Chobe, Botswana- Picture Perfect Safaris

Beauty To Fill The Soul and Lens

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.

Chobe Explorer

Chobe Explorer
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.

Raise Your Glasses

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.

Frontiers, Borders, Intersections

Chobe/Kasane and the surrounding area is frontier territory. Sedudu island in the middle of the floodplain was previously disputed territory, with the Namibian and Botswana flags swapping duties- Namibia being across the river.

Impalila Island 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 about 200 yards away- and the nearby village of Kazangula has a new rail and road bridge connecting the four countries.

The bridge is a really big deal, alleviating truck queues near border posts, where truckers sometimes wait weeks.

Plugging Away

I loved Western movies when I was a kid- especially the larger-than-life characters. You’ll find similarly diverse types here- one of whom is Flame of Africa owner, Brett McDonald, complete with wide brimmed hat and moustache. An African cowboy, most of who’s tall tales (if not all) are true.

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.

Get Hooked- Fish and Film

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.

Brett McDonald
Brett McDonald

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.

Take Your Rest

There are plenty of accommodation offerings lining the Kasane stretch of the Chobe, plus several on the Namibian side and some, a fair boat ride away, on the Zambezi River. They range from self-catering to luxury lodges and houseboats.

By far the most exclusive is deep in the Chobe National Park- the only lodge in the park, famous for famous guests, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Five star Chobe Game Lodge has other distinguishing features, including electric boats and game vehicles and, as a result of its gender equity drive, a full complement of women game guides.

Wherever you stay, aircon is your friend in the fiercely hot summer months. Minimum nighttime temperatures can be around 80°F , with daytime highs in the 100s. Mosquitos are a thing in the green (wet) season, especially from November to February. Boating on the river keeps you cool.

Getting There

Most travelers arrive aboard Airlink jets from Johannesburg, South Africa.  Airlink operates daily direct flights between Johannesburg and Kasane. Air Botswana also flies into Kasane, but not daily and via other Botswana destinations- which is fine if you are also visiting the amazing Okavango Delta, but otherwise not so much.

Getting Around

I’ve already mentioned Flame of Africa and Pangolin Photo Safaris, but there are many transfer and activity providers, such as Wild Horizons and Bushtracks Africa– as well as townsfolk with taxis.

Check out these links to some of the activities I’ve mentioned:

WIN a 3-night safari package for two at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa

Luxury Meets Nature- Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa

Chobe Water Villas- Inspiring Tranquility

Wilderness Safaris- Unparalleled Okavango

Luxury Meets Nature- Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa

Early morning: bushbuck tiptoeing past the river facing rooms, the sounds and smells of cheerful staff preparing breakfast. The Chobe River, glistening in the morning light, awaits our early departure from the jetty of Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Flame of Africa’s Ben McDonald arranges for breakfast to be held over in case we’re late returning (though coffee and muffins are provided) and we’re off on the silky, calm waters, looking so different than they did from the Airlink jet that brought us here.

Silky smooth Chobe waters. Photograph by Adrian Rorvik
Silky smooth Chobe waters. Photograph by Adrian Rorvik

First, a quick visit to the rapids at which the resort is perfectly sited, away from the bustle of the town of Kasane in north- eastern Botswana. The Chobe rapids create an exciting ecosystem of their own; pratincoles, nesting storks and cormorants. Then we head for the Chobe National Park.

Mowana (mowana means baobab) is a 10-minute drive/ boat ride 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.

Elephants grazing on the Chobe floodplain. Photograph by Adrian Rorvik
Elephants grazing on the Chobe floodplain. Photograph by Adrian Rorvik

No early morning game drive. Instead, we smoothly glide up really close to wildlife at the water’s edge. Then, after breakfast, cruise in an enclosed, airconditioned game drive vehicle to a part of the Chobe National Park that other game drive vehicles usually don’t reach, at a time when those vehicles have left the to rush back for breakfasts.

Slow Burn

The Park is quiet, the day is ours. The whole day, since Flame of Africa introduced meals on 4×4 wheels, with a proper, freshly prepared sit-down lunch in the park. No “Ferrari safari” this! Rather, one that affords the best opportunities to see lions, for example, as they slowly get ready for the hunt in the afternoons.

Game For Adventure?

