• Carrie Hampton

True Wetland Experience at Xigera Camp - Okavango Delta - Botswana

Updated: Sep 13, 2021


Life doesn’t get any better than being silently poled through the lily lagoons and flowing water channels of the Okavango Delta. I consider this the peak of all African wildlife experiences; entirely unobtrusive, silent and surreptitious.


Even at the height of a dry season drought in early November – before much-awaited summer rains – there was still just enough water at Wilderness Safaris Xigera Camp to take to a mokoro. Being at the very centre of the Okavango Delta’s alluvial pan of permanent water makes it a true wetland. It epitomises the permanently flooded section, with hardwood riverine forests and tall Ilala Palm islands breaking the flow of the Okavango water.


Bucket List No.1: OKAVANGO DELTA

Forget cars! Mekoro have always formed the main form of transport in this region and for the Ba-noka (river bushmen), Xigera was one of the highways to good fishing grounds and former hunting areas. Hunting has ceased, the Moremi Game Reserve has extended its boundaries and Xigera is quiet, save for hippos yonking, elephant splish-sploshing and the occasional deep lion roar punctuating my dreamtime to remind me, even in sleep, where I am.

Xigera inserts itself into this most pristine African wilderness in the most environmentally possible way. The bank of photovoltaic solar panels bears testament, so does the special sewage system, biodegradable detergents, recycling of everything possible and composted vegetable waste. Wilderness Safaris are masters at doing the right thing and do so under A practical philosophy for sustainable tourism that they call the 4 C’s:

  1. Commerce: “If our business is profitable, based on sound business principles and moral principles, then we can make good on our promise to make a difference.”

  2. Community: “We believe in honest, mutually beneficial and dignified relationships with our rural community partners in ways that deliver a meaningful and life-changing share of the proceeds of responsible ecotourism to all stakeholders.”

  3. Conservation: “We build and manage our camps in the most eco-friendly way possible to ensure the lowest possible carbon footprint. Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust supports wildlife management, research and education projects throughout southern Africa and a portion of each guest’s fare is allocated to the Trust.

  4. Culture: “Wilderness has unique cultural and ethnic diversity represented by some 27 ethnic groups employed in our camps and offices. In Botswana that includes Bayei, Bambukushu, Basarwa, Bakgalagadi, Xhanakwe, Batswana, European



SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN ACTION


My media trip to Xigera was put together by Fair Trade Tourism South Africa to reveal how they are aligning themselves with bench-marking systems in other countries. In this case, Xigera Camp reaches the highest levels set by Botswana Ecotourism Certification in terms of responsible environmental, social and cultural behaviour and providing quality eco-friendly products to consumers.


As my guide Onx explained, he is “an ambassador to connect guests to the wilderness.” I’ve experienced so many safari guides who love the sound of their own voice, but Onx preferred to let the bush speak the loudest and I appreciated that. He says of the Ecotourism Certificate, “It sets a mark never to go under and instead go over.” Wilderness Safaris’ own standards consistently exceed any set requirements, especially on conservation and community upliftment, and I acknowledge and admire that.


Onx gave me hope about the future of wildlife by stating, “In 20 years the next generation will find this place better than it is now. Endangered species of the Okavango like cheetah, wild dog and Pel’s Fishing Owl will have increased in numbers because they are safe here and we are looking after them.”


HIGHLIGHTS OF XIGERA CAMP (pronounced Keedgera)

Position: permanent water camp in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

  • Rare & Special Sightings: Pel’s Fishing Own (often perched for photos on a tall tree in camp), Sitatunga (shy antelope living in shallow reed beds), Red Lechwe in great numbers, Wattled Crane, Black Coucal, Sausage trees and Baobabs. This is also predator country; leopard, lion, hyena …

  • Everything to do: game drives, mokoro, boat trips, walking safaris, fishing, birding.

  • Décor & Style: conventional understated lodge décor making the surroundings the star of the show.

  • Bedrooms: king-size bed in wood surrounded by walk-in mosquito net, canvas and thatch suites with deck looking over floodplains. Fans run by solar energy but power doesn’t stretch to aircon; GET USED TO IT…you are in the bush!

  • Shop: gorgeous Africana craft and attire to take home at very reasonable prices.

  • Drinking Water: a gift to remind you of your trip is a refillable metal Wilderness Safaris water bottle, to replace multiple throw-away plastic bottles. In-camp drinking water is treated with reverse osmosis and perfectly safe to drink.


Do Your Research and Choose Eco-Friendly Safari Lodges

Here’s How in 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Ask your Tour Operator to find places that are certified by organisations such as Fair Trade Tourism, Ecotourism Certificate, etc.

  2. Check that they have policies that matter to you e.g. active in conservation, community upliftment, environmentally-friendly waste, ethical animal encounters, % of your money going to good causes.

  3. Contact Safari Tart and we’ll give you our personal advice on where to best spend your Safari-in-Africa money.

What matters most to you when you book your safari? Please tell me in the comment box.


Don't go swimming in the Okavango Delta!


Review by Carrie Hampton, who has visited over 250 African safari lodges in southern and east Africa.

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