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Friday, June 21, 2024

Opulent Okuti in Moremi Game Reserve

As one of the very first safari camps in the Moremi Game Reserve, Okuti holds an allure that is hard to rival. The magnetism of a juxtaposition between a uniquely built camp coupled with an abundance of wildlife makes this Ker & Downey Botswana camp an essential part of a trip to this special part of Botswana.

Soaring at 3,000 ft., Safari Air captain Letso alerts passengers on board the GA8 Airvan to keep their eyes peeled for any wildlife that could be spotted from up in the air. Glancing downwards from my window seat, I notice different herds of elephants congregating at the edge of the Okavango Delta tributaries quenching their thirst. A few are submerged in the water, having a cooling down mud bath, which acts as sunscreen on hot days.

Okuti - Photo by Heléne Ramackers
A female elephant with no tusks. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

Arriving at the Moremi airstrip, Thuso is already waiting for me. I’m flattered to be under the expert guidance of Ker & Downey Botswana’s Guides Manager, and he seems keen to showcase the exceptional wildlife that inhabits Moremi Game Reserve. Our first sighting is of a female elephant with no tusks, and Thuso clarifies that she is able to feed successfully and ingest water through the most important part of an elephant’s anatomy, her trunk. She is beautiful, with kind eyes and she appears quite relaxed in our presence where we are parked a safe and respectful distance away from her.

Okuti Lounge
The main lounge area features an impressive new look. Photo courtesy of Ker & Downey Botswana

Exiting the game drive vehicle at Okuti, the raised wooden walkway snakes to the arrival area and the main lounge. The camp is fronted by the permanent Maunachira River, which is part of the Okavango Delta and houses some of the most incredible birdlife guests can experience while sitting on their private deck or having sundowners at the water’s edge. 

Okuti Entrance
The simplicity of the entrance does not detract from the wow factor at Okuti Camp. Photo courtesy of Ker & Downey Botswana

The walkway also leads to the stunning ‘Masasas’ (translated to mean ‘house of reeds’ in an ancient tribal language) where the dome-shaped structures reveal the most astounding interiors, the handiwork of Interior Designer Lien van der Linde from Thakadu Treasures and Interior Architect Nardia Cronje from Nomvula Design. Working in harmony on the project, the biggest objective was to retain the hero of Okuti, which is the world-famous Okavango Delta.

Okuti - Photo by Heléne Ramackers
The ’Masasas’ features a gorgeous bedroom with views of the river. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

“What started out as a soft refurbishment brief from the client turned into a complete overhaul,” Lien tells me. “Okuti needed to be worthy of Ker & Downey Botswana’s elevated standards. We kept it classy, without being bohemian, and bold but not loud. The most important factor to keep in mind was to honor the parliament building shapes of the original design of Okuti – the dome shapes. It’s always critical to combine comfort with class. We had to ensure that we kept the essence of Botswana as an African dream destination in mind. We achieved the end goal by keeping to the brief, but also pushing the boundaries a bit – we pushed against older ideas and kept the things that worked, such as the ‘letaka’ (the reeds used for the ceilings). They are so special and distinctive to the lodge, but definitely needed to be freshened up, which was tricky to do as there are about four layers to the roof structure only.”

room at Okuti
The striking ‘Moon Desk’. Photo courtesy of Ker & Downey Botswana

“We needed to lighten the spaces, open the views, and direct the clients’ gaze out to the Delta,” Nardia explains. “The spaces needed to be classy and comfortable, elegant, and timeless. Okuti’s curved structures and their distinct yet elegant strength inspired the concept of development. The arches, the curves, and the fine lines of the ‘letaka’ lead your gaze. Our main aim was to create considered spaces, where the guest experiences something of beauty, whether tactile, visual, or graphic, at any moment. Material choices include timber, leather, and brass, which all exude their warmth and an inviting charm. The rooms had ‘nodes’ of focus. The ‘Moon Desk’ is an ode to the Love Letter and the postcard, a moment in time where you pen your thoughts or take a moment for self-care. Both public and private spaces were designed to make the guest feel cared for, in the affability and materiality, the ergonomics and comfort of the new layouts, and the quality of the finishes. Stumbling blocks were overcome by collaborating with a great local construction team, Nature Zone, who took care of the structural issues and a lot of the additional work. We made sure to respect the existing Okuti by using materials of the original architecture and renewing or refreshing only where necessary.”

Okuti Main Area Deck and Dining
Guests gather around the firepit for breakfast and before dinner. Photo courtesy of Ker & Downey Botswana

Staying at Okuti for three nights is an immersive experience in opulence and the joy of being in nature, surrounded by tall trees and blue skies. Meeting guests from other countries and dining together at one long table provides a wonderful social interaction between different nationalities. Dinner commences with everyone seated around a firepit enjoying pre-dinner drinks, after which guests all move to the inside dining area. 

Okuti - Photo by Heléne Ramackers
A Malachite Kingfisher sits perched on a reed. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

A visit to this magnificent part of the Okavango Delta would not be complete without a game drive, or a boat cruise on the Maunachira River. When it comes to a boat cruise on the river with Specialist Guide and Boat Captain Robbie at the helm and Thuso guiding in the front, few things rival a sunset turning the sky into different shades of pinks and oranges. Spotting pygmy geese, African jacana, lesser jacana, a juvenile African Fish Eagle, and the colorful Malachite Kingfisher is the perfect conclusion to an amazing stay at Okuti.

How to Book with The Luxury Safari Company | Heléne’s international flights were generously sponsored by The Luxury Safari Company. Founded by Rose Hipwood in 2010, her passion for Africa is clear in the seamless arrangement of bespoke, luxury safaris across Africa that are made special by the people involved, the unique locations of the lodges, and the meticulously executed nature of each trip. Clients of The Luxury Safari Company can expect personal 24-hour service safaris which take them into new territory with the right people at the right time, and imaginative itineraries. To book, contact [email protected] or call +44 1666 880 111.

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