Flame of Africa occupies the activities desk in the Cresta Mowana entrance foyer- and they have a similar, oh-so-sensible approach to other activities.

These include an all-day outing on the luxurious double decker Chobe Style or a day aboard the triple decker Chobe Explorer, both highly recommended. Unlike the usual lodge boat afternoon circuit, you can really explore, at leisure. I maintain that a day aboard the Chobe Explorer is the best way to take it all in.

Chobe Explorer
Chobe Explorer. Photograph by Olwen Evans

There’s also 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.

Fancy a round of golf? Do so in very close proximity to the vast elephant population surrounding the only course in the area (the nearest being over an hour away, in Zimbabwe) at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa, trimmed by warthogs and other four-footed creatures. Holes 1 and 2 play down towards the river, the 2nd green sticking out, half island like into the river itself and the 3rd, a long Par 4, with the stroke 1 playing over a dangerous water hazard into the green. Magical.

Magic to my ears is the news that Flame of Africa have partnered with AirVentures to offer balloon safaris- a first in Botswana- over a vast concession known as the Seloko Plains, 45 minutes away, between May and September, when the treacherous cotton soil is dry and not a recovery vehicle graveyard.

The Seloko Plains is an important wildlife corridor and its diverse habitat incorporates large tracts of forest which open up into wide open grassland plains, making it perfect for balloon safaris.


You’ll find there’s really no rush (it’s not native to the area)- 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.

Cresta Mowana rooms and grounds. Photograph courtesy of Cresta Mowana.
Cresta Mowana rooms and grounds. Photograph courtesy of Cresta Mowana.

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.

Cresta Mowana upstairs bar. Photograph courtesy of Cresta Mowana.
Cresta Mowana upstairs bar. Photograph courtesy of Cresta Mowana.

There’s a warm, nurturing atmosphere under the welcoming outstretched arms of the central mighty Mowana (baobab) tree. The high thatched roof of the lobby pretty much points at the tree, and lodge buildings circle it- at a respectful distance.

There’s a sparkling pool and, away from the main buildings, a rimflow pool adjacent to the spa and in front of the gym- perfect for a few laps before sunset and dinner.

Cresta Mowana rim flow pool, gym and spa. Photograph courtesy of Cresta Mowana.

The spa is managed by the delightful Gaone Mokalake and she and Kelebogile Moses acquit themselves admirably in the spacious, well-appointed couples’ treatment room. It’s always great when knowledgeable hands intuit the kinks that need ironing out. I learn a technique or two as I drool into my mask.

Covid protocols are carefully adhered to at Mowana and I smile inwardly as Hilary studiously unwraps the tv remote from its protective sheath in our comfortable, spacious executive suite. We enjoy the old world yet fresh style of this overhauled grande dame (Mowana, not Hilary).

Refreshed and Refreshing

Taking inspiration from the river and the surrounding vegetation to make it contemporary. I would definitely say the overall tone of “luxury meets nature” has been 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.

Cresta Mowana lobby. Photograph courtesy of Cresta Mowana.

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.

Borders, Intersections

Beyond what I have already shared, a full day outing to Victoria Falls is a moving must-do, if you’ve not been (even if you have). Also, perhaps take advantage of the recently opened bridge at the conjunction of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It’s made cross-border excursions so much easier.

Impalila Island, close to the lodge and also straddling the intersection of where the countries 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 heavy machine gun placement and- clearly- target practice.

Obed Silumbu and 2000 year old baobab
Obed Silumbu and the 2000 year old baobab. Photograph by Adrian Rorvik.

That mowana outlasted all- as, I’m sure, will your memories.

Getting There

Most travelers arrive aboard Airlink jets from Johannesburg, South Africa.  Airlink operates daily direct flights between Johannesburg and Kasane. Air Botswana also flies into Kasane, but not daily and via other Botswana destinations- which is fine if you are also visiting the amazing Okavango Delta, but otherwise not so much.

Getting Around

Flame of Africa, operating within Cresta Mowana, is the most convenient- and offers the most comprehensive water based transport and activities, but there are many transfer and activity providers, such as Wild Horizons and Pangolin Photo Safaris.

