Xigera Camp is a little piece of paradise in the Okavangos wetlands.
Xigera: Our full report
Xigera Camp (pronounced 'keejera') is within a private area of Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve, on the west side of the reserve, in the heart of Okavango Delta. If you had to mark the centre of the Okavango, Xigera would be it. The camp feels as if water is everywhere around, and the luxuriant vegetation makes this seem one of the Delta's most tropical corners.
On our most recent visit here, we were welcomed with the greeting, “Welcome to Paradise!" We’re not sure if the staff member knew that the camp’s founders built Xigera on the spot they called ‘Paradise Island’ or not, but within hours of arriving we felt we knew why they had.
Xigera Camp’s tented chalets are now spread among the trees around the edge of an island, and linked by long raised walkways. They include one family unit, which has two separate en-suite rooms joined by a shared deck.
The spacious tents are of a more traditional design than some of Xigera's Okavango Delta contemporaries, but we think they have character and fit perfectly with the unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere of the camp. At the front of each tent, is a smallish deck with a couple of chairs. Inside, through sliding doors, the chalets are furnished with twin or double beds with mosquito nets, reading lights, a writing desk where you'll find a plug point for charging camera equipment, a comfortable reading chair and even a tea- and coffee-making station. Tree shade helps to keep the tents reasonably cool, but there is also a free-standing fan for the warmer summer months.
A large slatted wood screen with shelves and hanging space separates the bedroom from the bathroom, where there is a separate toilet and a private outdoor shower, as well as an indoor one. Essentials such as shampoo and soap are provided, as well as body lotion. We also appreciated the thoughtful addition of a small vanity pack.
The sprawling open-plan main area at Xigera is thatched, with a bar at one end, a long communal dining table at the other, and a lounge area between. There is also a firepit on the lower deck, directly overlooking the water – a great place for swapping stories around the fire after dinner.
Just behind the main area is a loo with a viewand a very good-sized curio shop, while a separate library boasts numerous books, maps of the area and even a few board games. The plunge pool has a wonderful setting, overlooking the channel in front of the camp, although the sunloungers are mostly in the shade of the trees.
Activities from Xigera Camp normally concentrate on motorboat and mokoro excursions, though game drives are usually possible all year as long as water levels permit. When water levels are high enough, usually between around April and August, then Xigera offers full-day boat trips to Chief's Island.
Historically we have viewed Xigera as an area to focus on the more watery aspects of the Delta. While the densities of 'big game', and predators in particular, tend to be lower than in many other areas of the Okavango Delta, there is game around, including red lechwe and the rarer sitatunga that favour the waterways of this area. The birdlife is spectacular, with herons, egrets, cranes and smaller water birds in abundance.
On our most recent visit, in September 2012, we were treated to the very special sight of African skimmers nesting at Xigera Lagoon; typically they start arriving around September and depart again in March. This is also a good area for the elusive Pel's fishing owl, which we heard but, sadly, did not see.
Having said that, early one December the camp advised us that due to unexpectedly low – and swiftly receding – water levels, motorboat trips at Xigera had become limited. That year, short boat trips were still being offered, but not to Xigera Lagoon where it was too shallow. So be aware that for at least some of the year, probably around September or between October and March, mokoros and game drives may become the key activities. This is an excellent example of how the dynamics of the Delta can change what’s possible for visitors, not only between the different seasons but also from year to year.
Our viewA visit to the unpretentious Xigera offers visitors the kind of lush, watery experience that many first-time visitors would expect in the Okavango Delta. Don’t come here for the best big-game sightings, although you’ll sometimes be pleasantly surprised; instead come to spend some time on the water and relax in a particularly beautiful corner of the Okavango, which we love.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights when water levels are high, although three nights would usually suit anyone wanting more time on the water.
Directions: Access is by light aircraft to Xigera airstrip. It's then a short drive either directly to the camp or, when water levels are high, to the boat station, followed by a five-minute boat trip to camp.
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Food at Xigera is served buffet style and was of good quality and variety during our most recent stay in September 2012.
A light breakfast of yoghurt, cereal, fruit, muffins, tea and coffee is served before the morning activity. A more substantial brunch at around 11.00am features the usual cooked 'full English', accompanied by a selection of salads, a hot dish – such as aubergine and roasted tomato lasagna – and freshly baked bread alongside a selection of cheeses.
Tea time was a real highlight with a selection of hot and cold drinks, freshly baked banana bread, quesidillas, fresh fruit and savoury 'bobotie' tartlets (a South African dish of curried mince which perhaps tastes better than it might sound!).
Dinner is a three-course meal with such offerings as corn soup and freshly baked bread rolls, followed by lamb cutlets with sautéed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Our meal was rounded off nicely with a rich chocolate mousse served with cream. However, once or twice a week Xigera’s chefs put a cultural twist on the evening meal and prepare traditional fare.
Vegetarians and many other special requirements can be catered for if sufficient notice is given.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Birdwatching: Xigera Camp is home to spectacular birdlife, including countless herons, egrets, cranes and smaller water birds. In September 2012, we were treated to the sight of African skimmers at Xigera Lagoon. It's also a good area for the elusive Pel's fishing owl.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children aged 12 and over are accepted at Xigera. For those between 6 and 12 years, private activities must be booked (at extra cost) – except for a family of six people who will fill a vehicle anyway, or if the whole camp is booked for exclusive use. A minimum age of 13 years is stipulated for mokoro excursions.
Special activities & services: None
Equipment: No special equipment is provided for children, but the camp has a family unit with two rooms joined by a shared deck.
Generally recommended for children: Xigera has a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere and is on raised decks throughout. However, because children under 13 years cannot participate in mokoro excursions – a key element of a stay at Xigera – we recommend this camp for children 14 years and older.
Notes: The camp is on raised walkways but it is not fenced. Xigera receives regular visits by elephants and other potentially dangerous wildlife is known to move through camp. The pool is unfenced. Parents must keep their children under constant, close supervision.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is a back-up emergency generator. Plug points with US, UK and South Africa adaptors are provided in each room for charging camera batteries. Hairdryers, however, cannot be used as they draw too much power and would 'trip' the power.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, direct phone or fax and no email at Xigera. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. All management and guides are first aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies. There is a nurse on call (via radio) 24 hours a day.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their chalets after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. There is a latch on the inside and outside of the door to each room. ‘Fog horns’ are provided in the chalets to summon help in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at all the chalets and in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Xigera. There are small safes in all the chalets, as well as a larger one in the office if required.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.