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, in the heart of the Okavango Delta. When the water levels are high in the Delta, it feels as if water is everywhere around the camp, and the luxuriant vegetation makes this seem one of the Delta's most tropical corners.
On our most recent visit to Xigera, in May 2014, we were welcomed with the greeting, ‘Welcome to Paradise!’ We're not sure if the staff knew that the camp was built on a spot dubbed 'Paradise Island' by the founders, but within hours of arriving we felt we understood the name.
You reach Xigera along a wooden walkway, which stretches across the channel to a sprawling, open-plan main area under thatch. There’s a bar at one end, a long communal dining table at the other, and a lounge area between. On the lower deck, directly overlooking the water, there’s a firepit: a great place for swapping stories around the fire after dinner.
Just behind the main area are a loo with a view and 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.
Once a week – usually on a Monday night – a cultural night takes places in a boma area set up just off one of the walkways, with a traditional meal prepared by Xigera’s chef.
Xigera Camp's 10 tented chalets are spread among the trees around the edge of an island, and linked by long raised walkways. They include one family chalet, which has two separate en-suite rooms joined by a shared deck.
These spacious tents are of a more traditional design than at some of Xigera's contemporaries in the Delta, 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 beds, or a double, 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.
Activities from Xigera Camp 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, Xigera offers full-day boat trips to Chief's Island.
We view Xigera as an area to focus on the more watery aspects of the Delta; it’s a great choice if you want a true water-based Delta experience. 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 rare sitatunga that favour the waterways of this area.
The birdlife is spectacular, with herons, egrets, cranes and smaller water birds in abundance. In the past we have been 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 have heard but, sadly, are yet to see here.
On our most recent trip we had two personable and extremely experienced guides, who were very happy to impart their knowledge of the Delta and its inhabitants. In fact the entire team at Xigera was welcoming, laid back and very friendly.
We watched fascinated one morning from the boat as a number of male elephants quite happily used there enormous power to shake the fully grown palms trees in aid of dislodging the seeds and catching them as they rained down on them!
While water activities are the focus at Xigera, early one December the camp advised us that due to unexpectedly low – and swiftly receding – water levels, motorboat trips 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 the options for visitors, not only between the seasons but 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.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights when water levels are high, although three nights would suit those wanting more time on the water, particularly keen birders.
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.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Food at Xigera is served buffet style and was of very good quality and variety during our most recent stay in May 2014. Vegetarians and many other special requirements can be catered for if sufficient notice is given.
A light breakfast of yoghurt, cereal, fruit, muffins, tea and coffee is served before the morning activity.
A more substantial brunch is served after the morning activity. We enjoyed a delicious beef wellington with spinach and bacon horseradish, beansprouts, green salad, roast potato salad and an avocado feta and lentil salad. The vegetarian option was tagliatelle with roasted tomato and garlic sauce. To finish we had fruit kebabs and a cheese board with chutney and crackers.
Afternoon tea was a real highlight with a selection of duck spring rolls and hoi sin sauce, breaded mozzarella balls, a pesto and apricot mezze, passion-fruit pots and a very delicious carrot cake.
Dinner is a three-course meal and was excellent. We had the choice of slow-roasted leg of lamb with mint sauce or marinated roasted pork neck with apple and sage sauce – or in our case both! This was accompanied by roasted sweet potatoes, grilled marrows with olives, carrot and cashew nuts. The vegetarian option was an aubergine curry. To finish we had a delicious dark-chocolate pudding.
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.
Further dining info: There is no room service at Xigera.
Birdwatching: Xigera Camp is home to spectacular birdlife including countless herons, egrets, cranes and smaller water birds. We have seen African skimmers at Xigera Lagoon and 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 aged 6–12, 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 chalet 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 the camp for children of 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.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the tents have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers as well as flush loos. Guests are usually given a water bottle on arrival with filtered water, which they are encouraged to top up from the filtered supply in the camp’s main area. Each room is also provided with glasses and a flask of filtered water beside the sink for drinking purposes – which is replenished by the staff daily. We don’t recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
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 by air is available in case of emergency. 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 chalet. '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.