I sat on an electric boat in the middle of the Chobe River, I couldn’t tell you where we were exactly, but it didn’t matter. The sun had begun to set, the sky was a blend of dusty blues, warm oranges and pretty pinks. There was of course, in true Chobe fashion, a herd of elephants toward the horizon. They were making their way back in to the bush from their afternoon of mud baths and thirst quenching expeditions. The elephants and trees were dark silhouettes in front of the African sun. The entire image looked like a painting. I could smell the pungent, earthy smell of elephants. The smell of Africa, of home. It was just one of those truly magical moments in life, I felt as if I were in a dream.
If you haven’t experienced Botswana, you should definitely add it to your bucket list. It is incredible. Although I have grown up on the Kruger National Park and am blessed to be surrounded by wildlife and nature every day... Botswana is an entirely different experience; it is still so wild.
The trip over was a breeze. We had planned to spend a couple of days in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls after Chobe, so we flew from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls International Airport, with British Airways.
It was a quick 1 hour 35 minute flight over, and as we exited baggage claim our transfer was waiting for us.
We always use Wild Horizons, whether it be for our own families travels or for my clients. They are a great; reliable, and extremely professional. Not only do they do transfers but they also offer an array of activities and have a few stunning properties in Vic Falls.
From there it was about an hour and 20 minutes drive before we arrived at the Kazungula border (Zimbabwe-Botswana Border). Our driver assisted us through immigration, which was quick and painless, and carried our luggage to where we were met by an open game drive vehicle, which then took us on to Chobe.
The roads in Chobe are a thick river sand and our driver was a pro, as he maneuvered his way along. I was enjoying the landscapes that are so very different to what I am used to. The bush is filled with beautiful shades of bronze, golds and oranges at this time of year. Winter is the best time for a safari, and we saw much plains game along the way.
And then I saw it… the magnificent Chobe River, and of course there were elephants wherever I looked, dotted all the way along the river, and many pods of hippos.
Did you know that Chobe is home to over 40 000 elephants (the largest density of elephants in Africa)? They are simply magnificent. I was in the land of giants, and this thought absolutely delighted me.
The guide pointed to the land on the other side, and explained that, that was Namibia and as there was no fencing the animals could roam freely as they pleased. Although on the Namibian side, it was not a national park, but where the community are living and farming.
About an hour on from the Botswana Border, we were driving in to the lodge, the game drives were on their way out for their afternoon safari. Many excited guests waved at us, and I watched as the entire fleet of vehicles driven by an all-female guiding team, lined up and stopped so that the tyres could be switched to 4x4 mode in order to get through the sand.
On a side note, I’d just like to say that if you ever decide to self-drive Chobe please make sure that you hire a 4x4 and that you really know how to drive in 4x4 mode. We actually came across visitors that had got themselves stuck in the thick river sand and they were trying to shovel their way out with a tiny spade. The lady was on the brink of tears, and we called for help for them. Chobe is also perhaps not the best spot to alight from your vehicle, when you are not in a designated area, with elephants around every corner.
I love the fact that the entire guiding team at Chobe Game Lodge are females (also known as the Chobe Angels). Guiding tends to be such a male dominated field, and Chobe Game Lodge has really empowered these women by doing this. It is also worth mentioning that these ladies are super qualified, knowledgeable and fantastic all around.
The lodges game drive vehicles are electric, and so are the boats. Not only is this great for the environment, but you can barely hear them on safari.
Smiley faces were waiting for us upon arrival, and we were warmly greeted by the wonderful staff of Chobe Game Lodge. We were given a brief orientation, before we headed over to the terrace to enjoy a delicious high tea of amaretti biscuits, berry cake, spinach pastries and chocolate fruit bars. Which we washed down with freshly brewed coffee, tea and ice tea.
I marveled at all the beautiful décor that adorned the lodge. The many seating areas, the Linyati Bar, with its Bedouin tent style and swimming pool area which has beautiful beds to sun tan on. The lodge boasts a Moorish style, combined with a touch of Zanzibar, and it is simply exquisite.