Check out these links to some of the activities I’ve mentioned:

WIN a 3-night safari package for two at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa

Fugitives’ Drift: the legacy, the raconteur, the guest who never left

True Tales, True Beauty

It’s hard to top a good story, well told- exceptionally portrayed would be more fitting. And the stories told at the sites of the battles near and on the property of Fugitives’ Drift, around the boma fire, or at the bar, are of such immense scale that one is swept up and along, heartstrings plucked as the events of 22-23 January 1879 are vividly presented.

The scale is matched by the vistas, which equally tug at the heart and feed the eyes and soul. The word Zulu means ‘Heaven’, the Zulu people, amaZulu, are ‘The People of Heaven’, and their home, KwaZulu, is ‘The Place of Heaven’. Easy to see why. The land is as rugged and majestic as the Zulus aspire to be.

Fugitives’ Drift Reserve Views
Fugitives’ Drift Reserve Views

Located in a natural heritage site on the lip of the Buffalo River gorge, approximately four and five hours from Durban and Johannesburg respectively, Fugitives’ Drift commands magnificent views across the plains to the mountains of Isandlwana, the Oskarberg, and down 1 150 metres to the river crossing on the Buffalo River which gives the reserve its name. The 22 km river boundary includes the spectacular Indaweni gorge.

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Resolve Realised

It is here that David and Nicky Rattray pioneered heritage tourism. In 2007, David was murdered, with Nicky standing beside him, but this self-effacing woman with indomitable strength remained and the family have continued and built on David’s legacy.

Lodge boma and deck dining area
Lodge boma and deck dining area

From humble beginnings of one cottage and a vehicle they built Fugitives’ Drift into what it is today: the lodge, guest house, Umzinyathi Farmhouse and KwaGeorge cottage.

Harford library view
Harford library view

Views from the lodge rooms are lovely and, from the wraparound verandah of the beautiful Harford library, just wow! If you go, do yourself a favour and stay for three nights so that you have time, in between battlefield excursions, to appreciate the beauty of Fugitives’ Drift, to while away some hours at the library, around the perfectly positioned swimming pool or swaying in the ridiculously comfy suspended seating on a lodge room balcony. If you’re in the guest house, you have your own perfectly positioned pool and much more besides.


Rest Easy

In both the lodge and guest house, accommodation is spacious, attractively decorated, with full ensuite bathrooms, inside and outside showers, lounge area, huge and exceptionally comfortable beds and pillows, and private verandahs- all encompassing the views.

Lodge bedroom
Lodge bedroom

The bathrooms are a delight – all the touches from heated towel rails, bowls of bath salts to pump pots of body lotion. The practical is not forgotten either. Every suite comes equipped with walking sticks, umbrellas, torches, a bedside clock and mosquito spray (Fugitives’ Drift is not in a malaria zone).

Lodge room
Lodge room

Umzinyathi is essentially self-catering but meals can be taken at the Lodge or Guest House by arrangement. Guests at KwaGeorge take their meals at the Lodge or Guest House.

Guest House
Guest House
Guest House bedroom
Guest House bedroom
KwaGeorge interior
KwaGeorge interior

War and Peace

The battlefields region of KwaZulu-Natal is a landscape of rolling hills and grasslands over which were fought a total of 63 battles that shaped the history of South Africa. The main focus of Fugitives’ Drift is the history of the Anglo-Zulu Wars fought primarily at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift but you do not have to be a history boffin to enjoy tours. Against the background of war are the stories of ordinary people. Stories of adventure, bravery, heroism, treachery, betrayal and arrogance. It’s stirring stuff indeed.

Douglas Rattray at Isandlwana
Douglas Rattray at Isandlwana

Douglas Rattray- all of the guides actually- are consummate narrators and we were enraptured, most visibly emotional as the stories unfolded. They are dedicated, inspired and inspiring custodians of the history, not only of the Anglo-Zulu war, but of Southern Africa and its cultures.

Mphiwa Ntanzi at Isandlwana
Mphiwa Ntanzi at Isandlwana
Rorkes Drift at sunset
Rorkes Drift at sunset








Fugitives’ Drift museum
Fugitives’ Drift museum

But you can enjoy Fugitives’ Drift on so many other levels. You can stroll through the indigenous rock garden or walk through the reserve. Game is abundant on the 5000 acre property, as are species of birds. Without major predators to make them nervous, you may have to remind yourself that the animals are wild as they are pretty chilled and it is unusually easy to get close to them.
For the slightly more energetic there is coarse fishing in the Buffalo and for the really energetic there are trail runs and a network of single-track mountain biking routes ranging from flat to steep.

