Machaba Camp, Botswana

Sandwiched between Moremi and Chobe National Parks in northern Botswana, the Khwai concession boasts some of the most dense concentrations of wildlife anywhere. Among the smattering of lodges and camps here, Machaba stands out as a luxurious but understated tented camp. Jonathan and Sophie investigate.

Mention the word Khwai to any wildlife enthusiast and their eyes will light up and in all likelihood a story will ensue involving a close encounter with a lion, leopard, wild dog or all three. Khwai is infamous, and for good reason, and we were especially excited about our visit here.

Outside one of Machaba's luxury tents

Outside one of Machaba’s luxury tents

We weren’t disappointed. Machaba is located on the river Khwai, looking directly into Moremi, and its ten tented suites are strung along with generous gaps in between, with a modest swimming pool at the far end. The tents have all the comforts you need but don’t expect hair dryers: the camp is proud of its eco-credentials and hair dryers and solar power don’t mix.

Pool at Machaba

Pool at Machaba

Our game viewing during our stay was fantastic, expertly conducted by guide Moreri, who recognised us from a stay in the Delta some years ago. We saw two wild dog packs, including one on a red lechwe kill. The next day we stumbled across another pack hunting. The adrenlin was pumping as we sped alongside the frenzied dogs before watching with awe as half the pack of 16 tore into a kudu. Minutes later we heard the rest of the pack calling nearby, followed by the unmistakable groan of yet another victim.

Khwai is one of the best places in Africa to see Wild Dog

Khwai is one of the best places in Africa to see Wild Dog

“They’ve made another kill!” shouted Moreri as he threw the car in gear and we shot off through the bushes towards the sound of the frenzied dogs. Sure enough, the rest of the pack had brought down a second kudu. The dogs could hardly contain their excitement, some leaving the first kill to feed on the second, which was devoured in minutes. It was a stark illustration of the reality of predator-prey interactions. One minute a perfectly formed kudu is grazing peacefully on the lush grass; not ten minutes later the only trace of its existence is a small patch of sticky-red flattened grass.

Main tent, Machaba

Main tent, Machaba

 

While the potential game viewing at Khwai is second to none, there are a number of lodges and campsites on the concession, with subsequent lack of control of vehicle numbers at sightings. Depending on the time of year it can therefore get quite crowded, although we had no problems with this during our stay. Meanwhile, Machaba vehicles can drive off road, and you can request a night drive with your guide in addition to the usual morning and afternoon drives. Short walks can sometimes also be arranged.

Guide Moreri in action

Guide Moreri in action

 

With a capacity of 24, Machaba is not a particularly small camp but the relaxed atmosphere and easy-going staff make it feel more intimate, and communal dining at dinner allows guests to interact and share stories. Breakfast and brunch are taken at individual tables, allowing guests some privacy and we found this model worked very well. (Slow) wi-fi by satellite is available under a tree within the camp and this ensures that phones and tablets don’t intrude on the beauty of the bush.

Machaba luxury tent

Machaba luxury tent

Machaba is also one of the few lodges that allow children under six (although it’s rare that there will be any) and two of the ten tents are family tents that can sleep up to 6 people each.

 

Overall, Machaba is a very efficiently run camp and camp managers Elcke and Shaun do a fantastic job in making guests feel at ease. We certainly recommend this camp.

 

 

Jack’s Camp, Botswana

Sophie and Jonathan visit this historic luxury camp, perched on the fringes of Botswana’s vast Makgadikgadi Pans

Bigger than Denmark, the remnant of vast lakes thousands of years of ago, the Makgadikgadi Pans are one of Botswana’s most striking, and fascinating natural features. High salt concentrations on the pans themselves limit vegetation to grass cover, which turns a lush green after rains, attracting thousands of antelope and other game. The fringes support a diversity of woodland; together they combine into a mesmerising landscape unlike anything you’re likely to have seen before.

Jack's luxury tents blend into the landscape

Jack’s luxury tents blend into the landscape

The scale is vast – distant palm trees shimmer in the heat haze and the sky swallows you up. And right here is Jack’s camp, a collection of dark green tents so unobtrusive they’re almost invisible.

