In the far northern Okavango Delta, on an island all of its own, is a safari camp that will make your heart sing. Mapula is its name, a place of absolute beauty and inspiration set in a dreamy African waterworld. It’s a magnificent blend of wildlife and waterlife that provides endless natural theatre and enchantment, somewhere quite unlike anywhere else. Here the exhilaration of big game viewing and quiet time on the water is combined to match your preference.
Put simply, Mapula epitomises the very finest offerings in an African safari. The lodge is stilted on a vast flood plain and built entirely of wood, canvas, grass and thatch. It’s skirted by decks where you can laze in the huge sunken conversation pit, or reminisce around the fire circle, sundowner tipple in hand. Because you’re in the delta, even the pool is set in water and a boardwalk straight out the front of the lodge leads directly onto the lagoon where your boat is waiting to take you fishing for tiger.
There’s something deeply rewarding about gliding silently on a sleek mokoro and observing wildlife completely unaffected by your presence. They don’t even acknowledge you, as we noticed when a party of elephant crossed the water right in front of us, trunks in the air like snorkels. We watched in wonder and then continued to savour the experience in silence. But the matrix of waterways and islands – possibly big herds of elephant and buffalo – can also be seen from above when flying in a hot air balloon or helicopter. Look out too for lone leopard and packs of wild dogs on the hunt.
Back at base, Mapula lodge exudes character. Call it safariesque in style, it blends old world iconic safari décor with vibrant pieces and splashes of bright colour. Richly coloured kelims are strewn on the wooden floors, vintage lampshades are brightly dressed, antique stretchers serve as coffee tables and kuba cloth cushions feature too. Lit by hurricane lamps, and grass shaded lights, there’s all the ambience of old Africa alongside the quirk of pops of primary colour. It makes for an extra dose of ‘feel good’. But, really, that’s a given when you visit here.
What we love!
- The unlikely and beautifully blended mix of traditional and vintage décor is a welcome surprise.
- Seeing wildlife from water level is a completely different game viewing experience.
- The tree trunk growing through the roof at the bar is quirky.
- A sense of absolute privacy pervades.
Need to know…
- There is no wifi, TV or cellphone reception here.
- Children older than 6 years are welcomed.
- There’s a complimentary laundry service.
- Malaria precautions are advised.
- The fishing season is April to December, and catch and release is practised.
- Getting there: Fly to Maun, then a charter flight to the lodge’s private air strip, and a 30-minute scenic drive to the lodge.
Reviewed by Keri Harvey