The Best of the Okavango Delta: Sandibe Lodge

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Monday, October 17, 2011

The three days we spent at Sandibe are among the most memorable travel days I've ever experienced!  In my prior post I've discussed an overview of the Okavango Delta and our stay at the Xudum Delta Lodge.  As great as that experience was our stay at Sandibe (pronounced San-dee-bee) was even more wonderful. 

Like Xudum, Sandibe is situated in the Okavango Delta just south of the Moremi Game Reserve.  It's a large private concession -- a former game hunting preserve, but now a photo-safari destination -- in a much drier part of the delta than Xudum.  While there are still many channels and pools, there are many large dry stretches of land that lend themselves well to game watching and where you'll find large numbers of animals.  We grew to love our excursions on our rugged Land-Cruiser.  Our guide/ranger, Gee, and young game tracker, Goms, did a masterful job at finding wildlife and positioning us so that we were in close proximity to the animals (without actually bothering them -- most completely ignored us 'though they were aware of us)
 
Each day at Sandibe started with a dawn wake-up call/song/drumming by Gee.  We'd grab a quick cup of coffee and small breakfast and then headed out for a game drive usually lasting about 3 hours.  We'd return to the lodge for "brunch", then have about a four hour break (time for a nap, swim, whatever) before we were served High Tea and then off again for a 3 or so hour late afternoon game drive that lasted until dark.  One night we did an evening game drive using a spotlight to find animals (eg. owl eating a mouse; hyena cub).   We'd return to the Lodge after dark for drinks and dinner.  The food was always of gourmet quality and carefully prepared (no one got sick).  The staff was sweet and very attentive.   Our guides and all the staff at the lodge did a masterful job of taking good care of us. I haven't been so well cared for since my mother took care of me as a child. 

The animal viewing at Sandibe was superb.  We were treated to not only a large assortment and large numbers of animals but often these were extremely close (because it's not a national park the rangers are allowed to drive off-road and position the vehicle to maximize our exposure to the animals.  This was an extremely helpful feature and allowed us to get some fabulous photos.  We saw most of the big animals of Africa here (except rhinos and cheetahs) and I've shared many of better photos of these in this blog post. 

One evening, just before dusk, we went on a motorized boat ride up the permanent channel adjoining Sandibe and tried our hand at fishing.  Our guide, Gee, was the son of a delta  fisherman and an accomplished fisher himself.  We didn't have much luck though Gee did, reeling in one tilapia after another.  Still, it was pleasant to be among the reeds, papyrus and kingfishers.  But you will see little more than birds and plants while on the water. And you need to be wary of hippos which can be very dangerous if startled.  We didn't see any hippos during our boat ride (motor probably scared them away) but if you want to see animals other than birds you need to take a land safari.

Sandibe Lodge consists of a main building with a great open view (and with it monkeys, birds and bats that like to hang about it).  The architecture of the lodge and guest huts/cabins is designed to blend in well with the forest; it harmonizes with rather than distracts from the delta.  The lodge is on a permanent channel of water that's very popular with hippos whom you'll hear "chuckling" and grunting, especially after the sun sets.  Like all "And Beyond" lodges, the complex is entirely open and animals (including some as large as elephants) wander through the place at will (besides an elephant we also saw monkeys, baboons and kudu on the lodge property).  So after dark you'll always be accompanied by a staff person and for nervous clients there's an air horn in your room to summon help if you should feel threatened by anything.   The rooms were wonderful and each had an elevated sitting area where you could watch the birds over the channel.  

Sandibe is a special place.  If I'm ever back near Botswana I want to go back here and recommend it to all without any reservations.
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If you would like to view high resolution images of the attached photos, please click on the following link and enlarge the accompanying slideshow (click on right icon of toolbar): http://drfumblefinger.com/?p=506
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