Thinking about going on a Kalahari Desert safari? In our Ker and Downey Dinaka camp review we dive into what makes this luxury African safari experience one of the best in Botswana.
Just when we thought our 2-month African safari adventure couldn’t get any better…
We left the vast wetlands of the Okavango Delta and flew into the dry, arid sprawl of the Kalahari Desert, excited for a new experience and curiosity sky-high with what wildlife we would encounter in this unique landscape.
The twin-propeller aircraft touched down on the long, dirt runway and we climbed down the steps to meet our guide from Ker and Downey’s Dinaka camp.
Jumping into the back of the open-air Land Cruiser we navigated our way through the private concession, and immediately came across a herd of kudu and impala just metres from our vehicle, then passed a set of lion footprints.
The safari hadn’t even begun yet, and we were already encountering some of Africa’s most unique creatures.
Arriving at camp we were greeted by the entire staff at Dinaka Ker and Downey, who sung us a traditional song while we sipped a delicious welcome drink.
The Dinaka camp was like an oasis in the heart of the desert, with a watering hole surrounded by zebra and antelope and a stunning, luxurious bar area overlooking the show.
As they say, this was just the beginning. We could already tell we were in for a special safari experience here in the Kalahari Desert.
READ MORE: Don’t miss our entire review from Ker and Downey’s Shinde Concession in the Okavango Delta to see how it compares!
Ker and Downey Dinaka Camp Review – An Exclusive Luxury Kalahari Safari
Nestled deep within the captivating expanse of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Ker & Downey Dinaka Camp is a true gem that offers an unforgettable safari trip like no other.
Having stayed at a variety of safari camps already across southern Africa, including the revolutionary Pangolin Lodge in the Chobe National Park and the gorgeous Jaci’s Lodges in Madikwe, South Africa, we had come to discover that no two places are the same.
Dinaka in the Kalahari Desert took what we’d experienced already and brought its own flair.
While it had all the elegant style, first-class hospitality and legendary comfort you’d expect from a premier safari operator such as Ker and Downey, its location lended itself to a more rugged, unique journey.
Having spent a few nights here in the Kalahari we fell in love with everything on offer.
In our Ker and Downey Dinaka camp review we’ll break down the entire experience so you can see what it’s like for yourself and hopefully make the decision to jump on that charter flight and enjoy its unrivalled desert luxury safari.
Who is Ker and Downey?
Ker and Downey stands as a beacon in the luxury travel world, renowned for crafting safari experiences that are as exclusive as they are immersive.
With a heritage deeply rooted in the pioneering spirit of East African safaris, this company has mastered the art of combining high-stakes adventure with unparalleled luxury.
Since its founding Ker and Downey has evolved beyond just creating trips; they’re in the business of making dreams come alive, with each journey meticulously tailored to offer a deep dive into the heart of Africa’s most breathtaking landscapes.
But what really sets Ker and Downey apart is their unwavering commitment to the planet and its people.
Through sustainable tourism practices, they ensure that every safari not only respects the majestic wildlife and pristine environments but also contributes meaningfully to community development and conservation efforts.
Their portfolio of camps across Botswana is nothing short of spectacular, offering a spectrum of experiences from the water-woven wonderland of the Okavango Delta – with Shinde, Shinde Enclave, Shinde Footsteps, and Kanana – to the stark, mesmerizing beauty of the Kalahari Desert here at Dinaka, and the secluded allure of the private Moremi Game Reserve at Okuti.
Each destination promises not just a stay, but a journey into the soul of Africa, where every moment is an opportunity for discovery and connection.
Where is Ker and Downey’s Dinaka Camp
Located in the centre of Botswana, the Ker & Downey Dinaka Camp is built in a private concession with its own oasis watering hole in the heart of the sprawling Central Kalahari Game Reserve, one of Botswana’s most remote and pristine wildlife areas.
The camp’s remote location makes it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts seeking an authentic and tranquil African safrari.
This remote location is a quintessential part of the camp’s allure, offering a unique and pristine safari experience that few other destinations can match.
How to Get to Dinaka Camp
The only way to travel to Dinaka is by charter plane, and that accessibility is part of the adventure.
Boarding a light aircraft from Maun or other Botswana hubs such as Kasane or one of the other luxury camps in the region, you’ll be touching down in the Kalahari in just a few hours followed by a short drive to the camp.
