On our last night in Botswana, we were down one with the sad departure of Chris. Clare offered we splurge and spend it at a luxurious camp called Menoakwena, ‘teeth of the crocodile’, owned and run by an old friend of hers when she used to do research on the Makgadikgadi Park where its located. The only thing I remember being told before going was that it cost $135US per night per person (discounted at the ‘friend’ rate) so I was expecting something special but had no idea how wonderful this place actually was. The capacity of the camp is only 16 guests, and its an all-meal included camp and all the guests sit together at one long table for breakfast lunch and dinner. To give you an idea of its exclusivity, Prince William regularly goes there and we only missed him by a few days since he was on his way down when we were leaving.
Even though Botswana is generally quite flat, this camp sits on a 60m ridge overlooking the Makgadikgadi, with a newly flowing river at its base where David, Clare’s friend, originally had an artificial water pump to supply the wild animals with water. After almost a 30 year draught, the river bed has started to fill again and is even borderline flooding, with the water level rising daily, and all the elephants and zebra are super happy. A family of hippos has taken a section of the water near camp as its personal territory, marking half submerged trees with its projectile spray poop. You can see quite far off into the park and wait as herd of elephants, kudu or zebra approach, and usually hear activity throughout the night.
The camp had a spectacular location, but still Menoakwena was also an amazingly managed, sustainable, intimate place, it almost felt too good to be true. All the light torches around camp were solar paneled, water use was very controlled (you have to order your showers in little bronze buckets in the morning), all the employees were either local or international volunteers, and everyone there (including the tourists) are supporting projects that Menoakwena runs to benefit the local communities and the environment. Their little gift shop sells crafts hand made by the community, and all the funds support different projects (Water for Life, Mothers for All) or make it back into conservation efforts like reducing human-wildlife management around the park boundary. You were treated like family visiting an old friend, and even the bar was self-service and you simply kept track of your own drinks to pay later.
Even though Kubublanco gave us a scare the first day of our road trip, she never failed us again until the drive back into Maun. We left Menoakwena by noon to make sure me and Steve made our 3pm flight, but half way there we got a flat tire. I’ve never changed a flat tire, but between the three of us, we changed that wheel in Nascar speed, and only 10 minutes later were back on the road. Needless to say we made our flight, and 2 hrs later landed in Windhoek on the flattest runway I’ve ever seen – so flat you actually saw it round away into the horizon.
Links: Menoakwena Site: www.menoakwena.com
And, if you are interested in volunteering for Davids Water for Life project, contact him directly at email@example.com