Eagle Island Lodge: Our full report
One of the Okavango Delta's first photographic camps was built on Xaxaba Island, very close to the present-day ...... Eagle Island Lodge. Expert Africa’s MD, Chris McIntyre, first visited the original Xaxaba Camp over 20 years ago, and although the lodge here has changed immeasurably since, resulting in standards akin to those of a smart hotel, the surrounding landscape – which is 'classic' Okavango – is still just as beautiful.
The former Eagle Island Camp, was re-built in 2015, when its name was changed to Eagle Island Lodge. Marketed as Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, it is now similar in style to its sister camps in Botswana, Savute Elephant Camp and Khwai River Lodge. Like them, it strives to meet almost hotel-like standards of luxury, including air conditioning and an internal phone system, despite its remote wilderness setting.
Eagle Island's 11 luxury tents are raised on wooden platforms under thatched roofs. The size, grandeur and style of these vast tents can be a little overwhelming at first glance: these rooms wouldn’t be out of place in an expensive London, New York or Paris hotel. If they feel a little out of place in the bush, perhaps this stems from the fact that the owners have properties all over the world.
Inside, the décor is modern, cream canvas contrasting with shades of grey and black, enlivened by copper features. Luxury is indeed key here, from the comfortable king-size bed and mosquito net, to the minibar with cocktail shaker and mixing kit, along with a hairdryer, safe, WiFi and air conditioning. The large en-suite bathroom comes complete with dressing room, bath, separate toilet cubicle and both indoor and outdoor showers, and plenty of classy toiletries.
To the front of the tents is a large deck, also under thatch and overlooking the lagoon. Here you’ll find chairs, a coffee table, sunloungers and a box of towels – important after you’ve cooled off in your private infinity plunge pool.
The thatched main area is extensive, with a dining area at one end, a bar in the middle and a lounge area down a few steps at the other. The whole building is open fronted, looking out over the floodplains towards Chief’s Island. Tucked away behind are a small curio shop and an even smaller TV/internet lounge.
A raised sandy causeway leads past the lodge’s firepit to the Fish Eagle Bar, and beyond to a jetty. In the evenings, guests will often congregate at the bar for post-sundowner drinks, or around the fire before dinner.
During the flood (in the ‘dry’ season, around April–September) the area around Eagle Island Lodge is dominated by water, so activities are predominantly water-based, focusing on the scenery, birdlife and fishing rather than game viewing. When the flood recedes (generally October–March), game drives are offered, although game viewing can be patchy.
Most of the time the choice is between trips by mokoro (dug-out canoe) or motorboat and walking safaris (see our note in Health & Safety about walking with armed guides). Fishing, and village visits are also possible, and the lodge is well located for birdwatching, with classic Delta species such as Pel’s fishing owl seen periodically. We were lucky enough to spot one flying into a tree above us while we were eating dinner. The lodge also has its own helicopter, so guests can get an aerial view of the Delta, albeit at additional cost.
When we visited in September 2017 we were a little disappointed by the standard of activities here. The evening cruise seemed to focus more on guest entertainment than the wildlife viewing and our guide on the game drive (the first of the season) didn’t overly impress us with his knowledge or communication skills. That said, we did have some interesting sightings, especially of a wild dog hunt, and during the sundowner cruise a talk on how the Delta formed was reasonably informative and interesting.
Eagle Island Lodge feels more like a hotel in the bush than a camp; and it's much more substantial and imposing on the environment than many of the Delta's other options – so it's not a natural choice for those seeking a place to stay in sympathy with its setting. That said, it is a very solid, well-built and luxurious option, so if you're concerned about being in the 'wilds', and want the reassurance of a very solid camp with air conditioning, perhaps this is the right one for you.
- Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- We recommend a 2–3 night stay here. Consider it as part of an upmarket safari in combination with Savute Elephant Camp and Khwai River Lodge.
- Eagle Island Lodge is reached by light aircraft, taking about 20 minutes from Maun and roughly 90 minutes from Kasane. The airstrip is adjacent to the lodge, within walking distance.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- During our stay in September 2017 we were impressed by the range and quality of the food served.
