Chobe Water Villas- Inspiring Tranquility

Crossing the wide expanse of Chobe waters from Botswana to Namibia, all one sees is the row of A-frame peaks, like the zigzagged scales on a crocodile’s tail. Grinning Gilbert sees us safely onto the sturdy boardwalk-jetty and then…

Secluded Sophistication

A tranquil, sophisticated ambience is endorsed by the warm, welcome smiles of graceful Subiya tribe staff who drift through our neutral-coloured, fascinatingly designed “home” for the next few days. The simplicity, the open spaces, the cubist arches and columns- all reminiscent of an Afro-Roman palace. Organic textures, desert sand and seed-pods capturing the essence of Namibia’s simple beauty.

Stylish, chic, elegant, arty and many other adjectives apply. The attention to detail is noteworthy, furnishings, fixtures reflect a fine eye for design with an enviable artistic flair. So too the architecture.

The complex and intriguing layout leads the eye and invites exploration of interleading indoor and outdoor spaces. Gentle steps to a patch of manicured grass, sunken seating with hot rock firepits, a long infinity pool, overhead metalwork extending the indoor-outdoor flow, ringed by trees and shrubs with cushioned alcove seating dotted about- one could spend hours just taking it in.

“God, this place inspires me! I love beautiful things, beautiful places”

exclaims Hilary. I had popped in once for a quick lunch and had been dying to return, so am chuffed to be so vindicated- especially by someone with a home on the riverbank and a good idea of what is on offer elsewhere.

Boardwalks interwoven amidst natural flora of silver clusterleaf and sausage trees lead to the villas. 

What a welcome. A cool, spotlessly clean space where an impressive variety of materials have been cleverly used to create ultimate luxury and comfort. Meshed inner curtains soften the view onto the daba grass and the river.  The room itself has the best of everything including a cabinet containing a kettle with multi-boiling points, exquisite wines, full mini bar and snacks, great coffee and a superb selection of teas and black china- all lit by automatic lighting. The bathroom is superb, as are the lemon-verbena pampering lotions.

The outside deck has been cleverly railed like the bow of a cruise liner to maximise the effect of being “at sea on the Chobe”. I keep expecting distant trees to move past the uprights, or past the windows when lounging on the emperor size bed. Delectably comfortable loungers are a temptation to stay on deck all day but once the clouds of whistling ducks have settled into the evening, resist the temptation of staying aboard as disembarking back to the palace heralds the start of another experience – a feast for any aesthete.

Clever lighting maximises the spaces and the art. Epauletted fruit bats silently dance amongst the giant leaves of fruit trees. The rim flow swimming pool has transformed into ink, reflecting the last hint of the African day. In the dining area, resplendent with gleaming glass, crockery, cutlery and crisp linen, one gets very excited at the thought of a menu which will surely complement. And it does, magnificently.

A degustation menu- seven little courses of delectable tastes- awaits. Chef Linus Siyambangu changes his menu daily, so the following night it’s his Sense Experience. Tastes to remember include seeded and rosemary lavash, fresh basil pesto, apple and cucumber gazpacho, superbly plated kudu fillet with perfectly complementary selection of veggies, red pepper puree and red wine sauce- probably trumped by the pan seared Norwegian salmon dish and the excellent strawberry cheesecake.

The lodge is transformed at night by the truly exemplary lighting (did I mention the lighting?), seducing one to tarry here, tarry there.

Tarrying is lovely but the sun rising in front of the villa reminds one there are things worth doing.

A quickish breakfast (we never get beyond the Continental option) and we are on a boat and across the river to Botswana immigration to get passports stamped and be welcomed by N’Jay Sankwasa, our Flame of Africa game guide. Then we’re into the unfenced 11700km2 Chobe National Park for a morning game drive- never a disappointment.

Back from learning about the wildlife, including a lion we spot within a few minutes- as well as the birds, history and plants and our game vehicle becomes a boat- surely the best way to view game? Undoubtedly a wonderful way to enjoy a lunch and an afternoon cruise, with a quick nap before din-dins.

The bed itself provides inspiration for me, seeking an air conditioning solution to a double volume house. The overhead canopy does not merely provide a rail for the mosquito curtain, but a curtain of air-conditioned air.

We’re not the only ones to be inspired. SABC3’s Top Billing had just been and their take of Chobe Water Villas plays on screens (elsewhere), while we just play.

Getting There:
Airlink is a privately owned airline business, operating as a regional feeder Airline, connecting travellers to more than 55 routes within southern Africa and St Helena Island.
Airlink provides direct scheduled flights from Johannesburg to Kasane (Chobe), Botswana. With an all Jet service, Airlink provides a Business Class service, styled in the manner of a European intra-continental service.
Through airlink’s alliance with SAA, travellers can connect conveniently, effortlessly and seamlessly, with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.
Airlink is a member of South African Airways Loyalty programme -Voyager.
Discover more:  www.flyairlink.com
Book Direct:  https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-kasane

Nalitumila (thank you in Subiya) to Chobe Water Villas and Flame of Africa.

