Mike Myers is the General Manager of our upcoming Botswana property, Xigera Safari Lodge. With over forty years’ experience in the bush and at safari camps across the continent, Mike is dedicated to making Xigera the epitome of the African wildlife experience. Here we ask Mike about the lodge, its gorgeous Okavango Delta setting and how it will revolutionise Botswana’s safari experience.
Xigera Safari Lodge: accommodation and amenities
Let’s start by talking about the property. Where is it, and is it fenced?
“Xigera is situated on the western edge of the beautiful Moremi Game Reserve and no, it isn’t fenced. We do however run an electric wire around the perimeter to deter elephants from entering the inner island, and to protect the trees.”
How many suites are available – can you share more details about them?
“We have two types of suite at Xigera: the 168 square-metre Family Suite (with 105 square-metre veranda) and the Guest Suite, measuring 104 square metres (with a slightly smaller 80 square-metre veranda). All suites are framed with steel and clad in wood, with a tensile PVC roof.
As to occupancy, four guests may sleep in our Family Suite, two in our Guest Suite. However, on a single night we may have no more than 24 guests in the Lodge. For this reason, we recommend families book in advance.
Inside, each suite will offer sustainable B|Africa products, and we’re currently deciding on spa amenities; from the windows and verandas, every suite boasts magical views over delta floodplains and the wildlife that visits them.”
Is there any light pollution in the lodge?
“No; we use energy sparingly and, as such, don’t keep lights on at night. There are no other lodges nearby to spread light pollution.”
Will there be Wi-Fi and phone signal?
“We will have Wi-Fi in the suites and in the lodge library. Given our remoteness, speeds will be slow. Guests will easily be able to send emails and online messages such as iMessage and WhatsApp but won’t be able to stream films. There will be no phone signal.”
What is it that really sets Xigera apart from its competitors?
“We’ll likely be the most exclusive safari lodge on the continent, designed and built with guest comfort at the fore. Whilst other lodges may have fewer guests, our 12-suite lodge sits in its own private area of the Moremi Game Reserve and we have exclusive use of our area; many other lodges share their areas with other properties.
On top of that, other lodges operate on strict two-drives-per-day schedules. At Xigera, guests may embark on safari throughout the day. In addition to our game drives, we offer mokoro (local canoe) and boating safaris, walking safaris and more.”
Can you tell us a bit about the public spaces at Xigera?
“Xigera has many public spaces from which to enjoy the surrounding floodplains. We have a reception area, lounge, dining area, library and an outdoor star-gazing deck, as well as numerous smaller outside areas. In addition, there is an outdoor boma eating area, a shop and a lovely picnic area close to the lodge. Our spa, gym and pool area has a commanding view of the river flowing into the lodge.”
Bush dining in the Okavango Delta
Moving on to the culinary offerings: given the remote location, will you be able to provide for dietary requirements?
“We can cater to all requirements, with the exception of kosher and halal.”
Is the water at Xigera drinkable?
“All water – including tap water – will be drinkable, having been treated using reverse osmosis, the sustainable method of water purification we use at Xigera. We start by passing water through a settling tank and then charcoal filters. After that, the filtered water passes through a reverse osmosis plant. Finally, the water is remineralised to make it drinkable.
We provide reusable glass bottles for Xigera’s water. In addition, we will have bottled still and sparkling water for guests.”
Xigera’s incomparable experiences
Onto the experience: how does a typical day at Xigera look?
“Every day at Xigera is a unique adventure. Guests are free to design their day as they wish, doing as much or as little as they feel like. That said, guests may embrace the usual safari structure, embarking on a morning game drive, coming back for lunch, then experiencing a mokoro safari in the afternoon. Or, they simply spend the day admiring Xigera’s incomparable surroundings.”
Will game drives take place in the game reserve?
“Xigera is situated on the western edge of the beautiful Moremi Game Reserve. Game drives and mokoro safaris will take place inside the reserve on a 45 square-kilometre tourism zone. Walking safaris and fishing trips will take place outside the reserve.”
Will activities be tailor-made by guests and are timings flexible?
“Definitely, but within operational reason. We will typically have two morning game drives, one early, one later. Boating and mokoro safaris will be entirely flexible.”
How many guides will there be?
“We will have around 12 expert guides at Xigera, including mokoro polers.”
Will there be photography workshops?
“Yes, the Okavango Delta is an unmatched environment for photography, and it’s our pleasure to guide guests to the perfect shot.”
Can you tell us more about the vehicles available?
“Xigera has four 4-seater vehicles and three 6-seaters. I have personally designed them all with comfort and wildlife photography in mind. Our seat covers are cotton canvas; armrests are adjustable and can be locked for stability when taking pictures. Each vehicle has space for picnic hampers.
We can’t guarantee a dedicated vehicle per suite at all times; we will personalise safari experiences as best as we can, though this does depend on occupancy. There will be an option to ensure a private vehicle at extra cost.”
