The Khwai Private Reserve (KPR) is located right in the middle of some of the best wildlife areas of Botswana. All around the reserve are some of the most iconic areas meaning that KPR will benefit not only from being home to many species but also multiple ecosystems to explore.
East of KPR
To the East is the renowned Khwai Community Reserve, which for many years has been a very popular photographic destination as it allows off-roading at sightings. In recent years, however, there have been several new lodges opening, and with the popularity of Self driving on the rise the community reserve can be very busy with large numbers of vehicles at sightings during certain times of the year.
That’s not to say that this area is unworkable – its nice to be able to visit on occasion, but then to have the option to return to a private concession nearby with very few vehicles is always a bonus.
South of KPR
To the South is Moremi game reserve, classified as a Game Reserve rather than a National Park, which allowed the local people The Ba Sarwa or Bushmen to continue to reside there after its designation in the 1960s.
Moremi is a beautiful Game Reserve and is accessible from KPR through the North Gate. For clients staying at the Khwai private Reserve for a long time, we offer a full day trip to Moremi as an option.
West of KPR
As you head West from KPR, you will soon enter the area known as Vumbura and Duba Plains which are situated at the base of the ‘Pan Handle’ of the Okavango Delta. Again, these regions are renowned for their wildlife photography although at an exclusive rate for people wanting to stay there.
North of KPR
As you head North of the reserve, you will encounter the far drier and arid regions of Savute – which is part of the southern reaches of The Chobe National Park. This ecosystem is a stark contrast to the lushness of the Okavango Delta, and results in more of the wildlife congregating around the waterholes which are few and far between. We often set up a mobile camp for clients wanting to explore Savute as an add-on to time at The Khwai Private Reserve, as the differing photographic environs complement each other perfectly.
The Khwai Private Reserve
KPR is a huge private concession spread over 200,000 hectares with the Khwai River acting as its Southern Border and the arid dryness to the North. This results in KPR having three very distinct areas for our clients to explore.
To the North there are a network of waterholes, which become increasingly busy over the drier periods of the year. We are establishing test sites at some of these waterholes to build some photographic hides that we hope will result in some world class imagery in the years to come.
There is a thin middle section crossing the middle of the reserve known as the Mopane belt. This area is not the best sort of area for photography, but does play home to plenty of predator species who use the thick mopane for cover. We do on occasion venture into the Mopane to see what we can find but with such an amazing area in the South to explore its often not necessary.
The main area that we traverse from the Pangolin Khwai Camp is in the South, and is 70,000 hectares of some of the most beautiful Okavango Delta bushveld that you will find anywhere in the region. To put things into perspective – 70,000 hectares (75km2) is bigger than the whole of the Sabi Sands in South Africa, and best of all this whole area is used by only three small lodges – Pangolin Khwai Camp being one of them.
The management plan of the concession allows for only around 50 guests staying across these lodges, which means there will be very limited numbers of vehicles and clients in this section of the reserve on any given occasion.
This is how it should be! Very rarely can we experience the bush these days without the risk of being surrounded by other vehicles and the KPR offers you that sense of true wilderness with vast open plans and beautiful wooded islands surrounded by crystal clear shallow channels. It’s a wonderful place to explore.
The Khwai Private Reserve is home to all the animals you would expect in this sort of ecosystem. There are plenty of plains game around with iconic species like Waterbuck and Lechwe in abundance. There are healthy populations of larger species like Giraffe, buffalo and elephant, and as for the predators… this is what KPR is all about.
The resident rangers and scientists on KPR estimate that in the Southern section of the reserve, there are upwards of 20 leopards calling this area home as well as a couple of resident wild dog packs. There are plenty of lions, and good sightings of cheetah in the open plains.
In the many channels and rivers, there are plenty of hippo in some very clear water and these are great to photograph either from the vehicles or during the Seasonal Mokoro and boating activities that we offer.
The birdlife is also a huge drawcard with nearly 500 species found in the Okavango Delta. Some of the highlights will be lots of Fish Eagles, Saddle Billed Stalks, Kori Bustard, plenty of raptors and a plethora of Water birds to be seen. For a full list please have a look at the Avibase website http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/checklist.jsp?region=NAok&list=howardmoore.
Activities on KPR
With such a vast area to explore and photograph – most of the activities take place on our customised game viewing vehicles. As a policy, we try to limit the number of clients to only four per vehicle allowing for plenty of movement on-board to get the best shots as well as lots of room to store camera bags and gear.
Each vehicle is fitted with bean bag mounts designed by top photographic guide and Pangolin Co-owner Gerhard “Guts” Swanepoel. Generally, at a sighting all four photographers will be sitting down the left-hand side of the vehicle with unimpeded views of the subject.
Having three vehicles at the camp also allows us to allocate vehicles to clients with similar interests, photographic experience and goals. All the driver guides have been trained to position for the best light and understanding of the subject to get the best shots.
As this is a private concession, we can off-road at special sightings to get the best angles and we can also conduct night drives on the reserve; something you are not allowed to do in the National Parks of Botswana.
For those guests wanting to spend the full day out in the field we will supply you with a delicious packed lunch and full cooler box so that you don’t need to return for the whole day!
Boat Cruises and Mokoros
The KPR is crisscrossed by a network of small channels and rivers, allowing us to do that most iconic Okavango Activity – the Mokoro trip. A Mokoro is a dug our canoe (now sometimes replicated using more modern materials) which are push along through the channels and rivers by experienced ‘polers’ from the local community who know these waterways like the backs of their collective hands.
Anyone staying for three nights or more will be offered a morning or afternoon activity on the Mokoros (seasonal), but please be aware that varying water levels and congregations of hippos may result in this not being possible for short periods during the year.
When water levels allow we will also have access to a larger motorised boat that we can use to cover more distance along the larger channels.
Helicopter flights over the Delta
We have teamed up with one of the best helicopter operators in Maun to be able to offer our guests the ultimate “doors off” aerial photography experience. This can be booked in advance or at the camp subject to availability.
Please note that this type of photography is all about the landscapes and aerial images that are so synonymous with the Delta. We do not get close to animals and do our best to leave them completely undisturbed. The areas that we fly over are very remote with no lodges so as not to disturb other safari goers in the region.
The pilots are adept at finding great shots, and will position you to make the most of every opportunity.
This activity needs to be booked in advance and the cost is dependent on the number of people wanting to utilise the helicopter while it’s in situ.