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Okavango Delta

Jao Camp Properties |

Jao Camp
9 Spacious Safari Styled Rooms

Guests are accommodated in nine large and spacious rooms. Each of the unique and beautiful twin-bedded canvas and thatched rooms has been individually handcrafted under the direction of renowned architects Sylvio Rech and Leslie Carstens. The rooms are built under a canopy of shady trees, with en-suite bathroom, hot and cold running water, a large bath and double vanity. There is an additional outside shower under the stars for those more adventurous guests who want to shower closer to nature. There is an outdoor sala for guests to enjoy mid-day siestas with a view and a breeze. The rooms are raised off the ground and offer wonderful views of the surrounding floodplains.

A raised walkway connects the rooms to the dining room and lounge area. There is a plunge pool and an outdoor 'boma' for dining under the stars, as well as an excellent wine cellar. Jao also offers a Salon with a full-time therapist, offering a wide range of massage treatments. The activities at Jao include mokoro (dug-out canoe) excursions, boats, fishing, day and night game drives and guided walks. During an unusually high flood season, game drives begin by boating out to a nearby island - Hunda Island - where the vehicles are waiting, and the drive begins from there.

The area is extremely seasonal and the annual flood transforms the habitat from dry green open plains in summer to shallow floodplains in the winter. Access to this area is only by aircraft.

Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botwana

Lying as it does in the very heart of the Delta, the Jao Reserve embodies all the magic and mystique of the Okavango. Narrow water channels cut their way through the papyrus and reed beds in the permanent Delta to the north and east of the reserve, providing the perfect environment for the elusive sitatunga and the rare Pel's Fishing Owl. Beautiful lush palm islands dot the water, begging to be explored. In the central region of the reserve, vast open floodplains provide some of the most stunning scenery of the region.

Jao Camp lies in the southern side of the plains and Kwetsani Camp is 5 miles further north on the same floodplain system. This area of the reserve has beautiful islands fringed with riverine forests. Further west the reserve gets progressively dryer and Hunda island, which is the tip of a large sand tongue, is the largest area of dry land during the flood season.
Game Walks & Drives, Fishing, Water Game Viewing & Picnics on Hunda Island.

A variety of habitats ensures diverse and interesting game viewing. The wildlife at Jao depends largely on the water levels in the area. The lagoons are home to Hippo and Crocodile and the permanent waterways and floodplains attract large numbers of waterfowl. In the permanent waters, Sitatunga can be tracked silently by mokoro.

From October to March the waters subside and extensive green open plains are the highlight. This is where the game viewing is the most diverse. Lion, Cheetah and Leopard are plentiful, while Tsessebe, Red Lechwe, Zebra, Giraffe, Warthog and Wildebeest dot the flood plains. Large herds of buffalo move in and out of the reserve at will. Night drives are good for spotting creatures not often seen such as Porcupine, Spotted Hyena, Pangolin, Spring Hares, Bushbabies, Civet and Genets.

During winter months, the water levels at Jao rise and the savannah areas become inundated with water. Huge herds of Lechwe can be found on the floodplains and the Lion prides are adept at hunting and drowning their prey in the water. Leopards are still often seen and Elephants are more prevalent at this time. Plains game such as Impala, Zebra, Wildebeest and Tsessebe stick to the dry islands. During this time the focus at Jao switches more to water activities with limited game drives on the larger islands. A greater choice of activities is also possible at this time of year due to these higher water levels.

Local Info

The Jao Reserve (Wildlife Management Area NG25) is 60,000 hectares in extent and is in the north-western area of the Okavango Delta below the panhandle. The Moremi Game Reserve forms the eastern boundary of the reserve.

Lying as it does in the very heart of the Delta, the Jao Reserve embodies all the magic and mystique of the Okavango. Narrow water channels cut their way through the papyrus and reed beds in the permanent delta to the north and east of the reserve, providing the perfect environment for the elusive sitatunga and the rare Pel's Fishing Owl. Beautiful lush palm islands dot the water, begging to be explored, and Jacana Camp is built on one such lush and thickly forested island. In the central region of the reserve, vast open floodplains provide some of the most stunning scenery of the region. Jao Camp lies in the southern side of the plains and Kwetsani Camp is 5 miles further north on the same floodplain system. This area of the reserve has beautiful islands fringed with riverine forests. Further west the reserve gets progressively dryer and Hunda island which is the tip of a large sand tongue is the largest area of dry land during the flood season. Hunda island has sandveld vegetation supporting many species of nutritious acacia and grewia shrubs which provide excellent browsing. Tubu Tree Camp is built on the western side of Hunda island.