Giraffe with Isandlwana in the distance
Giraffe with Isandlwana in the distance

Lest you think all this sounds quite focussed on grownups, it was great to see how youngsters are entertained. An ex Gurkha officer and his family were staying while I was there. Understandably he was very interested in the military aspects, and he and his wife were delighted that their three children, aged six to 10, were so well engaged in interactive tours of their own, including a game walk and game drive, so that the parents could take in the tours which would have been a bit much for the kids.

Douglas was fantastic to the children during the afternoon walk, 15 minutes from the lodge, to where the first men in history to earn posthumous Victoria Crosses, Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill, were buried. He gave them much of his attention, his knobkerrie (walking stick) to parade with- and even persuaded them to adopt some pet rocks. Said rocks were quartzite, dating back to the beginning of the planet, and the area is a geologist’s treat, with plunging cliffs and crags of Karoo sandstone and dolerite.

The excursions are exceptionally executed. Not just the storytelling, but the timing, the thoughtful touches.


Rorkes Drift Battlefield Tour
Rorkes Drift Battlefield Tour

Homely Luxury

You are made to feel at home from the moment you arrive. There are several staff that have been at Fugitives’ Drift for 20 years or more. That, and their smiles, tells a story. Good management, happy staff, happy guests. Grace Ndlela is mentioned in many guest reviews. Smiling, singing, charming and guaranteed to brighten your day. The food deserves a mention too, as does the wine list. Whatever your dietary requirements or preferences, you will be pleased- especially with the pre-dinner drinks canapés which included the best little pastries I’ve had.

Grace Ndlela at the bar
Grace Ndlela at the bar
Lodge lounge
Lodge lounge





The library is a wonderful place to take meals too. Like the lodge, there’s wi-fi if you need to connect beyond the marvellous scenery. Apart from the amazing collection of historical literature and artefacts that the Rattray’s have accumulated (here and in the museum opposite the reception offices) it’s completely geared to host functions or special occasions but, more meaningful for me, geared to relaxing. Those views…

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So said Aristotle. Micko O’Byrne- the Australian who came to visit and never left, marrying Nicky instead, probably best sums up what is so special about Fugitives’ Drift: “I was struck by the immensity of the stories that they tell here. But I was also taken by the people that started this because, as a business analyst, I thought it doesn’t make sense to have a business that just tells stories and your clients- 80% of them- live in England. But I knew that extraordinary people, with vision, make what appear to be unsuccessful ideas, work”.

Just one of the many nice touches is a washed vehicle for departing guests and water and homemade crunchies to keep you going on the way to your next destination.

What is absolutely certain is that you will leave having had a deeply enriching experience.

Listen to a podcast with Nicky and Doug Rattray and Micko O’byrne here
Watch and listen here

Getting there

Fly into the cities of Johannesburg or Durban and drive from there- five hours from Johannesburg, four hours from Durban. Fugitives’ Drift partners with Three Tree Hill Lodge  and Nambiti Private Game Reserve, which offers the Big 5 African game viewing experience, lies between the two lodges if you a rewarding roadtrip is what you’re after.

Three Tree Hill Lodge- My Favourite History Lesson

Three Tree Hill Lodge- My Favourite History Lesson

One learns all the time, especially when travelling.

If nothing else, names of places, people and species- often forgotten or partly remembered.

Three Tree Hill rooms in the mist
Three Tree Hill rooms in the mist

I learned something I won’t forget at Three Tree Hill Lodge, which overlooks the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley of the Spioenkop Game Reserve, in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal.

Molly Blackburn Library
Molly Blackburn Library

Seated in the recently completed Molly Blackburn library, with the late Black Sash activist’s portrait and Philosophy PhD on the wall, it seemed that the apple did not fall far from the tree in her son Simon’s case.

Owners Simon and Cheryl Blackburn are well read and podcasted and Simon, who recounts the terrible battle that took place on the Spioenkop massif across the valley, changed my perspective on history when I asked if, with the passing of time, younger generations and colonial history not flavour of the month, whether interest in the South African battlefields had waned.