Most guests fly the short distance from Maun to Jack’s but as always we drove in – usually a simple affair but as luck would have it, when we visited, half a year’s worth of rainfall had fallen in just three days, so much of the route was under water. March/April is a fantastic time to visit the pans, which are often filled with a thin layer of water, attracting yet more wildlife.

The  main tent doubles up as a museum

The main tent doubles up as a museum

Jack’s Camp is unusual in a lot of ways. One of Botswana’s (and Africa’s) most expensive safari lodges, it combines elements that range from quaint (wooden toilet thrones) to bizarre (a vast, macabre collection of animal skulls displayed in the dining/lounge tent).

Jack’s attempts to fuse rustic, 1920s Campaign-era décor with a sense of family history that ultimately defines the camp. The philosophy is unashamedly old-school. There’s no electricity (except for a charging station) and no wi-fi. All meals are communal, and while the food is not the main highlight here, a lively dinner in this remote place, in a museum tent of skulls lit with hurricane lamps to the sound of jackals howling is not something you’ll ever experience again!

Walks with Bushmen are a popular activity

Walks with Bushmen are a popular activity

The Makgadikgadi is not about the Big 5. The camp itself is not inside a national park and with a number of cattle posts nearby, don’t be surprised to see the odd cow or dog interspersed with the antelope on your game drive. Makgadikgadi National Park is nearby however and depending on the time of year you may see large antelope herds, lion, jackal and many of the small things that make the Makgadikgadi, and the Kalahari such a special place. This is a good place to see bat-eared fox and aardwolf, and we had a fantastic African Wild Cat sighting under the spotlight one night.

Close-up meerkat encounters are one of the highlights

Close-up meerkat encounters are one of the highlights

Jack’s offers a number of unusual activities. Several colonies of meerkats have been painstakingly habituated, allowing guests spectacular close-up encounters with these fascinating animals. We followed them as they foraged, scouted for danger and fed their young, just centimetres away. It’s not uncommon to even have them climb on you. Needless to say, the photographic opportunities here are incredible.

Walks with a resident group of Bushmen, clad in traditional gear, are another popular activity where you can tap into their vast knowledge of the bush and see demonstrations of making traps and fire. Although these events can at first appear patronizing, with the Bushmen as exhibits, once you get over this it’s a genuinely rare opportunity to learn from them and understand the challenges facing their communities. It’s also a mechanism for skills to be passed on to a new generation – skills that may otherwise be lost forever.

Old-school dining tent

Old-school dining tent

In the dry season, quad biking on the Pans is also offered.

Two nearby, less expensive camps – San Camp and Camp Kalahari complete the Uncharted Africa collection here and enjoy the same activities and share guides with Jack’s. All three camps are best combined with more ‘traditional’ game viewing destinations in Botswana – the Okavango for example. For a different face of Botswana, and to better understand it – this is a good place to come.

Experiencing the vastness of the Pans is what Jack's is all about

Experiencing the vastness of the Pans is what Jack’s is all about

Jack’s gave us a fantastic welcome – hospitality staff Sheila and O’Girl as well as the rest of the team really make you feel at home. If you’re looking for something truly different and unique, Jack’s is it.

Note: Jack’s Camp is due for major refurbishment in 2016

 

Meno A Kwena Tented Camp in Botswana

– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris

Privately owned and managed, and a short drive from Maun, Meno A Kwena is a tented camp with a difference. We visited to chat with the owner David about his visions for ecotourism in Botswana, and to see what his place is all about.

It’s a hot two hour drive through the sparse Kalahari scrub from Maun, first on empty tar then unmarked sandy tracks, before it feels like you’ve been catapulted into new world.

Perched high on the banks of the Boteti River we gaze down at the water below, and the bush beyond. It’s late afternoon when we arrive and 200 zebra are drinking – they’re skittish and stampede at the slightest perceived threat, hooves thundering in a vast cloud of dust. It’s the start of the greatest migration in southern Africa, and Meno A Kwena is at the heart of it.

