Review: Sanctuary Chief’s Camp in Botswana
Words by Francesca Lynagh
Botswana’s Okavango Delta is arguably one of Africa’s best game viewing destinations. In the east and central part of the delta is the Moremi Game Reserve, an area particularly well populated by the elusive Big Five. Therein also lies one of the country’s most exquisite safari lodges; Chief’s Camp, one of four Sanctuary Retreats properties in Botswana.
There’s no other way to reach Chief’s Camp than by light aircraft — an exhilarating experience in itself. As I followed the pilot onto the tarmac at Maun airport, I could see that a tiny six-seater plane was awaiting us. With my Sanctuary Retreats-branded water bottle in hand, I clambered into the toy-sized cabin, nervous but ready for a birds-eye view of the stunning Okavango Delta. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. We were buffeted around like a leaf in the wind, as the vast expanse of breathtaking landscape opened up below us. Shortly before landing, I even managed to spot two elephants enjoying a drink at a watering hole. The real safari hadn’t even begun but I was already in awe.
Upon arrival at the camp, our vehicle was met with a real fanfare; all staff members gathered on the front steps to sing a welcome song while refreshing cold towels were handed out. From that moment on, I was made to feel a part of the Chief’s Camp family. There were handshakes galore, and by the end, all guests were on first-name terms with everyone, from the charming General Manager down to the cheerful bar staff.
Shortly after being shown around, it was time to embark on the first game viewing trip. Exploring the Moremi Game Reserve in a Toyota Land Cruiser proved itself to be a bumpy ride, but it was certainly rewarding. With my expert guide, Chief, navigating the area with true professionalism we quickly ticked off four of the big five within the first day. Then, on the last drive of the trip, Chief produced something very special; a leopard sighting like no other. And it was all thanks to a combination of his impeccable geographical knowledge, years of experience and most importantly, dogged determination. It’s clear that Sanctuary Retreats select only the cream of the crop when it comes to hiring safari guides.
Once all the safari fun is over for the day, guests are escorted by torchlight to their exquisitely finished and generously sized accommodation. Having reopened in 2016 after the rooms were extended, the lodgings at Chief’s Camp still ooze colonial vibes, thanks to the elegant interior furnishings. There’s an undeniable old-world feel that runs throughout the entire camp, from the communal area all the way to the newly instated ultra-luxury pad situated at the far end of the lodge. The exclusive Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite presents itself as the ultimate hideaway from the rest of the world, complete with personal staff and even a private safari vehicle.
As you’d expect from a lodge of such high quality, the food is exquisite. There’s even a wood-fired pizza oven which immediately got my seal of approval. But what ultimately sets Chief’s Camp apart from the rest is the impeccable hospitality. Any lodge that goes to the effort of setting up a table in the middle of the bush complete with a fully stocked spirits cabinet and elaborate nibbles, just so that three guests can enjoy a surprise sundowner, is a lodge worth noting. The most incredible part is that they even brought a portable toilet for the occasion.
That night, dinner was served on a romantic table right next to the pool. With hyenas calling in the distance and the stars burning bright above us, it was a truly spectacular way to bid farewell to the Okavango Delta.
It’s not often that you find yourself completely stumped by a guest feedback form, with absolutely nothing to write. I genuinely couldn’t suggest anything that would have improved my experience at Chief’s Camp. The dry season may have been a quieter time to visit, but I can only imagine how magical it would be to embark on a traditional mokoro boat safari once the Okavango Delta’s plains flood once more.
Address: Chiefs Camp, Botswana