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Simon Blackburn- battle stories in the grass
Simon Blackburn- battle stories in the grass

“No” was the short answer, as he gathered his resonating thoughts. Simon hated history at school- and his and Cheryl’s lack of interest in history stalled their purchase of Three Tree Hill Lodge.

A Rich History

Fatherhood- and a sense of mortality, changed that. Legacy, his own and his forebears, became an interest and, listening to expert David Rattray’s recounting of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, he fell in love with the narrative and the humanity of history.

Ron Gold battlefield talk
Ron Gold battlefield talk

Simon’s tour of the battlefield was an emotional experience for me and elicited simultaneous applause and tears, such were the human stories within stories of the most devastating clash for both Boers and English in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War- both sides incurring their highest casualties in a single day on 23 January, 1900. Whether it be Simon or resident historian Ron Gold who guides you, I do recommend it.

Although the wood and iron buildings are thoughtfully constructed in the style of the period, Three Tree Hill Lodge is about far more than history. It’s about relaxation, nature, family, escape.

Painted matte green, the buildings melt into the surrounding acacias and aloes, giving a sense of glorious isolation. New to me since I last visited are the family cottages with very comprehensive self-catering facilities. No microwave, no tv- in line with the emphasis on sustainable and responsible tourism.

Michael Poliza- aerial view
Michael Poliza- aerial view

Fair Trade Status

Three Tree Hill was the first KwaZulu-Natal holiday destination awarded Fair Trade status. Fair Trade practice was established to serve the interests and rights of farmers, workers and producers in South Africa- as well as to promote sustainability across the board- and Cheryl and Simon carry these practices through to every aspect, from the solar stove to the handmade toiletries in the bathrooms and other cleaning products; from staff employment (no lay-offs during the Covid 19 pandemic) to involvement in community projects.

Family Friendly Cottages

The family cottages don’t only accommodate kids, they are kidcentric. From toys and children’s books in the rooms to little kiddies’ backpacks for hikes and kids’ toiletries, they have your little ones covered. I loved seeing children just being children- their bikes left mounted on the family cars as they used the playground, careered about the property, or made fiery patterns in the air around the outside fire after dark with burnt sticks.

The property is great for mountain bikers of all levels. Horse riders too. You can take yourself on nature walks and Simon (the Blackburns are vastly experienced safari and mountain guides) takes guests through the game reserve.

Nature Walks and Stunning Views

Rhino among the acacias (Vachellia nilotica)
Rhino among the acacias (Vachellia nilotica)

Rhino among the acacias (Vachellia nilotica)


The views over the valley from the cottages are lovely, but more beautiful aspects present themselves on a guided walk- as do game, including white rhino. While the cottages face the valley and the morning sun, the afternoon vistas from the other side of the property, over Spioenkop Dam and surrounding hills toward the Drakensberg mountains, are equally compelling.

There is really just so much to do and all the animals on the property make the lodge so much more homely and welcoming. If you like dogs, they’ll accompany you on a walk or a ride. If you like cats, Gin, Tonic and Squeak are happy to visit and Tonic has been known to enjoy a game walk or two.

Main swimming pool
Main swimming pool

Burchells lounge

Burchells lounge

Burchells Cottage

There is a swimming pool and sun deck away from the main buildings and Burchells, where we were ensconced, has a lovely pool area with loungers.

Burchells master bedroom
Burchells master bedroom

Burchell’s is a superb, 105m2 space for a family of six and whilst there, choose to take a mid-morning bath and take your binoculars with you.

A Birder’s Paradise

The massive clear window looks out onto pristine rocky hillside alive with exciting birds. Looking towards the valley, the skyline is broken by fantastic aloes; marlothii and excelsa, stretching up to 4 meters.

In winter, unless prewarned, birding becomes quite bewildering as “subspecies” emerge. Orange-headed mousebirds, weavers, starlings, sunbirds are quite a sight, after having plunged their heads into the deep, powdery orange pollen of the flowering aloes.

The bird-buzzing aloes lure the odd raptor in; sparrowhawks, goshawks and the likes break the peace, darting through on an opportunistic hunt.

Aloes and weaver bird
Aloes and weaver bird

Each chalet or cottage has polished cement floors, sash windows, ceiling fans and verandah completing the historical feeling.  The attention to detail and design is impeccable.