No ordinary safari lodge

The brainchild of David Dugmore, it began years ago when the Boteti River was dry, and there was no fence on the boundary of Makgadikgadi National Park. The result was a near-catastrophe as tens of thousands of zebra and wildebeest arrived each year at the end of the rainy season, to their only possible water source, to find it empty. For years, David and his dedicated team pumped water day and night to create a waterhole and keep alive what they could, fending off desperate cattle and watching the weak die. Meno A Kwena was literally an oasis in the desert.

Thankfully that came to an end in 2008 when the Boteti once again began to flow, easing the overwhelming pressure on both wildlife and cattle, but it taught David that for tourism to succeed in Botswana, it must embrace the local communities, local culture and conservationism – and this is what Meno A Kwena is all about.

Forget your traditional, regulated safari lodge and scheduled two daily activities – Meno A kwena feels more like a club, with none of the formality of corporate-style lodges. We’re greeted by the manager Jeff, a knowledgeable guide and old Maun hand who’s been involved with the lodge since its desperate beginnings, and straightaway we see what makes this place special. The people are passionate about it, and excited for its future.

We stroll down to the floating hide right on the river and enjoy a G & T as the zebra drink just metres away, before making way for a herd of elephant. As usual, we also enjoy the smaller things – the babblers alarm calling for two giant eagle owls in a tree nearby, the green-backed heron skimming the water below. Meno A Kwena is one of the only spots that thousands of zebra and wildebeest are able to drink after the pans dry up, giving it unprecedented game viewing during the dry season (April – Nov).

We relax at our comfortable but relatively basic safari tent before a delicious buffet dinner is served at a huge long table – here guests are encouraged to mingle and before long we’re all friends. Each tent has a private bathroom and bucket shower (you order hot water from the delightful staff) – this takes a bit of getting used to but the end result is just the same.

A walk (and run…) with the Bushmen

The next morning we accompany a family of resident bushmen (and women) for a walk in, naturally, the bush. It’s a leisurely meander accompanied by a lot of clicking (and thankfully, a translation) and although it’s a bit theatrical and ‘touristy’, we overcome our initial scepticism and quickly realise that these bushmen really know what they’re clicking about. Kgao, the leader, shows us how to dig for scorpions, make fire from firesticks and make arrow-poison from the grub of a root-feeding beetle. Meno A Kwena is as much about local culture as it is about game.

But traditional game drives are on offer as well in nearby Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and that afternoon we head there with our guide, Sel. It’s a good hour’s drive on good roads to the park entrance which is a bit of a pain, but David plans to slash this by using a boat for part of the journey. We see vast herds of zebra and wildebeest, some good birds and spook a pride of lions right next to the road – not a bad tally, and we enjoy the chance to see one of the less-visited parks in Botswana. Longer, day trips deep into the pans can also be arranged with prior notice.

But Meno A Kwena is also about relaxing in an idyllic location and this is what we do on day 2. Tired of those crack-of-dawn game drives? Just have a lie-in and let the game come to you, viewed from the plunge pool overlooking the river. And if you’re desperate for some exercise after days of gouging and slothfulness on safari, challenge the bushmen for a run. Back in the days, the bushmen would hunt kudu by running them down to exhaustion over many hours under the scorching Kalahari sun. They might not be that fit any more but they’ll give you a run you’ll remember (in bare feet), and it’s not everyone that can say they ran with the Bushmen!

Into the future

Perhaps what’s most exciting are the plans for the future. As well as improvements to the tents and bathrooms, expect short boat trips on the Boteti River and more ambitious walks with the Bushmen deeper into the National Park. Most exciting of all are David’s plans to start two or three night mobile safaris to the edge of the Pans in the midst of the zebra migration; expect to be surrounded at night by thousands of thundering hooves.

Swapping email addresses with our fellow guests at the end of our stay, we feel firmly part of the Meno A Kwena family. If you’re looking for something outside the corporate safari lodge mould, informal, with great activities, this is your place. Or if you just want to kick back for a couple of days and relax in the middle of a hectic safari itinerary, it doesn’t get better.

Good for: families, independent travellers, those looking for something different.

