Reviews of Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Nxabega Safari Camp review
We loved this camp because the staff was so much fun--they enjoyed their jobs and their English was very good. This may be due to the manager, Patrick, who seemed like one of the family with staff and guests as well. He was always fun to socialize with whenever the opportunity presented.
At least four people greeted us upon arrival and departure for our treks, with one of the women making us smile with her wonderful ululating. Our tracker, T.T., even ran alongside the airplane waving goodbye when we left the camp. & Beyond still uses trackers which we think enhances the opportunity to find animals. With the tracker and the guide, K.D., we saw lots of animals., particularly lions. In fact, we almost ran over a pride resting in the tall grass, necessitating us to back up so the tracker could get in the vehicle.
The food here was exceptional and inspired me to try imitating some of the salads and egg dishes in particular. We even had a delicious meal served in the bush with romantic lighting of lanterns hanging in the trees overhead.
Nxabega - Unique Facility & Great Staff
Good Contrast to Sandibe. Game and terrain a bit different. Wonderful service and food. ( Leg of lamb the last night a bit "gristly") . Guide Flame was terrific.
Long ride from Pom Pom a bit of a pain but view as an extra "game drive". At the very top of tented safari camps!
Nxabega Safari Camp review
18hr mains power with battery power after 11pm. 24 hr hot water. Hair drier in room.
Much too far from the airstrip (90 minutes). They claim to have plans for a nearer strip to be built but no date for this.
A good start for our trip
We enjoyed our stay at Nxabeja specially for the excellent staff and attention.
They catered to my special dietary needs from the first day. The tents were nice but very cold at night! The game tours were excellent, with very good and specialized rangers.
Nxabega - the best food in Africa !
Accommodation - This was our second camp in the Delta (the others being Lebala, Kwara and Sandibe) and we stayed here for 2 nights. The tents are well appointed, with private verandahs to sit on and relax - and we also sat down by the pool area, which is beautiful.
Nxabega is set in a very picturesque area of the delta - coming from Lebala, the difference in the environment was quite striking as we drove through the concession to the camp, over some lovely rustic bridges!
Our first evening was spent taking a small motor boat cruise through the channels, and enjoying a glass of wine/G&T as the sun went down. Returning to dry land, we returned to the Jeep for a night drive, and had a fantastic surprise when we were taken for a Bush Dinner. I won't spoil the surprise for anyone else who happens to be staying at the right time (unfortunately, these dinners only happen once a week - and even that isn't guaranteed) - but if you are lucky enough to experience one, then it is a truely wonderful evening! I especially enjoyed the Astronomy Lessons that one of the Guides shared with us.
As I mentioned in the title, the food at Nxabega is fantastic - the team in the kitchen create the most wonderful dishes at every meal, and we would rate the food here as the best we've experienced in Africa (this is our 7th Safari trip in Africa, so we have experienced a few different lodges). Here, you dine at tables set up for your group - so if you are travelling alone, or as a couple, you will dine on your own table, rather than the communal tables approach taken by the Kwando group of lodges.
Wildlife - We were very fortunate to have two fantastic wildlife experiences here at Nxabega. On our first morning we headed out and stopped by the Hyena Den (there are currently 7 Hyena in the pack) to find the Alpha Female nursing 2 very small pups just at the mouth of the den. The pups had their eyes open, but were clearly far too young to be allowed out from the safety of the den - and to have the opportunity to glimpse them was a rare treat (you know you're seeing something unusual when your Guide is also taking photographs!)
Then that evening we found a Leopard Mother and Cub (approximately 5 months old) with an Impala kill. We watched them for a short while - but then returned the following morning, and found them still in the same place, and had the opportunity to watch as the mother finished eating, and then both were moving around and interacting. The cub is still quite shy, and for a while took refuge behind a log, before putting his front paws up and settling down to watch us!
Again, you will also find the usual array of Elephant, Giraffe, Hippo, Warthog, and various different Antelope species (including Red Lechwe and Tsessebe) - and we also found 2 different species of Frog whilst out on the Mokoro ride, and enjoyed watching the Kingfishers, Fish Eagles and other birds.
The wildlife sightings are often much closer than in other parts of Africa, as the Drivers/Guides and Trackers take you off road. Note - we had both a Driver and a Tracker on every Game Drive, so you need to consider that when estimating the amount of cash required for tips.
A short twenty minute flight from Maun brought us to the Pom Pom airstrip (Nxabega's airstrip is unuseable at present) then a 2 hour game drive to Nxabega where we were met and taken to our tent following the usual formalities.
The tent itself was in a very good position and spotlessly clean. At meal times the food was always plentiful and very well presented. Max and Flame were our guides and were always keen to find us birds as well as the animals.
We drove for miles one day just to seek out a leopard - Max positioned the vehicle in just the right place to get the best views.
This was our second visit to Nxabega and we weren't disappointed.
Nxabega Safari Camp review
This camp suffers badly from its lack of a nearby airstrip. The journey from Pom Pom takes nearly 2 hours and the roads are appalling. After the delay with the aircraft (see later), it was not a good start to the visit. Although there were some 'champagne moments', the number and variety of game is more limited than the other 2 camps and it would be tempting to be disappointed. In contrast, the bird life was excellent and we did see a pair of Pel's Fishing Owls! We accept that seasonal variations in game and birds may be in play here, of course.