Twin bed room
Twin bed room
Twin room cottage verandah at sunrise
Twin room cottage verandah at sunrise

The theme continues in the main building with its huge lounge and dining room and deep, wrap-around verandah. The furnishing is an eclectic collection of solid, comfortable and tasteful pieces. Below the well-stocked library is a lovely, possibly better stocked wine cellar.

Many of the pictures on the walls are taken from newspapers of the period, with advertisements extolling the benefits of eating Bovril – “the food of men on the front” – Keane’s mustard and adding Scrubbs cloudy ammonia to your bath.  It’s quirky and fun.  Even the place mats on the dinner table recall political cartoons of the time.

Main lodge eastern entrance
Main lodge eastern entrance
Verandah dining
Verandah dining

If you’re not self- catering, meals are taken around the long, scrubbed wood tables in the main building, encouraging conversation among guests.  I vividly recall lively banter between a somewhat fortified guest and a couple who did not consume dairy, gluten, processed sugars, meat, alcohol or caffeine. Not dull, but I was most impressed by the lengths taken to produce tasty treats for those guests, as well the superb repasts prepared for us less evolved scoffers.

Golden Gate National Park and Much More

Three Tree Hill is centrally situated for a host of activities the non-history buff would hope for: hot air ballooning; hiking; helicopter flips; a canopy tour; raptor centre and the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School.  Clarens and Golden Gate are just an hour-and-a-half’s drive away, and Champagne, Cathedral Peak and Royal Natal 45 minutes.

It’s all there to do and enjoy, but with the overarching bonus of peace and tranquility as constant companions, broken only by bird and jackal calls and the laughter of children.

The final word:  book in for at least three nights.

Visit and listen to the podcast here

View a video slideshow here.

Fugitives’ Drift: the legacy, the raconteur, the guest who never left


Fordoun- For all the right reasons

Sensory Surrounds

My favourite places seem to be family owned or run and Fordoun Hotel and Spa is one such place. All five senses celebrate at five-star Fordoun … and then further celebrate as birth is given to their sixth sibling.

It happens in an extremely romantic setting; weeping willows with their gentle flowing boughs, enormous organic artworks, ethereal azaleas contrasting against rolling hills, iris-lined pathways, ancient terracotta bricks mottled with age evoking a Hansel and Gretel nougat house- all peacefully nestled in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, a few minutes from Nottingham Road village.


From cascading steps, to greyhound guarded Roman-bath fountains, to mini-canals; there is flowing water around every corner, all creating a vibrant life-giving energy, like a giant vascular system.






There is such wealth in the glorious gardens- the essence of it all- which is then brought inside to pamper one in every which way.

The Limitless Skye

Skye Bistro at night

Fresh food delights of a superb standard are presented in utter comfort in the Skye Bistro. Chef Lorenzo Giliomee and his team have upped the ante since last I was there. The menu may change but some firm favourites remain- like the grilled beef fillet nestled on horseradish potato mash and red wine tomatoes, gratinéed with gourmet Greek “Brie” cheese and a Fordoun wild herb garden buchu jus. Superb. Vegetarians won’t scratch for options, with offerings like wild mushroom and black summer truffle risotto, topped with creamy Indezi blue cheese, and slow roasted butternut and peppers. Starters and desserts are possibly more enticing, as is the extensive and well-crafted wine menu.

Hedonistic indeed. If, however, you are on a detox retreat, your choices are a juice fast or raw, vegan healthy eating- and much time in the spa.

Not-So-Guilty Pleasures

Fordoun’s spa is all encompassing and the therapists are delightful, adding to that feeling of rejuvenation. The old grain silo has been brilliantly converted into a magical grotto, where one floats in the essence-imbued pool with calming music being amplified through the water; a unique experience. Apart from treatments from skilled masseurs, Reiki and Bio-energy specialists and aestheticians, the spa features a rasul, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy room, and a couples’ treatment suite with hydrotherapy bath.



A Unique Connection

Integral to the spa and Fordoun as a whole is Dr Elliot Ndlovu- inyanga, sangoma and ethno-botanist. In Elliot’s garden and around his consulting rooms are over 120 different species of healing plants, used by him and in Fordoun’s products. The poignancy and passion underlying his uthwasa- the necessary process of suffering to become a traditional healer- endear this huge character to believers and cynics alike, including Hollywood stars and the British Queen.