Breakfast consisted of a classic buffet of cereals, cold meats, muffins, fresh bread and fruit, followed by a hot breakfast cooked to order.
Alongside the daily offering of freshly made wood-fired pizza, the lunch menu changes daily. We had the choice of Thai fish curry with egg noodles, or a spinach and artichoke fritter served with a poached egg and tomato salsa. This was rounded off by apple crumble, a selection of ice-creams or fruit salad.
On our visit we happened to be at Eagle Island on the anniversary of Botswana’s independence (30th September). In celebration, dinner was a traditional braai (barbecue) with singing and dancing by the lodge staff. Our starter of butternut soup was followed by chicken curry, oxtail stew and pounded beef served with a variety of salads, pumpkin, pap, green beans and creamed spinach. Dessert was a malva pudding with custard.
The lodge is happy to cater for vegetarians and other dietary requirements with advance notice.
- Attitude towards children
- Children over eight are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Eagle Island Lodge has a minimum age limit of eight years.
- Special activities & services
- Child-minding is also available on request, though note that children are looked after by staff members who are not professionally qualified or trained in childcare.
- Generally recommended for children
- Eagle Island Lodge as an adult feel, and as such we would not recommend the lodge for children under 12.
- This is an unfenced camp in a wilderness area where wild animals can and do pass through, so children should be under parental supervision at all times.
- Power supply notes
- The lodge runs on both solar and generator power.
- Eagle Island Lodge has an inter-camp phone system linking rooms and reception. A satellite phone is available in an emergency. WiFi is available throughout.
- TV & radio
- A satellite TV is located in the main area.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water is drawn from the Delta and filtered, so it is fine for washing but not recommended for drinking.
Redesigned to follow sustainability principles
Established in the 1900s, Belmond Eagle Island Lodge came to transform an area that was the playground of crocodile hunters into one of the most eco-friendly lodges along the Okavango Delta. As the pioneer of sustainable establishments in Botswana, in 2015 the lodge went through a complete renovation, aiming for a structure with the lightest environmental footprint, and a design that is aligned with the Okavango Management Plan, requiring no permanent structures. As a result, all concrete structures have been demolished, and all the buildings have been constructed on timber-based platforms, using materials certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. Moreover, the rooves were built with local thatching grass bought from communities in Northern Botswana, and guests’ tents were insulated with fibre mesh and wool to keep them at a constant temperature and eliminate the need of ventilation. Most importantly, the renovation process was seen by Eagle Island Lodge as a chance to provide employment opportunities for the local community. Therefore, the lodge appointed a local Botswanan construction company to carry out the work, where 98% of the building crew was local to the area.
Similarly, the lodge has completely changed the way it operates. Relying completely on solar energy, pumping water from the Kavango River during high water periods and from a borehole in times of low water, removing the village waste and sending it for recycling are just a few examples of initiatives of a lodge that is now 95% eco-friendly, and a leading example for many other African camps.
See more great sustainability projects in Botswana
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- 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. The nearest doctor is in Maun.
Walking with an armed guide: Walking safaris from Eagle Island Lodge can take place in two areas. The first is in Moremi Game Reserve, usually on Chief’s Island, and the second on an island within a private concession behind the lodge. Due to Botswana’s anti-poaching laws, guides are not allowed to walk in Moremi with a rifle. At Expert Africa we believe that when on foot in an area with dangerous wildlife, it is essential that you are accompanied by a trained and armed guide to protect you should the worst happen. The chances of this are slim but the consequences can be dire. As such we can only recommend walking in the private concession with a guide that you know is armed, but do double check this before you set out as they don't always take a rifle with them.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guests are escorted to/from their chalets after dark as dangerous wildlife wanders through the camp.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are positioned outside each tent and around the main areas of the lodge.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Full Laundry Service - Included
- Each room has a small safe for valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa, Amex and Mastercard are all accepted here. Cash payments may be made in US dollars, GB pounds, rand, euro and Botswana pula, but please note that all change will be given in pula.
Other lodges in Okavango Delta Safari Reserves
Alternative places to stay in this same area.