The managers - Dave and Megan Waddington - are newly-arrived 3 months ago and clearly enthusiastic; every minor comment or complaint was dealt with immediately and efficiently which was very gratifying even when it meant we had to move tents after the first night because the deck was deemed unsafe. Query: why hadn't it been checked before we tripped on a loose board?
The food was good and beautifully presented but there was so much on each occasion that we were concerned about the amount that, potentially, could be wasted; it would be good to know that it wasn't.
Expert Africa comments
As with all of our traveller feedback, we forwarded these comments to lodge management at Nxabega and they came back to us with the following response regarding the roads:
"With the soft sand in the area the roads do tend to be bumpy and we are planning to bring in a tractor to blade the roads between Nxabega, Xaranna and Xudum which may help somewhat, along with that our new fleet of Land Cruisers are arriving this coming Friday and should also make a difference."
With higher than usual water levels in the Okavango over the last few seasons, many airstrips in the delta have struggled with flooding. Some – such as Nxabega - fight a losing battle and the flooding often results in severe damage to the airstrip. We understand that there are plans in the pipeline to build a new airstrip closer to camp, but on higher ground to try and avoid this problem in the future. However, these plans can take time to be approved through the government, especially in ecologically sensitive areas.
We appreciate that in the meantime, the current transfer from Pom Pom airstrip is a long one. And although it is a chance to take in the area and to do a spot of game viewing en-route, it isn't always a welcome opportunity, especially if arriving at Nxabega after a long journey from elsewhere. So for now, we try to make our travellers aware of the transfer time and encourage anyone thinking about Nxabega as a safari option, to contact us for an update on the situation.
We and all of our suppliers take health and safety issues very seriously. So the comment by these travellers regarding the deck in front of the tent was of particular concern. The management of the camp came back to us with the following response:
“We have no excuse about the deck in front of the tent. It clearly wasn’t checked thoroughly prior to the guests arrival which is the norm and we did not realise the decking had deteriorated to such an extent. The tent was closed that day and is under repair at the moment."
Clearly this problem should have been noted and fixed prior to the travellers’ arrival, but we were happy to hear that it was deal with immediately once the management became aware of it.
Nxabega Safari Camp review
This was our sixth visit to this camp. There have been many nice small improvements. New furniture in the lodge, small additions to the tents etc. There is also now a cover over the boat which was planned when we were last there. We have always described the cuisine as being exceptional. It sounds impossible but there have also being improvements there thanks to Amanda the catering manager in Maun.
As usual we will not comment on sightings as their presence on the concession is luck. The sudden appearance of a young male leopard at sundowners at the camp one evening was a highlight though, especially when it stole the cushion I had been sitting on two minutes earlier.
This was a good reminder to all that it is an 'open camp' those (not through Expert Africa) who were concerned about this episode were clearly not appraised of this fact by their tour operators.
We were delighted by the Nxabega facilities and staff. We had been concerned that because we were traveling in February, during the rainy season, we would not see many animals, etc. Though apparently it did rain heavily in January, it did not rain at all while we were in the Okavongo Delta and we saw a nice variety of animals and a vast array of birds (visitors should be sure to bring their binoculars to the Delta). KB, our guide, was extremely professional and flexible, and really tracked down the animals for us.
The tracking began from the time we arrived at the temporary airport necessitated by the washed out airport at Nxabega. We spent a couple of hours driving to the camp, stopping to picnic along the way, and look at animals. (Plans are underway to build a new airport, but it will probably be awhile). The Nxabega managers, a delightful young couple, went all out to see that our visit was so wonderful. We had a relaxing makoro ride, a beautiful sunset boat cruise, a really great visit to the preferred channel swimming grounds of the managers where we safely (no hippos etc. in this spot) flapped around in the water and sipped champagne, and of course the game rides.
There was an extraordinary surprise "picnic" with huge amounts of good food (in fact all of the meals were quite good). All of the staff went out of their way on our behalf. Quite typically, we experienced this interest in truly serving the visitors a few days after we left Nxabega. The morning we were to leave our next & Beyond camp, Sandibe, my husband couldn't find his cell phone. After a thorough search we decided it must have been left at Nxabuga. The nice managers at Sandibe kindly offered to check. The phone had just been discovered at Nxabega, and no one knew who it belonged to until the phone call from Sandibe. All sorts of elaborate plans were considered to send the phone to us, and then the Nxabega staff checked and figured out that they could bring the phone to the bush plane going to Maun in time for us to pick the phone up at Maun airport, where we were going.
Indeed, when we arrive at the airport, there was a nice &Beyond staff person looking for us with a good sized envelope with our name in bold letters. Throughout, we were very impressed by &Beyond, and this seemed like a special and typical gesture.
Nxabega Safari Camp review
This is a camp set in a stunning location, with a lovely pool and viewing deck.
Sadly the game drives were a bit disappointing, but our guides did make a big effort to ensure that we saw as much as possible. The mokoro trip on the other hand was fantastic (shame it couldn't be a bit longer), and we went on the boat cruise twice because we enjoyed it so much.
Food was brilliant, and we especially enjoyed the candlelit bush dinner, which had taken a lot of effort to prepare.