LATEST CAMP NEWS
Some mornings have started with everyone being wrapped up in blankets as our boats gently meander down the river running in front of the lodge…
The water seems to be subtly receding already, with the floodplain in front of the camp drying up little by little. We are still awoken to multitudes of red lechwe running through the water as the sun rises over this magnificent body of water. A number of guests opted to stay in on one of their mornings, choosing to have hot coffee delivered to their room and watch what is arguably the best sunrise spot in the Delta, in lieu of an activity.
Our sand pit or better known as the ‘Daily Mail’ has once again provided interesting news. One morning we found clear tracks of the resident female leopard which visited the island while we were all having dinner the night before.
This month we also tried a new bush spot for high tea. The beach like sand bank in front of camp was the chosen location and it went down really well with all our guests. Just imagine enjoying some scrumptious snacks and refreshing drinks with the Delta water lapping at your feet, all the time taking in the wonderful views all around. We are sure this spot will be popular for many months to come.
The supermoon was a much anticipated event at Xigera. Dinner was served at our Star Deck which seemed to be a pretty apt description of our dinner spot, considering the occasion. The moon rose in its full red magnificence, later illuminating our table to a point where it seemed that we didn’t need any lanterns to see with.
Birding as always, has been great. Trips to the adjoining islands have proved fruitful, as the resident Pel’s fishing-Owls continue to rear their young. A luapula cisticola was a lovely find on one of our day boating trips. However, the absolute highlight has to be the western banded snake- eagle which perched itself on the fig tree right next to our bar. Unfazed by the foot traffic below it, the photographic opportunity presented by this rare bird was certainly acted upon.
Weather and Landscape
Finally the rains have arrived…in drips and drabs. We received a total of 20mm for the month and enthusiastically await the arrival of more substantial precipitation in the coming months. However, the small amount of rain which we did receive washed the winter dust off of the vegetation, leaving the environment looking rejuvenated. With the temperatures rising up to 38° C on a regular basis, any overcast days were welcomed.
The water levels have dropped a fair deal, making more areas accessible for game drive.
The resident female leopard which has become known as ‘Madipala’ has been seen numerous times with her cub between the airstrip and the Xigera Lagoon boat station. She is incredibly relaxed in the presence of vehicles, and this has allowed us some great views into the interaction between mother and cub.
One of the most exceptional sightings we had this month, was the young bull elephant which walked past the front of camp and delicately manoeuvred under the camp bridge. A breeding herd of 10 elephant has been seen around camp for most of the month. A little further south of camp, a large breeding herd of buffalo has been seen on a regular basis. A hippo bull has taken a liking to the camp, and has been seen grazing next to the solar panels on most nights.
Birds and Birding
The birding has been fantastic this month with almost daily sightings of the Pel’s fishing-owl in and close to the camp as well as many sightings of pink-backed pelicans, yellow-billed storks and African skimmers at the lagoon. We are really excited that the skimmers have started nesting in the area, with quite a number of chicks having hatched already.
Dennis had a great sighting of a Luapula cisticola. In and around camp, we have been seeing brown firefinches as well as many woodland kingfishers which arrived in masse at the end of the month. To end off the birding for the month, Henry spotted a Verreaux’s eagle-owl in camp.
Xigera Camp has an atmosphere different to any other in the Okavango, situated on a dense tree island facing a papyrus-lined channel. Stepping off the bridge, you immediately feel a verdant calm overtake you – on boardwalks beneath the green canopy, monkeys swoop and chatter above you, birds call and flit among the boughs. If you are fortunate and patient enough, you might even spot otters slipping through the water in front of the deck.
Activities focus on the waters of the Okavango, and the incredible diversity of life it sustains. The highlight of anyone’s visit, however, has to be the hunt for the Pel’s Fishing-Owls which live nearby. Gliding through narrow channels in mokoro and exploring the islands on foot for the elusive birds, eyes searching the canopy while the forest closes in around you is an amazing experience.