This remote setup ensures that visitors experience a sense of isolation and connection with nature that’s increasingly rare in today’s fast-paced world.
Dinaka’s commitment to conservation and community involvement is evident in its operations and guest experiences.
The camp not only provides a sanctuary for those looking to immerse themselves in the stark beauty of the Kalahari but also plays a crucial role in preserving this unique environment for future generations.
One thing we need to point out is that due to the small size of these aircraft luggage is strictly limited to 15kg per person, and must be in a soft duffel bag or soft backpack, not a suitcase.
Personally we were travelling with a hard suitcase and a 55 litre backpack in addition to all our camera gear, but the guys at Ker and Downey had a solution for us.
At the airport in Kasane we packed all of our necessities (bare minimum, because Ker and Downey offer free daily laundry) into the backpack and the rest of our gear in the suitcase.
We set off to the camps, and the airline organised a courier to transfer our bags from Kasane to Maun, where we would be finishing up after our Ker and Downey safari trips.
For about USD$50 the bags were transported across and a Ker and Downey customer service representative hand-delivered our luggage to us at the Maun airport once we touched down.
The Dinaka Kalahari Desert Experience
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve encompasses a staggering 52,800 square kilometres, making it one of the largest protected wilderness areas in Africa.
Contrary to the common perception of a desert as a barren and lifeless landscape, the Kalahari is a remarkably diverse and captivating ecosystem.
The Kalahari Desert’s terrain is characterised by a captivating mix of red sand dunes, expansive grassy plains, and scrubland punctuated by acacia trees and other hardy vegetation.
The dramatic landscapes provide a stunning backdrop for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike.
The rust-coloured plains contrast beautifully with the vibrant blue skies and golden grasslands, creating a photographer’s dream.
Boasting iconic mammals like lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, springbok, kudu, elands, cheetah and sable, there’s no shortage of mind-blowing animal encounters to be had here in the desert.
Accommodation at Dinaka Camp
Staying at the Ker and Downey Dinaka Camp means immersing yourself in this captivating Kalahari landscape while living in pure luxury.
The camp offers seven elegantly-designed air-conditioned tents, each perched atop a wooden deck to provide elevated views of the surrounding wilderness and out towards the camp’s famous waterhole.
The glamping tents are a perfect fusion of rustic charm and modern comfort.
From the plush bedding to the private outdoor shower and the cozy veranda, every detail has been carefully considered to provide guests with the utmost comfort while immersing them in the wild beauty of the Kalahari.
Hospitality and Service at Dinaka Camp
The staff at Ker & Downey Dinaka are not just employees; they are the warm and welcoming heart of the camp, embodying the very essence of Botswana’s renowned hospitality.
During our stay at Dinaka we were honestly impressed by the genuine care and dedication of the staff, who consistently went above and beyond to ensure that every guest’s needs and desires were not just met, but exceeded.
What sets the staff at Dinaka Camp apart is their unwavering passion for service.
From the moment you arrive you are greeted with smiles, open arms and traditional song, making you feel instantly at home in this remote corner of the Kalahari.
If you have a question, a request, or simply wish to share your excitement about the day’s wildlife encounters, the staff are always eager to engage and make your experience memorable.
Ker and Downey’s staff also provide a window into the rich cultural heritage of Botswana.
Many of the staff members hail from local communities, and they take pride in sharing their traditions and stories.
This cultural exchange adds depth to the safari experience.
Whether it’s gathering around the campfire for storytelling, enjoying sundowners in the bush, or simply exchanging stories and laughter, the camp’s atmosphere is inviting and inclusive.
The Dining Experience
The culinary team at Dinaka Camp deserves special mention. Meals are prepared with meticulous care, blending local flavours and international cuisine to create a gastronomic adventure.
Being vegetarians in southern Africa wasn’t a problem, but it did mean that we were often left with very limited options as to what we could eat.
Not here at Dinaka, where all dietary preferences and requirements are thoughtfully accommodated, ensuring that everyone leaves the dining table satisfied and delighted.
Meals are usually enjoyed in a family setting, with all guests joining a long dining table in the main lodge, adding an element of community and camaraderie.
If you have a special occasion to celebrate or prefer eating on your own though that is not a problem – private settings are always available too.
