Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats Chief’s Camp

CHIEF’S IS­LAND, MOREMI GAME RE­SERVE, BOTSWANA

Upscale Living Magazine - - Content - By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

In the heart of the Oka­vango Delta lies the pris­tine Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats Chief’s Camp. Sit­u­ated on Chief’s Is­land, homage is paid to Chief Moremi of the BaTawana tribe, who used to oc­cupy the area as royal hunt­ing re­serve. To­day, filled with an abun­dance of wilder­ness and most im­por­tantly, the ul­ti­mate in ab­so­lute so­phis­ti­ca­tion and re­lax­ation, Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats Chief ’s Camp and the ad­ja­cent Moremi Game Re­serve on the eastern side of the Oka­vango Delta is teem­ing with the most spec­tac­u­lar wildlife and is a game viewer’s nir­vana.

The drive from the airstrip to camp is lit­tered with ba­bies – im­palas, tsessebe’s and ze­bra; a sure sign that breed­ing sea­son was suc­cess­ful to spring a pro­fu­sion of new life. An­ne­mie Parker, Gen­eral Man­ager at Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats Chief’s Camp and a myr­iad of staff warmly wel­come me to my home for the next two nights. Af­ter a brief ori­en­ta­tion, An­ne­mie shows me around my im­pres­sive room, Pav­il­ion 2, named Sek­gath­ole. Boast­ing some of the largest rooms in the area and af­ter an ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ment in 2016, Chief’s Camp is a sanc­tu­ary for the mind, body and soul.

My pav­il­ion is os­ten­ta­tiously spa­cious, 1,500 square feet to be pre­cise and feels more like a small house than a room. Mod­ern ameni­ties go a long way in en­sur­ing com­fort – air con­di­tion­ing, tra­di­tional ceil­ing fans, in-room Wi-Fi and a bath­room that will make you gasp at the sheer size of it. The floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows en­hance the feel­ing of ca­pa­cious­ness and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to a cleans­ing regime; a lav­ish free­stand­ing tub, indoor or out­door shower and dou­ble van­i­ties. The fold­away glass doors lead to your cov­ered deck where you can spend co­pi­ous amounts of time on your daybed or splash about in your pri­vate ter­race plunge pool. Pri­vacy is an es­sen­tial part of your stay at Chief ’s Camp and the ten pavil­ions are im­pec­ca­bly con­structed to en­sure your seclu­sion.

On the main lodge deck, I am in­tro­duced to my pro­fes­sional guide, Carter Tuelo. Af­ter the en­joy­ment of High Tea, we depart for our af­ter­noon

game drive where the sight­ings of tsessebe and its young, a li­lac-breasted roller, a highly preg­nant ze­bra and a jour­ney of gi­raffe make for ex­cel­lent pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties. A lone ele­phant bull is sur­vey­ing the habi­ta­tion in search of his next meal; there is plenty of food for him. For sun­down­ers, we stop along­side the dam where a pod of hip­pos de­light­fully ex­hibit their play­ful­ness.

Back at Chief’s Camp, I freshen up be­fore join­ing the rest of the guests for din­ner. The choices are splen­did – for starters: spinach souf­flé or bean soup with parme­san crisp. For main course, I choose the per­fectly pre­pared slices of grilled kudu loin with roasted potato, ba­con, wal­nuts, rocket, dried cran­ber­ries and crou­tons and for dessert, the de­lec­ta­ble berry mousse con­cludes my de­li­cious meal.

I am re­lieved to have Carter es­cort­ing me to my pav­il­ion af­ter din­ner as two hye­nas come scur­ry­ing out of the bushes next to my room - I’m not sure who got the big­ger fright. Safely in my room, I lock the door; keep­ing un­wanted visitors out. Af­ter a cleans­ing shower with the fra­grant Afri­col­ogy prod­ucts, I re­tire to my bed where the mos­quito net has been dropped to keep un­wel­come crit­ters away. The two three-quar­ter beds are pushed to­gether and my side has been turned down. The ceil­ing fan and air con­di­tioner erad­i­cate the heat and hu­mid­ity and soon I’m fast asleep. I am dressed be­fore my 05:30 wake-up call and when I hear Carter say­ing ‘good morn­ing’ out­side my door, I am able to con­tinue my amaze­ment at the sights and sounds of the African bush.

Alone on my deck, I sit in won­der­ment af­ter sun­rise and wit­ness the two naughty hye­nas tak­ing a drink from the wa­ter­ing hole. As I leave my pav­il­ion for break­fast at 6am, their foot­prints are in the sand right in front of my door. I qui­etly think it’s a good thing I locked my door for the night! At the din­ing area, the smell of freshly brewed cof­fee and home baked crois­sants will con­vert the big­gest grump into a morn­ing per­son. Ready for our game drive, Carter’s ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion seems in­tense. He drives with vigor to show us what the other guide has dis­cov­ered – a chee­tah with three cubs feed­ing on a kill. We are speech­less, not only be­cause chee­tahs are not eas­ily spot­ted (no pun in­tended), but to be able to wit­ness the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween mom and her cubs is as­ton­ish­ing.