We had a full day of travel, so we were pretty shattered and opted to rather stay at the lodge instead of going on the sunset boat cruise. I was thrilled that we did this, as we took a stroll down to the wonderful Chobe Boardwalk, which is made of composite decking and is about 250 metres along the Chobe River with the most incredible views.
A true signature highlight of the lodge. As it winds along the Chobe River, there are many different seating areas, ideal for guests to enjoy their privacy.
We wandered all the way to the very end of the boardwalk, where we found a Chobe Love Lock site (The first in Botswana), all proceeds from these locks which can be purchased and engraved at the curio shop go to the community welfare projects in the Chobe district.
We sipped on Gin and Tonics and watched the sun disappear over the Chobe river, as all the safari boats called it a night and went home. We were still sat there as darkness was creeping in, watching a massive herds of ellies. It was peaceful, all I could hear was the chuckling of a hippo from time to time, as he’d peep out the water and stare at us, and at times open his mouth as wide as it could go, putting on a show for us.
Euphoria had set in, and I felt as though I was at home. That is the sort of feeling that the Botswanan people and Chobe evoke; that sense of being home, that sense of family. I felt happy, I felt content.
That night we dined in the boma, which is situated right on the banks of the Chobe River. This of course tickled my fancy to no end, as I am such a foodie, and loved the variety that was on offer. It was a barbecue night, with a tantalizing selection of meats and they had also prepared a lamb on a spit. Giant black iron pots were filled with a delicious assortment of different sides including pap ( a thick white porridge), which traditionally is paired with spicy veggies in Botswana. Among other options was oxtail and beans.
The highlight was the traditional Botswanan Bread, which is called “Pa Pa Ta”. They roll their dough in to small balls, and then put it over the fire for 3-4 minutes. I ate this with a lashing of real butter, absolutely delicious as the butter melted in to these little bites from heaven.
While enjoying our dinner we listened to the talented Marimba band, their music drifting across the wilderness. It was a chilly evening, but I didn’t feel the cold because fires had been lit around the tables, and blankets strewn over the dining chairs. It was cozy, listening to the African bush night choir, with a warm blanket over my shoulders, watching the hurricane lanterns flickering under the nights sky, and the stars twinkling so brightly.
We even had some company under the deck, a honey badger scurrying around whilst foraging for his dinner.
We finished off with a night cap in the Linyati Bar and headed off to our fabulous family suite.
The family suite was wonderfully spacious, with a lounge, 2 bedrooms, a superb bathroom with an en suite shower and bath, and a his and hers basin, complimentary mini bar and coffee and tea station. I ran myself the most divine bubble bath and soaked for ages, listening to the night sounds. The suite has two toned walls of soft greys, and natural grass cloth and is perfectly complemented by patterned curtains, colourful pillows and pieces of décor and furniture that give off that Zanzibar touch. The outside area boasts a plunge pool, and lounger chairs with enchanting views of the grounds and Chobe River.
We had many visitors over the next couple of days; warthog dined on the lawns below, baboons came for a drink from the pool, and herds of ellies frolicked in the river.
There is something wonderfully exciting about a morning safari, waking up at the crack of dawn while its still dark out, bundling up in your warmest clothes, and sipping a piping hot cup of coffee, whilst dipping a rusk before hopping on the open vehicle and heading out in to the bush.
I could hear the baboons barking, as they began to wake from there slumber, the impalas grunting as they chased each other about, and the guinea fowls chattering, as the mist was rolling over the chobe river. The sun began to rise through the trees, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the Candy floss sky of pastel pinks, soft oranges and baby blues.
Our guide, Kay, was fantastic. She knew so much of the bush, and told us many interesting stories. As we drove along the river, a massive herd of buffalo were walking on both the Namibian side and ours.
