The Reinvention of Jao, a Two-Decade-Old Safari Camp

Reused timber from the camp’s previous incarnation went into the rebuild, and Wilderness Safaris donated unused material to local villagers.

Inside Jao’s dining room and lounge.

On a small, remote island in Botswana’s UNESCO-listed Okavango Delta, ecotourism operator Wilderness Safaris has completely reinvented Jao (from US$1,262 per person, all-inclusive), a two-decade-old safari camp within a sprawling 60,000-hectare private conservation concession.

Small-scale South African “adventure architecture” firm Silvio Rech + Lesley Carstens, which designed the original Jao in 1999, was once again enlisted to put its unique stamp on the property. Reused timber from the camp’s previous incarnation went into the rebuild, and Wilderness Safaris donated unused material to local villagers.

Other eco-friendly touches include an in-house solar power plant with southern Africa’s largest lithium-ion battery bank, and high-tech evaporative coolers—placed in the five tented pool suites and two villas—that use a fraction of the energy of conventional air conditioning.

What’s more, the redesigned communal areas yield surprises at every turn. The soaring, circular treatment rooms in the new spa feature laminated saligna beams and rosewood ceilings and floors; Jao’s main pool is now cocooned within a domed, nest-like canopy pavilion ideal for watching sunsets over the delta.

Another big plus? The two-story Centre of Knowledge that showcases an imposing giraffe skeleton and the area’s rich botanical history.

More information here.

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Raising The Stakes”).

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