Part 11: Tubu Tree Camp, Okavango Delta

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On December 12 2014 we returned to Tubu Tree Camp in the Jao Concession of the Okavango Delta, after an absence of about 3 years.  It was still just as good and over the course of a brief 2-night stay we enjoyed close-up sightings of lions, a leopard, good numbers of buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, impala and a few other mammals, and fantastic  birdlife.

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The camp and its sister property Little Tubu have proven themselves over and over to be reliable year-round Okavango Delta destinations, and we will continue to recommend either of these two camps as well as Kwetsani and Jao for our clients.

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Tubu 43Tubu Tree Camp is no longer the small 5-room camp it once was, but despite now having 10 rooms along the same boardwalk (counting the 3 rooms of Little Tubu), the atmosphere really hasn’t changed.  It still feels quite intimate and very much in keeping with the ethos of the true, authentic safari experience:  private and personalized and very much in tune with its environment.

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I still like the location of the rooms overlooking a large open floodplain.  The newly improved and now larger rooms have a perfect balcony to sit and relax and observe whatever may be present in front of camp.  On the day we arrived there were good numbers of zebra, wildebeest and impala around, as well as a small family of ground hornbills.  Sitting and contemplating life on the verandah at Tubu Tree Camp is one of the under-rated joys of being on safari.  Mostly we spend so much time on game drives and other activities that we neglect the reflective, introspective part of the experience.

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The rooms at Tubu Tree and Little Tubu are right in the ‘goldilocks’ category of safari accommodation:  not too big, not too small, not too fancy – just right.  They are quite high on an elevated boardwalk and tucked right under the canopy of large trees – in shadow – thus cool even on a hot summer afternoon.  The lighting is adequate, and although the ceiling fan is not the most effective one I’ve seen, it pushes enough air down and into the mosquito net at night to keep things comfortable.

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The outdoor shower at room #5 – it actually has 2 shower heads – passed Kathy’s stringent outdoor shower test with flying colors.  Most importantly, it is shaded, it has a natural feel (not just a conventional shower outside the room) and it received bonus points for the view.

The rooms at Little Tubu are identical and the much smaller (3-roomed) camp is built on the same boardwalk as Tubu Tree.

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The very intimate lounge and dining room as well as deck, swimming pool and bar area bear a strong resemblance to Tubu Tree as well, with similar stylistic elements.  Little Tubu is operated as a completely separate camp with its own kitchen, vehicles and guiding team.

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Dec 14 2014

The game drive at Tubu Tree this morning with our guide Maipa (on loan from Jao) was great and reminded me of a couple of game drives at Mombo a few years ago.  There was something to be seen around every corner:  if it wasn’t giraffe, it was zebra or wildebeest or kudu, or the occasional elephant.  Plus lots of impala with tiny babies, baboons and a proliferation of birds.  More often than not three or four mammal species could be seen at the same time.Tubu 4

Add to this some of the prettiest scenery to be found anywhere in Northern Botswana and you have yourself a wilderness winner.

Earlier, we went on an 8-hour long excursion with Maipa to go and take a look at Jao and Kwetsani camps, which we had not seen in several years.

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Jao was just as stunning and impressive as the first time, even more so now.  Of all the Okavango Delta camps which we’ve visited over the space of 25 years, Jao still sets the standard in visual and dramatic appeal.  The main lodge and dining room is nothing short of exquisite.  Built in the style of a Balinese long house, the setting is near perfect.  No matter where you are in camp you know that you are right in the heart of the Okavango Delta.  Even when the water in the Delta is at its lowest in late November and early December the camp offers water activities such as mokoro outings and boating.

Tubu 27Tubu 25Tubu 22We took a quick look at the extensive wine cellar and also the expertly staffed full-service spa.  These – plus a nicely equipped gym and a curio store stocked with all the things you’ve been looking for – elevate Jao into the upper echelon of deluxe safari properties.  If you truly enjoy the finer things in life, then Jao is for you.

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We also went to nearby Kwetsani for a quick walk-through.  Of course the location was perfect as ever, overlooking a large grassy floodplain which is completely flooded in the wet season from about April through August.  We still like the deck at Kwetsani as much as ever – it extends out from the cozy main lodge and dining room area quite a bit, creating the ideal platform to enjoy the special, almost spiritual appeal of the Okavango Delta.

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We were told that the camp would be closed for about 4 months until early winter of 2015 to completely rebuild the rooms from their current hybrid tented format to a 3-tent’ configuration with a connected lounge, sleeping and bathroom setup.  Clearly this will make Kwetsani even better than before.  We will continue to recommend it to our clients who prefer a small property (just 5 tents) in a remote and beautiful setting with diverse range of activities including boating, mokoro outings, fishing and of course game drives on nearby Hunda Island.

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Getting back to the game drive this morning, we had the best view yet on the trip of a leopard – apparently the ‘camp female’ – who crossed the road in front of us in full view, allowing several good photo ops before disappearing into a thicket.

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Later on we also enjoyed good views of a herd of wildebeest before returning to camp for brunch.

Alas, I then had to say goodbye to Kathy who was on her way back to the USA and to some good friends and clients from Southern Illinois with whom we had shared their last 2 days at Dumatau and their first 2 days at Tubu; lucky devils would be spending another several days there after our departure.

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It was time to go.  A quick trip to the airstrip, a final goodbye to our guide Maipa and there over the horizon – we could hear it before we could see it – appeared our Wilderness Air ride.  Once more I pulled the shoulder strap tight over my left shoulder, clicked it into place, took a deep breath and watched the speed indicator climb to 80 knots which transforms the Cessna 208 from a bulky, lumbering collection of metal, rubber, plastic & synthetic parts into a powerful flying machine.

About an hour later, after brief stops at Vumbura and Chobe (Linyanti), we touched down at Kasane where I was met by a driver from Chobe Game Lodge.