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What a $16,500 a night tented villa gets you in Botswana

Imagine a tented villa so exclusive it is all yours, with surroundings so spectacular in the heart of a wilderness wonderland, and you have Zarafa Dhow Suites in Selinda Game Reserve, Botswana.

With a price tag of US$12,595 (approximately AUD$16,500) in high season, you receive a fully inclusive African experience.

The Zarafa Dhow Suites is an intimate, two room, exclusive use tented villa located on the 320,000 acre Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana, an area linking the Okavango Delta and the Chobe/Savute corridors.

Home to some of the classic species, such as leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, red lechwe, zebra and giraffe, the reserve is also a refuge for some of the more uncommon species such as African wild dog, cheetah, roan and sable.

Few properties rival the location of this little gem built entirely under canvas and of the largest tents ever built on the continent. The Suites are located adjacent to Zarafa Camp, Botswana’s first and only Relais & Chateaux property overlooking the crystal waters of Zibadianja Lagoon, the source of the famous Savute Channel. From the Dhow Suites, hippos are visible in the Lagoon and elephant wander through regularly. A multi-level deck, with a pool, adds to the palatial expanse of living space, which has been inspired by the miracle of wild Africa.

Zarafa Camp is the brainchild of the founders of Great Plains Conservation. Zarafa means “the beloved one” or “the lovely one” in Arabic. The name comes from a giraffe, which was presented to Charles X of France in 1826 by the Viceroy of Egypt. The giraffe travelled from Africa in a traditional Dhow boat, the inspiration for the name of the Dhow Suites.

The Dhow Suite, an immense 210 square metres (2,260 square feet) in extent, is under beige, flowing canvas, with canopy ceilings and completely open (yet netted) sides. Entering through the heavy wood Lamu door transports guests to a lavish space of deep reds, browns, brass and copper, evoking richness and beauty. Central to the Dhow Suites are a full lounge and dining area fitted dining table, coffee table with cappuccino machines and a full-length leather couch and chairs.

Two large bedrooms are connected to either side of the main area designed with an open layout bathroom with impressive copper claw foot bath, indoor shower, separate loo and double basins and even an open fire, with copper flue, to heat the room in winter. A large decking area fronts onto the suites with a private 5 x 2.5 metre swimming pool, exercise bike and full-body outdoor showers for each room, all with views of pristine Botswana wilderness. The adjoining main camp has a curio shop for those who need retail therapy and an in-room massage is also available.

The Dhow Suites can cater for a maximum of four adults and one child sharing, in two separate bedrooms, plus an additional guide’s tent if required. Children from 6 years are welcome.

The Suites have a professional Canon camera set, including two Canon 5D camera bodies with Canon 100-400mm and 20-105mm lenses. Photos will be downloaded to a storage device on guest’s departure. Each room also comes with a pair of Swarovski binoculars for guest use as well.

There is no additional charge for private game drive vehicle hire as a stay at the Zarafa Dhow Suites automatically includes the services of a private custom designed open 4×4 safari vehicle and guide. Guided walks to appreciate the stunning landscape on foot, peacefully, without the noise of engines and cruising on the Zibadianja Lagoon on “HMS Zib” when water levels permit are also included. This special pontoon boat is an utterly unique experience. The 275 square foot deck is complete with couches, a dining area and bar where guests can comfortably enjoy floating brunch or sundowners while watching hippos and elephants in the water.

Three delicious meals a day are provided. Dhow is extremely flexible on timings. Picnic breakfasts or lunch (or both) are the norm due to very active game drives, often delivered to the bush. Dinner takes place either in the indoor dining room or outside, under a canopy of stars.

The Dhow Suites successfully retain a clearly African feel, while balancing that delicate relationship between personal and informal and romance and adventure. There is no equal in terms of its environmental credentials and its careful appointments

In keeping with the revolutionary environmentally friendly methods used in the construction of Zarafa’s main camp, the Dhow Suites have been constructed with maximum focus on minimising the impact on the pristine environment which surrounds them.

Energy comes from Zarafa’s pioneering “solar farm” consisting of over 150x solar panels, which produce enough electricity during daylight hours to handle the electrical needs of both the main camp and the Suites.

Dhow Suites’ game drive vehicle operates on a mix of vegetable oil (85%) and diesel (15%), a completely new initiative in the safari industry, and drinking water is treated through a UV filtration system which eliminates the use of disposable plastic water bottles.

These components make Zarafa one of the “greenest” camps on the planet.

Still not convinced? Let these pictures entice you.

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Kate Webster
Kate Webster
Kate Webster is a travel journalist - travel writer and photographer who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits.Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate's inspiration behind her writing and photography.When she’s not bouncing around the world on ramshackle buses, overcrowded trains, or on the back of a rickshaw, you can find her based in Sydney or the Gold Coast, Australia eagerly planning her next adventure.

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