Not so good for: those just wanting to see the big five, or expect 5 star luxury.

Our verdict: While it’s not cheap, Meno A Kwena prices compare favourably with most safari lodges in Botswana. It’s important to understand what you’re getting (e.g. bucket showers – although this is part of its charm) and a highly informal approach. If you’re happy with that, it’s a great option and fits nicely into many safari schedules. We greatly enjoyed it, and so did everyone there we spoke to. And within easy driving access of Maun, there are no expensive flights to worry about. A breath of fresh air.

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Honeymoon at King’s Pool Safari Lodge, Botswana

– Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

With its stunning location on the banks of the Linyanti River, and well-deserved reputation as one of Wilderness’ top Premier Lodges, we had high hopes indeed for the end of our honeymoon at Kings Pool. We weren’t disappointed.

Kings Pool Safari Botswana“During the dry season the dwarf mongoose gather in groups of up to 60-70 and have been known to take down a buffalo…”

Lemme, our guide, sends us a mischievous glance and a wicked smile as he continues driving past the termite mound, home to a large group of these cute, shy little creatures. I’m the first to catch him out – “There’s no way, Lemme! You’ll have to try that on safari novices, not us!”

It’s our first evening drive here at Kings Pool Camp and we’re already in love with it – not only the stunning camp, but this beautiful piece of wilderness, right on the Linyanti river swamps. Stopping for sundowners along the open floodplain, a large pod of hippos put on an impressive display as we sip our G and Ts, while arriving back at the camp we come across a beauty of a female leopard, walking casually in the road ahead of us – until she spots the fire at the boma with dinner about to be served. She freezes at the sight of the flames, than dashes into the bush. Just as well really.

Kings Pool Botswana SafariKings Pool Camp is named after a Swedish monarch who apparently once camped here on the banks of the river – long before any lodge appeared. And the lodge today does everything possible to live up to its royal name – Kings Pool has class. From the tasteful African-styled minimalist interior, kept in neutral, earthy tones, to the impeccable ever-smiling, ever-welcoming staff and the delicious plentiful food; everything here exudes effortless style.

Julie shows us around the newly refurbished luxury tents, all of which now have floor to ceiling mesh walls, providing more light and stunning views of the water flowing right below. The tents have thatched roofs, providing coolness during the hot midday hours, while the decor is African, with wooden sculptures and a carved, wooden door.

A bottle of sparkling wine is ready for us, in an ice bucket, with a personal, handwritten note congratulating us on our recent wedding. It doesn’t take long for us to settle in – the tent is wonderfully spacious, has a desk, director’s chair, couch, reference books and magazines on the coffee table, a yoga mat and weights in the dresser; there’s a double indoor shower, as well as an outdoor shower.

Outdoor Deck at King's Lodge, BotswanaThe outdoor deck is equally divine, with a private plunge pool, two loungers and a thatched gazebo for that essential afternoon nap. Make no mistake – quality of suites don’t get much better than this, let alone in a location like this.

For our first evening at Kings Pool Camp we get to experience an authentic African evening under the stars. At pre-dinner cocktail hour we are all treated to a magnificent show of dancing and singing where all the Botswana staff (guides and waiters) perform. The singing and dancing continues as we are led to the boma, or kgotla as it’s known in Setswana, where a roaring fire awaits us. Before the traditional dinner is served, Lemme gives everyone a brief orientation on the traditional uses of the kgotla and how it still today exists in all villages as a focal point for gatherings, celebrations and meetings. Dinner is a colorful display of authentic Botswana cuisine – corn soup starter, pounded beef and chicken as mains and malva pudding as dessert, with good company to match.

Lion at Kings Pool Safari Camp, BotswanaThe Linyanti region is known for its large lion prides and elephant herds and we come across some big breeding herds, but for now the lions remain elusive. We spot a mystery bird that none of us can identify – later at the camp, Lemme enlists fellow guides Alex and Ndebo to help solve the mystery, but no luck. But this sincere interest and enthusiasm is one of the absolute highlights of our stay – a good guide not only shares his knowledge but also always strives to learn more, and at Kings Pool we experienced just that.

