– Klein Collection Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie
The most popular lodge in the concession NG25 deep in the Okavango Delta, Tubu Tree Camp is an all-rounder with a bit of everything. We visit for two nights to discover why, and we’re not disappointed.
For once, I’m glad I missed the evening game drive. Sitting alone reading on our private deck overlooking the flood plain under the shade of a sausage tree, I hear the first cracks of branches. Elephant are moving into the camp. Soon I’m surrounded by a breeding herd of twenty, including two tiny babies, moving just metres away. I sit spellbound, unable to decide whether to take photos, video or just enjoy the moment. I decide to just enjoy it.
Elephants in camp are a regular occurrence at Tubu Tree Camp, but it’s leopard that’s the main draw card here and just last week, the guests at our tent (number 5) arrived back after dinner to find two leopard cubs sitting on their deck. This is not normal. But the leopards at Tubu Tree are not normal.
We arrive in a Cessna 206 from Xigera [link] in a flight time of 10 mins, and what a spectacular 10 mins! Cruising just 250m above the delta, we look out at the vast expanse of waterways and islands and even manage some aerial game viewing, watching a herd of elephant bathing in the channel below. Our guide, Gibson, meets us off the plane together with an American couple for the short drive to the camp, where we’re welcomed by the camp managers, Eloise and Hein, both experienced guides from South Africa.
The camp’s setting is superb with a cosy enclosed lounge and plunge pool and loungers situated just above the flood plain. Our favourite feature is the bar, integrated into a Marula tree, the bar itself a huge, polished branch.
The safari tents are one of our favourites in the delta – neat and spacious and with the best outdoor shower yet. If you want to know what it feels like being surrounded by elephants while in the shower, this is the place to come! “If it sounds like an elephant stampeding on the roof of your tent, don’t worry”, says Eloise, “It’s just the monkeys. They like to use it as a trampoline.”
Next morning we’re out on the game drive, looking for one of the seven leopards often seen on the reserve. Before long we come across fresh tracks, then hear red-billed spurfowls alarm calling nearby. Then Sophie spots her, slinking through the acacia close to the road. “It’s the young female with cubs” says Gilbert. “If we’re lucky we’ll see her cubs as well.”
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve spent in the bush or what you’ve seen before – a leopard sighting is always special, even if it’s an almost daily occurrence as it is here at Tubu Tree. To watch how gracefully it walks, how affectionately it rubs and scent marks against the tree, how harmless it seems, yet to know how instantly it can switch into a killing machine, and the almost unimaginable power of being able to drag a fully-grown kudu up a tall tree.
We follow her through the thick bush and Gibson curses as we plough over sickle bushes, well known for puncturing tyres with their vicious thorns. She pauses, softly calling her cubs but they stay hidden, for another day. Instead we head for the mokoros for a leisurely pole through the reeds of the flood plain for some bird and frog spotting and coffee on a tiny island.
The following morning we have more luck with a young female leopard who gives us a marvellous display, posing on top of a termite mound before scaling two dead trees, legs dangling in the glow of the early morning light. No matter what camera you’ve got, you can’t be disappointed with photos like these!
Tubu Tree Camp is the most westerly of the 4 lodges in the concession, right in the heart of the delta, all of them run by Wilderness Safaris. It’s also the most popular, situated on the main island with an unusually large area available for game drives, hence the excellent leopard sightings. The mokoro trips allow for a good combination of land and water-based safaris, although we prefer Xigera for mokoro trips.
Nearby Jao camp (one of Wilderness’ Premier lodges) is also popular, but suffers from being a 45-minute boat trip from the main island. Game drives tend to be all-day affairs, leaving you less time to enjoy the luxuries of the Premier camp. Recently revamped Jacana camp is best known for its boat and mokoro trips rather than large game and also has a family unit, while Kwetsani arguably has the best of both worlds – a mere 15 mins by boat from the main island, and with excellent water safaris of it own.
But with its location, charming set-up and virtually guaranteed leopard sightings, Tubu Tree Camp is our pick, and ideally combined with a lion country lodge such as King’s Pool, and a pure water based option such as Xigera.
As they heralded our arrival, so the elephants were the last to bid us farewell – the huge breeding herd trumpeting as they bathed in front of the camp as we waited for our lift to the airstrip.
A sigh of satisfaction.
Good for: Leopard, elephant, an all-round camp with a good mix of land and water activities. The camp has (sporadic) cell phone reception, very unusual in the delta, for those that just have to share their leopard sightings on Facebook…
Not so good for: Lion, and those looking for a bit more luxury.
Our verdict: A solid choice in one of the best areas of the delta, works well when combined with a Premier camp and/or purely water-based camp.
We would love to help you get the most out of your safari experience. Contact Jonathan and Sophie today.
Email: safari[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961