A few miles’ drive on the remote bush trails of southern Africa can easily take a couple of hours. Ours did. After a visit with an obviously satiated leopard who warily peered at us gawking at him through the thicket, we stopped for a bird-watching tailgate picnic lunch. Reedbucks scampered and lechwe practiced melting into the reeds. The camp’s namesake, a regal bull giraffe, strutted across our path. Two hours and a few breath-holding channel-crossings over narrow tree-trunk bridges later, elated by this bountiful impromptu game drive, we pulled into the shaded clearing in front of the Nxabega main lodge to the warmest of welcomes from the assembled staff.
The main area, a multi-level platform of burnished teak flooring under a steep thatched roof, was equally welcoming. Within the expansive space, exotic wood paneling delineated several inviting seating areas decorated in stylish, locally crafted furnishing and artworks that gave me an immediate sense of comfort. The lodge opened on two sides onto a large shaded deck with its own seating and dining areas and a sweeping view of the surrounding permanent floodplain and lagoons. I was promptly escorted to my tent. My luggage had preceded me there, giving me ample time to settle in before teatime and the sunset game drive. My tented suite was raised on a high platform, its private open-air deck overlooking the floodplain with its frequent game activity (including a morning wakeup call courtesy of a bull elephant enjoying an early breakfast within inches from my window).
But I soon discovered that superior accommodations and outstanding game viewing were only the beginning. At Nxabega, the magic ingredient was the people! Whether guides and trackers, chefs, butlers, housekeepers or management staff, all exhibited the same high level of training and professionalism and a genuine personal commitment to pampering us. The food was excellent, as was the service. Every activity delivered lovely surprises. A seemingly routine afternoon drive to the nearby mokoro landing (a mokoro is a flat dug-out canoe commonly used to navigate the Okavango waterways) for a sundowners cruise included sightings of a dozing lion and a leopard draped on a horizontal branch high up a tree.
Our return to camp detoured to a clearing where dozens of lanterns were hanging from a giant tree. Under it, tables clad in crisp white linen were formally set with gleaming china and glassware. A full bar sat in a corner. The tantalizing aroma of grilling meat drifted from the opposite side of the clearing, and the entire camp staff was bustling about putting the finishing touches to a sumptuous bush barbecue under the stars. Another night, we were treated to a spirited after-dinner performance of close-harmony choral singing and dancing (I found out later that the Nxabega chorus had recently won the multi-national Sing for Life competition between 44 safari camps from Southern Africa).
With its superb comfort, elegant décor, exquisite hospitality, and some of the best game-viewing I experienced in the Okavango Delta, Nxabega won a very high place on my short list of favorite safari destinations anywhere. To a question from a seat neighbor on the flight home, I heard myself spontaneously answer “if I could visit only one place in the Delta, I would make it Nxabega.”
Communications . There was no mobile phone service in the area. Short-wave radio was the lodge’s main means of communication. A satellite phone was available for emergencies. There was WiFi Internet access in the management offices where guests with their own laptop were welcome.
General Manager Dimari Du Plooy and Grant Oliver jointly managed the property. They were on leave at the time of my visit. Management duties were most effectively assumed by Assistant Managers Gioffa Tshipi and Joyce Lethogela.
Handicapped Access No
Length Of Stay Three nights
Location In the southern Delta, west of Chief’s Island; 30-minute flight by light airplane from Maun, the main gateway into Botswana’s safari areas.
Owned-Managed &Beyond, previously known as Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa), with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, owned and managed the property. At the time of this writing &Beyond itself is owned by two major shareholders, Capricorn (the Enthoven family, originally from South Africa) and the Getty Family Trust.
Power The camp had diesel-generated power . My tent had electric lighting and sufficient power to charge batteries for cameras, telephones and laptops.
Size The 37 acre (15 hectare) camp consisted of 9 guest tents capable of accommodating up to 21 guests. It employed a staff of 45, including four guides and five trackers.
Year Open-Renovated The camp was purchased by Conservation Corporation Africa in 2000 and fully renovated in 2004. It has been the object of meticulous ongoing maintenance ever since.
Room My 800 square foot (75 square meter) tent, Number Nine, sat on a five-foot high (1.5 meter) wooden platform that included a front deck overlooking the flood plain. It was a haven of understated elegance and comfort. In addition to the immensely comfortable king size bed with its brown leather upholstered headboard and snow white high-count cotton bedding, furnishings were of dark polished wood with clean contemporary lines. They included two bedside tables with tall wooden bases and parchment drum lampshades, a writing desk holding a large, framed mirror and a pewter desk lamp, a high back desk chair, a tall bureau and a luggage rack. By the front door, a small stand held an ice chest stocked with an assortment of soft drinks, beer and bottled water. The floor was covered with taupe jute carpeting and cowhide patchwork throw rugs.
In the bathroom, there was an electronic safe in the armoire as well as mosquito and insect repellent spray, a high-density flashlight, an emergency horn, a golf umbrella and a hair dryer. In addition to the bath towels, two plush white cotton bathrobes were provided. In the shower and sink area there was face soap, laundry soap, pump bottles of body scrub, shampoo, conditioner and body moisturizing cream. Votive candles were arranged around the room. Meals, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were included, as were the daily game viewing activities and daily laundry service.
Gift Shop A small cottage a few steps from the main lodge carried a limited assortment of chic Nxabega-branded safari wear as well as souvenirs, mainly wood carvings, antique trinkets, baskets and jewelry.
Swimming Pool The 10 foot x 20 foot (3 meter x 6 meter) pool was surrounded by a wide, tree-shaded deck. Ten lounge chairs with thick natural canvas-covered cushions were lined under large umbrellas and overlooked the floodplain. Pool towels were rolled at the foot of each chair, promptly replaced after use throughout the day. An icebox filled with cold drinks sat in the corner of the deck.
Game I saw included: leopard, lion, reedbuck, elephant, giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, kudu, red lechwe, steenbok, chacma baboon, monitor lizard, leopard turtle, painted reed frog. Birds included: red-billed francolin, grey lourie, saddle-billed stork, marabou stork, pink-backed pelican, malachite king fisher, white-browed coucal, giant eagle owl, green-backed heron, brown snake eagle, African darter, grey heron, white egret, wattled crane, spur-winged goose, white-faced whistling duck and fish eagle.
Date Of Last Visit October 2009
Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King
Service Excellent. Every member of the management and staff I met was thoughtful, enthusiastic and eager to please. Attention to details was outstanding. After my butler noticed that I had enjoyed a particular beverage at the bar (a refreshing local sparking hard cider), I found some of it in my tent’s icebox in the evening. The tent was serviced twice daily.
Would You Stay There Again? Yes
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