A visit to the Makgadikgadi is a totally different experience in terms of scenery and wildlife compared to the rest of Botswana’s highlights. They are dramatic, severe, milky-blue endless horizons, awe inspiring and incredibly quiet. There is absolute freedom of being alone in the middle of nowhere!
Totally worth a visit, and Jack’s Camp is one of the most beautiful and luxurious places to stay, and completely worth a spot on your bucket list.
Made up of many individual pans interspersed with open grasslands, the Makgadikgadi is the last remnant of a super lake that covered most of southern Africa but disappeared about 10,000 years ago.
Jack’s Camp was named after Jack Bousfield, a notorious and very eccentric chap, who asked one day what was in the pans. When informed “nothing”, he said “then that’s the place for me” and continued to live the remainder of his life in this forbidding and unforgettable landscape. The pans are desolate with little vegetation, yet they are compellingly beautiful in their own way.
Jack himself called the area one of ‘savage beauty of a forgotten Africa’ and forgotten it indeed is! The space and remoteness is completely thrilling, you can feel the silence and emptiness all around you.
One of the most unique experiences that you can have here is to spend time with the local San people, whose history can be traced back 30,000 years. These gentle people still live a semi-traditional lifestyle but are facing complex challenges in the modern day. They are a very welcoming and gentle people and delighted to share their traditional skills with you.
Although the Makgadikgadi is not primarily a wildlife destination, there is plenty to see here. Apart from the brown hyena, one can see desert adapted species including bat eared foxes, aardvark, aardwolf and even bull elephants on occasion.
Jack’s Camp is quite simply, resplendent. It is a remnant of the safaris of old, built in an elegant classic style with Persian rugs, copper basins and four-poster beds, but with all the amenities you expect from a luxury safari camp.
There is a central mess tent which houses a collection of unique finds from the pans, including preserved skulls and bones found in the salt, preserved flamingo eggs, and stone aged tools. In fact this room has been declared a museum by the Botswana University! Many of the other items in the camp came from Jack Bousfield’s own camp that moved throughout northern Botswana as he hunted crocodiles in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
There is a well-stocked drinks chest and a beautiful, antique pool table, as well as a library. The camp has a swimming pool housed in a glorious tent, the only one of its kind. You can also spend time in the tea tent, watching the pans from the shade.
The guest accommodation comprises seven twin and three double tents, designed in a 1940’s style with outside verandahs. All have en suites with showers both indoors and outdoors.
Specialist guides that you can spend time exploring with are Ralph Bousfield (son of Jack), Super and Chuba.
Yes, children of all ages are welcome at Jack’s Camp, which is an excellent choice for a family safari. Children love the Pans and there’s so much for them to enjoy and learn. Children absolutely love spending time with the San people and going out on walks with them to learn about bushcraft and hear their stories.
Children over six years can take part in quad biking adventures into the pans (though they cannot drive the bikes until they are 12). They also can enjoy gentle horse riding activities from eight years old, and do not need to be experienced riders.
The tourism initiative with Jack’s Camp allows the local Zu/’hoasi San people to preserve their traditional knowledge and gain an income from it. The community is able to work together and share their knowledge with each other and guests, allowing the older generation to pass the knowledge on to the next generation.
The hope is that the younger children see the value and benefits that their traditions bring and will carry the knowledge of their incredible ancient culture into the modern world with a sense of pride and personal empowerment.
Jack’s Camp is open and good to visit all year round, however available activities may change with the seasons. The dry season is from mid-April to late October which is when it is possible to take quad bike excursions into the pans.
During the rainy and spring season (January – April), the pans are filled with water which is the best time to see the stunning birdlife.
Jack’s Camp sits on the edge of pan in the Makgadikgadi in north-central Botswana. The Okavango lies to the west. It is about a 50-minute flight from Maun by light aircraft, landing at a dirt airstrip about 20 minutes’ drive from camp. Maun can be easily reached directly from Cape Town and Johannesburg airports.
Please do feel free to contact Nicola directly or at The Explorations Company for further inspiration and unforgettable safaris and holidays to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Or, if you would like to just dream some more for now then you can by visiting our Video Library.
This video page was originally posted in April 2018 and then updated and republished on 23rd November 2021
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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