Chitabe Camp is built on elevated wooden decks set amongst trees.
Chitabe Camp: Our full report
Situated in the southern part of the Okavango Delta, Chitabe Camp is an established camp with an impressive track record for good game viewing. Upgraded and almost completely rebuilt in 2009, the elevated decks overlook a floodplain of the Chitabe Reserve which is bordered by the Moremi on three sides. One of the Delta's drier areas, it also differs from the areas further north in the Okavango in that it is largely forested with plenty of shady, wooded glades but few open plains.
Here you'll find a collage of mopane and acacia woodlands; with the Gomoti River bordering the reserve to the north-east and the Santantadibe River to the south-east; also riverine forests, lagoons and even occasional lush channels. Chitabe Camp shares the area with its smaller sister camp nearby, Chitabe Lediba. It offers a classic dry-land safari experience, with activities concentrating on 4WD game drives by day, and spot lit drives at night. All drives are conducted in covered safari vehicles that have three rows of three seats but only a maximum of six seats are ever used. This ensures everyone has a ‘window’ seat.
The area supports a varied range of animals and birds, with numerous leopards thriving on a prolific population of impala. Other common sightings are giraffe and zebra and there are also good populations of buffalo, elephant, as well as lion. Periodic sightings of wild dog are also highlights here; the camps' owners have written an excellent coffee-table book on wild dogs, Running Wild documenting the antics of the Mombo pack. On our most recent visit in May 2011, we spent a memorable hour observing a pair of leopards as they appeared to completely ignore our presence. We've also seen leopard on numerous previous visits and have also enjoyed fantastic sightings of lion and cheetah.
The birdlife is often good, too, with raptors especially common – and although you will see water birds near the waterways you won't see the full range found elsewhere. (Though many birds occur throughout the Delta, their distribution is often very localised.) Western-banded snake eagles, Gabar goshawks and martial eagles are just a few of the more sought-after sightings in drier areas like this, and in the wetter areas, there is a good chance of seeing the endemic slaty egret and the endangered wattled crane. Birding here is at its best between December and March.
While the guides at Chitabe are keen and enthusiastic about their safaris, we certainly enjoyed returning from our drives to enjoy the casual luxury of the camp itself. The eight tented rooms are built on raised wooden decks on their own separate branch of the linked walkways that meander through the trees, these are now larger and more polished than the previous tents and are very comfortable indeed.
To the front of each tented room is a shady veranda with cushioned wicker chairs, and a wrought-iron table, where you can sit out and watch the birdlife or the wildlife that wanders by the camp. Glass sliding double doors lead into each room, flanked on each side by equally large mesh window, with comfortable beds (which can be double or twin) directly in front of you. A large walk-in mosquito net surrounds the beds and the bedside table and lamps, which makes lighting easily accessible at night. Also here are a writing desk, standing fan, luggage rack and a soft chair with a foot stool. The rooms are decorated with animal photos taken by owner Dave Hamman, who is a photo-journalist and private guide.
Separated from the bedroom by a canvas screen, each tent has a very respectably sized bathroom with hot and cold water on tap. Set directly behind the bed are twin basins, with a very large mirror above each. Hidden discreetly behind an additional canvas screen is the loo, and another screen hides an indoor shower. There is plenty of shelving and hanging space, an electronic safe and the laundry basket. Amenities include a complimentary array of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, fluffy towels and even a bathrobe. Mosquito repellent, bug spray and mosquito coils are also provided. Leading out to the side of the tent is a private outdoor shower. It may take a little getting used to showering outdoors, but the views are fantastic!
Back along the winding walkways, the lounge area is large and thatched, and beautifully designed, with big squashy sofas in very comfortable seating areas. A cleverly designed bar, hewn from a single trunk of a marula tree, is well stocked with a wide variety of soft drinks, local beers, wines and most local spirits. In the centre of the main area, large steps lead down to the fire pit where guests gather for afternoon tea or to enjoy evening drinks.