The Legendary Water Hide and Other Facilities in Dinaka
Beyond the luxurious tents, sumptuous dining, and thrilling activities, Dinaka offers a range of additional facilities designed to enhance your stay in the Kalahari.
One standout feature is the camp’s exceptional viewing hide, located near a waterhole.
This hide provides a unique, up-close opportunity to observe wildlife in their natural habitat, making it a favourite for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike thanks to its water-level perspective.
The hide’s strategic position allows guests to safely watch as animals come to drink, offering unparalleled wildlife encounters.
For those looking to unwind after a day of adventure, the camp boasts a cozy lounge area, thoughtfully furnished to reflect the natural beauty of the Kalahari.
Here, guests can relax, mingle, and share stories of their day’s experiences. The lounge, often the heart of the camp, is where the spirit of the safari comes alive, with tales of the day’s sightings and adventures.
There is a small, open-air pool, which is very much appreciated in the warmer months when temperatures in the Kalahari can soar in the middle of the day.
Additionally, Dinaka provides an educational component through its on-site natural history library.
Guests have the opportunity to delve deeper into the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage of the Kalahari, enriching their understanding of this unique ecosystem.
The library is a testament to Dinaka’s commitment to conservation education and fostering a deeper appreciation for the natural world among its visitors.
Activities at the Dinaka Camp
Most people who book an African safari are interested in the epic wildlife encounters that you are almost guaranteed.
But one of the standout features of the Ker & Downey Dinaka Camp is its commitment to offering exceptional activities that bring a whole new element to the typical safari experience.
Of course the wildlife is the main drawcard, but you have the chance to also learn about the local indigenous cultures, sleep under the stars in their remote Sleep Out Deck and even explore the concession at night.
Wildlife Game Drives
The game drives here are nothing short of extraordinary, with experienced guides who are deeply knowledgeable about the region’s flora and fauna.
Ker and Downey use the classic Toyota Land Cruiser safari vehicle, with open sides and a canopy on top for shade, offering elevated positions while you bounce around the desert.
Unlike the public parks there’s no jamming as many people as possible into a vehicle here – for our entire stay we were the only two guests in the vehicle.
Being a private concession also means you aren’t limited to wherever the road takes you.
If your guide spots an animal in the distance you can literally drive over bushes to get there, which we did on many occasions.
At the time of year we visited the Kalahari Desert (end of August) the terrain was dry and foliage quite dense, meaning we felt like we were on the search for big mammals rather than driving through a zoo, which to be honest just made the encounters all the more special.
Here at Dinaka game drives start first thing in the morning before the sun rises and last for 3-4 hours, depending on what you see.
The drive is broken up in the middle with a tea, coffee and snack break, which after such an early start is very much appreciated, before continuing on the safari.
The afternoon drives operate in much the same fashion, except you stop for an alcoholic (or non-alcoholic in Alesha’s case) sundowner at sunset before enjoying a short night drive under spotlights on the way back to camp.
You really are the master of your adventure here, and if there’s a particular species you want to see your guide will do their best to find it for you.
In our case we heard from some guests when we first arrived that they had come across a lioness and her cubs feeding on a fresh hunt.
We mentioned that we’d love to see that to our guide, and he then got a location from the others and took us straight there when it was our time to go for a drive.
In the morning we asked if we could go back to see them, then visit the waterhole hide for golden hour, and he happily obliged.
As long as the wildlife wasn’t being disturbed by our presence, we could request to stay as long or as short as we wanted.
The Waterhole Hide
The waterhole hide at Dinaka is a real treat for anyone looking to get up close with the wildlife without disturbing their natural behaviours.
It’s cleverly designed as a semi-underground bunker with a wide open window just centimetres above the water’s edge, offering guests a discreet spot to observe the animals as they come and go.
From this vantage point, you can watch a diverse array of animals as they make their way to the waterhole for a drink.
What’s really cool about this hide is how it allows you to witness those candid wildlife moments that are often missed.
You might see the cautious approach of antelopes, the social interactions of guinea fowls, or even the rare sight of a predator lurking nearby.
It’s all about the unscripted moments of nature that unfold right before your eyes.
For photography buffs and nature enthusiasts, the hide is a fantastic spot to spend some time.
It offers the chance to snap some amazing photos without needing a super long lens, thanks to the close proximity to the animals.
