Chitabe & Sandibe
NG31 Reserve covers a relatively small 360km² of the eastern Okavango Delta. However, it’s a superb location which looks on a map like a bite out of the southern side of Moremi Wildlife Reserve – between Chief’s Island and the Mopane Tongue. Sandibe and Chitabe share this reserve, though generally keep to their own sides of it. Sandibe have about 160km² on its northern side, and Chitabe (and the adjacent Chitabe Trails Camp), occupies the southern 200km². These two camps are relatively close, about 12km apart, and they share one airstrip.
The reserve is particularly interesting as it’s experiencing a period of change. The Gomoti River, which forms the northern and eastern border of the reserve, had been dry from about 1984. Then it began to flow again in 1999, spilling onto the seasonal floodplains here. This has dramatically increased the amount of water in this area. Previously only about 5% of Sandibe’s area had water on it; now it’s closer to 50% permanent water.Getting there and away
All visitors to these camps pre-book their time and fly to the camps. NG31’s main airstrip (GPS: CHITAA 19°27.952’S, 23°22.443’E) is about 7km north of Chitabe and 8km east of Sandibe.
This is barely 60km from Maun, making it one of the closest of the Delta’s airstrips for camps. However, this doesn’t usually affect the price of a trip here. Wilderness Safaris, for example, usually charges a set rate for a package including time at its camps and flights to/from them. This price doesn’t vary with the position of the camp within the Delta. When to visit
As with the rest of the Okavango, the big game here is more diverse and prolific during the dry season, although the birdlife is generally better between December and March. That said, NG31 really is in the heart of the Okavango where the water is basically permanent, and so these differences aren’t as great here as you’ll find in some of the more outlying, western areas of the Delta. Flora and fauna highlights
NG31 is a varied reserve; there are quite marked differences between the northern sides (east and west) and also between these two and Chitabe’s area further south, even if the list of species which occur in both are broadly the same. There is a complex mix of environments in this reserve; what follows here is very much a simplification.
The most striking difference is that the northwest of the reserve is a wetter environment than the rest. Just north of this reserve, in Moremi, the Mboroga River flows south between the dry-land areas of Chief’s Island and the Mopane Tongue. Forming a number of large lagoons, it splits into two channels. One branch, the Gomoti River, then forms part of this reserve’s northern boundary, and all of its eastern side. The other branch, the Santantadibe River, is a deep, wide channel that leads to lots of lagoons and runs down this reserve’s southwestern side.
<< Click on the left menu for more details of the Flora
that’s usually found in this area.What to see and do
The camps differ in their activities. Chitabe and Chitabe Trails are essentially dry-land camps, which concentrate on game drives and night drives, plus occasional guided walks.
Sandibe offers more of a mix of activities with game drives, boating and mokoro trips. They have recently had the huge advantage of a battery-powered boat here – called Lily – which gives up to 12 people (more usually six or so) trips along the Santantadibe River. Its slow speed and minimal wake, combined with very quiet operation, help it to have minimal impact and thus approach the shyer game and birds more closely with less disturbance.
When on mokoro trips at Sandibe, it’s usual practice for an armed guide to accompany each group in a separate canoe with his/her own poler, as well as the mekoro which the guests are in.
Unusually for the Delta, both Sandibe and Chitabe Trails welcome children. At Sandibe they’re even given a ‘planet manager’s workbook’ to keep them busy whilst teaching them about the area, and the camp staff are adept at ensuring that they don’t disrupt the activities or ambience for the other guests. At Chitabe Trails there is one ‘family room’ – where two halves of the room each have two beds, and share an interconnecting bathroom area.Where to stay
There are just three choices here. Chitabe
and Chitabe Trails
are run by Wilderness Safaris
, whilst Sandibe
is run by CCAfrica
. These are all very good, but very different, camps.
<< Click on the camp's manes, on the left menu above, for more details of these camps - and also for details of the area's flora and fauna.