In the Lesoma Valley, just off the main road that takes you to Kazangula and then Kasane in northern Botswana, is a gem of place, called Senyati Safari Camp. We went on a long-weekend trip to Kasane at the end of September, wanted to stay in self-catering chalet accommodation and couldn't have been happier with the recommendation to check out this place out.
During our online research on accommodation options in Kasane a few months prior, we were slightly dismayed that all the self-catering options in the town itself were already fully booked. Only slightly dismayed, as there is an abundance of other lodges and camps in the area. We were also planning on hiring out a 4x4 for a day from Tawana Self Drive to go for a drive through the Chobe National Park, and in our email communique with Vincent from Tawana, he suggested we check out Senyati Safari Camp. I Googled them, clicked the website link and found it to be quite a decent-looking place (on the website at least). It wasn't in Kasane, nor was it just outside Kasane, but rather 20km before the town, in the Lesoma Valley (GPS coordinates: S17 52 19.86 E25 14 10.02 = S17 52.331 E25 14.167 = S17.87218 E25.23612).
The photos of the place looked enticing, there was a water hole next to the camp that was often frequented by wildlife and apparently there was even a photo-bunker near said water hole from where one could get some good shots. We didn't really have to be in the middle of Kasane, so we made the reservation, paid the deposit, received (via email) a whole array of info PDF's, a detailed map, tit-bits about what to expect, what activites are available in the area etc., and on Friday 29th September, myself, my wife Dina and my dad packed our things into our trusty "Adventure Vehicle", our Toyota RAV4 and made the 940km drive to the Lesoma Valley.
As per the emailed map, there are two turnoffs to Senyati camp off the main road; one is a 4x2 track suitable even for sedans while the other is a 4x4 track that is explicitly for 4x4's which is "very sandy and you will get stuck", as the map warns. We were meant to take the first turnoff directly opposite an old, abandoned bus stop, but instead we followed the GPS, completely missing it and came to the 4x4 track. We got out to assess the track ahead and instead of turning back to find the easier (but longer) track, I decided we would push on. I knew the capabilities of our RAV4, assured my passengers that we would be fine and on we went. The 4x4 track is sandy, very sandy in fact in some sections, and while ground clearance is required, a compact SUV like a Toyota RAV4 with all-wheel drive can make it along this track with relative ease. Keep the momentum going, don't slow down or stop and you'll be in front of the reception at Senyati Safari Camp in about 5-6 minutes.
We paid the balance for our chalet, were given the key and a complimentary, welcoming "token" and 10 minutes later were unpacking our belongings into chalet number 3, which had a fantastic view of the water hole which was was only about 20 meters away. The entire camp has 8 self-catering chalets and apparently 20 individual campsites, all with their own ablution blocks. So the spacing between the chalets and campsites isn't that much, but you don't feel like you're sitting on top of each other either. And chalet 3 is one of the few chalets that looks out onto the water hole, so we weren't looking at the back of someone else's vehicle or chalet/camp.
Shortly after unpacking the car, we were sitting on the comfy wicker chairs with canvas cushions on the shaded terrace in front of the chalet, sipping our well-deserved cold drinks and looking out on the water hole as a few impala came for a drink and a couple of giraffe strolled past in the distance. "Senyati" means "Place of Buffalo" and the logo on the website supports this, but to be honest they should change it to whatever means "Place of Elephant", because as we sat there in the late afternoon we were treated to a sight not be forgotten any time soon. Out of the bush on the far left, a lone elephant suddenly appeared and slowly started making its way down to the water hole. Mere seconds later, a massive herd of elephants came charging out from the same direction all rushing down to the water hole for a drink, splash and bath! From where we sat we could see the water hole and the bar area where guests could sit even closer to the water hole and admire and photograph the elephants as they drank. Within a minute there were at least 20-25 elephants around and in the water hole and probably just as many camp guests (including us) watching them in awe, whispering to each other and snapping away with their cameras and cellphones. It was truly an amazing sight to see and we knew then and there we had chosen a great place to stay at during this trip.
We spent the remainder of the late afternoon hours watching the elephants as they played around in the water hole, drinking and shoving each there. As one herd drank, another would come out of the same bush and wait at the water's edge for their turn and this lasted until night fell. As mentioned, Senyati is a self-catering camp and while the chalet is equipped with everything you need to make your stay comfortable and convenient, there is no restaurant for you to eat at. We had brought our own food, but had decided that, given our long drive that day and that we were too tired to cook anything, we would go to Thebe River Safaris, located about 10km away, between Kazangula and Kasane for dinner. They have a relaxed, chilled vibe with an outdoor bar and eating area and their pizzas are top-notch! Dina and I had the pizzas there before on our December 2016 trip (read about that ill-fated trip here) and she and my dad had the same that night while I tried the delicious chicken schnitzel. Shortly after dinner we headed back to our chalet as we were all quite tired and had booked the self-drive for the next day.
Chalet No.3 seems small from the outside, but don't let the shady, low-hanging thatch roof fool you. Inside it's quite spacious and four adults can comfortably sleep there. The downstairs has two single beds each with its own mosquito net. And there's a small gallery upstairs (mind the narrow stairs to get up there, though) also with two single beds and accompanying mosquito nets. My dad slept downstairs and we climbed the steep stairs up to our beds in the gallery. The end of September/beginning of October isn't too hot in Botswana, but it was getting there slowly but surely, so the downstairs air-conditioner and the upstairs fan did make sleeping more comfortable.