For brunch we tuck into a delicious buffet with different salads, cold and warm meats, fresh bread, fruit, cheeses. As if this wasn’t enough we find ourselves ordering from today’s menu, which includes fish cakes, soups and frozen yogurt as dessert – yum! The meals at Kings Pool Camp are hearty and wholesome and the South African executive chef, Kenny, keeps tabs on his guests – we chatted to him every day of our stay. As well as an early morning breakfast of cereals, yogurts, cheeses, muffins, pancakes, fresh fruit and boiled eggs, there’s a daily menu for brunch and dinner with at least two options as main courses. And for afternoon tea there’s a wide selection of cakes, scones, fresh fruit and savory snacks.

All in all, there’s a marked difference between the food served at Premier camps, compared to the Classic camps.

It’s our last morning – in the night we heard lion’s roaring and we hit the road with Lemme. Following the fresh tracks, it takes him only a few minutes to locate them – two sisters and a young male, and they walk right into a herd of impala. “No kill today,” Jonathan sighs as the impala scatter, and the lions walk down to the water and casually dump themselves in the shade. Oh well.

Kings Pool Safari Camp, BotswanaWe’re in need of stretching our legs so Lemme shoulders a .458 and we go for a stroll in an open area of Mopane bush, looking at tracks and the small things – just as important to us as the Big Five. Kings Pool is one of the few camps in the delta where walks are offered, and there’s more. You can, depending on the season, go fishing, do boat cruises along the Linyanti River, or visit the waterhole with its unique eye-level hide. Or take a break and have a massage.

Back at the camp we indulge in our last bush brunch before saying our goodbyes. It’s the end of our honeymoon, and Kings Pool one of its highlights. The facilities, the staff, the guiding and game – all were in a class of their own. And one day we’ll be back to ID that mystery bird…

Good for:

Honeymooners and families alike – there’s something for everyone here. Big game.

Not so good for:

The luxury safari tents were spaced a little close together, but it’s a minor quibble.

What we liked best:

Stunning location right on the river – it’s a world of birds, hippos, and elephants to enjoy from your own plunge pool.

Our verdict: As good as it gets in Botswana, with an unbeatable combination of luxury and big game. Best combined with a water-based camp such as Xigera [link].

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Kayaking Safari in Okavango Delta, Botswana

– Kayaking Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby, Klein Collection Safaris

If you’re tired of sit-down safaris and want a bit of exercise (and adrenalin) to accompany your game watching, John Sandenbergh’s unique kayak trips through the Okavango Delta are the perfect counterbalance to a more traditional Botswana safari. Now 49, John has lived in the delta all his life and is one of the most experienced operators around, and the only person to offer, or dare to offer, commercial, multi-day kayak trips deep into the delta. We join him for an informal two day trip to get a taste for what it’s all about.

Kayaking Safari in Africa

Sophie and John kayaking in the Okavango Delta

Emily, John’s girlfriend, laughs. “I can’t see John anywhere”, she says. “That means he’s telling one of his crocodile stories!” We’re sitting round the campfire in a bush camp deep in the delta and sure enough, John is describing an encounter with a three-metre reptile that attacked his kayak recently. “It came out of nowhere” he says, “And went straight for me. I jammed my paddle into its mouth and it snapped off, the kayak went upside down, I pulled myself into the front section and turned to breath in the trapped air bubble”. Apart from a couple of broken ribs, he got away unscathed. I’d have thought he’d never want to set foot in a kayak on the delta again after that but he’s circumspect. “This is what I do. I’ve been doing it all my life”.

We’d set out on a motorboat from Maun the day before, zooming through the waterways to the buffalo fence that demarcates the community areas from the wilder interior. John’s right hand man, implausibly-named C Company, went ahead with another boat so when we arrived at our campsite on a remote island, everything was meticulously set up with safari tents, a mobile kitchen and camp fire, kettle already on the boil. C Company grew up in the delta and is as knowledgeable as anyone in the ways of the bush.

