Chitabe Camp: Our full report
Overlooking a floodplain within the Chitabe concession, in the southern part of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, ...... the established Chitabe Camp has an impressive track record for game viewing. The concession, or private reserve, is bordered on three sides by the Moremi Game Reserve and lies in one of the Delta’s drier areas. Unlike areas further north in the Delta, it is largely forested, with shady, wooded glades but few open plains.
Within the Chitabe concession you'll find a collage of mopane and acacia woodlands, bordered to the north-east by the Gomoti River and to the south-west by the Santantadibe River. Chitabe Camp shares the reserve with its smaller sister camp, the neighbouring Chitabe Lediba as well as Sandibe Safari Lodge.
As it stands, the main area is a beautifully designed thatched structure, with a selection of big comfortable sofas and a cleverly crafted bar. Hewn from the trunk of a marula tree, this is well-stocked with a variety of soft drinks, local beers, wines and local spirits. Wide steps lead down to the firepit, where guests gather for afternoon tea or to enjoy evening drinks.
A walkway connects this area to the open-sided dining room, also under thatch, and affording views over the surrounding plains. Both brunch and dinner are served from counters of beautifully polished old tree trunks, with guests eating together at one large table. On some nights (often a Monday), guests will gather in the separate boma to enjoy a convivial evening and a selection of Botswana's traditional dishes.
Set below the dining room is the camp’s plunge pool, surrounded by sunloungers and sharing the view from the shade of some enormous trees.
One of the things we particularly like at Chitabe is the small library, nestled in the branches of a large tree along a walkway away from the main areas, yet still with a great view. With a seat designed from the branch of a sausage tree, balanced by comfortable and stylish sofas, it's a great place to retreat with a drink and a good book.
There’s also a small curio shop selling traditional Okavango crafts and baskets made by the staff.
Chitabe Camp has eight tented rooms, built on raised wooden decks that are linked by walkways that meander through the trees. To the front of each room is a shady veranda with cushioned iron-framed chairs and a table, where you can sit and watch the birds or the wildlife that wanders by the camp. Glass sliding doors lead inside, flanked by large mesh windows to let in light and air.
The rooms themselves combine classic and modern themes, with pride of place given to wildlife photos taken by camp owner Dave Hamman, who is a photo-journalist and private guide. In the centre, a mosquito net envelops comfortable twin or double beds, complete with the bedside table and lamps. A writing desk, standing fan, luggage rack and a soft chair with a footstool complete the picture.
Separated from the bedroom by a canvas wall divider, is a respectably sized en-suite bathroom, with hot and cold running water. Central to the room are twin basins, with a large mirror above each, while both the toilet and an indoor shower are hidden discreetly behind canvas screens. More fun, though, is a private outside shower where you can take in more of those fantastic views.
On the practical side, there’s plenty of shelving and hanging space, as well as an electronic safe, a laundry basket and anti-mosquito sprays etc, while creature comforts come in the form of fluffy towels and bathrobes, and complimentary toiletries.
Chitabe offers a classic dry-land safari experience, with activities focusing on 4WD game drives with the bonus of spotlit drives after sundowners. All are conducted in covered open-sided safari vehicles, in which everyone has a 'window' seat.
The Chitabe reserve supports a varied range of animal and birdlife, with numerous leopards thriving on a prolific population of impala, and a good record of wild dog sightings, which are always a highlight. Other regular sightings are giraffe and zebra, and there are also good populations of buffalo and elephant, as well as lion.
Chitabe was the location for photographs by the camp’s owners, Dave and Helene Hamman, in Running Wild: Dispelling the Myths of the African Wild Dog – and our most recent visit in November 2019 the weather was not on our side and despite seeing a pride of lions including some very full looking cubs, other sights were a little sparse. However, we have had some epic wild dog sightings in the area at one tome the 32-strong pack of dogs resident to the area twas reportedly the largest in the Delta, although this has since fragmented. We also seen honey badgers, leopards, and cheetah from Chitabe. The birdlife was also excellent and varied, from wattled cranes to ground hornbills. We were really spoilt during our stay!
Chitabe Camp has historically been known for superb game viewing and its resident population of wild dog. The standard of guiding is very high, and the team is very enthusiastic about the area's wildlife. This, together with very comfortable accommodation, makes Chitabe a popular choice for visitors to the Okavango – so you're likely to need to book well in advance.
- Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- A three-night stay is ideal at Chitabe Camp.
- Guests take a light-aircraft flight to the Chitabe airstrip, and it is then a half-hour game drive to camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our last visit to Chitabe in 2019 our meals were very tasty. The camp is able to cater for most dietary requirements as long as they are informed in advance.