Jao and Kwetsani Camps are situated on islands with breathtaking scenery and have a great diversity of activities on offer. The largest concentrations of endangered Wattled Crane are found in this area. The birdlife is simply stunning: Slaty Egrets, Pink-throated Longclaws and African Skimmers are some of the specials that can be seen. The lion prides in this area have been studied for the past 5 years by our resident guide, Grant, and a good record has been built up allowing us more intimate knowledge of their behaviour. Jacana is a traditional Delta water camp, built on a small exquisite wooded palm island. Tubu Tree Camp is situated in the area with the most palatable grasses and the largest area of permanently dry land and so usually has the more abundant game viewing experience. There are two platform hides in the Reserve.

Only 48 beds are developed in 4 camps in the entire remote reserve, ensuring an exclusive and personal wilderness experience. The majority of the staff in the camps are locals from the area, either BaYei tribesman or MaXaniqwe (River Bushmen) and know the area like the back of their hands. Many of these people were born on islands nearby and have an intimate knowledge and passion for the area which is hard to beat. They take great joy in imparting their local knowledge and culture to our visitors and love sharing their singing and dancing with guests. Many of our guests rate their interactions with the staff as the most enjoyable element of their stay.

Although this Wildlife Management Area is a hunting concession, a moratorium has been declared on hunting. Every year we reserve our quota, so that those animals cannot be re-allocated to another area and are thus saved from being hunted. We believe that with the same level of protection that the Moremi Game Reserve has enjoyed over the past 40 years, the Jao Reserve has the potential as a wildlife area equal to that of the Moremi.
Year Round

Botswana is an all-year-round wildlife destination. However, there are certain seasonal concerns of which groups with special interests should take note: The best birding months are November - March, when the delta is brimming with migratory birds. The best botanical months are December - May, when the vegetation is lush and green and most plants are in flower. Botswana's popularity as a destination is such that seasonal differences are not as marked as in other African destinations. Traditionally, however, peak season is from July to October and middle season is from May to June. Note that availability is at a premium during these seasons so you will need to book well in advance. November to April is a less popular time for travel to Botswana. This is the wet season, and due to the abundance of water, it is less certain that one will see wildlife at perennial water holes. Also, the heavy rains can make dirt roads impassable.

Owners & Hosts

Cathy and David Kays and their families are the long-term leaseholders of the Jao Concession. The Kays are one of Maun's oldest families - David's great-grandfather first came to Ngamiland in 1887. In 1912, the Kays family settled in Tsau, at that time the headquarters of the Batawana tribe (Maun was not yet founded). When the Batawana tribe decided to establish a new village at Maun and move its headquarters there in the mid-twenties, the Kays family moved with them.

David's father, Ronnie, was instrumental in advising the Batawana Tribal Authorities on the formation of Moremi Game Reserve and assisted in the demarcation of the reserve's boundaries. Like all families raised in and around the Okavango, wildlife was in their blood, and they spent most of their lives out in the bush. When they won the rights for NG25, the Jao Concession, they were determined to make this Botswana's finest reserve.

Even though hunting is allowed on this concession, the Kays turned their backs on it; at the time this was only the second concession in Botswana to choose photographic safaris over hunting. They have decided to focus all their efforts on developing Jao into a superb photographic reserve, and in the process lose about US $300,000 in hunting revenue every year to ensure great game viewing and a superb wildlife product in the long term. The four camps they have built - Jao, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree and Jacana - offer a wide variety of Okavango accommodation and wildlife experiences.

Jao Camp is situated in a private reserve on a large remote island in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Open all year, this stunning property is built within a private reserve bordering the Moremi Game Reserve, to the west of Mombo, on a densely wooded, oval-shaped island.
Jao can offer both land and water activities, depending on the fluctuating levels of the Okavango's floodwater. This area comprises a superb variety of habitats, ranging from permanent waterways and lagoons on the one extreme to thick Kalahari soils on the other. A variety of habitats ensures diverse and interesting game viewing. The wildlife at Jao depends largely on the water levels in the area. The lagoons are home to Hippo and Crocodile and the permanent waters attract large numbers of waterfowl. In the permanent waters, Sitatunga can be tracked silently by mokoro. From October to March the waters subside and enormous open plains are the highlight. This is where the game viewing is the best. Lion, Cheetah and Leopard are plentiful, while Tsessebe, Red Lechwe, Zebra and Wildebeest dot the flood plains.

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