’s about a 30 minute flight from Maun or an hour from Kasane. The airstrip is then just 10 minutes from the camp.
The camp has 9 Luxury Suites which they class as tented, but I didn’t see any canvas! Basically it’s a wooden villa on stilts with a huge deck area with a daybed. At certain times of year the flood will go underneath the room and the wooden boardwalks, so you are effectively staying in an overwater bungalow in the middle of the bush! This is THE top level, so the rooms are massive and the ensuite has double vanities and an indoor and outdoor shower. Here the décor is a bit more fancy there’s lots of vanished wood and mahogany. I thought the beds might be slightly bigger, but they are the same size and just as comfortable. Mozzie nets and Egyptian cotton sheets come as standard, so no change there! You have the same access to power in your room to charge equipment and also a safe. The view from the room is what really makes it. You are looking out across the Jao floodplain with numerous elephant and the odd buffalo wandering by.
The communal areas of the camp are set on two levels with a library and win cellar below and then the bar and dining area above. Lots of polished wood and acres of space. There is a huge deck along the front of the building which looks out across the Jao Floodplain. On the lower deck you have a huge boma area and also a swimming pool with sun loungers. The food here is a superb and served A La Carte, but dining is communal.
The area the camp is situated in can be visited all year round as there is normally always water, although the levels will change due to the floods. The activities on offer tend to vary according to the time of year. During the summer months (November to April) you will mostly be taking on more traditional game drives, whilst during the winter (May to October), it is mainly water-based activities on offer.
Here you will probably have 30% of your time on game drives in open side Land Rovers and then 70% doing water activities. They recommend a full day game drive with a picnic on Hunda Island which is about a 45 minute boat ride away from Jao Camp. The water game viewing is mostly done in small speedboats, rather than the traditional mokoros, as you can cover more distance and see a bit more. Here you explore all of the waterways around the camp. No night drives are permitted here as you have to be back in camp just after sunset, again due to the hippos! Typical wildlife on offer here is sitatunga antelope, red lechwe, hippo, crocodile, tsessebe, elephant, wildebeest, zebra, lion, cheetah and leopard are often sighted on the floodplains. The wetlands are an absolute Mecca for birders and you will probably spend more time birding than anywhere else! Fishing is offered here, with basic equipment and it’s also seasonally – catch and release basis, so no cooking up what you caught for dinner!
They have a raised hide which is about 20 minutes from camp. This can be used for sleep-outs and is equipped with a long-drop loo. It’s unlikely that clients will want to do this though when they see the quality of the rooms!
There is a small spa, with a single and double treatment room. There’s also a gym, equipped with a bit of basic equipment and weights. They also have an “entertainment room”, which can be used for corporate meetings! They also use it for private dining, children’s entertainment, watching wildlife documentaries and conducting lectures, but it sounded like it sits idle most of the time.
The Delta is absolutely stunning and it’s great fun zipping around in the boats. The game viewing is great if you are really into your birds. The day trip to Hunda Island would be a must for anyone wanting to see a decent amount of animals. The camp itself is absolutely beautiful and rivals any “Top End” accommodation I have seen before.
Toka Leya Camp is located in the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park which is a small area on the banks of the Zambezi River and about a 20 minute drive from Victoria Falls. It really depends when you are doing it, but you will either arrive in on an International flight from Johannesburg or a light aircraft charter from Kasane. The transfer to the lodge takes about 20 minutes from the airport. They take you by minivan first and then transfer you in by boat down the Zambezi.
The rooms are 12 Tented Suites with canvas walls and then a wooden frame and a canvas roof over the top. This is classed as a Classic Camp, so very similar in style to Savuti, although you do have the choice of an indoor and outdoor shower. Again the usual Mozzie nets and Egyptian cotton sheets which seem to come as standard, so no change there! You have the same access to power in your room to charge equipment and also a safe. The view from the room is pretty stunning as you look out from a large wooden deck across the Zambezi River. Not much wildlife about the sound of the water thundering passed is quite hypnotic and a great sound to go to sleep to at night.
The communal areas are really nice open sided areas and all tented roofs, so a nice authentic safari feel to it. There’s a separate bar, dining and lounge area and they are all on the banks of the river with great views. They also have the obligatory huge boma area and also a swimming pool with sun loungers. The food here is really, really good and served A La Carte at private tables.
This is a year round destination, although the Falls will obviously be very different depending on the time of year. During the summer months (November to April) there is a lot of water, so visibility is not great, but it is an awesome sight to behold. The winter (May to October), it tends to die down a bit and the visibility obviously improves. The walks down into the “wet zone” though will not be nearly as memorable!
It’s pretty much all about visiting the Falls obviously and they are about a 20 minute drive from the Lodge! Basically they take you to the Park and guide you along the walk ways to enjoy the various view points. The amount of water whilst we were there was ridiculous and you need to be prepared to get wet! Unfortunately it’s not advisable to take a camera either, which is a real shame.
If you want to go on a proper game drive then they will take you to the Chobe National Park across the border in Botswana. Alternatively the local area has a little bit of wildlife and they have reintroduced white rhino, which you can take a bush walk through the bush to see. If you are lucky you will also see elephant, buffalo, vervet monkeys, zebra, wildebeest, impala and giraffe. As well as the Falls they can also take you on a River cruise, a tour of Livingstone town and the museum, a visit to local curio shops, Mkuni Market and to a local village and school – Simonga Village.
Fishing excursions with the usual basic equipment can be done all year round. Apparently tiger fishing is an unforgettable challenge for keen fishermen, particularly during the warmer months (October – December). There are also several varieties of bream which are a good catch!
This is a great place to begin or end your trip, but I would say always try and do it at the end. It’s just a nice place to chill-out for a couple of days and do some more relaxed activities, without the 5am wake-up calls! The Falls are absolutely amazing and the river cruise is a nice way to spend a few hours. Although it is in a pretty tame area, it is also worth doing the drive and trek to find the rhino. They are pretty much babysat by rangers the whole time, but getting that close to such a massively powerful animal is an amazing experience. I can also thoroughly recommend “The Falls” bar, which has a good-size screen – perfect for watching England trundle on towards the Grand Slam by beating Scotland!
If you’re interested in a safari holiday, feel free to email me at [email protected] or call us on 01494 678 400!