Positioned within Botswana’s Okavango Delta, adjacent to Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, Khwai Private Reserve is truly where the wild things are, with up to 50 different species being sighted on particularly productive game drives, but that hasn’t always been the case…
KPR (as it’s affectionately known by those whose hearts it has captured) was once a hunting concession. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that animals in such an area tend to be somewhat wary of human activity and thus are difficult to get a really good look at. Being a solely photographic operation, we don’t need the thrill of the chase, we prefer happy, relaxed wildlife that our guests can spend time watching, so we immediately set about habituating the wildlife when we became involved with the reserve.
We spent an entire year tracking animals and gradually getting them used to the presence of our vehicles, and within two to three years of hunting stopping the wildlife sightings increased dramatically.
Predators are always a major safari highlight of course, and there’s no shortage of them in Khwai. Families of lions laze in the hot sun, and leopards give away treetop locations with the flick of a tail. Cheetahs can be seen stalking through the long grass whilst African wild dogs whip one another up into a hunting frenzy.
Large herds of elephants parade through the concession, and buffalos barrel determinedly across the plains. Baboons shout and whoop to each other, as a variety of antelopes including sable and roan graze quietly, with twitching ears always aware of others around them.
It would be easy to assume that a reserve which extends to 495,000 acres and boasts abundant wildlife might be full of camps, but that’s certainly not the case at KPR. On the contrary, we operate only three camps here: Sable Alley, Hyena Pan and Skybeds, whilst photographers rave about Khwai Pangolin which is also in the concession.
We like to think that we’ve been rather clever with our placement of the camps by positioning them next to water. At Sable Alley for example, the sound of hippos snorting provides an ambient soundtrack to camp life, and it’s not unusual to have elephants brushing past the canvas of your room as you lie in bed reflecting on the day. Hyena Pan meanwhile is becoming iconic for the plethora of elephants who visit, often approaching the camp’s decks to get a better look at the guests and staff – we’ve even installed a wildlife viewing hide to allow guests to get even closer to these giant characters.
Skybeds is an innovative setup that’s completely open to the sights and sounds of the bush, and throngs of elephants often wind their way around the platforms, with the occasional hyena being sighted from the viewpoints the beds offer as well.
The wildlife in Khwai Private Reserve may not have been historically strong, but this rather special area is going from strength to strength, and the animals seem to like visiting just as much as our guests do!