– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby
With its stunning location on the banks of the Linyanti River, and well-deserved reputation as one of Wilderness’ top Premier Lodges, we had high hopes indeed for the end of our honeymoon at Kings Pool. We weren’t disappointed.
“During the dry season the dwarf mongoose gather in groups of up to 60-70 and have been known to take down a buffalo…”
Lemme, our guide, sends us a mischievous glance and a wicked smile as he continues driving past the termite mound, home to a large group of these cute, shy little creatures. I’m the first to catch him out – “There’s no way, Lemme! You’ll have to try that on safari novices, not us!”
It’s our first evening drive here at Kings Pool Camp and we’re already in love with it – not only the stunning camp, but this beautiful piece of wilderness, right on the Linyanti river swamps. Stopping for sundowners along the open floodplain, a large pod of hippos put on an impressive display as we sip our G and Ts, while arriving back at the camp we come across a beauty of a female leopard, walking casually in the road ahead of us – until she spots the fire at the boma with dinner about to be served. She freezes at the sight of the flames, than dashes into the bush. Just as well really.
Kings Pool Camp is named after a Swedish monarch who apparently once camped here on the banks of the river – long before any lodge appeared. And the lodge today does everything possible to live up to its royal name – Kings Pool has class. From the tasteful African-styled minimalist interior, kept in neutral, earthy tones, to the impeccable ever-smiling, ever-welcoming staff and the delicious plentiful food; everything here exudes effortless style.
Julie shows us around the newly refurbished luxury tents, all of which now have floor to ceiling mesh walls, providing more light and stunning views of the water flowing right below. The tents have thatched roofs, providing coolness during the hot midday hours, while the decor is African, with wooden sculptures and a carved, wooden door.
A bottle of sparkling wine is ready for us, in an ice bucket, with a personal, handwritten note congratulating us on our recent wedding. It doesn’t take long for us to settle in – the tent is wonderfully spacious, has a desk, director’s chair, couch, reference books and magazines on the coffee table, a yoga mat and weights in the dresser; there’s a double indoor shower, as well as an outdoor shower.
The outdoor deck is equally divine, with a private plunge pool, two loungers and a thatched gazebo for that essential afternoon nap. Make no mistake – quality of suites don’t get much better than this, let alone in a location like this.
For our first evening at Kings Pool Camp we get to experience an authentic African evening under the stars. At pre-dinner cocktail hour we are all treated to a magnificent show of dancing and singing where all the Botswana staff (guides and waiters) perform. The singing and dancing continues as we are led to the boma, or kgotla as it’s known in Setswana, where a roaring fire awaits us. Before the traditional dinner is served, Lemme gives everyone a brief orientation on the traditional uses of the kgotla and how it still today exists in all villages as a focal point for gatherings, celebrations and meetings. Dinner is a colorful display of authentic Botswana cuisine – corn soup starter, pounded beef and chicken as mains and malva pudding as dessert, with good company to match.
The Linyanti region is known for its large lion prides and elephant herds and we come across some big breeding herds, but for now the lions remain elusive. We spot a mystery bird that none of us can identify – later at the camp, Lemme enlists fellow guides Alex and Ndebo to help solve the mystery, but no luck. But this sincere interest and enthusiasm is one of the absolute highlights of our stay – a good guide not only shares his knowledge but also always strives to learn more, and at Kings Pool we experienced just that.
For brunch we tuck into a delicious buffet with different salads, cold and warm meats, fresh bread, fruit, cheeses. As if this wasn’t enough we find ourselves ordering from today’s menu, which includes fish cakes, soups and frozen yogurt as dessert – yum! The meals at Kings Pool Camp are hearty and wholesome and the South African executive chef, Kenny, keeps tabs on his guests – we chatted to him every day of our stay. As well as an early morning breakfast of cereals, yogurts, cheeses, muffins, pancakes, fresh fruit and boiled eggs, there’s a daily menu for brunch and dinner with at least two options as main courses. And for afternoon tea there’s a wide selection of cakes, scones, fresh fruit and savory snacks.
All in all, there’s a marked difference between the food served at Premier camps, compared to the Classic camps.
It’s our last morning – in the night we heard lion’s roaring and we hit the road with Lemme. Following the fresh tracks, it takes him only a few minutes to locate them – two sisters and a young male, and they walk right into a herd of impala. “No kill today,” Jonathan sighs as the impala scatter, and the lions walk down to the water and casually dump themselves in the shade. Oh well.
We’re in need of stretching our legs so Lemme shoulders a .458 and we go for a stroll in an open area of Mopane bush, looking at tracks and the small things – just as important to us as the Big Five. Kings Pool is one of the few camps in the delta where walks are offered, and there’s more. You can, depending on the season, go fishing, do boat cruises along the Linyanti River, or visit the waterhole with its unique eye-level hide. Or take a break and have a massage.
Back at the camp we indulge in our last bush brunch before saying our goodbyes. It’s the end of our honeymoon, and Kings Pool one of its highlights. The facilities, the staff, the guiding and game – all were in a class of their own. And one day we’ll be back to ID that mystery bird…
Honeymooners and families alike – there’s something for everyone here. Big game.
Not so good for:
The luxury safari tents were spaced a little close together, but it’s a minor quibble.
What we liked best:
Stunning location right on the river – it’s a world of birds, hippos, and elephants to enjoy from your own plunge pool.
Our verdict: As good as it gets in Botswana, with an unbeatable combination of luxury and big game. Best combined with a water-based camp such as Xigera [link].
We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.
Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961