Are the vehicles electric?
“The nature of the terrain around Xigera means that, currently, we cannot use electrical vehicles. That said, we are fully equipped to charge electric vehicles should they become available for us to use on safari in the future.”
Will binoculars be available?
“Yes – we are currently trialling several brands, to ensure the best quality for our guests.”
Will other lodge vehicles be seen?
“We occasionally encounter a vehicle from &Beyond, but these sightings are few and far between.”
Are night drives possible?
“No; the Moremi Game Reserve does not allow night drives in the reserve.”
How does a mokoro excursion work?
“The mokoro is the traditional dugout canoe of the Okavango and can fit two people comfortably. On a mokoro excursion, guests will be driven from the lodge to a nearby mokoro station, accompanied by one of our expert guides. Here, they will meet their poler. Guests are then escorted into the mokoro alongside picnic materials. And then the journey begins.
On safari, guests will recline and relax on the mokoros’ specially designed comfort seats, while intimately acquainting themselves with the unique floodplains of the Okavango Delta. The excursion lasts a few hours. It is one of the great Okavango experiences.”
Can mokoros be used all year?
“This depends on the annual flooding in the Delta. In past years, we have been able to offer boat and mokoro safaris throughout the year.”
What talks and special events will be hosted?
“We intend to hold many talks in the library with guest speakers. This will not take place every night, but we will show a wildlife-oriented movie or documentary on nights when no speaker is present.”
Can guests get involved with conservation projects?
“We would love guests to become involved with conservation projects, though the specifics are currently in the process of being finalised.”
Xigera’s wild Okavango Delta setting
Where is Xigera located exactly?
“Xigera is located in the heart of Northern Botswana’s Okavango Delta.”
There’s a lot of water in the area. Does this pose accessibility issues?
“There are wet camps, which focus on river safaris, and dry camps, which focus on game drives. Xigera is a combination camp and can offer both.
At the height of the flooding in July, there is water all around Xigera and we have a slight focus on water activities. Some of the safari area is floodplain, but there are always areas of higher land where we can do game drives.”
Is it possible to be flooded in or out?
“No. Even at the height of flooding, we have pole bridges to access land with our safari vehicles. All our vehicles are 4x4 and have been adapted with terrain specific tyres to traverse the wetlands.
Access to the airstrip is always available. The runway is surrounded by a berm, and, at the peak of flooding, we have five water pumps available to ensure the strip stays dry.”
Does the water pose a risk of malaria?
“There is malaria present, but it is very unlikely a guest will contract it at one of the bush camps and lodges. Mosquitos here rarely live long enough to spread the disease. In addition, the low number of inhabitants prevents the spread of disease. Our staff are taken offsite to undergo treatment should they contract the disease while on leave.”
What’s the best time of year to visit?
“Every season presents a unique reason to visit Xigera. The high season is southern hemisphere winter, when the foliage has dropped off and animals are more easily sighted. Autumn and spring are both beautiful times of year, slightly cooler and filled with animal activity. Summer sees the first rains and the birth of impala lambs, as well as exceptionally rare migratory birds. The Okavango Delta fishing season runs most of the year from March to December.”
What kind of temperatures should be expected?
“Xigera is temperate throughout the year. From September to May, expect temperatures in the 30s; October and November, expect 40s; and May through August, expect 20s with occasional cold fronts pushing temperatures down into the teens.”
What is "green season" and what is the difference between this and peak season?
“Green season refers to the wonderful period of summer when the Delta is lush and tropical. During green season, flooding is at its lowest, opening new routes for game drives—but rains are also frequent.”
What should I pack?
How much baggage is allowed per person? Hard or soft baggage?
“We allow 20 kilograms per person, packed in a soft bag.”
What clothes should be packed?
“In general, when packing for a safari holiday to Botswana, less is more. Maximum luggage allowance on charter aircraft flights is 20 kilograms (44lb) per person, plus one piece of hand luggage or a camera bag. Where space allows, additional seats may be booked for excess luggage. Each additional seat that you book enables you to travel with an additional 70 kilograms (154lb) of luggage.
The shape and format of your luggage is just as important as its weight, as it will need to fit inside the cargo pod under each aircraft. We strongly recommend that you use soft-sided, holdall-type bags rather than rigid or framed suitcases. In the event that your bag does not fit in the cargo pod, it will need to be carried inside in the aircraft – it will be charged for as excess luggage.
As for a packing list, we recommend lightweight, neutral-coloured clothing. Xigera does not have a dress code, although some city hotels may have them. Each of our camps offers a full, complimentary laundry service, meaning that you can reduce how much clothing you bring. We recommend that you don’t bring any camouflage-patterned clothing, as wearing this is discouraged in Botswana.”
