Caviar and French Champagne – The Origins of Camp Okavango.
By Leigh Kemp
Camp Okavango is a luxury lodge situated on an Island in the permanent water area of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It is pure luxury catering for visitors who are seeking the best Africa has to offer but with a high degree of comfort. From the air the island seems remote, which it is, but the sight of the airstrip will still any misgivings.Camp Okavango came into being over twenty years ago when a visitor from the USA, Jesse Neil, fell in love with Botswana and decided on establishing a lodge, not so much as a place for guests but as a personal signature. Jesse Neil spared no expense. Camp Okavango was so ahead of its time that it was ridiculed for its extravagance. Beverly Hills had come to the Okavango!With the lodge she built a home for herself. Expensive imported materials ensured that she did not want for anything. Rumours abounded of the black-tiled bathroom with mirrors on the ceiling. Caviar and French champagne were served to guests that were considered worthy to enter her house.The lodge was a hobby, a way for her to enjoy a lifestyle most only dreamed of. Once on the list of America’s top 50 woman, Jesse Neil was where she wanted to be. Young men were employed for their looks, chosen from the photographs that had to be submitted upon application. This only served to fuel the rumours, rumours like the row of toothbrushes in the bathroom left behind by the young men she employed. In a place where life was linked to the changing of the seasons, Jesse Neil was like a raging tornado ripping through the land.Jesse Neil is no longer at Camp Okavango but her legend lives on. The house is still there and is now used as accommodation at the lodge. Many of those who ridiculed her all those years ago are now involved in companies that are erecting far more extravagant lodges in the Okavango today.