Jao is owned and operated by Wilderness Safaris. This company sports a superb portfolio of properties across Safari Africa! Defined as a Premier Camp due to its luxurious character, Jao also impresses in terms of its design – it’s built into trees – and its mixture of land- and water-based activities. That said, water levels are difficult to predict, so if you’re visiting the Okavango Delta out of peak flood season May to September you could split your stay between Jao and a reliably watery camp such as Little Vumbura, Kwara, or Little Kwara. Accommodation at Jao is booked on a full-board basis, including all meals, all local drinks, twice-daily scheduled camp activities, park fees, and a laundry service. The camp is open throughout the year.
ACCESS & LOCATION:
The camp is usually accessed via 10 minutes’ road transfer from the local airstrip. It’s situated on an island within the Jao Reserve, in the Delta’s very scenic western region.
ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES AT JAO CAMP:
Guest accommodation consists of five tents and two villas. These are positioned on either side of Jao’s communal buildings and approached along raised wooden walkways through the trees. All tents are made out of canvas and thatch, blending beautifully with their natural surroundings. A section of walkway takes you to the front deck, where you’ll find a couple of chairs, a small table, a private sala, and amazing views over the Jao Reserve’s seasonal floodplains! Sliding wood-framed glass doors lead into the tent, which is very spacious indeed. Central to the interior is a double bed or twin beds, with lighting set up on the chunky headboard, a trunk at the foot of the bed, and elegantly arranged mosquito netting. To the right, there’s a lounge area, featuring comfy seating and a coffee table. Move to the left, and you’ll locate twin washbasins and a freestanding bathtub. Farther to the left, behind a partition, there’s a flush toilet, shower, and access to an outdoor shower. Each of the two villas is essentially two tents combined to provide two larger units, a fantastic option for a small group of friends and/or family members. And both options include a telephone for internal calls, a tea-and-coffee station, and a mini-bar.
The communal areas at Jao are every inch as well appointed as the guest accommodation. The main lodge is a classic timber-and-thatch structure, open sided to provide breathtaking vistas over the reserve! In the lounge, coffee tables are surrounded by plush sofas and armchairs, while the dining area features chic tables-and-chairs set out in readiness for delicious meals – buffet breakfast and brunch, light lunch, appetising afternoon tea, and decadent dinner. The camp’s bar is well stocked with a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks. All these areas flow out onto a veranda, for al fresco relaxing and dining. Keep-fit fans can pop to the gym for a good workout, while anyone in need of pampering can head to the spa, which is situated a short distance away from the lodge building. There’s also a boma and a fire-pit, the perfect place for sharing safari stories. Finally, for the ultimate in relaxation between activities, there are two plunge pools, both flanked by inviting sunloungers!
ACTIVITIES AT JAO CAMP:
Jao offers both land- and water-based activities, listed below. Please note, the availability of some of these depends on weather conditions and/or guide availability (as indicated by an asterisk).
Expertly guided game drives- The Jao Reserve covers 60 square kilometres of seasonal floodplains, permanent wetlands, and dry islands. Drives from camp take place during the morning and the afternoon, offering exciting opportunities to view a wealth of wildlife! Among the highlights here are four of the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo – and smaller mammals including cheetah, spotted hyena, wild dog, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, and all sorts of antelopes.
Night drives- Vehicle safaris by night are also enjoyed in the presence of a knowledgeable and experienced guide. Guests set off after sundowners, with the guide’s spotlight revealing species including civet, genet, porcupine, and the delightful pangolin!
Boating*- You can have a lot of fun exploring the reserve’s waterways on a boat trip! There’s so much to see, not least hippo, Nile crocodile, and abundant waterbirds.
Mokoro excursions*- Why not view the wildlife of the waters from aboard a mokoro, a dug-out canoe? As the mokoro doesn’t have a motor, you’ll be able to listen to the mammals, reptiles, and birds all around you.
Guided walks*- Set out on foot from camp, to learn all about the Jao Reserve’s plants, insects, and vibrant birdlife. Sometimes it’s possible to track big game too!
Catch-and-release fishing*- Jao offers hire of basic equipment for guest use. You could spend an entire afternoon fishing the waterways around camp, catching-and-releasing the likes of pike and bream.
Star-bed sleep-outs- Approximately 20 minutes’ drive from camp, there’s an elevated platform hide that can sleep a maximum of four safarists. This is the setting for Jao’s star-bed sleep-out! If you’re interested in this sort of night out, staff are happy to arrange it for you, with a little notice.
Helicopter trips- This activity incurs an extra cost, but we think it’s worth it. The Delta is a place of astonishing beauty and diversity, and soaring over its waters, savanna, woods, and forests is a truly memorable experience.
*This property is unfenced and located in a wildlife area, so large and potentially dangerous animals do pass through. If you opt to stay here, always be alert when walking around the camp and request for a member of staff to escort you if you have any concerns. Any guest is escorted after dark as a matter of course.