Becky’s Okavango Delta Adventure – Part 2 – Kujwana Camp
Posted on November 11, 2019
In a series of three blogs In The Saddle’s Becky Clarke writes about her visit to the Okavango Delta….here is Part 2 and her visit to Kujwana Camp.
As I arrived back into the tiny airport that was Maun International, I was met by a representative of Helicopter Horizons and taken through to the departure lounge. It was here I met up with five other ladies all destined for Kujwana camp.
Flying into Camp by Helicopter
As the aircraft went up, our pilot handed us a pair of headphones so that we were all able to communicate. As we passed over the buffalo fence, we were rewarded almost immediately with aerial views of a group of elephant. Flying into camp by helicopter was absolutely incredible and I would certainly recommend this to anyone thinking about it!
Absolutely loving the helicopter ride into camp!
Once we’d disembarked from the helicopters we hopped into a 4×4 that drove us all into camp. As we arrived we were met by the camp manager John and his team. Each of us was handed a wonderfully cold ice tea as we took a seat by the fire pit for the introductory talk.
John spoke to us about the rules of camp which included not walking by ourselves after dark and what to do in case of an emergency. It was all very clear and afterwards there was time to freshen up and have a light lunch.
The fire pit and lounge area at Kujwana Camp.
As we were finishing lunch PJ Bestelink came around and introduced himself to everyone. I’d been lucky enough to meet PJ a few years ago at Badminton Horse Trails (where In The Saddle has a stand) and so it was great to see him again. He gave us a full horse briefing, talked about the plan for the week and gave us a disclaimer to sign. Once we were all changed and ready, we headed towards the stables.
We arrived to find the horses all tacked up and ready to go. There, ready to introduce us to our first mounts was Barney (PJ’s wife). Together PJ and Barney set up the first riding safari in the Okavango Delta and are still very involved in the day to day running of camp.
Barney’s immaculate tack room.
I’d heard lots about Barney’s passion for horses and how much care she puts into matching horse to rider so it was safe to say I was pretty excited as she introduced me to Denotsi. He was a beautiful bay with the softest mouth and wonderful paces. I absolutely fell in love with him that first afternoon ride and it was easy to understand why when Barney told me he’d been intermediate eventing before joining the team.
We rode for about 1.5 hours and in the short time we were out, we managed to see several elephant and a large herd of giraffe.
Just a couple of giraffe enjoying a stroll!
As we walked back to the stables the sun was just beginning to set. We all grabbed a cold beer or gin & tonic from the bar and sat on the decking for the best view you could ask for.
My first morning at Kujwana Camp
The next mornings wake up call was at 05:00 with a flask of hot water and milk. Inside each of the rooms are tea and coffee making facilities so that you can make your own as you are getting ready for breakfast. Following a quick bowl of melon I grabbed my hat and was ready and waiting for Barney at 06:00. This morning I was to ride the incredibly handsome, liver chestnut Egyptian Arab that was Malachite.
Malachite and I watching a herd of zebra.
This mornings ride started steady with Chief guiding at the front and Boy as our backup. It wasn’t long before we found a playful group of giraffe and Chief led us up alongside them for a canter – what a wonderful experience! Later in the morning we also got to canter with a herd of zebra and wildebeest which was even more exciting because it felt as though we were part of the herd.
I thought it was amazing how the guides would read the game and be able to tell whether they were relaxed enough for a canter or whether we needed to just walk on by. Their knowledge was really impressive.
A couple of hours into the morning ride we would hop off and stretch the legs for 5/10 minutes – it felt good!
After our mid-morning water and biscuit break we started to head back towards Kujwana. By the time we made it back we’d been out for about four hours. As well as being able to canter with giraffe, wildebeest and zebra, we’d also seen elephant, impala, red lechwe and warthogs.
It was safe to say we were all happy to see lunch and I think everyone had seconds! After we were full, it was time to relax by the pool.