Just before we left the lodge, Kay had asked us what we wanted to really see. My reply was a Lechwe (A Botswanan Antelope) that likes water. I know it seemed like an odd request, and one of the guests had actually asked me why a Lechwe out of all things… I responded simply with “well we don’t have Lechwe where I come from, plus I really love the different kinds of antelope and their unique markings”.
Kay really delivered and showed us some Lechwe grazing on a flood plain right by the buffalo. It was picturesque as you had the river, the flood plain with the lechwe and then a herd of buffalo more toward the horizon all walking in a straight line, the sun had just risen, and swirls of dust surrounded them as they marched on. Magic.
There are no rest camps in Chobe, only small picnic spots with restrooms.
Another added bonus of staying at Chobe Game Lodge, is that it is the only permanent lodge situated inside Chobe National Park, which means that you have that extra time on safari in the mornings and afternoon, when all other cars and boats have had to make their way to the gate in order to abide by the parks opening and closing times, because it isn’t that far to get back to the lodge.
We headed back to the lodge in time for the most scrumptious breakfast spread, which was served in the boma area overlooking the Chobe River. It was beautiful the way the sunlight glistened over the water, and I sipped on a cup of delicious coffee while biting in to a freshly baked croissant with cheese. I have to admit that breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and although I have traveled the world extensively the Chobe Game Lodge breakfast is definitely a list topper.
Our day was jam packed, because we wanted to do as much as possible. This is where I must emphasize that a 2-night stay in Chobe is definitely not enough. I would definitely aim for a minimum stay of 3 nights, as there is so much to do, and the lodge is so stunning that you also want to have ample time to catch some sun next to the swimming pool or laze on a comfy chair along the Chobe Boardwalk, taking in the magnificent views.
We took a mid day safari, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. There was a cool breeze coming off the river, the boat was so silent, complete tranquility. All I could hear was the quiet flow of water as we glided on. Striped swallows were flying above us, and the guide told us that they nest underneath the boat.
We approached herds and herds of Ellies drinking water, and cooling off. It was fascinating to watch as one herd would arrive, and the other would be leaving, each to their own. As they ate the grass along the river bank they would first dust it off using their trunk and only then eat it.
The water of course doesn’t only draw the ellies, and many other animals came down for a drink; herds of impala, troops of baboons, kudu, many, many water birds. We also saw some pretty sizey crocodiles.
Just before we arrived back at the lodge for dinner, we saw a herd of ellies swimming from Botswana to the Namibian side. A sight to behold, as they helped their young through, some so tiny all you can see is there little trunk as they swim on.
On our sunset cruise, as magic hour was upon us, golden light danced around the grass and trees, and reflected off the river, we meandered along and found a pod of hippos floating in the shallows, curiously watching us, a lone elephant bull was in the background, another moment I added to my memory box.
We also came across a troop of baboon trying to steal eggs from birds that had made nests in the river embankment walls.
We were delightfully surprised to arrive back to our suite to freshen up for dinner and find that a table had been set up and laid beautifully next to our pool with hurricane lanterns. A private dinner just for our family. We were treated to a delicious ala cart- 3- course meal, before retiring to bed.
I woke the next morning and watched a herd of ellies meandering along the Chobe River from my terrace. What a wonderful send off, I thought.
My heart was heavy to leave Chobe, and even heavier to leave the Chobe Game Lodge family behind. The service was superb, and the staff really made us feel like we were part of it. They never left us wanting for anything.
I loved everything about our days spent here. Although it is the perfect romantic destination to spend with your loved one, and I could definitely picture getting married (Did I mention that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had their second wedding here in 1975?) or spending my honeymoon here, it is also family friendly which makes it all the more appealing, as they cater to all. We made memories as a family, that we’ll cherish for always.
As we drove out the gates, I looked back one last time, feeling completely inspired and rejuvenated. Chobe was therapy for my soul and Botswana had stolen a piece of my heart. I will definitely be returning again.