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Xigera: A sneak peek at one of Africa’s most anticipated lodges

Victoria can’t help but come alive when she speaks of Xigera: “My whole family love the bush and wilderness and have been going on safari for the last 25 years… it’s been a lifelong dream and vision of my family to have our own lodge under the ethos and DNA of a Red Carnation Hotel property and try and create something truly special.” Victoria Tollman is the Director of Red Carnation Hotels and her enthusiasm is contagious. Judging by the initial sneak preview of this lodge in Botswana, set to open in Q4 2020 truly special is an apt description. Xigera has for decades welcomed visitors and in 2018 closed, paving the way for new ownership and a new look under the Red Carnation Hotels brand. “All our years of experience in hospitality have gone into Xigera… our love and passion for Africa, hospitality, service, design, food, and giving our guests the best of the magic and authenticity from having the best wildlife, bush and water experience in the Okavanga”, adds Victoria. Here are five highlights of this highly anticipated lodge: Location Situated in the heart of 15,000 square kilometres of one of the world’s most incredible ecosystems, Xigera’s prime Okavango location will always be its crowning glory. The annual flooding of the Delta from rainfall 1600kms away in neighbouring Angola creates a dramatic transformation of Botswana’s desert into water-wonderland – a spectacle that David Attenborough rightfully calls one of ‘nature’s great events.’ The lodge sits on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve and in this wild setting, the lodge will sleep a maximum of 24 guests in 12 exclusive and private units – all designed to luxuriously profile the 1000th Natural Wonder of the World. Experiences Unlike the highly structured programmes of most lodges, Xigera offers a different model with a completely personalized experience where guests, rather than the lodge, decide on what they’d like to do and when they’d like to do it. Xigera’s unique mokoros will provide a rare opportunity to observe not only the wildlife around but also below. This refreshing and flexible approach to safari allows guests to pick from a variety of experiences, such as regular game drives, picnics in the bush, water exploration by traditional mokoro and motorboat, ‘Feet-in-the-water’ sundowners, walking safaris, in-season catch-and-release fishing, photographic safaris and workshops, private yoga sessions, helicopter excursions to explore the Okavango Delta and much more. Spa The three pillars of restoring, calming, and purifying stand at the heart of Xigera’s wellness offering. In addition to the spa treatment rooms, Xigera’s wellness pavilion will encompass a relaxing reception area, yoga deck for sunrise and sunset yoga as well as meditation, and a state-of-the-art Technogym-appointed fitness centre. It will also feature a swimming pool overlooking the river and deck for guests to find total serenity, allowing them to soak up the African sun while encircled by sounds of the bush.” In addition to using only the purest products from Tata Harper, similar to all Red Carnation Hotels Xigera will feature its own B|Africa product line formulated from the very best quality African indigenous plant extracts. The lodge will also feature guest practitioners during different times of the year, with the intent of focusing on mindfulness, wellness, and holistic healing. Design Xigera’s design was conceptualized by Toni Tollman, Philip Fourie, and Anton de Kock, who have undertaken a unique collaboration with the Cape Town-based Southern Guild. The result of this partnership is the creation of a gallery of bespoke works commissioned exclusively for the property by several exciting young African artists. Guests will therefore return from exploring the beauty of the wilderness and step into extraordinary spaces that are carefully curated and inspired by the surroundings. Highlights will include “human-sized woven nests resting on decks for guests to nestle in, to a life-changing sleep-out under the stars in a three-storey steel baobab tree located 1km from the camp”, with the pièce de résistance being a “totemic firepit sculpture by blacksmith artist Conrad Hicks holding the fire as a boma centerpiece.” Sustainability Xigera’s design has made sure to take full advantage of a commodity in no short demand – the glorious African sunshine. An impressive Energy Centre will supply an astounding 95% minimum of the lodge’s energy needs, thus saving an inordinate amount of diesel extensive tons of carbon emissions. It is a sophisticated solar hybrid power system powered by a 400kW Tesla plant. Thermodynamic geysers will provide the hot water, and SolarView tinted glass to reduce air-conditioning needs. Water will be purified using a Reverse Osmosis process, providing glass-bottled still and sparkling water. The pandemic has proved a challenge to the progress of the lodge but hasn’t dampened spirits. “We have had a skeleton team based there under the brilliant leadership of Mike and Marian Myers and Quest Maundo, who have managed to keep progressing and advancing but more slowly and keeping up the morale and good spirits of our team!” In the midst of one of the most challenging times for the safari and travel industry, the anticipation of this special lodge certainly brings a much-needed measure of hope – the rebirth of a lodge quite unlike anything else. Before official photographs have even been released, it’s clear that Xigera will be giving fresh definition to its mantra ‘there’s nothing like it.’

