Chobe – What’s The Buzz?

If you have an eye for natural beauty, you’ll know as soon as you reach the Chobe River, in north- eastern Botswana. It’s a wildlife lover and nature photographer’s dream.

For elephant lovers and safari fanatics, the great elephant concentrations on the Chobe River occur during the winter months. For birders, the wet summer months are the drawcard, when the migrant birds are in full colour, and antelope start dropping their young. Any time of the year, the Chobe provides the most spectacular sunsets.

Game viewing in the dry season pretty much guarantees excellent sightings, since animals have to visit the river to drink when all the watering holes dry up. And viewing game from the water is possibly the nicest way. And possibly the nicest way to do that is aboard Flame of Africa’s Chobe Explorer.

On board this triple decker, spacious, wood cladded river cruiser you have what my fellow “shipmates” described as their best Chobe experience ever- and between us we had had over 50 such experiences.

Skipper David Twembuchi, barman and charming front of house Ronald Rungwe, with Kabelano, Mercy and Malebogo running the kitchen, were warmly welcoming. Then, it was a short hop from the Flame of Africa jetty in the town of Kasane, Botswana, before the boat nudged in at the Chobe National Park offices to gain entry permit to the park (the cruise is on the Chobe River and there are happily no immigration formalities). After our welcome briefing and drinks from Ronny we were sedately on our way.

Drinks glasses became prism glass as guests reached for cameras when skipper David got us up surprisingly close and personal- especially considering the boat’s size- with a plethora of wildlife. One such involved a massive bull elephant swimming across a river channel and then taking a keen interest in the long grasses at the boat’s prow, causing an evacuation of the lower dining deck.

After 1 ½ glasses of Nederburg Brut bubbly, backing off from one sighting was a giddy delight as David spun the big vessel almost 360 degrees.

The dining deck is where we enjoyed a superb lunch: delicious Botswana beef steak, boerewors, chicken, various salads, potato bake with excellent freshly made bread- followed by a delightful dessert and accompanied by a selection of wine.

The five adults at our table- repeat visitors to the area and one a riverside resident- repeatedly exclaimed that this was their best Chobe River experience. Exclaimed may not be the correct term. We were too laidback for that, lulled by the sumptuousness and the pace. And it is the pace, together with the service and the space afforded, that sets the Chobe Explorer apart. Another plus is that you have a head start on the usual afternoon mass launch, seeing plenty of wildlife long before, without any jostling for photo opportunities.

Above the dining deck is the bar and lounge, with ample, comfortable couches which seemed even comfier post-lunch- and the top deck has a formation of suspended, luxurious loungers which really top off the show.

Gently swaying atop the boat is the dreamiest way to top off the day. And, having launched around 11 am, it was on the stroke of 6pm that we nudged up to the jetty again- pretty much the whole, glorious day.

I shamelessly plug Flame of Africa, simply because of my experience using them. It was a Google search for a transfer company that kicked it off and I have extensively used them for transfers between Kasane and Victoria Falls, 80 km distant, and/or Livingstone. I’ve also experienced lodges they market and activities they provide in the Chobe area.

Another recommended river outing, if all day is too long, is aboard the sumptuous Chobe Style- perhaps with lunch on The Raft. Flame of Africa owner, Brett McDonald, lives most of the time on the Chobe and constructed this unique 64-seater floating restaurant from scraps and throwaways.

A trip to the Chobe or the Zambezi would not be complete without trying your hand at fishing. These waters are home to the voracious, powerful tiger fish- a true thrill to every serious or amateur angler. Capture and release is the policy with tiger, while “hook and cook” is adopted for the delicious bream that frequent these waters.

Impalila Island is well worth a visit. It has a  colourful history and is uniquely positioned, straddling the intersection of four countries. Here you can enjoy a Zimbabwean Zambezi beer, a Botswana St Louis, a Zambian Mozi and a Namibian Tafel and know that the countries from whence they came are not more than 200 metres away.

Also try to make time for a visit away from Chobe- in particular to Victoria Falls, if you’ve never been. Even if you have, it never loses its awesomeness.

Luxury Meets Nature- Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa

Fancy a round of golf? Do so in very close proximity to the vast elephant population surrounding the course at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Magical- even if you have to wait for various game to be coaxed off the course.

Here on the banks of the Chobe River, in north- eastern Botswana, on the outskirts of the town of Kasane, there’s no rush in any case- unless it’s to bring your camera or binoculars to your eye in this fabulous game viewing destination. Rather chill, catch a cocktail, as you enjoy views from the beautiful grounds across the river and the floodplains into Namibia on the far side.

Enjoy the friendly service, the extensive facilities and activities- on and off site- not forgetting about nine holes of golf of course. Enjoy, too, the old world yet fresh style of this grande dame, the recent recipient of a major overhaul.

The brief was to freshen up the whole property, taking inspiration from the river and the surrounding vegetation, and to make it contemporary. I would definitely say the overall tone of “luxury meets nature” was achieved and, having visited before, appreciate the new decks, the decluttering, the clean, contemporary surfaces with minimalistic organic elements like chandeliers and iconic pieces of furniture and wall sculptures.

The fresh blues and greens with greys and white lighten everything and create a cool, calm, refreshing feel which complements the warmth of the thatch and terracotta flooring. The tech upgrades are much appreciated, with an improved Wi-Fi experience and many more plug points- although the large tv in my room was never switched on. Too much to do.

Mowana, more elevated than other lodges on the Botswana river bank, has arguably the best views, with all 112 bedrooms and four suites having sliding glass doors opening onto a private patio with views of the Chobe River, though you may have to share the patio with vervet monkeys or a warthog or two, especially if you have fruit. The upstairs bar is the place to be if you want to see the most beautiful African sunsets.

Within the resort complex the mowana (baobab) is a central focus point. The high thatched roof of the lobby pretty much points at the tree, and lodge buildings circle it- at a respectful distance.

The hotel amenities are superb. it has tennis court, several swimming pools, golf course, gym, spa- and the masseurs really know their stuff!

Mowana is a 10-minute drive from the North part of the 11 700 square kilometre Chobe National Park. Arguments rage as to whether the elephant population is 60 000 or 120 000. It really does not matter which is correct as the sight of herds numbering in the hundreds is a sight you will never forget. In this park, where predators like lion, leopard and wild dog abound, it is no wonder it has been called the Galapagos of Africa.

Another argument (mine) is that the best way to view game is from a boat. Mowana’s custom designed game viewing boats are designed to go where the larger game viewing boats are not able to, creating an opportunity to get up close and personal with what the Chobe has to offer.

Chobe Style

Other options on the Chobe- and neighbouring Zambezi- include an outing on Flame of Africa’s luxurious double decker Chobe Style or a day aboard the triple decker Chobe Explorer, or fishing. These particular waters are home to the voracious, most powerful power to weight ratio fresh water fish in the world- the tiger fish- a true delight to every serious or amateur angler.


 

 

 

Or outings to Victoria Falls (full day) which, if you’ve not been, is a moving must-do. Impalila Island, which straddles the intersection of where four countries- Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia- meet, is another interesting visit, with a huge 2000-year-old baobab tree riddled with bullets from when South African armed forces used the tree as both a lookout, a machine gun placement and- clearly- target practice.

That mowana outlasted all- and, I’m sure, your memories of Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa will similarly linger. You can experience this by taking advantage of the 2019 Mowana Christmas special of P7425 (approximately R10042) for a three night stay.