Jao Trip Report

Jun 11th, 2004, 12:27 PM
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 118
Jao Trip Report

Back from an unbelievable trip to Jao Camp. Before you all ask why I only did Jao, remember that I live in Southern Africa, thus I don't need to squeeze the wet camp, dry camp, and SA camp all into one trip. I just did Singita 2 months ago, so I recently had the Sabi Sands experience. My main goal on this trip was a romantic getaway combined with seeing the delta as it hasn't been in 20 years.

I found that the staff at Jao really made the camp. The managers, Rebecca and Clinton, are down to earth, friendly, and truly hospitable with no pretense about them. I didn't find this to be the case at Singita for the most part. Every night there was a big bonfire and most of the guests would sit around with the staff and chat and enjoy drinks. It was quite nice.

Jao is truly luxury in the delta...unlike a camp near Kruger, there aren't any power or water lines running from a nearby city, so I was astonished at the amenities and structure. We stayed in tent #9, the honeymoon suite, which is a bit further removed from the main lodge than the other rooms. We had a wonderful outdoor shower with a view of the delta, a sala with the same view, and a wonderful room. The elevated pathways from room to room and to the lodge are amazing -- you feel like you are walking in the trees. Unlike other camps I've been to, there aren't any electric wires or barriers around the perimeter of the camp. We had hippos under our tent every night. On the day we left, we had an elephant walk underneath us. It was a truly unforgettable experience.

Not much has been said about the wildlife at Jao with all the hype about Mombo. I haven't been to Mombo, but there were several couples at Jao that had just come from there, and they said the viewing was comparable, if not better at Jao. Perhaps the floods this year have something to do with it, I don't know. One day we took a very long game drive on Hunda island. We left about 6 am on a boat for a wonderful 45 minute through reeds and lily pads. We boarded land rovers when we got to the island. The drive ended up lasting until 2 pm because we kept seeing new things and everyone was keen on staying to check it out rather than going back for lunch. I saw more game on that one drive then I think I have in my last 4 safari experiences combined! It was incredible! I particularly liked seeing the game in a water environment and watching them drink, run, and wade in the water. We saw lots of lion cubs, and they were very hesitant to get in the water at all, and we got to watch a lionness nudge one group into the water. It was amazing. Huge breeding hurds of elephant. The typical other game but in hurds larger than I've seen in SA. We tracked a couple of leapords but never managed to come across one, although other groups did.

The hippo pools near Jao camp itself were also a delightful experience. We went out on the mokoros, yes, but I truly enjoyed taking the bigger boats out into the deeper water. We had a great time tigerfishing.

Another aspect I really liked is that Jao's concession is huge and we never saw anyone else during our activities. This is a major change from the Sabi Sands or Chobe experience where you are constently bumping into other land rovers. I loved the total isolation and remoteness of the place.

The food was also excellent. We even had sushi one night...they fly the seaweed and fish in from Joberg. I definitely did not expect that in the Delta.

Of course, I think I had an INCREDIBLE experience as well because my boyfriend proposed over the trip. The staff organized for a night game drive for us alone and they took us to a private island where they had created a huge bonfire and a private dinner. The whole island had been illuminated with lanterns and we had our own chef ready and waiting for us...this was all a surprise for me, but apparently they went well above and beyond what had been requested. To have the kind of food we had cooked over a fire was truly amazing.

For the record, Rimowa luggage would not have been a problem for the WS flights.

We also did a quick sidetrip to the falls, which are amazing this year due to the volume of water. We took a helicopter ride down the gorge over the rapids and landed downstream and had cocktails, yet another highly recommended romantic experience.

So in sum, I'd highly recommend Jao. I definitely had an amazing game viewing trip (although that wasn't my goal), and I haven't seen many reviews of the game viewing there on the board. Jao is definitely luxury, definitely romantic, and I'd definitely recommend it on any itinerary.
soleil17 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 01:39 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 171
WOW!! Sounds great. I'm not going to SA but to East Africa but loved reading about your trip. Congratulations on your engagement. I have four daughters and love hearing great proposal stories. I hope their boyfriends have such a well thought out "proposal experience" in mind for them. Sounds very romantic.
Cronen is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 03:12 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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This all sounds just heavenly! Thanks for sharing.

Please tell us about the honeymoon suite? Is it just more private? Or does it have other amenities or perhaps a better view than the others?

Most importantly....Congratulations!
Ericka is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 04:07 AM
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 118
Thanks all!

Re the honeymoon suite...it's far more secluded than the others in that you have to walk another couple minutes from the last tent before you get to the honeymoon tent. The view is the same for all of the tents, but you would not be able to use the sala at the other tents and expect privacy. Privacy is not a problem at the honeymoon tent.

It's also newer as it was built only recently. Otherwise, I think the actual structure is the same, although I didn't see the interior of the other tents. I know the photos you see on WS's website come from the honeymoon tent.
soleil17 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 02:02 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 78
First of all congratulations!! Your trip sounds absolutely amazing and I can't wait to plan my next trip to Jao Camp of course!! However, tonight my husband & I depart for Zambia for a 9 nights trip & 2 nights in Johannesburg to visit friends. We plan on spending 3 night each at Chiawa, Sausage Tree & Old Mondoro Bush Camps.....can't wait!! Thanks again for your insights on Jao!!!
jiggylou is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 12:55 AM
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Great report. Congratulations, soleil. Can't think of anything more romantic!
Clematis is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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Wonderful report! Wonderful trip! Welcome home, and Best Wishes on the engagement!
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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Fabulous report...congratulations!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 03:43 PM
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Soleil17.....One more thing. You mentioned a "quick trip" to the Falls. Can you explain the logistics of this? Did you spend the night there or simply fly over? Where did your helicopter depart from?

Ericka is offline  
Jun 14th, 2004, 09:10 PM
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Join Date: May 2004
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It's really not feasible to stay at some of the smaller places (Tongabezi, River Club) if you are just spending one night at the Falls. We had one goal really - see the Falls this year with so much waterflow. We stayed at the Royal Livingstone on the Zambia side. You can stay at the Zambezi Sun for about $80 less per person, but none of those rooms actually face the falls even though they are right there. The Royal Livingstone is very nice and we could see and hear the Falls from our room, which was very nice.

The helicopter left from the Zambia side. That's a South African-run outfit with SA trained pilots. I don't know about the other side.

We flew from Joberg to Livingstone, arrived around 11:00, drove to the hotel. Went to the helicopter pad at noon, did our trip, and walked the falls around 3:00 for a couple hours. Watched the sunset, had a romantic dinner, and left the next morning. It was fine for us because we really just wanted to see the Falls.
soleil17 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2004, 04:10 AM
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When we visited VFA, we also spent 1-nt/1-day, staying in Zim at the Kingdom - big, with casino, large rooms, great property and a 3-min walk to the Falls. But we were heading onto Chobe Botswana the next day as a road transfer so we had to come thru Zim anyways and it was easy enough to do. Likewise on the return, we transfered by road to VFA, spent the afternoon doing some shopping at the open air market, then catching a 4pm flight back to JNB, where we spent the evening. Next morning we flew onto Hoedsprit for our time at Kruger (Honeyguide 2-nts, then Singita 2-nts).

So depending on how you schedule your itinerary you can get VFA in without it costing that much.

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