Posted on 13th September 2018
Xobega Island Camp in the Okavango Delta of Botswana is what is called a “Wet Camp” or “Water Camp”. Wet Camps are considered more suitable for Okavango Delta connoisseurs than for first time visitors to the Delta – unless that is, first time visitors include another camp that offers Game Viewing by vehicle. This is because Wet Camps are to an extent a specialisation of the general genre of Okavango Delta Camps. A Wet Camp is situated in an environment usually surrounded by, or mostly surrounded by water – one that doesn’t easily allow for Game Viewing by vehicle but rather allows for boating and walking activities that are possible within an environment that (beyond the immediate camp) is permanently waterlogged, or underwater, and/or “Wet”.
We’ve inspected many of these Camps over the past decade. Sometimes you can fly in. Sometimes you can actually do Game Viewing by vehicle. Sometimes they have tractors to pull you and your luggage through the mud to the Camp. Sometimes Water Camps are only bordered on two or three sides by water.
But every now and again we find honest to goodness “Wet Camps” – islands in the Delta where you have to arrive by river after a long boat cruise into the heart of the Delta.
Xobega Island Camp is one of those!
Xobega Island Camp is on a small island in the middle of an area of the Okavango Delta that is so beautiful that guests often use the word ”Paradise” when describing it. Actually, we use the word “Paradise” for the area in which this camp is situated. We have posted photos and videos to try and reflect the beauty of this area, but really, we can’t fully do justice to it through photos and video. The combination of the dazzling sun, the Okavango Delta Flood Waters, the stately Riverine treelines of Leadwood and Water Berry trees over Papyrus Reed and Water Lilies, the absolute peace of the Delta in harmony with the Elephant, Hippo, Croc, prolific birdlife, and other denizens of this area – just has to be experienced personally.
That having been said, Xobega Island Camp is not a luxury Camp. The Camp is described as rustic and “simplistic in style” by its operators, and indeed that was our experience. Xobega Island Camp is a budget camp. There is a communal dining area, a coffee/refreshment area, and a series of light tents strung out along the edge of Xobega Island beneath huge riverine trees. The tents are basic, with bucket showers and chemical toilets. The area is wild. Monkeys will raid your tent if you don’t close it securely. We walked into a huge bull elephant while walking from our tent to the communal area. Well he looked huge from where we were at the level of his knees! Elephants and other wild animals can easily swim across to Xobega Island from elsewhere in the Delta.
We actually drove in to Xakanaxa Boat Station from Tuskers Bush Camp, which is already an hour or two out of Maun. It was a long drive from Tuskers (took us 7 hours or so in muddy conditions), although we stopped for some great game sightings along the way including lion, buffalo, and a magnificent, satiated, male leopard sleeping on a tree branch next to the road. Far easier and quicker though to fly in to Xakanaxa Airstrip.
Once we reached Xakanaxa Boat Station we were collected by their motor launch for the 90 minute boat trip to Xobega Island. What an experience, powering through the open water while avoiding pods of surfacing hippo, then gently manoeuvring along the smaller waterways of the Okavango – past and under the most breath-taking riverine forest and through beds of papyrus reed. We stopped to negotiate small blockages of channels, and marvelled at the prolific birdlife, Hammerkop, nesting Saddle Bill Stork, Pelican and Fish Eagle, to name but a few.
Eventually we approached Xobega Island Camp to be met by the Camp management and staff, singing and ululating their greeting as we beached the motor launch. We were shown to our tent which was pretty basic, but adequate. We were also warned about the vervet monkeys which were shrieking gleefully in the trees above us, ready to raid our tents if we left them open in any way. In the same trees were hundreds of Meyer’s Parrots and Green Pigeons. What a privilege to see them, especially for amateur bird enthusiasts like us! Dinner was plentiful and tasty. One nice thing was that the waitress literally poured half a bottle of red wine at a time into our huge red wine glasses.
Xobega Island Camp is set in a birding paradise. We were delighted with the variety of birds on and around the island, presenting superb photographic opportunities when we could stabilise the boat for long enough to capture a moment or two in their busy lives.
On our second day on the island we were confronted by a huge male elephant as walked from our tent to the main area. The fact is that this a remote part of the Delta and wild animals do come and go as they please. The camp staff were of the opinion that the elephant had swum across the river overnight, possibly masking his smell of being in musth, as he was quite aggressive.
The spectacular sunsets we enjoyed on the boat are ones that we will never forget, a drink and snack always at hand – with the Hippos eyeing us from a safe distance and Fish Eagles calling mournfully.
On our return trip to Xakanaxa we were sitting quietly at the front of the boat, marvelling at the exquisite riverine scenery, when as we turned a sharp bend we were met by a totally relaxed bull elephant having a quiet bath a few meters away from us. He was as surprised as us as he slowly extricated himself from his sitting position in the water and lumbered away up the steep bank. What an iconic sighting! Back at Xaxanaxa boat station we were thrilled to see a Cape Clawless Otter frolicking in the water near the camp. Why are there Cape Clawless Otters 2500km away from the Cape?
Bottom line, this is a rustic, simple, budget camp in a stunningly beautiful area. Well worth a visit.