Explorer Safari CEO Peter-John Mitrovich recently visited brand-new Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana. Here’s his story.
Disappearing into an Inland Oasis
I recently took a 4-day journey into the Moremi Game Reserve situated on the eastern side of the vast Okavango Delta in Botswana, to experience the opulent Xigera Safari Lodge which opened its doors in December 2020. Described as a love letter to the African bush, this exceptionally built lodge is next to nothing I’ve experienced before.
How I got to Xigera
There are flights on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday on South African Airlink from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport to Maun in Botswana. On arrival on Botswana there is a rapid COVID-19 test done, compliments of the Botswana Border Authorities.
Once cleared into the country, we had a hearty welcome from Georgie, a Xigera Safari Lodge ground concierge who assisted me from my international flight to the Macair check-in desk. From there, I connected with a scenic 25-minute flight onboard an air-conditioned Cessna Grand Caravan to Xigera. The lodge has its own airstrip located a short 10-minute transfer from the lodge.
Welcome to the Okavango Delta
Our arrival and transition to Xigera was a breeze. Courteous Xigera Safari Lodge hosts met us at the airstrip and did quick COVID-19 protocol checks. With only 4 seats in the open-side cream-coloured safari vehicle, I already felt a sense of comfort, naturally socially distant from the ‘real’ world and consumed by the natural beauty of the Delta. The safari vehicle wound its way through the lush landscape and meandered through a canopy of trees which revealed our arrival to refreshing towels. The lush greenery around the lodge is cut through by growing water channels after some good rain.
This greenery is breached by a wooden bridge that take you into the lodge reception area, which overlooks exceptional custom design and art. My first impression was the folded lily leaf fireplace, which flowed onto an elegant red lounge couch, and continued into the dining room. All of these remarkable touchpoints are wrapped by a wooden deck that overlooks the floodplain.
Private Suites and Luxury Amenities
The elevated walkway to my suite was shaded by a beautiful canopy of trees. Being guided to my room by Nicola, one of the hostesses, I took the opportunity to peak into the lodge library and shop, all created without pretense.
I was pleasantly surprised by the hearty welcome from Vee, my room butler. After she did a generous walk through the room; it was apparent that the 190sqm space has been designed with great attention to the overall traveller experience. My private lounge has an inviting panoramic view of the floodplains, and the furniture is custom designed for Suite 6 (Jackalberry). Special mentions must go the handwritten welcome note, a drink of my preference and a well-stocked minibar!
The lounge flows into the spacious bedroom with its extra-length king-size bed. A television screen is discretely hidden in a front-of-bed cupboard, which lifts out via remote control access. This is certainly a nice-to-have perk, and can be used by choice to stay in touch with the world, or left alone and let the outdoors permeate in. Vee continues to amaze, with her offer on arrival to unpack my bag, iron my clothing and store everything away in the cupboard, all done within 30 minutes; a lovely touch.
The final addition to my private Xigera space is the bathroom. Handcrafted his-and-her basins are the backdrop to a beautiful copper folded bath. Some refreshing Xigera amenities are a nice touch, but I really liked the brass floor of the shower which was set with embossed lily leaves.
As final flattery to the senses there is an outdoor shower that leads into a hidden gazebo, and of you look back the entire suite is wrapped with a spacious deck, allowing ample space to consume the natural theatre beyond.
A day on safari at Xigera
A soft morning drizzle lured me to the well-equipped gym that overlooks the water channels and added some calm to my cycle. Soon the Xigera staff arrived to ensure I had ample towels and water. I enjoyed a few laps in the heated swimming pool and retired to my room.
It is truly life at your own pace at Xigera. After a relaxed breakfast of soft poached eggs and some crispy bacon, we joined a cruise into the delta.
Birdlife is abundant and the ‘eagle eyes’ of our guide missed nothing! A shy crocodile rusheds from the warm sand bank into the water, while African jacanas trafficked over the lily leaves, playfully doing their own version of bush ballet. We spot several fish eagles, lilac-breasted rollers and kingfishers, and as we slowly meandered through the lush water channels back to the lodge, we encountered a few giraffe and hippos wallowing in the shallow waters.
Every meal at Xigera Safari Lodge is a fabulous experience. Food filled with heart, but beautifully plated. Our host presented the menu for lunch with such enthusiasm and description, that it made it difficult to say no to a selection of starters, mains and desserts! After a relaxed afternoon viewing lions under Suite 2, we enjoyed an afternoon game drive which delivered an exceptional sighting of wild dogs, and a year-old leopard straddling a lazy tree branch.
As the sun dipped below the horizon our guides rendezvous to a select open plain where we enjoyed sunset cocktails and elephants splashing through the water in the distant floodplain beyond.
On return to the lodge, we were welcomed to an incredible atmosphere created by lanterns and other lighting from within. Dinner was served in the open-air boma, complemented by a sumptuous barbeque buffet of local beef, lamb, oxtail and a wide selection of salads. Before I retired to my suite the lodge staff at Xigera Safari Lodge entertained us with some warm song and strong voices, a heartfelt send-off and closure to a perfect day in the Okavango Delta.
Sustainability and Luxury in Balance
It is rare to find that a bespoke safari experience, complemented by non-invasive accommodation, is in such balance that it feels like ‘this is the way it should be. To ensure that guests’ comfort and lodge efficiency is upheld, the refined art of the Tollman family to create accommodation through service (a focus point for Red Carnation Hotels), the Tessla Power Farm, and water purification plant at Xigera are large sustainable influences that benefit the guests in a very invisible manner.
In addition, the staff village that ensures that staff are as comfortable as the guests, speaks volumes for caring for our people and community.
What stood out most for me, was that Xigera Safari Lodge is unsurpassed in its luxury offering, elevated by a breathtaking natural theatre. The Okavango Delta – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – provokes the senses with an evocative play of nature through different seasons, providing the ideal backdrop to an unforgettable safari.