Chitabe Lediba is a lovely five room tented camp overlooking floodplains on its private reserve.
Chitabe Lediba: Our full report
Chitabe Lediba (formerly known as Chitabe Trails Camp) is situated on an elevated island within the floodplains of the Santantadibe River – and the Chitabe Reserve. This fairly dry area lies towards the south of the Okavango Delta, largely surrounded by the Moremi Game Reserve. It’s usually the venue for drives rather than water activities, and is generally regarded as a good, year-round game area.
In contrast with areas further north in the Delta, the Chitabe Reserve is largely mixed forest: an interesting mosaic of mopane and acacia woodlands. However as the reserve is bordered to the north and east by the Gomoti River and to the south-west by the Santantadibe River you will also find riverine forests, lagoons and lush channels. Chitabe Lediba shares the Chitabe Reserve with its larger sister-camp, Chitabe Camp.
Chitabe supports a varied range of birds and animals, with numerous leopards thriving on large numbers of impala. Frequent sightings of zebra and giraffe are complimented by good populations of buffalo, elephant and lion. Periodic sightings of wild dog are a highlight here and on a recent trip to Chitabe Lediba a member of the Expert Africa team was lucky enough to enjoy sundowners in their company. In the six months between our previous and last visit, in November 2011, the pack size had increased from 17 to 24 – a fantastic sign.
Both the main areas and chalets at Chitabe Lediba are accessed along wooden walkways raised about a metre off the ground – low enough to keep you at one with nature; high enough to keep some of the creepy-crawlies away! The camp has just five secluded tented chalets on low decks, shaded by large trees. Each has a veranda at the front kitted out with comfortable chairs, a couple of footstools and a table. From here, double doors lead into the bedroom, with polished dark-wood floors and Moroccan-style rugs. The comfortable beds (or, in the honeymoon room a four-poster) sit under a mosquito net, and are flanked by bedside tables with reading lamps. There is also a writing desk with stationery, magazines and bottled water. Next to this, a strip of universal plugs is handy for charging batteries – though not suitable for hair dryers. A ceiling fan and standing fan helps to keep the tent cool and the mosquitoes at bay, while meshed windows enable a cooling breeze.
A tall wooden headboard separates the bedroom from the bathroom, where two deep ceramic basins are set on a wooden counter beneath large framed mirrors. Behind the headboard is ample hanging and shelving space with a digital safe, bathrobes and extra blankets. There’s a separate flush toilet and a canvas walled shower, which gives a powerful blast of water. There's also a quirky outdoor shower, very spacious and partially surrounded by canvas walls for privacy, but with views over the plains. Big fluffy towels, mosquito repellent and a wide selection of toiletries are provided.
Two of the chalets are family units, consisting of two en-suite bedrooms – one with an outside shower. Both rooms share a balcony and one unit has an interleading hallway, well suited for families with younger children. These units can also be used for single people who are travelling together but booked into single rooms, who would prefer not to be alone in their own tent.
Chitabe Lediba's beautifully designed main area – all open plan and under thatch – has a help-yourself bar at one end and a very comfortable lounge area with cosy sofas in muted tones. A good little 'library' houses a selection of wildlife magazines and some interesting books, including 'Running Wild', a book about the wild dogs of northern Botswana written by the owners of Chitabe and Chitabe Lediba, Dave and Helene Hamman. There’s also a great collection of children’s games, books and crafts.
The dining area features a long wooden table and smart cream-covered chairs and has views out across the floodplain. Behind the main area, steps lead down to a boma (a natural space surrounded by a wooden fence), where traditional evening meals and barbecues are sometimes served. These are great fun and the staff are genuinely keen to impart a little knowledge of their local history and culture.
At the front, more steps lead to a wooden deck with a firepit surrounded by comfortable directors chairs. Shaded by a large tree, this is a lovely spot to relax with uninterrupted views across the plains. A wooden walkway leads to the loo-with-a-view and a small swimming pool complete with sunloungers and more superb views. There is also a curio shop which stocks a variety of safari clothing, local crafts and, surprisingly, a selection of silver Ethiopian crosses!
It's the staff that make this camp though – unfailingly friendly and cheerful and always happy to chat about the camp and the surrounding wildlife. The guiding is usually superb and the guides conscious of getting the vehicle and the light in the right places for great shots; they know a thing or two about the bush too.
Being a primarily 'dry' camp, activities at Chitabe Lediba concentrate on 4WD game drives both day and night. The game in this area is prolific and over the years we've seen some fantastic sightings. The birdlife is pretty good here, too, at its best between December and March. Raptors are especially common, with Gabar goshawks, Western-banded snake eagles and martial eagles a few of the more sought-after sightings, and a good chance of seeing the endemic slaty egret and the endangered wattled crane near the waterways.
Chitabe Lediba is a lovely, intimate camp situated in a great area for game. The staff and guiding are very professional, but also relaxed and friendly – the guides are keen to get good sightings but are also thoughtful about how our interaction may affect the animals' behaviour. The newly refurbished bar and pool area as well as the completely revamped rooms bring the quality of accommodation into line with the staff as well as the great game viewing in the area.
Ideal length of stay: 3-4 nights
Directions: The flight from Maun takes 20 minutes in a small plane to Chitabe Airstrip, then it's about a half-hour game drive to camp.
Owner: Flamingo Investments (Dave and Helene Hamman) own the lodge, which is marketed by Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We found the food at Chitabe Lediba to be exceptional – delicious and fresh. Meals are served buffet-style, and guests dine together.
Early morning breakfast of cereal, fruit, muffins, tea and coffee is served in the dining area before your game drive. Returning to a mammoth brunch, we were offered a cooked breakfast along with a hot dish (we had linguine with a tasty pork stew), various salads, bread and an assortment of other dishes. At tea time, savoury and sweet snacks are served – on our last visit these were a mushroom pizza and lemon cake – together with iced or hot tea and fresh juice.
For dinner during our stay, we were treated to a traditional meal in the boma. This started with peanut butter soup, followed by pounded beef (tasted much nicer than it sounds!), maize meal, corn on the cob, cauliflower and red cabbage, accompanied by chakalaka (a spicy mix of carrots and beans) which was lovely. To finish we had crème caramel (not quite such a traditional dish we felt). We also learned about various customs relating to meal times.
The camp is able to cater for all dietary tastes – vegetarian, vegan, gluten free etc – 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 Gabar goshawks, Western-banded snake eagles, brown snake eagle, marsh harrier, tawny eagle, black and coppery-tailed coucal, martial eagle and of course the African fish eagle, whose haunting cry can often be heard in camp. Near the water, look out for both slaty and black egrets, and the endangered wattled crane.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Wildlife safaris: The Chitabe area is renowned for its wild dog population, which has formed the subject of a book by the camps owners. Also worth noting are the regular lion and leopard sightings (both of which we saw during our one-night stay), tsessebe, blue wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, reedbuck and steenbok.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome with the restrictions below.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Chitabe Lediba Camp for children over the age of 12 years who have a genuine interest in nature.
Notes: The camp has two family units, which are essentially two en-suite tents with shared balcony. Children are generally kept separate from other guests where possible. Note that the walkways are raised about a metre off the ground.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Chitabe Lediba 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 cellphone reception. The camp does have a satellite phone which can be hired to guests if need be.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: All camp managers are first-aid trained and various medications are kept in the camp. Wilderness also have a nurse who spends her time in the camps and can be contacted via radio. In an emergency, guests can 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 Lediba 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 as well as the dining room and kitchen area.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included, except for underwear, for which washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Chitabe Lediba. There are electronic safes in all the rooms.