We have provided an itemised packing list, for your convenience, below:
• Casual clothing and flip-flops to wear around camp
• Long pants and shirts for safari activities
• A hat (preferably with a wide brim)
• A warm sweater or fleece for cooler mornings and evenings
• Closed shoes for walking safaris (trail shoes are probably best)
• Light waterproof (although we provide ponchos in our game drive vehicles)
• A beanie, scarf and gloves in winter
• Swimming costume or board shorts
• A kikoi/sarong – incredibly useful
We provide eco-friendly amenities that can be purchased at our boutique and would encourage you to use them.
• Sunblock and après-sun
• Contact lens solution if needed
• Feminine hygiene products
• Travel detergent to wash your own smalls (if you prefer)
• Passport and travel documents
• Small, new USD notes for tipping (optional)
• Personal medication
• Camera, lenses and accessories
• Binoculars – these can make a huge difference to your safari experience
• Cables, chargers and adaptors for your devices
• International plug adaptor (so you can plug in your electronics)
• Small torch
What time is check-in and checkout?
“Check-in and checkout will depend on flight times.
Guests transferring between camps or leaving the Delta area altogether will normally depart after 11am. This leaves time for a final morning safari. For guests heading back to Johannesburg and Cape Town, they will arrive back at Maun airport in time for the 1pm flights.
Guests arriving at Maun from Johannesburg and Cape Town will land around 1pm. They will then be transferred to their respective safari camps in time for afternoon activity.”
Reaching the remote world of Xigera
What is the exact recommended booking procedure for each market and territory?
“The recommended procedure is for interested guests to contact their African specialist agents. These agents should then book Xigera through their local destination management company (DMC) in South Africa.
Direct bookings should use the below address. We are in the process of setting up Red Carnation Africa as a South Africa-based travel shop. This service will be able to build inspiring itineraries within southern Africa within the premier sector of the safari market, with add-ons to Cape Town and Victoria Falls.”
Red Carnation Africa contact information:
Telephone: +27 (0) 87 743 2399
Tollfree (US): 1800 249 0435 / (UK): 08000 321 973
How is the lodge reached? What is your suggested gateway to Xigera? Maun or Kasane?
“Xigera can be reached by light aircraft from either Maun or Kasane airports. Both airports are equally convenient, but Maun is used more.”
What countries are usually combined with Botswana?
“Most guests combine Botswana with visits to Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.”
Can Xigera be combined with other lodges? If so, which other lodges are recommended?
“Definitely. The premier lodges and camps in Botswana all make for great combined trips.
These include: Mombo, Vumbura, Kings Pool and Dumatau with Wilderness Safaris; Duba Plains, Selinda and Zarafa with Great Plains Conservation; Chief’s Camp with Sanctuary Lodges; and Sandibe with &Beyond.”
Will there be circuit rates?
“We cannot offer circuit rates.”
How do I move between lodges?
“All premier safari lodges are easily accessible from each other via light aircraft transfer. Flights are short, but their length will vary depending on exact itinerary and other passengers.”
Will there be combos with The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Bushmans Kloof and The Oyster Box Hotel?
“Of course. More details on this to come.”
What happens between the airport and lodge? How long is the transfer?
“From Maun airport to Xigera airstrip, you can either charter a direct flight, a helicopter transfer, or can purchase a seat rate on a larger aircraft that stops at a number of various airstrips. Direct flights are 30 minutes; non-direct flight time depends on the number of stops, but this rarely exceeds three.”
Who are the DMCs we are working with and will this be a key channel for bookings?
“At Xigera, we work closely with Wilderness Safaris. We also work with Grosvenor Tours, Thompsons, Lion World and African Travel Inc.”
Which markets will Xigera attract?
“Xigera will mainly attract high-end FITs from the US, UK and Europe.”
What do the GMs have to offer in special skills?
“Our GMs have spent decades in the bush and are immensely knowledge of the Botswanan environment. All our GMs are well versed in hospitality and guest relations, in addition.”
Can Xigera still be booked via Wilderness Safaris?
“Wilderness Safari still brochures Xigera and sells it as part of their collateral – many agents will continue to book Xigera through Wilderness Safaris.”
Is there a reservation person specifically for Red Carnation Hotels? How does that work?
“Yes. Our representative Julie Tucker handles all Xigera reservations and will be an integral part of establishing Red Carnation Africa. She can be reached at email@example.com.”
How will that person work with the other lodges in a circuit?
“When booking a safari adventure, you put together the entire trip rather than reserve individual nights. This is why we’re committed to building Red Carnation Africa travel shop. In the meantime, Wilderness Safaris is a very well-known local DMC that has established relations with all African specialists. Other local DMCs include Grosvenor Tours, Thompsons, Springbok Atlas, New Horizons and others.
You can only book a circuit if you have other properties to include in the circuit. As Xigera is a stand-alone safari lodge, it is important to work with DMCs like Wilderness Safaris, Great Plains, Natural Selection, Sanctuary Lodges and &Beyond because they have the product. Julie, our reservation representative, has the knowledge to build an itinerary in addition to the necessary relationships with these companies. As such, she will be able to accommodate other lodges in a circuit.”