– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris
Sitting smack-bang in the middle of the Okavango Delta, Xigera is a water-based camp of outstanding beauty. We took two days of our honeymoon here to relax and cruise the waterways by mokoro, and fell in love with the place.
It’s a thirty minute flight from Maun, a ten minute drive in a Landy, and finally a five minute boat ride to get to magical Xigera – and as we finally arrive, there’s no doubt that we’ve landed in the very heart of the delta. Stepping onto the jetty we’re greeted by our lovely hosts Aaron, Beatrice, Alex and Cath, while four other staff members make up a delightful musical welcome, singing Dumelang, Dumelang – a traditional Setswana greeting.
Xigera is a charming camp with an almost mystical feel – built entirely on raised wooden walkways, we feel part of the trees as we walk around the camp checking out the pool, the library, the star-gazing deck and the boma. The main mess area is full of comfy couches, a bar and one long dining table where all 18 guests can dine together. The walk continues to our home for the next two nights – a spacious, comfy canvas tent with simple, colonial décor. There’s an indoor and outdoor shower, bird and mammal reference books on our bedside tables, and hot water in the flask for tea or coffee.
Xigera runs completely on solar power providing sustainable energy and ensuring that modern day comforts such as hot showers and electricity are available in this remote location. From our deck we have wonderful views of the delta and straightaway we spot a few red lechwe antelope across the water.
We freshen up quickly before heading to afternoon tea, where we tuck into sweet and savory snacks before our guide Morimi collects us for the afternoon’s activity – a mokoro trip; Morimi leading in a separate mokoro to fend off any irate crocs or hippos. The dug-out canoes at all the Wilderness camps are no longer made of wood – in an attempt to conserve the Jackelberry trees, the company now uses only fiberglass boats.
In some ways, a mokoro trip is the purest form of safari you can have. In the capable hands of Rider, our poler, we glide silently through the waterways with no engine noise to take away half your senses – each sound is as crystal clear as the water. Rider is a superb guide. As guides ourselves, we ask a lot of difficult questions and Rider has no problem with any of them, and he’s spot on with all his bird calls.
Xigera is famous for its frequent sightings of any twitcher’s dream: the Pel’s Fishing Owl. We go for a walk on one of the islands looking for this elusive (and endangered) bird – we don’t find it, but instead we’re joined by a very relaxed elephant, happily chewing on marula branches as we quietly (and quickly!) walk back to the mokoro. After a few minutes, however, we’re in luck – a young Pel’s is spotted in a big Mangosteen tree on another nearby island; and it’s a beauty!
Back at camp, we’re thrilled to see a bottle of sparkling and two glasses waiting for us on our deck – a special honeymoon touch, and we sip the wine slowly, enjoying the last bits of light on the sky, listening to the hippos grunting and watching an agile bushbaby perform acrobatics for us in the trees – pure bliss!
For pre-dinner drinks we gather at the bar with the other guests and exchange stories from the day’s sightings. Dinner is served at one long main table with plated starters, buffet-style main course, and a plated dessert to follow. This concept of dining is identical in all the ‘classic camps’ in the Wilderness Collection. Tonight we indulge in a camembert & apple bake, venison stew with couscous and veggies and finish up with a mocha mouse for dessert.
Being a water-based camp this is not your typical ‘big game’ area. Game drives are available, but being keen on the birds we opt for only water activities during our stay, doing mokoro trips and motorboat rides. Still, we see plenty of elephants, giraffes, red lechwe and hippos as well as such avian offerings as lesser jacana, brown fire finch, Dickinson’s kestrel, and a total of no less than three Pel’s fishing owls.
It’s our last night at Xigera and dinner is served in the traditional boma with the beautiful Milky Way as the ceiling. The BBQ buffet is a lavish selection of meats, salads and veggies and amarula pudding for dessert. On our last morning we embark on a final boat cruise through the narrow water channels lined with tall papyrus reeds; we stop on a small island for tea and coffee and admire an old elephant skull; it’s interesting to see that all six sets of molars are completely worn down – this guy died of old age, his teeth so blunt that he could no longer eat.
Returning to the camp, we have another delicious brunch with stuffed mushrooms, pork stir-fry, salads, fruits, eggs to order and I could continue! We pack our bags, bid our farewells and make our way to the airstrip where the tiny Cessna 206 has its propeller whirling, ready to take us yet further into the delta, to Tubu Tree [link].
Good for: Couples and families, especially now with a new family suite being built. Xigera is a nice contrast to the land-based lodges; we would recommend spending two nights here and two or three nights at a land-based camp.
Not so good for: Some of the tents are a little close together.
What we liked best: Great guides and lots of birds!
Our verdict: Know what you’re getting here (beauty, tranquility, birds, but not much of the Big 5) and you’ll love it. One of our favourite camps.
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Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South African Tel. +27 (0)21 813 6961.