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Jack's Camp, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana


Jack’s Camp is a luxurious haven amongst the shimmering and desolate expanses of the Makgadikgadi Salt pans. This is one of the most breath-taking, dramatic and iconic safari camps Botswana offers. Jack’s Camp has undergone a full rebuild and has now reopened in 2021. The brand-new Jack’s Camp pays homage to the property’s enduring and much-loved 1940s campaign style.

Why should you visit Jack’s Camp as part of your safari to Botswana?

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.

Why are the Makgadikgadi Pans such a special safari location in Botswana?

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.

What is the accommodation like at Jacks Camp?

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.

What activities are on offer at Jacks Camp?

  • Visit a family of habituated meerkats. You can get really close to them and follow them as they look for grubs and scorpions.
  • Take walks in the pans with the Zu/’hoasi San people, learning how they live in this harsh environment. They will show you how to light a fire with their traditional sticks, which plants they use for medicines, how they find and store water and track wildlife and birds.
  • Visit the San village and see in more detail how they live. You can watch a trance dance, learn how the women prepare their meals and sample a variety of their local food. Watch how they make jewellery from ostrich eggs, porcupine quills and seeds
  • Enjoy wildlife safaris including searching for the elusive brown hyena, or (season dependent), seeing the vibrant pink flamingos and pink and white-backed pelicans in the pans.
  • In the wet season witness the zebra and wildebeest migration, the second largest in Africa after that seen in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.
  • During the dry season, take a quad bike excursion into the heart of the pans. It is surprising how many stone age tools can still be found, indicating that this was an area occupied by humans thousands of years ago.
  • Visit the site of Chapman’s Baobab, an ancient baobab which was formerly one of the largest and oldest on Earth but sadly fell (of natural causes) in 2016.
  • Take horse rides into the pans.
  • Enjoy spa treatments in the spa tent to unwind after a hot day out in the desert
  • Swoop over the desert in a helicopter excursion.
  • Lie out on the pans and stargaze under the stunning southern skies. With absolutely no light pollution this is an astounding experience.

Specialist guides that you can spend time exploring with are Ralph Bousfield (son of Jack), Super and Chuba.

Are families welcome at Jack’s Camp?

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.

How does a visit to Jack’s Camp support local communities?

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.

What is the best time to visit the Makgadikgadi Pans?

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.

Where is it located and how to get there?

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 AfricaAsia, 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 

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