Chitabe and Sandibe Concession (NG31)

An exclusive wilderness area of 28 000 hectares.

Bordering the Moremi Game Reserve to the north and the east, the Chitabe Concession is bounded by Santantadibe River and Gomoti Channel. Although predominantly flat and comprised of Kalahari sand the area contains a variety of distinct environments due to local differences in both frequency and duration of inundation.

These environments include the grassy floodplains separating the Gomoti Channel from the stunted mopane and acacia woodland in the eastern half to the permanent rivers, lagoons and swamps of the western Santantadibe half of the concession characterised by wooded islands and papyrus beds.

The Sandibe area in the northest of NG 31 has become over half permanent water which is an extreme change; previously it was an almost entirely dry area.  This change is part of a slow process, due to tectonic change and movement of water courses, in which the western side of the Delta has been drying out since the middle of the twentieth century.  At the same time, more water has been flowing to the east, into the Khwai system.  The Gomoti River was in fact dry from the early 1980s but has flowed for the last twenty years.  Chitabe is much drier and almost fifty percent floods only seasonally with a small area of permanent water.

Animals

The Chitabe concession is a renowned place to see leopard: high concentrations of impala drawn to their favoured habitat of mixed mature woodland and floodplain favour these elusive big cats.  This is also a stronghold for lion.

Other frequently encountered species include buffalo and elephant.  Both of these species are seen in small numbers except at the beginning of the dry season when large breeding herds traverse the concession.  These really are herds of impressive numbers; buffalo herds in these months number in the thousands.  The reason for this migration is that wildlife moves out from the Delta into the drier mopane woodland areas to the east (ie NG 14 to NG 20 being the Kwando, Selinda, Linyanti, Khwai and Kwara concessions) where seasonal pans in the clay soil provide water during the rains.  These water sources dry up from around June, causing the animals that have dispersed into that mopane hinterland to travel back into the areas of permanent water, such as those in the north of NG 31.

This concession is known for having a good population of African wild dog and is associated with these animals in part because of the work of Dave and Helen Hamman.  The Hammans are the owners of Chitabe and Chitabe Lediba and they made a film on the Mombo pack of wild dogs which involved studying and following them for two years.  They shared their wealth of knowledge with Dr Tico McNutt of the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) (formerly the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project) to aid that organisation’s research and produced the photographic book Running Wild: Dispelling the Myths of the African Wild Dog.  They were the first researchers to note that a pack of wild dog could take down a buffalo, the assumption previously being that dogs would never attack buffalo.

General game species include southern giraffe, warthog, Burchell’s zebra, tsessebe, steenbok and blue wildebeest.

Birds

With a variety of habitat, the concession is home to an estimated 345 resident and migratory species of bird. These vary throughout the year and are seasonally dependent on water levels. Abundant raptors include African hawk eagle and hooded vulture, often found nesting on islands or observed following packs of African wild dog.

A major breeding area for migratory wattled crane and slaty egret, the concession provides excellent sightings of these species. Congregation waterbirds, such as rufous-bellied heron and African pygmy-goose found in the area along with floodplain specialists including long-toed lapwing and collared pratincole with densities of black coucal grassland areas during the summer.

Important resident bird species include copper-tailed coucal, chirping and Luapula cisticola, secretarybird, southern ground-hornbill, swamp boubou, Hartlaub’s babbler, and Dickinson’s kestrel. Various Palearctic migratory species are found in the concession during the austral summer including red-backed shrike, barn swallow, spotted flycatcher and Eurasian golden oriole.

Plantlife

The flora of the concession ranges from a large area almost exclusively of mopane and acacia woodland in the dry and clay-soil south.  Chitabe is close to this southern mopane but also has stands of large riparian trees such as the sausage tree, jackalberry and leadwood.  The northeastern side also has vachellia acacia scrub (camelthorn and umbrella species are both present here) and other Kalahari sand loving species such as silver cluster and purple pod terminalia.

The watery environment of Sandibe in the northwest has a large concentration of real fan palms.

Access

Fly into the camps via the shared airstrip which is almost in the centre of the concession and equidistant between Chitabe and Sandibe.

Best Months

Generally, the truism holds: densities of game are higher in the dry season and the huge herds of buffalo and elephant become a feature for the reasons described above.  However, unlike some of the more marginal Delta areas, game is consistent all year round in NG 31, because it is at the centre of the Delta and so water is permanent.  As is the case for the rest of the Delta, birding is best in the wet summer months because the birds adopt their breeding plumage but, again, birdlife is rich all year round.

Camps

Chitabe Camp | Chitabe Lediba Camp | Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

Accommodation in this Area

From $1118 per person

Qorokwe Camp

Qorokwe camp is a striking and contemporary styled luxury camp set in a prime location, on a private concession in the game rich southern reaches of the Okavango Delta. Wildlife is rich and varied here, with particularly good predator sightings. The eight large and comfortable suites each feature private pools and have been designed to maximise the impact of the Delta vistas. Sleek, minimalist water features mirror the water of the lagoon.

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From $1118 per person

Chitabe Lediba

Set on a game rich private concession in the south eastern Okavango, Chitabe Lediba is the smaller, family friendly sister camp to Chitabe, ideal for small groups and families. Chitabe Lediba is situated a few hundred metres from the main Chitabe camp, on the other side of the island and benefits from the same fantastic game viewing opportunities as the main Chitabe camp. This area is known for its high concentration of predators, game drives here are some of the most exciting in the Okavango.

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From $1118 per person

Chitabe Camp

Chitabe Camp has some of the best game viewing in the Delta. This is no surprise as the Chitabe concession is bordered on three sides by the rich Moremi Game Reserve; thrilling predator sightings are common though the game viewing is interestingly varied. Chitabe is a classic tented camp offering a traditional safari with a strong reputation for excellent guiding.

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From $1,140 per person

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge

Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge is set along ancient game paths where the gentle majesty of elephants have often tread. This is an extremely productive game viewing area. Twelve luxurious guest cottages lie beneath a cool forest canopy of wild palms and gnarled fig trees. Here exclusive luxury can be enjoyed within an intimately wild setting. The lodge design is striking and utterly unique, the experience luxurious and the game viewing excellent.

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