Jared Ruttenberg

Jared Ruttenberg is a freelance travel journalist who enjoys connecting people and experiences through word, image and social media. Read more at www.jaredincpt.com

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  1. One of the reasons that I haven’t done a safari for a while is that some of them have the feel of a regimented boot camp.

    Xigera have probably hit on a winning formula with their idea of allowing guests to make-up their own programme. Too few safari lodges allow for the facts that guests are jet-lagged and on holiday. They don’t want to be woken before sun-rise, given 5 minutes to drink a cup of coffee and then bundled off on a game drive.

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head Hamish – this is exaclty what they want to overcome. Essentially let you drive your dream holiday on your terms! I hope that you’ll get the chance to visit!

  2. What a brilliant idea the three storey baobab tree is.

    I’ve had dark sky viewings of the sky when I’ve been in Africa before but then you go back to your room. Being able to gaze up at the stars from your bed as the stars journey through the night would be amazing.

  3. I really am not a spa person I’m just way too ticklish but my wife would lap it all up – she’d spend every day at a spa if our bank account would allow it. I’m perfectly happy to sit reading and taking in the views. Each to their own…

  4. If these are just unofficial preview shots of the camp then I can’t wait to see the professional images when they’ve been taken.

  5. In some ways we’ve been lucky in lockdown, both working from home and saving on commuting into London. Though it has been hard work and it’s not done much for my body posture. We really deserve a big holiday, having had to cancel two this year and luckily getting our money back, so Xigera might make it to our short list for 2021. Never done a safari so this could be really exciting.

    1. I think many of us are in a similar position – we’ve learnt to live differently, but will be carrying all kinds of stress in our bodies – so a break will be well needed. PLEASE do let me know your feedback if you do visit – it will be a trip of a lifetime!

  6. I love the look of this place, it’s got great styling and it sounds like a spot on location. I find the idea of a more personalised stay with greater flexibility over what you do and when you do it with a range of activities and experiences to be really appealing. I imagine a lot of people would prefer that approach. I’m a bit surprised to see a spa, I’m not sure why. Yes please! It’s also good to know it’s an eco-friendly place, which is something that tourists are increasingly wanting to see wherever they stay during their travels. I feel for the staff there with Covid getting in the way getting the lodge up and started but hopefully the pandemic will turn a corner before too long, travel will pick back up and this accommodation will get the numbers of visitors it deserves.

    1. COVID has indeed thrown several curveballs – but the staff have kept hopeful. I agree with you with regards to the flexibility. Hopefully you’ll get to visit oneday!

  7. I have read a lot of articles featuring lodges in Africa. As we face the new normal, lodges and private villas will surely be a hit to tourists. What I admire about Xigera is its sustainability. Lodges and private villas in Africa have a common goal to preserve the wild and let tourists experience its majestic beauty. It is very commendable for Xigera to level up its effort to help in preserving nature through its hybrid power system and encourage tourism at the same. Since we are experiencing a global pandemic, tourists will surely consider their health as they travel and lodges will be a prime choice by tourists since it is not crowded and social distancing will surely be practiced. The aesthetic features of Xigera is also breathtaking. I think the utilization of the space has been maximized very well.

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