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nXamaseri's embrace

Words & Photos: Chris Green

Arriving at the water's edge, the splendour that surrounds us hints at what is to come. The other guests and I step into the waiting boat for the ride to nXamaseri Island Lodge, situated in the Okavango Delta, and our journey begins on a path of clear water through a savannah of reeds. Jacana, also known as the Jesus bird, both greater and lesser, gaze at the boats passing and some reluctantly glide to a safer distance.

A pied kingfisher looking for its next meal.

Photo credit: Chris Green

The world shifts as the water opens up and the boat enters one of the main channels of the Okavango Delta. Beauty unfolds itself to welcome us, as pied kingfishers rise, twirling together.

Fish eagles silently stand sentinel, occasionally adding their solo song to the symphony of sound. Bee eaters constantly attract our attention as they dart before the boat, they are like light captured in colour. As the boat rounds the final corner, nXamaseri comes into view. Time slows as the camp leans in, framed by the afternoon light. The moment grows, wrapping itself around you and as the boat enters the calm waters next to the jetty, we slip into nXamaseri time.

For some, nXamaseri offers a place of rest after a long safari or months of hard work. For others, it is the call of the tiger fish and the expected struggle with one of fishing’s best fighters. Lastly, there are those who have come to view the wonders of the bird life, which add sound, colour and movement to an already exquisite landscape. I am here for the opportunity to experience the delta from a new perspective, as well as the prospect of tiger fishing.

Reluctant to let any of the daylight hours slip by, I wake up just as the sky acquires its first brush of orange. From my bed, I can see the river being lit up by the predawn golden glow. The birds seem to rise with me and the call of a fish eagle prompts me to go for a quick morning shower. A race along the wooden walkway soon follows, as I rush to get to the jetty before the sun breaks above the horizon. The rising sun finds me sitting on the jetty, watching the landscape explode into colour as the birds take their day’s first flight. A piercing call announces the arrival of a pair of fish eagles, which spent every day in the trees above or opposite us. Otters glide past, morning and evening, breaking the sunrise reflecting on the water. As the morning begins to settle down, it is back to the deck to attack the continental breakfast spread.

It was then onto the water for the morning's fishing. Although not the ideal time of year for tiger fishing, during my two days at the camp I was able to catch 13 tigers, despite letting around 70% escape me. These fish have an incredibly hard mouth, meaning you have to strike aggressively and at the right time to keep them on the hook. Once on, they offer a great fight. Most fisherman will have heard that the tiger fish is the ultimate fresh water fight, and it is a well-deserved reputation. Every now and then we pull a bream in, excellent alternative entertainment.

Tiger fishing is just one of the activities to keep you entertained at nXamaseri.

Photo credit: Chris Green

The fish usually begin to go off the bite around eleven, so I return to the lodge for some relaxation before lunch. A highlight of my stay is the food, especially the home-made fresh bread and rolls. Every meal is characterised by a comment from one of the ladies on the fact that they are going to have to work off the weight being added on, but they were unwilling to eat any less. After lunch, those knocked into a stupefied state spend the afternoon napping or lounging on the couches. For those still able to function, there is the option of a walk around the island, fishing off the jetty or taking in the bird life on a relaxing makoro ride.

The arrival of afternoon tea is the signal for us to rouse ourselves from our respective states of ineptitude. Cake and coffee soon has everyone ready for an afternoon fishing session, our desire fuelled by the other groups' fishing stories. Afternoon fishing usually starts slowly, but as the sun begins to slip towards its resting place, the fish start to take. Sunset would find us, hopefully, with a fish on the line, while others break the rippling orange surface of the water around us. A jumping tiger fish, struck by the rays of the setting sun, is a must-see sight. Once the sun drops to a point that necessitates our return to the lodge, we huddle up in our warm jackets and crack open a beer of choice.

Evenings are spent around a blazing fire, drink in hand and comparing safari and fishing stories. The call for dinner is always eagerly received, with everyone moving quickly to the table, drawn by the lure of a delicious three-course meal. As the call of hippos begin to dominate the night sounds, after-dinner drinks are enjoyed around the fire. Reluctantly, we disperse to bed, struck by the realisation that too late a night might mean missing out on the magic of the next morning. As hippos move around, sometimes under your cottage, it is surprisingly easy to slip into a peaceful slumber.

Eventually, it is time to leave nXamaseri and return to the cold embrace of the real world, where time will resume its usual progress. There will always be the memory of nXamaseri though, the music of the birds and the pull of the tiger waiting to welcome us back.

More information
Contact - Email or visit the website, www.nxamaseri.com

Clothes - It is surprisingly cold on the water in the evening, so pack some warm clothes. Most of my time was spent in slops and shorts though.

When to go - For the avid fisherman, plan to go during the barbel run, which normally takes place in early September. It sounds unreal and has gone to the top of my must-do list. For birders, any time is amazing, but my recommendation would be spring.