Located at the watery western edge of the Moremi Game Reserve, at the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Xigera (pronounced “kee-jera”) was long famous among safari aficionados as a camp with exceptionally abundant bird life. It had opened in 1983 as a relatively simple place, built of reed and thatch, an initial venture by the nascent Wilderness Safaris, a firm that 38 years later has become one of Africa’s leading wildlife tourism companies. For many years, guests included Beatrice and Stanley Tollman, owners of prominent travel brands such as Red Carnation Hotels (which includes properties as diverse as Ashford Castle in Ireland, the Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva and The Chesterfield Palm Beach in Florida). Until recently, the Tollman family owned a major share of Wilderness Safaris. On deciding to divest, they opted to buy Xigera and to redevelop it as a super-luxurious lodge. The result is the completely reinvented Xigera Safari Lodge, an exceptionally lavish 12-suite property, powered by a Tesla solar hybrid power system and adorned with contemporary African art and furniture, commissioned from the well-known Southern Guild gallery in Cape Town.
The new Xigera is part of Great Plains Conservation — several of whose camps and lodges in Botswana and Kenya are Andrew Harper recommended — and its management has been entrusted to the legendary safari guide Mike Myers and his wife, Marian. Although now one of the plushest lodges in southern Africa — huge air-conditioned suites come with indoor and outdoor living spaces, king-size beds, rich fabrics, dressing areas and en suite baths with freestanding copper tubs — Xigera’s appeal is ultimately dependent on its 11,000-acre private concession, a pristine expanse of floodplains and riverine forest teeming with elephants, hippos and rare antelope species such as sitatunga and red lechwe, as well as lions, leopards and hyenas.