 

 

The Silo Hotel, Cape Town

I’d motored into Cape Town on the Wednesday. Basically to get a haircut and a carwash and to attend to some business. Luckily, I finished the business early and since   I’d dressed up in a beautiful double cuffed Paul Smith shirt I ventured into the streets of hipster central in search of Robert and Alberto.

In search of hope.

Hope that these two charmers could be persuaded to join me for lunch and CheninBlanc in one of Bree Street’s sun dappled bistros.

Alas. It was not to be. Robert had an appointment and Alberto had to keep an eye on the Gallery, with its fresh consignment of treasures.

Alberto told of Cape Town’s latest artsy hotel venture as he guided me through the display of Villa sculptures and mid-century glass ware. A conversion of grain silos on the old dockside.

All dolled up, with the perfect place to go

I headed off into the high noon.

At the lift I met Magdalena. Beautiful. Beautifully groomed. Impeccably put together. We exchanged witticisms whilst standing in the parking garage waiting for the concierge to unlock the lift lobby door.

New hotels are bound to have teething problems, don’t you know.

 

 

 

 

Charm, wit and an impossibly handsome man in immaculate tails. All of us crisp and smiling. The lobby a perfectly understated transition from the harsh parking garage   to the lushness of The Silo Hotel. Polished concrete floor. Limed brick work. Hand finished plaster walls. Three shades of grey. Dazzling yellow velvet sofa. Satin stainless steel, mysteriously abstract artwork, all in all the right places.

The lift arrived, we entered, looked at each and laughed as we chanted the mantra that is so often silent or sadly unnecessary, “perfect lighting.” More than that, the perfect lift. Narrow oak panelling, with mirror in the wainscoting. A shallow chandelier on the ceiling, much like the old Maharani, far across South Africa in Durban all those years ago, except for the artfully incorporated stainless steel of course.

We looked fabulous. Fabulous.

I handed Magdalena my card before we parted on the sixth floor.

Two laughing girls got into the lift.

Keep in mind if you please, that I am of  a vintage when all I meet seem younger      than me and almost without exception are either ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, or ‘children’. It leaves me feeling fatherly, or patriarchal in the nicest possible way, of course.

 

The girls, gorgeous and groomed, embraced me, kissed my cheeks and insisted that I join them for lunch.

I did. I’ve never said no to lunch.

The roof deck reminds me too, strangely, of the Maharani. The ghosts of grand hotels passed. The luminous green lawn (here it’s AstroTurf, used to marvellous effect as a kind of witty outdoor carpeting) and bright yellow parasols channelling Sol Kerzner and the gold and sunny yellow years of Southern Sun.

 

 

 

 

The maître d’ greeted the girls like he knew them and had been expecting them. He recognised me in the manner only an expert restauranteur can.

The menu beautifully conceived by Veronica Canha-Hibbert, previously of the Ellerman House, consists of deconstructed old favourites- perfect for light snacking and ideal to enjoy with drinks. A Cosmo for Jo and a Belling for Candice. I went straight for one of the Chenin Blancs that my new world in the Swartland has led me to lately. Botanical the Citrusdal Winery a fine choice, I thought. Peachy and lush with a long finish, deeply dry on the palate. The girls normally seduced by Sauvignon Blanc were surprised and delighted by it (280ZAR).

I enjoyed my chilled Chenin with finely made Vietnamese vegetable rolls (ZAR95), served with a startlingly pleasant and piquant sauce. Water. Candice ordered the prawn tempura (ZAR225), divine! Jo-Anne highly exited by the deconstructed lamb curry roti (ZAR160). Fab, (and made all the more interesting by the crisped up roti.)

 

 

 

 

We lounged back on beautifully cushioned sofas, and chatted and giggled and bonded, eating and drinking off tables of just the perfect height and size. Linen napkins and beautiful cutlery. Paper thin glassware.

The staff are all absurdly attractive and the view is unsurpassed- certainly in Cape Town and possibly even the world. The calmest of calm Cape days and the finest of Chenin Blanc (did I mention the Chenin), sails dotted over Table Bay and the friendly fussing of the service team as they cheerfully chatted and wobbled finding their feet in a restaurant only just open, but delivering fine unobtrusive service anyway.

 

A restaurant tinged with nostalgia that they know not, the pleasure of the company of strangers.

1650ZAR including a tip. We didn’t use the pool.

THE SILO HOTEL
Silo Square, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town
https://www.theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo/overview/