The plunge pool and decking area near to the main tent
Afternoon tea at Kujwana is served at 15:30 and at 16:00 we all headed out in the 4×4 with Percy and Chief. Percy has been part of the team at Kujwana for over twenty years and his depth of knowledge on the area combined with his wicked sense of humour makes him the perfect non-riding guide.
We drove for a couple of hours and saw so much including elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and several different types of antelope but the real highlight was hyena cubs! We were driving along a sandy track when suddenly Percy stopped and got out to look at something, we then drove on a little way before he turned off the engine and just pointed. As we sat in silence, a little head popped up from the sand and looked around. The head was slowly followed by a body and then another little head as the second pup emerged from the den.
The little cubs were so amazing to watch and really playful!
After we’d returned to camp and showered, dinner was served at 19:30 by candlelight. Each evening at Kujwana a different three course meal is served and no one was ever left hungry. Tonight’s meal was a starter of brie and chutney, followed by pork, creamed potatoes and vegetables and finished off with a chocolate mouse – delicious.
Everyone was ready for the evening meals after a full day!
Riding to Moklowane Camp
The next day there was excitement in the air as we ate breakfast around the fire. Today was the day we were all riding to Moklowane Camp, which is a smaller camp made of five tree houses built into the tree line near the Matsebi River. On stays of seven nights riders will get the change to do an all day ride to move camps – it’s a good seven hours in the saddle but well worth it.
The morning ride was the usual four hours with a break for a leg stretch and water. It was interesting as we rode how the landscape changed and I became aware that there were more palm trees appearing and there were less pockets of water.
Riding towards the lunch stop
Lunch was under a canopy of trees on a small ‘island’. Some of the grooms from main camp met us off the horses and they were un-tacked and taken for water and a roll. I also noticed how all the bits were washed and saddle pads were hung out to dry in the sun – such care is taken of these horses and it’s wonderful to watch.
For us there were chairs set up around the lunch table so we could enjoy a cold beer followed by meatloaf and salad. The vehicles had met us at the spot with our overnight bags and so I went and found my book, took one of the camp beds and found a quiet corner.
Camp beds were provided for everyone as we had about three hours at the lunch stop to avoid the heat of the day.
Later, after we’d had tea and cake – yes there was still tea and cake at 16:00! – we walked to where the horses were waiting and mounted up. It was a ride of about two hours at a gentle pace. Not far from Moklowane we were rewarded with the view of a lone male elephant cooling off in a pool.
I’m totally in awe every time I see an elephant!
Once we arrived into Moklowane camp, we helped un-tack the horses before heading for the main area for a safety briefing. This camp is not connected by boardwalks and so we were reminded not to walk about by ourselves or without either Chief or Percy nearby.
The camp itself has five tents built into the treeline and overlooking water where hippos can be heard at night. All of the tents have running water and flush loos and each is built up either on stilts or in the trees. There is a main dining area with a balcony for enjoying breakfast and dinner or just sitting back with a cool drink. After we’d had a quick shower, this is where we met for a pre-dinner drink.
The main tent at Moklowane camp
The next morning I met the others for breakfast and we said our goodbyes. They would be heading off for a bush walk with the wonderful Percy as their guide and I would be leaving camp for my next adventure. Since the horses had waded into camp the previous day, today we had to use the boat to get back across the water. PJ met us on the other side and drove me the hour or so to PomPom airstrip.
Wading into camp – it did get deeper!
It was really interesting to speak with PJ and learn all about what made him come to Botswana and stay there. We talked about his plans for the camps and the drive to the airstrip just flew by!
Once the little plane had landed, PJ asked the pilot if I could sit up front and I was rewarded with a first class view as we took off. Being up front really helped with the bumpiness of the journey and luckily it was only ten minutes to the next airstrip – I’d never been on so many planes in a short space of time!
Part 3 of my adventure coming soon …
For more information on Kujwana Camp please visit our website or contact Becky on +44 1299 272 244 or email Rebecca@inthesaddle.com.