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.
My advice in three simple words: SAFARI BOTSWANA NOW!
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:
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, rhino, 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)
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Review by Carrie Hampton, who has visited over 200 African safari lodges in southern and east Africa.