News & Reviews Africa Botswana Review: Xigera, Botswana

Xigera, pronounced Kij-eh-rah, roughly translates from the local language into “holy hell this place is really expensive”.  Back in that glorious decade of the 2010s, Xigera split from Wilderness Safaris and was taken over by Red Carnation due to some financial stuff that I’m sure will, one day, make it into a book that no one will read.  Then they did what all ex’s should do: bulldoze all memory of the past.  A complete rebuild took place followed by the grand reopening in 2020.  If ever there was the perfect year to launch a hotel, I’m pretty sure it was 2020.  After all, your TripAdvisor page would not receive a single negative review.  Or positive.  But definitely not any negatives, so glass half full, eh?

If you have been here prior to 2020 then your brain is just holding onto useless memories that could instead keep track of what pronouns you’re currently allowed to use.  It shares the same name, but not the same body, like it’s got some Freaking Friday thing going on.  I would say the design is like an African Mombo.  If you’ve not been to Mombo then imagine Xigera but less African.  I hope that helps.  There’s 12 suites, all but one are facing the same direction and all identical, with exception of the artwork.  They are beautiful, private, extremely spacious and well thought through.  They are everything I like to see: modernised, luxurious and localised.  You have a sense of place, but every perk you would hope to get; it is unmistakenly African and a blueprint of all future lodges.  Even those that already think they’re the best.

On the comforts, there are separate air conditioning controls for the living room, bedroom and bathroom; a walk-through wardrobe behind the bed, and a TV in front of the bed that raises from the cabinet.  Everything is beautiful, right down to the uniquely decorated shower floor and gorgeous bathroom.  With the living area, there is plenty of room for being in your room, but even more outside, where you’ll find a large terrace with loungers, tables, chairs and a sofa.  The only problem is the villas are positioned to only receive the morning sun, meaning you’re forced out to the rest of the property during the afternoon.  But then there’s no internet, so the choice becomes shivering of death-by-boredom.  What’s a man to do?

Mo Money Mo Problems

And that brings me onto my issues with Xigera: internet, swimming pools, the wildlife and the price.  And that is it.  The rest is a brilliant safari lodge that feels like the owners didn’t care one bit about money whilst building Xigera.  Problem is, the guests might.  If you don’t like Xigera then we can’t be friends but if you think it’s cheap then we’re gonna be best friends.

Let me talk through those issues.  The internet was painfully slow, but just about usable.  I can live with that.  The problem is that WiFi is only available in your room, the library or the gym.  I get it, they’re trying to take our faces away from our phones, but what if I need to go on my phone to Google something useful like “how do you spell Google”.

The pool looks like someone got to the end of the build and went “fuck, we need a pool” and put it together that afternoon.  It’s really not appealing and the absence of any plunge pools in the rooms might be even more off-putting for some, but not me, cos I ain’t getting in anything less than 32C.

Then there’s the lack of game.  These are Xigera’s words, not mine.  They make it very clear it’s not a place for the best game viewing.  Instead, they offer water experiences, such as canoeing, fishing or river excursions in their double-decker boats.  It’s all very civilised, but I’m here for animal murder, no compromises.  Yet for all their talk of downplaying the action, we spent three hours following a lioness that was hunting, albeit unsuccessfully.  It was still very cool to see her sneak up on her prey and go into a full sprint.  It’s normally only when Trump is around that a pussy runs that fast and far away.  Xigera also benefits from being the only lodge on the conservancy, and my guide, Lesh, was amazing.  However, they are still restricted to drives taking place between 6:30 am> 6:30 pm.

If the price is right

Everything they do at Xigera is superb.  The way they hand you a personalised water bottle as you depart from Maun, the food that awaits you on arrival, the safari vehicles being so comfortable, the poncho’s being the best I’ve ever used.  It feels effortless, but it’s clear so much thought has gone into the guest experience.  When something is this well built and the soft product is so good, it should be a no-brainer to come here.  The problem is once you get here, is there enough to do that you couldn’t do elsewhere?  Segera (coincidentally also an affiliated Wilderness Safaris property) also admits they’re an alternative safari lodge, rather than a game viewing experience, but it is nowhere near the level of Xigera.  So ultimately you have to decide if being somewhere to relax is worth it.  For me, I don’t think it is, but that’s probably because my share portfolio is down 15% this year and I’m now having to sell my children’s toys just so I can afford the basic necessities in life, like a Brunello Cucinelli tailor-made suit that matches my new tan.

If you do decide to leave your room to explore an internetless world, then you are going to find some shit hot food.  Not literally hot, even in the bush, there’s still health and safety guidelines.  I loved the food here.  Like most lodges, it has limitations, such as lunch being some a small selection of sharing platters, and dinner being a few options for starter and mains, but damn was it all fantastic.  I will even award them “Best Milkshake for Men in their 30s”.  It is a typical safari experience, with endless food spread between breakfasts, snacks, afternoon teas, cakes and everything else that makes you feel like a waste of space, but you are compelled to keep eating.

If you do want to burn those calories, they have a gym with TechnoGym equipment, including a rower, treadmill and weights.  But the average safari-goer doesn’t look like they’re about to enter an Ironman triathlon, so instead head to their spa, which has two treatment rooms and a relaxation area.  There’s also a library, gift shop, cos obviously, a bar and what appears to be unlimited seating, including some with stunning views of the landscape and river.  All of this is covered in art specifically designed for the lodge.  It’s all extremely elegant.

The service was very friendly and warm, with everyone knowing my name.  The GM reached out prior to my arrival via my blog, probably to make it harder for me to write a bad review.  I was offended, as that suggests I have feelings.  I had dinner with the GM and all his concerns were misguided, I’m in fact a lovely person.  Just ask anyone that’s me.

The Good

  • Private concession
  • Rooms

The Bad

  • Price
  • Game viewing

The Luxurious

  • Food
  • Service
  • Quality of everything
  • Facilities

Rating

Luxurious

Conclusion

As I like to make clear with every other word, this blog is focused on luxury.  If there’s a 4-star lodge out there that guarantees daily wild dog hunts, I’m still not going.  Not even if the dogs ask really, really nicely.  The first and foremost question: is it luxurious?  Then it’s followed by understanding what it offers.

Xigera is undoubtedly luxurious.  It is a magnificent property that shows what a man can achieve with little more than a dream and millions upon millions of dollars.  But does the experience it offers match up to the price?  That’s not for me, but the market, to decide.  All I will advise is that when you come to Botswana don’t make pick Xigera at the expense of Mombo.  It’s not an either/or, it’s a both.  Go to Mombo for the wildlife experience, then if you want to try something else give Xigera a go.  It’s only a five-minute flight away.

It is the price that is the biggest sticking point, because whilst Xigera is such a brilliant property, at this price point it has to offer something extraordinary, something you cannot get elsewhere.  I’m not sure that it does.  But it might for you.

Room type: Suite Duration: 8 June > 10th June, 2022.  Approx. $10,000/n for a couple

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 7th Jul '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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