Birdwatching BotswanaWe’d transported two kayaks up on the motorboat but this evening we decide to take the motorboat out for some fishing and game viewing, and a couple of cold beers as the Botswana sun sinks low over the horizon. African Jacanas flit from lily to lily, a giraffe pokes its neck out from above the reeds and a couple of young male elephants flap their ears at us as we cruise by. Out here, you really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, while back at the camp, Emily prepares a delicious braai and we drink whisky around the fire, listening to the nightjars, and more crocodile stories.

It’s the crocodile stories that are foremost in my mind when John and I push off in our kayaks from the island and start our paddle downstream. I try to ignore the bite marks in the polyethylene on the back of the boat. The sun is beating down and the air is silent save the distant resonance of Cape Turtle doves, and the dipping of paddles into water. My eyes constantly scan for moving lilies, and that silent ripple as a croc glides underwater towards you.

John laughs. “The crocs here are not too big”, he says. “This area was dry for too long. It’s up in the panhandle that you have to be really careful”. Over the years, John has learnt which areas to avoid and at what times of year, and his trips are planned carefully to minimise the risks. As we cruise along, he taps the side of the boat with his paddle.

“It’s to warn the hippos”, he explains. “I find that as long as they know I’m here, they’ll leave me alone. It’s when you surprise them that the trouble starts. Sometimes they even answer to my taps with a ‘honk honk’ and we have a little conversation. I’m here, you’re there.” In all his life paddling in the delta, John’s never been attacked by a hippo. “I’ve had a few close calls though!” he confesses.

We pick up the motorboat further downstream and Anne-Sophie has a turn in the kayak. We’re both struck by how comfortable they are, with fully adjustable padded seats and adjustable foot rests. We’ve found on kayak trips before that you can quickly get uncomfortable after an hour or two, making a multi-day trip nothing short of torture. With John’s kayaks you’re comfortable from the start and good for many days of paddling – John’s even done an epic 22 day trip in them.

We relax in the motorboat for a bit and land on an island for lunch. This being a ‘slack-kayak’ we’re enjoying the comforts of the motorboat more than usual, but on a typical 5 day trip, you might kayak 7 hours a day and 30-50km, depending on the fitness level of the group. That sounds a lot, but with the flow of the water at around 3kph (and you always paddle downstream), it goes surprisingly quickly.

What we found most satisfying was the physical exercise combined with the wilderness experience. All too often on safari you sit on your backside day after day, either in a vehicle or on a boat, and get plied with copious amounts of food and drink all day to boot. Sometimes you just crave getting your heart rate up a bit, and a stroll in the bush doesn’t always do it. John’s kayak trips give you as much of a work out as you want, in one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Africa.

If you’re looking for a challenge as well as a safari, this is it.

Kayaking the Okavango 101

For John, this is a lifestyle as well as a business and he does this because he’s passionate about it.

Kayaking SafariHis most popular trips involve taking a motorboat with kayaks and supplies for mobile camps high up into the delta, then paddling downstream for 4-5 days camping on islands where you’ll hear lions roar and see no one. The camps are basic but absolutely adequate with comfortable tents and sleeping rolls and good, hearty food cooked on open fires, and plenty of cold beers after a long day’s paddle.

Trips are for a minimum of two people and can be tailored for whatever you want – from the popular 5-day paddle, to a shorter ‘slack kayak’ where you can cheat with the motorboat, to a full-on, no-frills, self sufficient Trans-Okavango expedition of 10 days or more.

John carries a full first aid kit and satellite phone for emergencies but no firearms. It’s important to understand that this is a remote wilderness area with dangerous game in abundance and although you’re in the safest hands around, you need to be comfortable with this.

Botswana Kayaking and Camping TripGood for: The more active and adventurous looking to compliment a traditional safari with something unique.

Not good for: The fainthearted…

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Xigera Camp, Okavango Delta

– 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 CampXigera 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.

Xigera Camp Moreni Game Reserve

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.

Owl at Xigera Camp, BotswanaXigera 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.

Xigera Camp, Okavango Delta

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].

Safari flight at Xigera Camp, Botswana

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.

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South African Tel. +27 (0)21 813 6961.