Part 4: Xigera Camp, Okavango Delta
April 10, 2015
Skip to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15
Early on the morning of Fri 28 November, without the boxed breakfast lunch which the Mt. Nelson Hotel forgot to give to us, Kathy and I made the less than 20-minute drive to Cape Town Airport. Then we dove into the travel maelstrom, swept along like tiny fish in a powerful current. Drop off the car. Submit to security and check in. A cup of coffee at the Mug & Bean. Some walking and then waiting. More waiting. Two hours in the air to Jo’burg. A little more walking and more waiting. Cramped bus ride to an aircraft. Less than 2 hours in the air to Maun. And then we were there.
In real life it took more than half a day and added half a year to the aging process, of course. At least there was no luggage lost or broken into, no major delays or even minor mishaps. Springing a little extra for business class seats paid off handsomely with ‘first on, first off’ being the biggest bonus. A more comfortable seat, a little more legroom, food on real plates and wine in real glasses – meh. It is all about the priority boarding and fast exit.
One more flight awaited us that day, being a 20-minute hop by Cessna Caravan to Xigera. Real flying and great fun. By 3:00P that day, we were in the Okavango Delta. It was warm and there were some thunderstorms visible in the distance.
Xigera is a typical Okavanago Delta camp on an island with an imposing pedestrian bridge leading up to the lounge and dining room area. Everything is on a large, sturday boardwalk. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, but not luxurious. Good lighting, mosquito nets, hot water, effective ventilation. The stuff that matters.
Our afternoon mokoro outing was very successful. I saw and photographed a male sitatunga – this being my first photograph ever of this shy and elusive antelope. We found ourselves in just the most beautiful environment imaginable, papyrus groves in every direction, birds all around, and elephants hurrying past us and through the river. This is what the Okavango Delta is all about. No noise, almost no pollution, nobody else around. If there were a secret portal to re-connect with nature, this is where you are likely to find it.
The day ended much much less stressfully than it started, with a delicious dinner – your choice of peppered beef or bell peppers stuffed with couscous. Plus lots of other tasty items, freshly baked bread and a very sweet but very good dessert. It was early to bed for us.
Enjoying Xigera and the Okavango Delta
On what turned out to be a Saturday morning – not that days of the week really matter on safari – we were up at 05:30A, for a game + birding drive. Again, we were pleasantly surprised by the abundance of wildlife. Lots and lots of birds, for sure, and also lechwe, impala, bushbuck and zebra. Then we transitioned to a boating outing on a channel in the Delta, from the boat station down to the Boro River. On arrival at the boat station we observed a good sized herd of elephants, plus there were – predictably – hippo in the pool. Back to camp for a late brunch and then – sleeping safari, aka siesta time.
By late afternoon, we took another longish outing with our guide Lesh into or close to the neighboring AndBeyond concession in search of more mammals. We came across quite a few: zebra, impala, kudu, tsessebe, warthogs and elephant. Oddly enough, no giraffe. Over the course of the first two days we did not see any predators but that is not why we came to Xigera.
Xigera is all about the water, the Delta, the water-adapted mammals and the birds. It is about tranquility and about being in a place where you set out on a morning or afternoon activity fully expecting to see lots of exciting things – but no other human beings.
And so it was. Over two days here, we saw a myriad of birds, beautiful landscapes, plenty of general wildlife and we enjoyed almost total exclusivity on activities.
Our final dinner at Xigera was again a delightful experience. It started with an entertaining and highly education talk by Dave Luck, a specialist guide, who talked about the Delta and about Northern Botswana, using a map to highlight some natural features, the origin of the annual flood, how various factors such as tectonic activity and even hippo channels affect the way the water disperses and so on. Very interesting.
The dinner menu was varied and exciting with couscous, rice and a variety of vegetables including butternut squash and green beans plus salads, chicken stir-fry, loin of venison, vegetarian crepes and more fresh bread. We also had a choice of chardonnay and shiraz table wine.
Lions at Xigera
Our intended plan this morning was to do a birding walk around camp, but overnight a pride of lions had walked into the concession from the adjacent Nxabega area. Naturally we went out to the spot where they were – near the Xigera mokoro station – and promptly bumped into one and soon after another four individuals, three males and two females. Quite handsome too and while the light wasn’t perfect, it was soft and even with no harsh shadows.
The bottom line on Xigera: the camp is very comfortable, with a great lay-out, ideally located lounge and dining room area. The rooms are likely ready for a complete re-build to catch up with the rest of the Wilderness Safaris ‘classic’ portfolio, but the camp’s location right on the edge of the permanent Delta is excellent. Although we enjoyed some exceptionally good game-viewing, Xigera is really not the camp for someone who is ‘only’ interested in big game. It is a great Okavango Delta camp choice – where the focus is on the Delta itself, the water, water-adapted wildlife including a wealth of birds, plants and of course water-related activities such as mokoro outings and boating.
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