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Zarafa Dhow Suites, Selinda Private Concession, Botswana

The name comes from a giraffe, which was presented to Charles X of France in 1826 by the Viceroy of Egypt. She travelled from Africa in a traditional Dhow boat, and it was on this journey that she was given her name reflecting her true elegance and splendour.

The Zarafa Dhow Suites in Botswana, are the brainchild of the founders of Great Plains Conservation, who pooled their collective experience on safari to create what they deemed to be the best and most environmentally innovative camp. Zarafa means “the beloved one” or “the lovely one” in Arabic.

The Dhow Suite successfully retains a clearly African feel, while balancing that delicate relationship between personal and informal and romance and adventure. There is no equal in terms of its environmental credentials and its careful appointments.

Selinda Reserve, at the crossroads of some of northern Botswana’s most prolific wildlife areas, boasts staggering wildlife populations year-round. Home to some of the classic species, such as leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, Red lechwe, zebra and giraffe, it is also a refuge for some of the more uncommon species such as African wild dog (which usually den each dry season near camp), cheetah, roan and sable.

And for birders, it will not disappoint. The nearby African skimmer colony is a highlight, as are the antics of the Black egret on the shores of Zibadianja Lagoon. From the Dhow Suite, hippos are visible in the Lagoon and elephant wander through regularly. Night noises will either lull you to sleep or wake you from a deep slumber. It is an exciting area, and guests are in the heart of a wilderness wonderland.

Where is Zarafa Dhow Suite located?

Positioned in the extreme eastern side of the 320,000-acre Selinda Reserve, Zarafa Dhow Suites sits on an island in the floodplains of the southern shores of the Zibadianja Lagoon, which is the source of the Savute Channel.

There are few places in northern Botswana as dynamic as the Selinda Reserve - centred on the famous Selinda Spillway, a unique waterway which actually flows in two directions: receiving water from the Okavango Delta to the south and water from the Linyanti to the east. The Selinda Reserve is west (upstream) from the Savuti Channel and Chobe, so it has all the advantages of both of those famous areas but with the tremendous advantage of exclusivity. It is a truly a spectacular and unique landscape.

What sort of accommodation is available at Zarafa Dhow Suite?

The villa, 210 square metre (2,260 sq. ft.) in extent, is under beige, flowing canvas, with canopy ceilings and completely open (yet netted) sides. Entering through the heavy wood Lamu door transports guests to a lavish space of deep reds, browns, brass and copper, evoking richness and beauty. Central to the Dhow Suite are a full lounge and dining area fitted dining table, coffee table with cappuccino machine and a full-length leather couch and chairs.

Two large bedrooms are connected to either side of the main area designed with an open layout bathroom with impressive copper claw foot bath, indoor shower, separate loo and double basins and even an open fire, with copper flue, to heat the room in winter.

A large decking area fronts onto the suites with a 5 x 2.5 metre swimming pool, exercise bike and full-body outdoor showers for each room, all with views of pristine Botswana wilderness.

The adjoining main camp has a bush boutique for those who need retail therapy and an in-room massage is also available.

What Activities are available at Zarafa Dhow Suite?

The Dhow Suite offer complete flexibility with your own private guide and vehicle. Drives do focus on the most comfortable and productive times of day, early morning and late afternoon, but full day drives are also quite common and at your request. Picnic brunch can be delivered and the vehicles are stocked with cold drinks. There is a custom built Land Cruiser specially designed for the conditions and photography (fold-down screens and raised roofs) with four individual bucket seats.

The HES Zib, Zarafa’s special pontoon boat, is an utterly unique experience and available to all guests. The 275 sq. foot deck is complete with couches, a dining area and bar where you can comfortably enjoy a floating brunch or sundowners while watching hippos and elephants in the water. It is also an exceptional platform for birding.

Fishing equipment is available for those who want to try their luck catching the local bream. Walks can also be arranged and are led by licensed guides with firearm training. For stargazers, the Suites come with its own Swarovski telescope for use on the private deck.

Does Zarafa Dhow Suite cater for families with young children?

Zarafa looks forward to having children stay with them that are 6 years and older.

  • Children must be a minimum of 12 years old to participate in extensive walking activities (Young Explorers program excepted)
  • Young Explorers program – thoughtfully designed to explore a range of experiences and topics from birding to cooking to art to tracking wildlife.

The Young Explorers Programme has a full syllabus of bush craft skills for their young explorers. This is a complimentary programme that follows in the footsteps of National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. An extensive pack is provided to eager children on arrival, so they can learn about animal calls, how to track wildlife, and other facts and figures about the wild.

At the end of a child’s stay, they will become a Young Explorer and Conservation Ambassador - ready to go out and tell the world about what they have learned and what they too can do to help protect this beautiful environment.

When is the best time to visit Zarafa Dhow Suite?

Botswana's dry season is between May and October, when you can expect warm, sunny days and chilly nights. Confusingly, this is also when the water levels in the Okavango Delta are at their highest, creating the waterways and channels Botswana is famed for.

The green season from November to April is a great time to travel if you don't mind the odd shower, as visitor numbers and prices are lower, the scenery pops with verdant foliage and animals give birth to their young.


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