Our first impression of Camp Okavango was colored by the positive comments we had heard from fellow travelers before arriving there. Whenever we mentioned to someone we were headed to Camp Okavango their faces would light up in a smile. They would tell us how much they had enjoyed their stay and send their regards to Rob and Tammy, the Camp managers. We arrived at Camp Okavango following one of the bumpiest bush plane flights we’ve ever had, hot and nauseous not to mention shaky. Rob’s quiet and concerned welcome was priceless. Our introduction to the Camp was beneath the huge mangoosteen tree that was the heart of the one square kilometer island based Camp. Under its shade we enjoyed pleasant moments of contemplation, conversation and excellent bird watching. Thanks to a water feature at the base of the tree many birds congregated and nested there.
One of our fondest memories of Savute Safari Lodge was bathing with elephants – well almost. A bachelor herd frolicked in the waterhole immediately in front of our room while I showered. Thanks to the glass windows and sliding glass door I could see the waterhole and the elephants from the shower. They went on drinking and spraying themselves with water long into the afternoon allowing Gary to observe them while he took his shower a little while later. We continued watching them delightedly from the living area of our room for several hours.
Problems with the landing strip at the camp we planned to visit caused a change in our travel program and a last minute change of camp to Xigera, pronounced kee-jeh-rah. From the beginning, one of the things that appealed to us at Xigera was the guest diversity. We were the sole Americans among a group of Europeans and Aussies. Our fellow guests there, more even than at other camps, seemed especially eager to chat with everyone else and learn about them and their game viewing experiences. We quickly struck up conversation with several couples and found we especially enjoyed the meal times and social moments at the Camp.
Although every trip and every lodge and camp we have visited in the past had qualities that distinguished it among its peers, some stand out for their sheer excellence. Our stay at Kings Pool, named for a Scandinavian monarch who visited the area before the camp was built, was one of the most rewarding overall visits to a game viewing tented camp in two dozen experiences to date. Fronting an oxbow of the Linyati River, Kings Pool had a rare combination of a superb location, extraordinary game viewing possibilities, a well designed, spacious and comfortable room, superior “home cooked” food and an outstanding, experienced and knowledgeable guide.
It required a day of travel and three flights, the last one on a small bush plane, from Cape Town to reach Kwetsani Camp. We left the comfort of our waterfront hotel at 7 a.m and reached our new honeymoon suite at Kwetsani at 7 p.m. Although we were tired and hungry, we were also thrilled from a close viewing with a female leopard on our way from the airstrip to the Camp. Kwetsani could house up to 10 guests on its one kilometre site which was raised on stilts beneath a shady canopy overlooking the plains. It was one of several properties on the Jao Reserve, a 15-year 60,000 hectare concession with maximum guest occupancy of 48. The large elongated island was heavily wooded with palm mangosteen and fig trees and was one of the most remote camps in the expansive Okavango Delta. That night we enjoyed a fireside buffet dinner on the sandy boma enclosure. Prior to dinner, we watched with pleasure as local staff members sang and danced around the roaring fire with enthusiasm and laughter.
We were amazed by the quality of the game viewing near the Chobe Safari Lodge. During our first private river boat ride we saw three of the big five, including a teenage leopard on the bank of the river. Our patient, knowledgeable and able private hire driver/guide Flores led us to one impressive viewing after another, including a sitting buffalo less than 20 feet from our boat; an elephant family with young; a large hippo pod of 20 or more adults and pups; two spectacular African eagles; a 70 year old crocodile and more.