We found an almost fully-grown juvenile with a freshly caught catfish sitting on a bough high up in an African ebony tree. The owl barely reacted to our presence, only occasionally peering at us curiously as the light from the early morning sun filtered delicately onto its orange plumage. After watching it for a while, we slipped away and walked back to our mokoro. Poling through the calm sedge-lined backwaters, we looked for reed frogs clinging to their stems and peered at the fields of water lilies for any sitting on their petals. These brightly-coloured frogs are great photographic subjects, and we found several.
On an afternoon game drive, we came across a herd of eight enormous bull elephant feeding on a fallen lala palm. They were clustered closely together, and feeding in an almost eerie silence, only occasionally broken by rumbles if the younger bulls overstepped the mark with their elders in the pecking order. This interaction was fascinating to watch, in an exquisite setting of an open plain studded with palm trees. Other game sighted were red lechwe, reedbuck, tsessebe, zebra, impala and giraffe, where we came across a mother suckling her calf only a few metres away from us.
A boat ride towards Chief’s Island to the east provided a wonderful experience of the Boro Channel with views stretching for kilometres across inundated plains dotted with beautifully sculpted tree islands. We encountered elephants deep in the water feeding on papyrus, buffalo bulls feeding in shoulder-deep water, a multitude of red lechwe and several pods of hippo. Our sharp-eyed guide Palo spotted a tiny crocodile, no more than 30 centimetres long and we were able to observe and photograph this tiny character for several minutes as he drifted among the lily pads.
Birding from the boat produced a multitude of species, from the larger Saddle-Billed Storks and African Fish Eagles, through to African Openbills, African Jacanas trotting on lily pads, to Little Bee-Eaters, various cisticolas and Malachite Kingfishers.
All in all, in the few days I spent here we encountered a wonderful diversity of species, from large mammals to birds and reptiles, and really absorbed the extraordinary beauty, peace and tranquillity of the Okavango.
Information and photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Ryan Green
Xigera Camp (pronounced Keejera) is located on a riverine island right in the heart of the Okavango Delta. This part of the Moremi Game Reserve is a true wetland paradise, with Xigera Camp surrounded by deep channels and lush vegetation.
Xigera Camp consists of ten luxuriously furnished tented rooms – each with en-suite facilities and an outdoor shower. Raised on wooden platforms and walkways, each tent offers superb views of the seasonal Okavango Delta floodplains and the lagoon. The feeling of living in the midst of a riverine forest is one of the features of Xigera Camp.
Meals and evening drinks are enjoyed in the lounge, pub and dining area overlooking a permanently flowing channel or under the stars in a traditional African boma. For those hot days there is a small plunge pool in which to cool off.
Guests are sometimes treated to close-up views of lion or leopard using the footbridge connecting Xigera Camp’s island to the next! The camp “newspaper” (a sand pit built into the bridge to capture paw prints) is “read” each morning and provides information on unseen nightly visitors to camp.
Permanent water year-round allows an unparalleled variety of activities such as mokoro trips, game drives and motorboat outings. Xigera Camp is the only camp in the area – ensuring total privacy.
A mokoro ride is mandatory at Xigera Camp. On this traditional dug-out canoe, the only sounds are the rustling of the wind through the reeds, the lapping of the water against the boat, and the call of the African Fish-Eagle. The blue of the sky is mirrored in the water, broken only by large round water lily leaves and their stunning purple and white flowers.
When water levels permit, game drives are an attraction. During drier years, drives are available throughout the year, but if there has been a very high flood, drives take place only from late September to April.
Xigera Camp is a delight for birdwatchers, with Pel’s Fishing-Owl, African Skimmer, Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane and a host of raptors, other waterbirds and colorful kingfishers to be seen. An abundance of wildlife includes red lechwe, lion, and spotted hyena.
Camp Features / Activities:
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Dana Allen