Shinde: Diamond in the Delta
It is a measure of the scale of wildlife in the Okavango Delta that, on arrival at Shinde camp, you’ll be asked not just which animals you have already seen but which others you’d like to see.
That was the question put to Safari Online guests Tim and Angelka by their guide at the airstrip once they had finished their covid-protocols – temperature check, mask and sanitise – and were on their way to camp. Having spent a few days in the Savute region of the Chobe Park, they had already seen plenty of wildlife but – since you ask – hippos and cheetah would be nice.
Well, they saw a couple of cheetah before they arrived at camp. And that was just the start of it.
There are, of course, great safari camps and lodges all across the Okavango Delta but Shinde occupies a special place. A flat, open landscape with year-round water and studded with islands of savannah, this part of the northern delta is known for its abundant resident wildlife. Tim takes up the story:
“We find a lion who has killed a zebra. It has hauled the dead weight a couple of hundred metres to hide it within a bush. Clearly exhausted, he guards his bounty between snoozing.”
Things get even more interesting after a couple of days:
“The lion, the zebra and the bush, a wildlife novella, is still playing out. Hyenas and jackals are circling. Despite a huge call to arms by a hyena, they are only four strong. There needs to be ten to mount a sustainable challenge. The lion is joined by one of his sons for a feast while he sits back in honour guard!”
Part of the experienced Ker & Downey portfolio, Shinde is a long-established lodge that was completely rebuilt in 2020 to become a 5-Star safari accommodation. Its location within a privately-run conservation area rather than in a national park means guests have more activities to choose from. There are always morning and afternoon game drives available – with only four guests per vehicle – but unlike in a national park you can also go on night-drives with a spotlight to illuminate the characters of the teeming night. You’ll be on the lookout for bush-babies, porcupines and eagle-owls but perhaps the best part of a night-drive is summed up by Tim:
“We had a surreal but serene moment when we killed the engine, listened to the animal chatter, pointed out the brilliant constellations above our heads … very special.”
Another activity exclusive to these private concessions is a walking safari – on foot with an armed guide – but it was on the water that Tim and Angelka discovered the true allure of the Okavango Delta. A motor boat carried them onto the dark waters of Shinde Lagoon where hippos were, to use Tim’s words, “snorting, pluming and clanging their tusks against one another’s in mock play flights” while a dug-out canoe, called a mokoro, took them down a series of natural canals and backwaters so complex and mesmerising that Tim and Angelka wondered why they’d never heard of the term ‘Venice of Africa’ to describe the delta landscape.
Thanks to the permanent water of the Shinde area they even managed to find time for a spot of catch-and-release fishing but there’s no need to fish for one’s supper at Shinde. It may be a dawn wake-up call but if you want it with a flat white and homemade biscuits then you’ve got it; the food throughout the day is inevitably delicious with al fresco meals appearing seemingly every few hours: breakfast, lunch, high tea and supper – “You can opt out of a meal” says Tim “but why would you?!”
The rooms are great too and have all the mod cons from private bathrooms and solar-powered lights to USB ports and yoga mats. Shinde sleeps a maximum of sixteen guests in ‘Out of Africa’ tented suites and takes children from the age of seven; there is also a smaller sister camp – Shinde Enclave – with only three suites and designed for complete exclusivity.
The wildlife sightings continued for Tim and Angelka – a magnificent female leopard, herds of trumpeting elephants and more cheetah (“I’m sure they recognised us!” jokes Tim) and they began to pick up the smaller details of the delta – the rainbow flash of a malachite kingfisher, animal tracks on a sandy path, the alarm call of baboons – but it was the distinctive sound of a light aeroplane approaching that heralded their departure from Shinde. A last drive back to the airstrip and another round of covid protocols before boarding and then the Okavango is beneath them, its water glinting and flashing in the sun, like a diamond.