The Okavango Delta should be on everyone’s bucket list – perched at the top of all things one would like to experience before they die! This place is magnificence beyond the actual Botswana realm. Having achieved the UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription in 2014, The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana – known for its sprawling grassy plains, which flood seasonally, becoming a lush animal habitat.
The Moremi Game Reserve occupies the east and central areas of the region. Here, dugout canoes are used to navigate past hippos, elephants and crocodiles. On dry land, wildlife includes lions, leopards, giraffes and rhinos. Despite it being dominated by water as well its grand flora and fauna, the delta is also a habitat for five different ethnic groups; namely Hambukushu, Dceriku, Wayeyi, Bugakhwe and Xanekwe who effortlessly live in harmony with nature.
These tribes are the most prominent here having fully adapted to live peacefully and in harmony with all the plants and animal species that roam the delta unperturbed. While the natives are of the view that local tourism – especially a sojourn to the delta is excessively expensive, what they fail to realise is that there are reasonably priced camps within the delta which are easy on the pocket.
Recently, the #BotswanaUnplugged crew courtesy of Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) with a few local and international scribes spent some well-deserved and quality two nights’ accommodation at the Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge – a sister camp owned by &Beyond Travel. &Beyond Travel is a vacation industry company which operates around 32 lodges across the world and is often credited for its outstanding leadership in sustainable conservation and delivery of extraordinary guest experience.
Quite amazing was our welcome here, where guests are given a whole 360 taste of Botswana’s etiquette and ethos through music, dance and ululations to show full appreciation of your being. The heart-appeasing moment is truly what makes our country Botswana “Our Pride, Your Destination”.
There are several factors that make Xudum truly stand out from the many places we’ve sojourned through our career as seasoned travel bloggers and below are some of the few talking points as to why you need to check out this place…
The untold Mokoro stories
Simply because of Botswana’s semi-arid climate, a lot of us are no used to seeing water in abundance hence we quiver at the mere mention of hitching a ride inside a dug-out canoe, otherwise known as a mokoro. I must admit, this my biggest apprehension when I visited the delta recently. I knew for one to get around the delta, the optimum mode of transport is the mokoro where one has to navigate through the treacherous yet calm waters full of hippos and crocodiles. This is by far one test in life which measures your strength as a human being. However, after a few moments of hesitation, one finds himself enjoying a peaceful cruise through the calm Okavango Delta waters all of your trust placed on the professional paddler (locally known as poller).
My nerves remain calm when I learn that these professional paddlers are fully tested by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to ensure that their skills of handling a pick pole and transporting tourists around are trustworthy. Another factor to note is that the delta has shallow areas where mostly a mokoro is used and deep areas where an engine boat comes in handy.
One could be interested in knowing what defines deep and shallow here and we’d be happy to report that shallow is probably less than 1.6m deep where one could even see the water bed while deep goes beyond one’s eyesight. My fear for the mokoro ride was overcame when I rode the dug-out canoe not only once but twice, which was quite enchanting and overall an overwhelming experience.
Quizzed on issues of safety, the experienced canoe driver said during circumstances when there’s an unfortunate attack by a hippo on the mokoro and it catapults – there’s no need to panic as the hippo will run away first, sensing if its being challenged or not. He added that during this time he will rearrange tourists back into the mokoro and retreat.
He noted that they are always alert adding that most of the time a hippo will give signs from a distance by breathing underwater and discharging huge bubbles which will ripple across the water. He affirmed that the mokoro remains the best mode of transport in the delta to discover places that could not be reached by road.
The Game drive
The game drives here are quite challenging but rather interesting. While one would wish to find all wild animals populated in one place as often shown in literature and the internet, wanting to see one in its wild habitat is often not easy. After yearning to see lions roaming freely in their own habitat, the only thing we witnessed were only claw prints. Luckily, during our day two mokoro cruise we spotted about 12 giraffes. Birds of different species were plenty especially that it was in the morning and mostly were spotted by the water points quenching their thirst after probably catching the fattest worm.
Interactive kitchen menu
While in most set-ups chefs in many lodges or hotels like to do their gourmet dishes behind the scenes and only let their final dishes to do the talking, at Xudum delta lodge it is a whole different ball game together. Out here, one finds an interactive kitchen where clients partake in making magic in the kitchen.
“Yes, sometimes that chef will want to surprise the guests with their favourite delicacies but who said some clients don’t want to learn cooking. Some are even better chefs so why not invite those willing to join to cook up a storm” said Letitia, Guest Manager at Xudum.
The swanky chalets
Accommodation here will make you forget all your problems. It’s posh and peaceful beyond imagination. Waking up here, you’d actually forget you are in the outer banks of the delta. The grunting of hippos and giggling of hyenas at night will only serve as a constant reminder that you are deep in the bush far away from civilization. Guests are spoilt for choice with a single pool per chalet, open shower, bathtub, mini bar fridge, couch and a study table, which are just some of the few characteristics that make it one of the best I have ever seen in the country.