Take a trip through time and history with Zarafa Camp.
Although it consists of only four immaculate tents for eight guests at a time, Zarafa Camp has thought of everything: each enormous tent is equipped with personal Swarovski binoculars, a high-powered Nikon telescope for stargazing, a blazing gas fire for cool nights and a Canon 5D SLR camera for capturing a rare red lechwe or African skimmers in flight. Not to mention private plunge pools, indoor and outdoor showers, and quirky 1940s crank phones for making drinks orders…
All this luxury is ameliorated by Zarafa Camp’s commitment to being as green as possible. The solar farm supplies electricity, waste is recycled into ‘bio gas’ that used for cooking and the tents have been constructed from canvas and recycled hard woods. Even their raised platforms have been built from reused 100-year old teak railway sleepers.
This is where Dereck and Beverly Joubert, co-founders of Great Plains Conservation, lay their weary heads many long years ago, exhausted from filming. The tranquility they found as they slept under the tree stayed with them, and a decade and a half later, having raised enough money to begin their Great Plains journey, the magnificent ebony became the focal point of a camp whose name had a fascinating journey all of its own… Zarafa.
In 1826 the Viceroy of Egypt presented to Charles X of France a giraffe that had been discovered in Nubia. This giraffe was floated down the Nile in a dhow to Alexandria before being shipped to Marseille and then walked to Paris. Everyone who saw the giraffe fell in love with her and asked what she was called. The Nubians, having no name for the animal, called her simply “Zarafa,” which is Arabic for “the beloved one” and which the French then pronounced “giraffe”.
The Zarafa Camp guest tents, 1000 sq. ft in extent, are 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. Each tent has a full lounge with desk, gas fireplace for winter and even WWII crank phone for drink orders!
The large bedroom is connected to an open layout bathroom with impressive copper claw foot bath, indoor shower, separate loo and double basins. Decking around the tent leads to the private plunge pool and full-body outdoor shower, all with views of pristine Botswana wilderness. Under an impressive canopy of African ebony trees, the camp has a sizable main lounge, with adjacent library and dining area. A curio shop and ‘jungle gym’ satiate those who need retail therapy or a good work out. In-room massage is also available.
Zarafa has succeeded in successfully in retaining a clearly African feel, while balancing that delicate relationship between personal and informal and romance and adventure. Zarafa Camp has no equal in terms of its environmental credentials and its careful appointments.
Zarafa Camp is designed with exclusivity and privacy at its core. Each tent is positioned on the forest’s edge, rimming the shores of the floodplains and far from a neighbour. The 1,000 square foot ‘marquis style’ canvas tents are expansive and open-air without exposing guests to the elements. Each of the three “rooms” of the tent is decorated with custom-made furniture, handcrafted from recycled ancient hardwoods. The raised decks, constructed of recycled African railroad sleepers, form the tent’s foundation.
Upon entry is a large lounge appointed with a leather sofa, armchairs, personal bar and writing desk. Adjoining the lounge is the main bedroom and dressing area, where the overhead fans and seductive mosquito nets set the ambiance. Exiting the bedroom, a beautiful copper gas fireplace is strategically placed between the bathroom and the bedroom to allay the chill of the winter months. The main bathroom is comprised of a copper bath and shower, double sinks and private toilet. Off the bathroom, the raised walkway leads to the outdoor shower, complete with wrap around showerheads! The private verandah, running the length of the front of the tent, offers a private plunge pool, outdoor lounge and sweeping view of Zibadianja Lagoon’s waters.
The Dhow Suites
The Zarafa Dhow Suites is an intimate, two room exquisite tented villa located on the 320,000 acre Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana, an area linking the Okavango Delta and the Chobe/Savute corridors. Few properties rival the location of this little gem built entirely under canvas, as one of the largest tents ever built on the continent. The Suites are located adjacent to Zarafa Camp, Botswana’s first and only Relais & Chateaux property. Overlooking the crystal waters of Zibadianja Lagoon, the source of the famous Savute Channel, every area of camp has a magnificent view. The lagoon is also the water source for a tremendous population of wildlife – dry season sightings boast buffalo and elephant by the hundreds.
Zarafa Camp is 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 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 splendor.
The main tent – resonant with deep reds, rich brown and warm coppers – comprises a cosy lounge, a well-stocked library, and an elegant bar and dining area. The sprawling viewing decks has spectacular views of the Zibalianja Lagoon – ideal for capturing the classic ‘laughing hippo’ snap. Zarafa Camp also has a ‘jungle gym’ for those wanting to stay in shape and a thoughtfully-stocked memento shop so you can take a little piece of Botswana home with you.
At night, curl up next to the roaring fire pit and prick your ears for the distant roaring of a lion pride. The 4×4’s have been custom adapted to suit photographers and the pontoon’s deck is a great place to while away an afternoon with fly-fishing, birding (look out for black egrets, cousins to the ubiquitous white egrets) or just relaxing with chilled sundowners.
- Laundry Service.
Game Drives (day & night)
With a maximum of just eight guests, Zarafa Camp offers complete flexibility. 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 at a guest’s request. Picnic brunch can be delivered, and the vehicles are stocked with cold drinks. The camp has two custom built Land Cruisers specially designed for our conditions and photography (fold-down screens, raised roofs, photographic bars, multi-plug invertors) with seven individual bucket seats.
The HES Zib, Zarafa’s special pontoon boat, is an utterly unique experience. The 275 sq. foot deck is complete with couches, a dining area and bar where guests can comfortably enjoy floating brunch or sundowners while watching hippos and elephants in the water. It is also an exceptional platform for birding. Fly-fishing and rod/reel kit is available for those who want to try their cast at the local tigerfish. Power boating on the channels is available, water level dependent.
Each of Zarafa’s guest tents has a professional Canon camera set, including a Canon 5D camera body and Canon 100-400mm and 28-135mm lenses. Photos will be downloaded to a DVD on guest’s departure. Each tent comes with a pair of Swarovski binoculars for guest use as well.
For stargazers, each room comes with its own Nikon telescope for use on each tent’s private deck.
Zarafa Camp Reviews
“Zarafa is the most special place on earth. Nature is so beautiful. Taking a look at the lives of the most unbelievable creatures. (Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Birds, Wild dogs and many more) I had the feeling I became one with nature. The luxury at Zarafa Camp is unbelievable extravagant. The people who work there are amazing.” – Edith B
“We’ve never written a review on Trip Advisor. But, Zarafa was so special, we wanted to thank Antoinette, Pierre, Letsogile, and the entire staff for creating a wonderful safari experience for us. Although we haven’t written a review before, we have traveled to sub-Saharan Africa on safari for more than 25 years and have stayed in countless camps over the years. We love the fact that this entire camp is only comprised of four rooms and one two-bedroom suite.” – RHC161
“What an exceptional experience of the most friendly service oriented staff who have planned surprises all the time. To have such high quality cuisine in the bush is really something that we will never forget. Chef Pierre van Zyl can do wonders with food and variety is just amazing too. We will be back to visit as soon as we can. Wildlife with guide Rueben was just as good.” – tonamich