The following day we explored the Chobe National Park in a rented-out 4x4 (as our RAV4 wasn't quite up to that kind of challenge) and after an enjoyable, wildlife-filled drive we made our way back to the camp, stopping along the way at the Choppies supermarket in Kasane for meat, potatoes, salads and charcoal for the braai (barbeque) we planned to have for dinner that night. As we arrived back at the chalet just after 18h, there were already a number of elephants splashing around in the water hole. We even had the chance to witness a lone African Wild Dog attempt to catch an impala that was having a drink, although he failed rather miserably at it and trotted off into the bush rather disappointed with himself.
Just before dinner, I took the opportunity to go down into the photo bunker and take some shots of the elephants from ground level. There are about 10 stools to sit on and you have a great view of the water hole and can admire all the elephants that come there, without them even seeing you and scurrying away (not that the elephants would be bothered even if they did see you). A few meters from the chalet is a braai place and small fire. It was quite warm that evening so there was no need for a fire - (plus seeing as it was a public holiday, the ground crew had not had a chance to gather up enough firewood to be bought at the reception....no matter). The braai and fire pit are close to the chalet but not overly so, which means we weren't sleeping that night in a smoke-filled room. We soon had the fire for the meat going and as we hung out by the fire, a couple of large elephants, on their way from the water hole decided to stop by our chalet, literally a couple meters from us, to munch on the green grass near the chalet. We did our thing and they did theirs...perfect harmony between man and animal.
Day Three was our "boat cruise on the river" day, but as it was only in the late afternoon, we allowed ourselves to sleep in and relax a bit. I took a shower in the morning, made myself a cup of coffee with the provided kettle and induction plate and sat on the terrace, photographing the baboons that came to drink at the water hole and the hornbills that were hunting for worms and bugs in the sand. The chalet has a decently-sized bathroom with toilet, basin and large shower, both with hot and and cold water.
When the others woke up, we made breakfast and before we departed for Kasane and our boat cruise, we popped into the reception again to see what they had. It's a small but fully-stocked space with lots of souvenirs (caps, t-shirts, bags, bangles, postcards etc.) and also your basic essentials; matches, firelighters, milk, sugar, salt, ice etc. We asked the quirky lady, Lulu, who ran the place what should we do with our key the following morning as we planned on leaving rather early and she instructed us to drop the key in a "key box" just in front of the door. We had a laugh at her expense a little while later because a guest asked her what was the name of the "punk looking" bird that hung around the camps in the trees between the campsites and with a serious face she said "Go away", to the camper's shock! Realising what she had said, she laughed and explained "No, no... we call that bird the "go away" bird because the sound it makes is like it's saying "go away...go away!"
Our sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River was nothing short of amazing, having seen more wildlife and birds than we could count, witnessing an elephant crossing the river, seeing the rare African Skimmer bird in flight and even managing to see an ever-elusive female leopard and her cub, relaxing on the banks of the river, followed by an amazing sunset that one can't see in many other places of the world. On our way back to camp that evening we stopped at a Puma petrol station to fill up the RAV for the drive back the next morning and were back at camp just after nightfall, watching another herd of elephants battling for water-rights at the water hole. Spaghetti and wine were on the menu for that evening's supper and we were able to prepare everything with all the utensils and pots and pans provided in the chalet. We had brought our own frying pan from home, which was rather pointless because the chalet is equipped with everything you can need. Inside you have a microwave, a toaster, the single-induction plate, kettle, a fridge/freezer, glasses cups, forks, knives, pots, pans...well, you get the picture.
The terrace outside also has large sink with both hot and cold water and adequate counter space for you to slice up your veggies and prepare your meals. There's also an electric socket so you can do your cooking outside and there's a yellow light to keep the bugs away while you're cooking. We enjoyed our dinner as the frogs croaked nearby and a couple of elephants "made out" by the water hole. Before we went to bed, Dina and I went to check out the bar area overlooking the water hole. It was rather late, so the bar itself was closed but we could still go upstairs and sit in the rustic wooden chairs and look out onto the water hole as a small herd of wildebeest came by for a drink. The upstairs area is nicely decorated with elephant-themed decor all around. There's even a table with various animal skulls on display and a collection of books to read. They also have free wi-fi at the bar which is on from I believe 17h to 21h. We went to sleep that last night of our trip with heavy hearts as we were heading back to civilisation the next day and were bid farewell by the not-so-distant howl of a hyena somewhere in the bush nearby.
The morning of Day No. Four, we were up before 6am, having our coffee, packing the car and were on the road by 6:30 having left the key in the "key box" by reception. We decided to take the 4x2 track back to the main road, as I wasn't 100% sure we would make the sandy uphill along the 4x4 track, being full-loaded that morning. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Senyati Safari Camp and the rustic decor, the small touches, the comfy chalets and the view of the water hole and it's frequent, large, visitors made us feel very welcome and at home and we would have stayed a whole week if we could. It is a short distance (20km) from Kasane, but we didn't find that to be a problem at all and we rather appreciated the feeling of isolation and tranquility as we sat in front of our chalet, feet in the sand, drink in hand and watching the herds of elephants silently coming and going throughout the night. We will definitely be coming back to this "place of elephants".
Visit the Senyati Safari Camp website to find out more about the camp and prices for accommodation. Below is a gallery of some of our photos from this trip and of the camp and chalet No.3 in which we stayed. Feel free to post comments at the bottom of this page, if you have stayed at Senyati and share your experiences, or if you would like to visit and found this article and photos useful.
If you would like to read the full trip article on our Kasane trip, please click here.
*Road Beneath Our Feet and its founders have no affiliation with the mentioned camp/lodge/hotel/accommodation provider. All comments are based on our personal experience and we aim to inform other travelers based on that experience and our point of view only.*
"We are a young, married, Botswana-based couple with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"