Botswana’s Okavango Delta is one of Africa’s iconic places, its stirring landscapes home to an incredible amount of wildlife. This is one of the continent’s best safari destinations, with luxury lodges to match the epic wildlife viewing. Jao Camp is one such camp—originally opened in 1999 on a remote island on the Jao Reserve—and it’s now showing off a new look after a complete rebuild. Wilderness Safaris recently unveiled the transformation after more than eight months of construction.
Architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, who were responsible for the camp’s original design, have retained some key elemental features—for example, the stilted main area was built into the tree canopy in the same fashion—but the makeover was extreme, with all new handcrafted furnishings and exciting new features.
The five tented suites each come with their own plunge pool, lounge and dining areas, plus indoor/outdoor showers. What’s more, Jao Camp has introduced an ultra-luxe option with two exclusive villas, each accommodating four people in two identical guest rooms. These villas come with a private vehicle, guide, chef and butler.
A standout feature is the new spa, surrounded by water ponds and offering two circular treatment rooms designed in rosewood. There’s also a gym with views over the island’s waterways. Another highlight is the pool covered by a latticed pavilion that resembles a nest. And the new museum, called the Centre of Knowledge, has maps, a giraffe skeleton and botanical pressings made by EE Galpin, the renowned botanist who was the great-grandfather of Cathy Kays, co-owner of the Jao Reserve.
True to Wilderness Safaris’ green philosophy, Jao is 100 percent solar powered, equipped with one of the biggest Victron inverter systems in the world and the largest lithium-ion battery bank in southern Africa. And instead of energy-eating conventional air-conditioning, the rooms are cooled with Climate Wizard evaporative coolers.