Okavango Delta, Botswana
Much expert thought has gone into blending Jao Camp with its extraordinary surroundings (extraordinary is an understatement: no place on the planet compares remotely with the Okavango Delta, a spectacularly verdant inland delta, woven with meandering, papyrus-lined channels, graced with evocative lagoons and islands, teeming with animals of the most extraordinary kind).
Jao is strategically set in its own concession in water- and landscapes of great personality: lushly forested riverine islands and the vast floodplains that succor its inhabitants—and the camp does hearty justice to its setting with cheer and service, extra-superb accommodations, and resolve to show our guests just how miraculous the Delta is with a resoundingly luxe and private experience of its million-year calm.
Jao Camp’s nine, tree-shaded tents—creations of the renowned Johannesburg architects Leslie and Rech Carstens—are carefully situated for maximum views of the always active floodplains just outside of camp (which the local creatures clearly consider part of their domain, as attested to by a friendly family of mongoose which has happily made its home here).
Each raised tent is linked to the main lounge and dining area (and the camp’s invitingly azure pool) by well-crafted wooden walkways, for a charming treehouse feel. Each is large even by luxury safari tent standards, up-to-the-minutely equipped with an inviting canopied bed, separate, soothingly decorated lounge, double vanitied-bathrooms (with in- and outdoor showers), and a private sala—a thatched gazebo with comfy chairs and an even more comfortable bed for contented naps (as we like to remind our Micato guests, deep relaxation is one of safari’s major benefits).
We wend the Delta’s waterways by mekoro canoe (two of the camp’s mekoro are glass-bottomed, a sweet Jaoian lagniappe). We spot an almost bewildering number of species: we may come across spotted-neck otters in full frolic, and we’ll certainly see huge herds of red lechwe and other finely-tuned antelopes like tsessebes and rare sitatungas—who attract shrewd predators; a large leopard population inhabits this part of the Delta, and, of course, lions by the score are always on the job.
Elephants rollick gargantuanly, zebras race across giant lily-graced marshes, and hippos yawn like they wanted to gulp the whole Delta. Nile crocodiles keep quiet lookout, and Cape buffalo graze with bovine dedication. We can fish for bream and tilapia, enjoy night drives in search of this aquatic wonderland’s nocturnal creatures, picnic on beautiful Hunda Island, sleep in a star bed near camp, and round out our enthralling days with wonderful dinners, campfire socializing, and perhaps a refreshful massage in Jao’s spa. Or just laze in our sala, looking out at “a sky,” as Elspeth Huxley wrote, “banded with rose and lemon and the colour of flamingo wings.”