The lower perspective also creates some stunning images, especially at golden hour when the wind hasn’t disturbed those mirror-like reflections.
Plus, it’s a great way to learn more about the wildlife, observing their behaviors and interactions in a quiet, unobtrusive setting.
This spot was our absolute favourite in Dinaka, and we spent hours just chilling and watching the animals come and go.
San Bushmen Cultural Walks
For those seeking a more intimate and immersive experience, guided bush walks with the local San Bushmen is a must-do activity.
The San Bushmen, also known as the San people or Basarwa, are one of the oldest indigenous populations in Africa, with ancestral roots that can be traced back over 20,000 years.
They are traditionally hunter-gatherers and are closely connected to the land and its ecosystems.
Ker and Downey offer an opportunity to go for a walk with some San people, allowing you to explore the Kalahari on foot, learning about the smaller wonders of the desert ecosystem, tracks left by animals, and the indigenous plants that thrive in this arid environment.
You can participate in activities like traditional bow-and-arrow shooting or fire-making, gaining a deeper appreciation for the human history and heritage of the Kalahari.
We didn’t do a San Bushmen walk with Ker and Downey, but did join one on a previous trip to the edge of the Kalahari, and can highly recommend it.
Sleep Out Deck
Another fascinating and unique activity you can do in at the Dinaka camp is spend a night under the stars at their exclusive Sleep Out Deck.
Located about an hour away from Dinaka, the Sleep Out Deck is an elevated platform with panoramic views over the Kalahari Desert, with a queen-sized bed and comfortable amenities right at the top.
Guests can request to spend the night out here, and after an early dinner your guide will drive you out to the deck, stopping to check out any wildlife you find on the way of course, before delivering you to your new bedroom.
The Ker and Downey staff have already been out here by now to setup the deck with fresh sheets, hot water, snacks and solar lights, and the decorations are sprinkled around impeccably.
As the sun sets you’ll be treated to the mesmerising glow of the Kalahari and the sky will fill with the cacophony of birds singing and cats roaring.
There’s no need to worry about being stranded out here or becoming a lion’s dinner – your guide sleeps downstairs and is on call at all times in case you’d like to head back to camp.
In the morning you’ll wake up to freshly brewed coffee and a sensational sunrise before being taken back to Dinaka for breakfast.
We didn’t have time to camp out at the Sleep Out Deck unfortunately, but did do something similar in Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa and loved every moment of it.
Wild Animals in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
The Kalahari Desert, often mistakenly thought of as a barren wasteland, is in reality filled with a variety of wildlife thriving in challenging environments.
This arid expanse, which covers parts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, hosts a diverse array of creatures that has evolved to thrive in the harsh conditions of this unique desert ecosystem.
Here is a glimpse into the remarkable wildlife that we captured while staying at Ker and Downey’s Dinaka camp:
Ker and Downey Dinaka Concession Review – 8.5/10
We didn’t quite know what to expect when we flew into the Kalahari Desert, or how it would compare to some of the other popular safari destinations we had been previously such as Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta and Kruger.
Despite thinking it may have been a dusty, void plain it was the complete opposite – heavily vegetated, sprinkled with watering holes and home to an abundance of stunning wildlife.
The Ker and Downey Dinaka Camp itself is a 5-star delight, a modest oasis and a pinnacle of hospitality.
It seamlessly combines luxury with the raw beauty of the wilderness, offering a truly unforgettable safari experience.
We could not fault the service provided by the staff and Ker and Downey, from the front of house and chefs to the guides, each one brought a sense of character and genuine joy at each encounter.
The Kalahari Desert itself was fascinating, and as long as you keep in mind that at the end of the day it is a desert, meaning hot and dusty conditions during the day and animals congregating around water holes mainly, at least in our experience when visiting at the end of August, then you will leave with sensational memories.
If you seek an authentic and rejuvenating safari adventure, we wholeheartedly recommend Ker and Downey’s Dinaka Camp for your next African adventure destination.
Ker and Downey Dinaka Camp Review – Kalahari Desert Safari
In our Ker and Downey Dinaka camp review we share why this luxury African safari experience in the Kalahari Desert is one of the best safaris in Botswana.
- High-end luxury camp
- Impeccable service
- Exclusive fly-in fly-out destination
- Excellent wildlife encounters
- Expensive due to luxury level and remote location
- Can be hot and dusty in the warmer months
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