A walkway leads from the main area to the dining room, a large, thatched, open-sided room, with views over the surrounding plains. Both the buffet brunch and dinner are served from counters of beautifully polished old tree trunks, with guests eating together at one large table. On our last visit, we ate our dinner in the boma, just behind the main area – as it turned out, it was a lively and convivial evening enjoyed while we sampled some of the local traditional food.
More steps lead to a swimming pool. Surrounded by sun loungers and partially shaded by enormous trees, it's actually more of a plunge pool, but with a good view over the plains in front of camp too. Chitabe also has a small curio shop selling traditional Okavango crafts and baskets made by the local staff.
One of the things we particularly liked about this camp when we visited, was the small library – tucked away from the main areas along a walkway, and nestled in the branches of a large tree. A seat designed from the branch of a sausage tree, other comfortable and stylish sofas, and a great view over the plains combine to make this a lovely little ‘snug’, and a great place to retreat with a gin and tonic and a good book.
Chitabe Camp is in a super area for game, with an emphasis on game drives led by an enthusiastic team of guides. Excellent game viewing and a high standard of guiding; coupled with very comfortable accommodation make this a popular choice for visitors to the Okavango. Finding space here is often a challenge, so you're likely to need to book well in advance!
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights.
Directions: Guests will take a small plane flight to the Chitabe airstrip and it is then a half hour game drive to camp.
Owner: Flamingo Investments own the lodge, which is marketed by Wilderness Safaris.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to the camp we found the food to be of a very good standard. All meals were served buffet style.
Meals at Chitabe Camp follow the usual safari format, with an early breakfast served in the lounge area before your morning game drive. There was a choice of cereal, porridge, fruit and muffins, along with tea/coffee/juice.
On your return from the morning activity a substantial brunch is served in the dining area. There is always a hot dish on offer – we had vegetarian lasagne – and the chef will cook up bacon, sausages and eggs in front of you on request! There is also a selection of salads, freshly cooked bread, fruit and a cheeseboard. Afternoon tea is served before the afternoon activity, with a choice of a savoury snack and cake; we had vegetarian pastries and a lovely lemon cake. Homemade juice and iced (or hot) tea and coffee are available too.
A three-course dinner is served shortly after your return to camp in the evening. We started with a tasty butterbean soup, followed by roast lamb, ratatouille, couscous and cauliflower, plus a selection of salads, finishing with a rich chocolate mousse.
The camp is able to cater for all dietary requirements as long as they are informed in advance.
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 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: The Chitabe area has a good population of birds including Pels fishing owl, slaty egret, brown snake eagle, wattled crane, saddle-billed stork, woolly necked stork, marsh harrier, tawny eagle, black coucal, black egret, martial eagle and of course the African fish eagle.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome with the restrictions below.
Property’s age restrictions: The camp may accept ages 8 – 12 if a private vehicle is booked but this must be requested in advance. 12 years and over are welcome. 7 years and under are not accepted.
Special activities & services: None.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Chitabe Camp for children over the age of 12 years.
Notes: When children are accepted at this camp, they tend to be kept separate from other guests. Note that the walkways to the rooms are raised fairly high off the ground.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Chitabe Camp has a CB radio link in case of emergencies, but for all intents and purposes you should consider yourself out of contact. There is no mobile reception.
TV & radio: No TV or radio - this is the bush!
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All camp managers are first aid trained and various medications are kept in the camp. In severe emergencies Wilderness can arrange for clients to be flown out either via helicopter or medical rescue plane.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Because of the Okavango Delta's large population of dangerous game, and the fact that Chitabe Camp is unfenced, guests are escorted to their rooms after dark. Alarm sirens or whistles are provided in the rooms in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are extinguishers outside all the rooms.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full laundry service is included, except for underwear, for which washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.
Money: No exchange facilities offered. There are safes in all the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Diners Club and Amex are not accepted. Credit card transactions attract no commission. Rand, US Dollars, Pounds, Euros and Botswana Pula are accepted.