They are very ner­vous eaters and be­tween the four of them, one is al­ways on the look­out for dan­ger. They will eat their fill and leave the car­cass for fur­ther con­sump­tion by scav­engers should any­thing be left. The vul­tures are start­ing to cir­cle and an im­pala is bark­ing its dis­dain, hav­ing lost one of their young to the chee­tahs.

Brunch is a hearty va­ri­ety of meals and the fa­vorite seems to be ‘make your own pizza’ with a se­lec­tion of top­pings and the pizza per­fected in the pizza oven. In­stead, I opt for the lamb rack with roasted cherry toma­toes, olives and spicy cous­cous. For dessert, I re­quest the melt-in-your-mouth vanilla ice cream, the creami­est ice cream I have ever tasted.

Walk­ing back to my room, I won­der if I may stum­ble upon an­other an­i­mal mak­ing its ap­pear­ance. Thank­fully only the tree squir­rels are run­ning amok, lead­ing the way for me. As I un­lock my front door, I pause for a mo­ment to sav­ior the elab­o­rate lodg­ing, im­pec­ca­bly de­signed and fur­nished to en­cap­su­late a true sa­fari chic ex­pe­ri­ence. Dark wooden col­ors and con­trast­ing whites blend flaw­lessly to cap­ture the ul­ti­mate in lux­ury. Exclusivity and au­then­tic­ity are key fac­tors at Chief’s Camp and the re-imag­i­na­tion of past into present com­bines his­tory with the fu­ture of stylish­ness and re­fine­ment.

High Tea is served and I am tempted to ask for a sec­ond serv­ing of the scrump­tious strawberry pavlova. As we head out for our af­ter­noon game drive, a warthog is rum­mag­ing through the leaves while her three cu­ri­ous piglets make ev­ery­one ex­claim at their cute­ness. Once she has fin­ished for­ag­ing, they all set off, tails in the air.

An African fish ea­gle is perched on the bare branches of a tree. A bird usu­ally takes flight when you get too close in prox­im­ity, but this one stays put un­til we can marvel at his glory. He fluffs out his tail feath­ers and as he takes off, his im­pres­sive wing­span has us all in awe.

Dusk is start­ing to fall and we ap­proach a densely veg­e­tated area. An­other ve­hi­cle is parked on an em­bank­ment when we sud­denly see him – The King of the Jun­gle, the most ma­jes­tic lion with an ex­quis­ite mane. He lies down to take a nap and sud­denly gets up, walks around the back of the ve­hi­cle and hes­i­tates for a mo­ment. He is blind in his right eye, but it is clear that he rules his pride of a fe­male and four subadult cubs. Driv­ing back to camp, a marabou stork is sil­hou­et­ted against the dark­ened sky.

Din­ner is a ver­i­ta­ble feast and my main course choice is herb-but­ter beef fil­let, sweet potato dauphi­noise, stir-fried veg­eta­bles and red wine sauce. I ask the waitress if I may have some of the vanilla ice cream and am de­lighted when she brings me some.

I am awo­ken dur­ing the night by ba­boons de­scend­ing on my roof, and tree squir­rels hav­ing a squab­ble. Hye­nas are laugh­ing in the dis­tance and I hear the un­mis­tak­able sound of a lion roar­ing. Carter tries to lo­cate the lion on our morn­ing game drive and as luck would have it, he finds the lion and the hye­nas. The lion is on the prowl and the hye­nas are greet­ing each other with their trade­mark sniff­ing of gen­i­tals. We are not sure whether the one is tick­lish or just show­ing dom­i­nance with a toothy gri­mace. His re­ac­tion makes us all laugh out loud.

It is time to re­turn home and af­ter a rapid drive to the airstrip, I am able to see a herd of ele­phants hav­ing a re­fresh­ing splash in a wa­ter­ing hole down be­low from my win­dow seat of the Cessna 206G.

Af­ter land­ing at Maun In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the jour­ney back to Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port be­gins. We are sched­uled to take off with our Air­link flight at 13:35. With all pas­sen­gers seated, the cap­tain starts the en­gines of the Em­braer 135 and off we go, land­ing twenty min­utes ahead of sched­ule, much to the de­light of ev­ery­one on board. http://www.sanc­tu­aryre­treats.com/botswana-camps-chiefs

Views ex­pressed are the au­thor’s own. | Pho­to­graphs cour­tesy of Sanc­tu­ary Re­treats Chief Camp and by Heléne Ra­mack­ers

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