Excitement levels were high as a small group of industry experts, myself included, congregated at OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg late last year. The reason, a quick in and out trip into the remote Okavango Delta to experience the unveiling of the new Sanctuary Baines Camp.
A short 1 hour 40-minute flight from Johannesburg and we were immediately immersed into what most refer to as “The Wild West of Africa”, Maun, Botswana.
Following a surprisingly quick passport control, especially as the plane was full, we were greeted by a wall of welcome boards, each representing different lodges in the Okavango Delta. With this wall was a myriad of bright, smiling faces eager to show off their country’s beauty to the lingering tourists. We quickly located our local Sanctuary team, they handed over boarding passes for the charter flight to the Delta, identified luggage and we were moving again.
The flight into the Delta is short but emotional. The Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (11 seats) is comfortable and flies low for the full 10-minute flight (the duration from Maun to Stanley’s Airstrip). From the air one can see the animals dotted below and the excitement starts to once again build.
Sanctuary Lodges have exclusive use of a large concession within the Okavanga Delta and host 3 key lodges, Chiefs (their flagship and located more to the north west), Baines (where we were headed) and Stanley’s (a slight level below Baines). They have a forth in Botswana but it’s not in the Delta (Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero).
Due to their location, both Baines and Stanley’s Camps are accessible through Stanley’s Airstrip and we were fortunate to be welcomed on landing by a large herd of Elephant ambling slowly down to the nearby watering hole.
Once on the ground, the open air 4×4 Toyota Land Cruisers were waiting to welcome us.
There is something special about being on the water in the Okavango Delta, blame Google and the millions of images depicting what the Delta is, but it’s true and this was my expectation.
Sanctuary Baines’ Camp has 6 beautiful suites all built on stilts and overlooking the flood plains. During the dry season there remains a main tributary running in front of the lodge with resident hippo which ensures a year-round opportunity for mokoro adventures.
A unique addition to the suites and part of their unveiling is the new, larger, decks of each suite. This allows for two enhancements to all guests at no additional cost, which include a Star Bath and a Sky Bed.
Activities on offer and included in the rate are game drives, Mokoro boat excursions and walking safaris. Scenic helicopter flights and visits to the ‘Living with Elephants’ foundation for rescued elephants (more details available on request) are available at an extra cost.
In summary, The Okavango Delta is an amazing and unforgettable destination.
It is easily accessible from Johannesburg and highly recommended for high end clients. It is heavily geared for individual travellers / FIT clients or small groups that can take advantage of exclusive use.
For anyone having already done an African Safari and are now looking for that next level, something more remote and something more “real”, this is perfect option for them.