The Jao Camp is located inside a private reserve on a remote island west of the Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Okavango Delta. The waterways running by the camp offer a gateway to the wider floodplains and the grasslands, which paves the way for a very special Okavango experience.
Jao Camp extends over approximately 60,000 hectares and is a long strip of reserve in the north-western Okavango Delta. The Moremi Game Reserve forms the eastern border of this area.
Located in the very heart
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of the Delta, Jao Reserve offers the visitor the entire palette of differing Okavango habitats to discover.
Narrow waterways cut their way through the papyrus and reed beds in the permanent delta to the north and east of the reserve, providing the perfect environment for the elusive sitatunga antelope and the rare Pel's fishing owl.
Thickly forested palm islands pop up all over, just waiting to be explored. Jao Camp is located on one such paradise. In the heart of the region lie wide open floodplains, offering one of the most beautiful views in the entire Delta.
Hunda Island forms the tip of a great sand tongue, which becomes the largest dry area around during the flooded months. Sand-tolerant vegetation such as acacia and grewia flourish, offering plentiful food for many differing species.
The largest concentrations of endangered wattled crane are found in this area. It’s a real birdlife paradise: slaty egrets and african skimmers are some of the more special varieties to be spotted by birdlovers.
The resident lion population have been observed and their lives documented over the last five years, allowing for a deep and wide-ranging knowledge of their behaviour.
In the entire reserve there are only two other camps. When the capacity at Jao is included there are a total of only 48 beds. We can therefore guarantee an exclusive and intimate safari experience, away from the tourist crowds.
A large number of differing habitats in this region provides a wide range of animal watching opportunities. These are very much dependant on the water levels at Jao at the time. The hippos and crocodiles feel right at home in the deeper lagoons, while the permanently flowing canals provide a home to innumerable birds. With a Mokoro it’s possible to glide silently through the reeds in search of a glimpse of the elusive sitatunga antelope.
In October comes the drier season, lasting until March. The area opens up with extensive green grasslands. Here you’ll find the widest variety of animals to see. Lions, cheetahs and leopards watch patiently in large numbers as tsessebe, lechwe, zebras, giraffes, warthogs and gnu busy themselves on the sweeping plains.
Impressively enormous herds of buffalo move across the area. During night drives, one can spot elusive nocturnally-active animals such as porcupines, spotted hyena, pangolins, civets and genets.
During our winter the water levels rise, and much of the savannah area disappears beneath. Large herds of lechwe move into the area at this time, providing an easy meal for the lions, who have adapted to hunting in water.
Leopards are often about, and elephants are more prevalent at this time. Plains game such as impala, zebras, gnu and tsessebe stick to the drier islands. During this season the focus at Jao switches more to water activities with limited game drives on the larger islands.
Facts about Jao Camp
Cathy and David Kays and their families are the long term leaseholders of Jao Reserve. The Kays are one of Maun's oldest families. David's great grandfather first came to Ngamiland in 1887. In 1912 the Kays family settled in Tsau, at that time the headquarters of the Batawana tribe (Maun was not yet founded).
When the Batawana tribe decided to establish a new village at Maun and move its headquarters there in the mid-twenties, the Kays family moved with them.
David's father, Ronnie, was instrumental in advising the Batawana Tribal Authorities on the formation of Moremi Game Reserve and assisted in the demarcation of the reserve's boundaries.
Like all families raised in and around the Okavango, wildlife was in their blood, and they spent most of their lives out in the bush.
When they won the rights for the Jao Reserve in the recent tender process, they were determined to develop one of Botswana's finest reserves.
They turned their backs on hunting, even though it is allowed in this reserve. They are only the second reserve in Botswana not to allow hunting, even though it is officially permitted.
They have decided to focus all their efforts on developing Jao into a superb photographic reserve, losing in the process an estimated US$300,000 in hunting revenue every year.
In this way, they hope to ensure great game viewing and a superb wildlife product in the long term. The two camps they have built - Jao and Kwetsani - are two of the top camps in the Okavango.
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