Review: Sanctuary Baines' Camp

Camouflaged in a private concession, this six-suite camp is true escapism

Location: Camouflaged in the 260,000-acre private NG32 concession, which borders the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Sanctuary Baines’ Camp puts clients in the wild heart of this world-renowned safari destination.

Perched atop the Boro River, which shrinks and swells significantly in dry and wet seasons, the lodge acts like a magnet to surrounding wildlife, with myriad fauna drawn to the property’s lagoon like bees to honey.

The camp is accessible by air and has its own private airstrip a 45-minute drive away. Helicopter transfers can also be arranged.

First impressions: The lodge’s in-house choir stood at the entrance of the property as we pulled up, signalling our arrival with a heartwarming song and dance.

A network of wooden boardwalks led us to the centre of the property: an open-walled lounge, restaurant and bar set around an acacia thorn tree overlooking the lagoon, where elephants wade, storks paddle and birds dip and dive. “This is our big cinema screen,” smiled general manager Beatrice.

The facts: Home to just six standalone suites, Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is the smallest camp in the Sanctuary Retreats portfolio. Rooms feature Wi-Fi, a ceiling fan and minibar as well as an en suite bathroom with a double vanity and shower, where netted walls allow you to look out over the elephant-dotted plains.

Each room’s four-poster bed, clad in mosquito nets, is fully mobile and can be wheeled out onto the terrace, so guests can sleep beneath the stars.

This curved wooden deck also boasts a free-standing ‘star bath’ and a table and chairs to help guests make the most of their epic setting. Named after the 19th-century explorer and painter Thomas Baines, the camp has been operating for more than 12 years.

As such, interiors feel a little dated, but the charm of this lodge lies in its sublime setting and faultless staff and guides.

This is an eco-friendly property: the camp was built using only commercially grown wood and has more than 150,000 recycled aluminium cans within its walls to provide insulation. Some 80% of its energy also comes from solar panels.

 

Ideal for: The secluded location and intimate set-up of this lodge make it perfect for couples and honeymooners.

Staff do their utmost to enhance an already special experience – during our stay, staff arranged candle-lit bubble baths on our veranda, a private dinner under the stars and set up our ‘sky bed’ so we could sleep outside with the elephants.

Explore: Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is set within a private concession, meaning guides and vehicles aren’t restricted to opening and closing times (making night drives possible) or limited to certain paths (our guide regularly took us on “sheriff shortcuts” over the plains).

As a result, game viewing is as spectacular as it gets: expect to see leopards, lions, elephants, cheetahs, wild dogs, buffaloes, giraffes, impalas, hyenas and hippos.

Game drives, walking safaris and motorised boat and mokoro excursions – on locally made dug-out canoes – are all included in the rate. In between game drives, we relaxed by the camp’s pool, glimpsing nearby giraffes as we swam, and enjoyed long, three-course lunches and dinners on the open-air terrace, where a daily-changing menu never failed to impress.

Wow: The guiding at Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is truly excellent and is what sets the brand apart. Our guide, Professor Ice, was born in the bush, and exuded an infectious love of the delta. But all staff members are wonderful.

I celebrated a birthday during my stay, and the team arranged the ultimate surprise. While on an evening game drive, we arrived at the aptly named Hippo Lagoon at sunset, where dozens of hippos were wallowing.

Against the setting sun, a pop-up bar had been created alongside platters of food and a personalised birthday cake. Seemingly out of nowhere, the camp’s choir was back, singing traditional songs and Happy Birthday. I cried happy tears!

Book it: Prices start from $890 per person per night, when staying for more than seven nights.

sanctuaryretreats.co.uk

Erica Rich

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