Chitabe Concession covers an area of some 28,000 hectares of unspoiled Okavango Delta wilderness. It borders three sides of the south-eastern region of the well-known Moremi Game Reserve, and is nestled between two main water systems: the Gomoti Channel to the east and the Santantadibe River to the west.
This region is dominated by seasonal flood areas, which transforms over half of the concession from dry floodplains into a flourishing oasis, once the annual waters seep through. The result is an unbridled diversity of flora and fauna which in turn allows for spectacular wildlife viewing and birding experiences.
The camp has eight spacious Meru-style tents built on elevated wooden decks amongst the trees. Each tent has twin beds and en-suite facilities. The thatched dining area, pub and lounge area are built on raised decks to provide superb views across the floodplain. A pool allows guests to cool off in the heat of the day.
Naturally, the multiple habitats surrounding Chitabe sustains an abundance of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, tsessebe and impala. Periodic sightings of wild dog are also highlights here. Night drives provide opportunities for guests to see nocturnal mammals such as civet, serval, genet, porcupine and aardwolf. There are also two elevated hides located in the reserve, one of which is within walking distance from the camp. Guests can experience a “sleep out” under the stars in full comfort and safety.
The rooms have a cozy and traditional Safari feel. Each room also featured striking animal photos taken by owner Dave Hamman, who is a photo-journalist and private guide. One highlight were the recycled, old roof panels with animal skulls used to divide the space in the bathroom.
Some things that need improvement or warning though is the lack of privacy from the walkways the guests may experience while in their tents. If guests keep their side screens open, they are exposed to passersby.
Another note I’ll have to be frank with is that the food we had during our stay was not good at all. Afternoon tea was served with a bland lemon merengue pie and very tough cookies. Dinner was a lifeless venison stew and lasagna. Even the Caesar salad tasted more like Italian Vinaigrette. Breakfast though was a saving grace. We enjoyed our private breakfast set up by the terrace with ala-carte service.
Other guests shared their experiences over dinner. Most were quite happy with their guides and from their stories, their wildlife encounters proved that the area was very productive. Many had seen Lions hanging out by the bridge while crossing the river to the camp, a leopard with cubs, and herds of elephants. We only had one afternoon in Chitabe and our game drive with an elderly couple who were avid birdwatchers was a bit slow. I must say, I was more impressed with the off-roading experience rather than the wildlife that afternoon. What made the drive worthwhile was seeing a giraffe take caution of the surroundings before awkwardly bending down on a knock-kneed stance to drink and taking sundowners overlooking a pond with a group of elephants taking a quick dip as the hippos waded guard. The night drive on the way back was also good as we saw a wild cat in the plains and two hippos grazing.
Just a few meters away and actually sharing a staff village with Chitabe is its sister camp, Chitabe Lediba.
Chitabe Lediba has just five secluded tented chalets, set on low decks and shaded by large trees. Each has a veranda at the front kitted out with comfortable chairs, a couple of footstools and a table. From here, double doors lead into the bedroom, with polished dark-wood floors and rattan rugs.
The décor is smart and airy, but not overdone. Comfortable beds sit under a mosquito net and are flanked by bedside tables with reading lamps. A writing desk plays host to stationery, magazines and bottled water, and the adjacent strip of universal plugs is handy for charging batteries. A ceiling fan and standing fan help to keep the tent cool and the mosquitoes at bay, while meshed windows enable a cooling breeze to flow through.
A tall wooden headboard separates the bedroom from the bathroom, where two deep ceramic basins are set on a wooden counter beneath large framed mirrors. Behind the headboard is ample hanging and shelving space, with a digital safe, bathrobes and extra blankets. There’s a separate flush toilet, and a canvas-walled shower that gives a powerful blast of water. There’s also a spacious outdoor shower, partially surrounded by canvas walls for privacy, but with views over the plains.
Two of the chalets are family units, consisting of two en-suite bedrooms – one with an outside shower. Both rooms share a balcony and one unit has an interleading hallway, well suited for families with younger children or friends travelling together.
The camp felt more updated and lighter compared to the Chitabe. The bright upholstery felt more fresh and even the wood varnish of the floors and surrounding furniture was more youthful. The set up of the rooms were similar to Chitabe’s but was refurbished in 2011.
The place is ideal for families or groups who can reserve the whole camp for their own occasion, as it feels very homey and intimate. Its also good for couples that appreciate more attention from staff as it provides the same quality of service in a smaller camp. I personally think if you intend to do Chitabe, you should consider Chitabe Lediba for now because the place is newer and improved while enjoying the same wealth of activities within the same area.