For early-morning breakfast, before your morning game drive, there is a choice of cereal, porridge, fruit and muffins, alongside tea, coffee and fruit juice.
You’ll return from the morning activity to a substantial brunch. There is always a hot dish on offer – we enjoyed a chicken poiki – 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 both a savoury snack and cake; our samosas stuffed with vegetables with a sweet dipping sauce were excellent. There’s also homemade lemonade and iced or hot tea and coffee.
Shortly after your return to camp following the afternoon activity, guests gather for dinner. In the past we have enjoyed a starter of salmon carpaccio, followed by roast leg of lamb and roast chicken with roast vegetables and a selection of salads, and finished with fresh berries and pavlova. On our most recent stay we were there for the boma night, where we were treated to canapés and drinks around the fire before a traditional braai, or barbecue. Our hosts also explained a little about Batswana culture and traditions, an interesting and unexpected addition to to our evening.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- 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.
On arrival, guests are usually given a water bottle of filtered water from the camp’s reverse osmosis machine, and are encouraged to top it up from the filtered supply in the camp's main area. Each room is also provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water.
- Wildlife safaris
- The Chitabe concession has regular lion and leopard sightings but reasonably constant wild dog sightings over the last few years have really been the highlight. There are also good levels of plains game here.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Children over the age of 12 are welcome at Chitabe Camp. The camp may accept ages 6–12 if a private vehicle is booked but this must be requested in advance. Children aged six years and under are not accepted.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Minimum age six years
- Special activities & services
- Chitabe can provide families with children with their own 'Bush Buddy', who is trained in educating and entertaining children while on safari. This complimentary service must be booked in advance.
- There are board games for children, and the camp can arrange separate mealtimes for families if they want to eat earlier.
- Generally recommended for children
- We would recommend Chitabe Camp for children over the age of 12 years on the grounds of safety and the need for a private vehicle for children younger than this.
- Dangerous wildlife regularly moves through camp and the walkways to the rooms are raised fairly high off the ground, so children must be supervised at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Chitabe Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Chitabe Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Each tented room has a power point where guests can charge their batteries, with adaptors available in camp. Extensions for CPAP machines can be provided on request.
There is a generator in case of power failure.
- Chitabe Camp has a CB radio link in case of emergencies, but otherwise you should consider yourself out of contact. There is no cellphone reception or WiFi.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All the tented rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flushing toilets.
Alternative energy for a healthier environment
Over the past 21 years, Chitabe Camp has been committed to having a low eco-footprint by managing their electrical power consumption and implementing various systems to lighten their carbon footprint. These projects include multiple activities such as converting on-site geysers to either power heat pumps or hybrid solar/heat systems, thus considerably increasing use of alternative energy.
Chitabe Camp has been operating entirely on solar power since February 2016. The largest part of their energy makeover entailed the installation of a 75kWh solar PV plant of approximately 500m2 in extent. Large scale of solar power installations will provide tourists a reliable, safe and high-quality source of electricity. For night operations, they have 96x1660 Ah lead-acid batteries which store 220kWh of power. With less possibilities of blackout, tourists will have continuous energy but at lower environmental costs.
Chitabe’s solar conversion programme mirrors Wilderness Safaris’ commitment to find sustainable energy solutions that help minimise any negative impacts that its operations may have on the environment. Compared to the traditional diesel generator, solar generation results in less noise and creates a much more welcoming atmosphere for guests to enjoy their stay at Chitabe Camp.
See more great sustainability projects in Botswana
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- All camp managers are first-aid trained and various medications are kept in the camp. In an emergency, clients can be flown out either via helicopter or medical rescue plane – but please note that it is only possible to fly out of camp during daylight hours as the bush airstrips do not have any lighting at night.
- 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/from their rooms after dark. Airhorns are provided in the rooms to attract attention in case of emergency.
- Fire safety
- Fire assembly points in the camp are clearly marked with signs. Each room has a fire extinguisher outside, and there are fire extinguishers in the main areas.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included, with a net bag provided for smalls. Weather permitting, laundry is collected in the morning and brought back in the evening.
- There are safes in all the rooms, and pouches locked with numerical tags are provided. No exchange facilities are offered.
- Accepted payment on location
- Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners Club and Amex are not. Credit-card transactions attract no commission. Cash payments may be made in South African rand, US dollars, GB pounds, euros and Botswana pula.
Other lodges in Okavango Delta Safari Reserves
Alternative places to stay in this same area.