Botswana: Where to Stay: Luxury: Jao Camp
Your small plane puts down on the landing strip on a remote island just west of the Moremi Game Reserve, and there is Jao, nestled in the marshes. The husband-and-wife team of renowned architects Silvio Rech and Leslie Carstens—who also designed Wilderness Safari’s North Island resort, in the Seychelles—based this chic safari camp on an Indonesian longhouse, with masses of polished wood and marvelous pieces of indigenous art. Canvas and thatched-roof units are scattered under canopies of such trees as Jackal-berry, Sycomore Figs and Knobthorn Acacias and linked by raised wooden pathways. For peace and privacy, bag tent 9, which is just that little bit farther than the others from the boma (enclosure) and has uninterrupted views of the fluttering savannah.
As for the animals, its watery location makes Jao a perfect alternative to the traditional land-based big–five safari. Glide across the floodplain as the sun rises, swishing through reeds and lily pads as hippos wade in the water and lionesses with their cubs having an early morning drink at the edge. Stop at Hunda Island for a game drive or angle for tiger fish en route. Afterward visit the glass-enclosed treatment room on the jungle floor, where you can pamper yourself with a Botswana massage and a milk-and-honey body scrub while watching colorful birds flit among the treetops – it’s surreal! And don’t miss a Jao “sleep out,” at a remote site some 45 minutes away from the main camp. Lying on mosquito-netted beds under the shooting stars, you only have the sounds of the bush as your lullaby—total tranquility.— Daisy Finer 08/28/2008