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Afternoon walks are a great idea. Oak-lined avenues, waterfowl preening themselves on the shores of dams, a deeply wooded grove full of bee-hives leading to the tennis courts and outdoor pool. One imagines an otter or two in amongst the impressive trout rising for their evening feed.

Fordoun has a field of the happiest hens in the entire world; they come to greet you as you arrive at the edge of their enormous scratch-patch field. And yes, the eggs taste wonderful.

Choices, Choices

Fordoun Farm Village

And, beyond the field, the Fordoun Farm Village comprising a tasteful multi-functional venue, chapel, nine luxurious self-catering chalets, veggie gardens and the spinning classroom- all arranged around a full-size cricket oval. Although separate to the original establishment, adults staying here have access to the facilities up at the Hotel- and vice-versa.

The main buildings, originally part of a dairy farm from the 1860s, have been thoughtfully adapted. There are 22 luxurious double suites with verandas, underfloor heating, bath and shower and a dressing area. There is also a wheelchair friendly suite.


If founder John Bates is about, he may share with you Fordoun’s interesting history, dating back to 1850, or enthuse about the social and environmental initiatives Fordoun is involved with- including a nearby crane sanctuary- or let you sample his leonotis (wild dagga) gin.

Retiring to one’s suite is a dream- especially one of the five superior mountain facing room set atop a ridge with views toward the Drakensberg, and the size of a country cottage. The bed, the linen, the bathrobes and all the treats are of the highest quality. It’s sumptuously draped and lavishly appointed with high, pitched ceilings. A cold snap makes the ready lit blaze in the glass-fronted fireplace, the bedtime treats and story, most welcome.

Stepping out of the French doors, the eye is led across rolling pastures to the hills- with the young maiden’s breast, iNhlosane, dominant and framed by not-too-distant mountains. A table and chairs, loungers and a tumbling water feature in a secluded courtyard is a tempting lolling spot in the day.

The thickly carpeted passage takes you to a large dressing room opposite a lovely black and white chequered bathroom with heated towel rails, underfloor heating, dual vanity basins, bath and shower, which leads to a further, outdoor shower.
The fresh air and the heightened stimulation of the senses, not forgetting the awakening of that sixth sense, all make one beautifully exhausted. The huge bed waits to engulf.

The countryside goes silent, as iNhlosane’s silhouette slowly merges into the night.

Visit or e-mail for further details and bookings.

Brookdale Health Hydro- A repeat peak performance

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.

Night Time is the Right Time


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:
Book Direct:

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

Chobe – What’s The Buzz?



Distillery 031- A Home Run

“I call this my gateway spirit” said Andrew, swirling the amber liquid in his glass. Well, through the gateway, down the hatch and the rabbit hole and colour me impressed, well impressed! Andrew Rall, owner of Durban’s Distillery 031 is a singular man whose burgeoning craft distillery is a portal to some unique, top-notch craft spirits. He was referring to his D’Urban Barrel Aged Gin- something rather special. Serve it on ice to guests without telling them what they are drinking, just to gauge reactions. Plenty of surprised expressions no doubt. Gateway? Well, I agree with him that it may change the perceptions of many non gin drinkers.

Go For Gold: D’urban 24K Gin

South Africa’s most exclusive gin at around R1,899, this is available in limited quantities.


Bragging rights gets you a very smooth, accessible, American style gin with food grade gold flakes that is reminiscent of a top-notch vodka. Still, there’s one to top that, but it’s only for a bespoke jeweller’s clients. I haven’t yet tasted it (Rall was hiding it at home) but it’s a blend using some of the distillery’s oldest barrels and fresh gin, comes in a beautiful Bohemian crystal decanter in a foiled box and has a black diamond in it. Yours for a cool R20 000!

Gin and Beyond

Gin is trending- has been for a while now- and Rall has been at the forefront of the gin revolution in South Africa. His passion trumps trends however, and Distillery 031 products include a superb tonic cordial, rum (including cachaça), vodka, absinthe and some unique spirit aperitifs- all with a view to putting the country on the map in terms of carefully and beautifully crafted, award winning, spirits.

Rall distilled privately at first, acquired his commercial licenses in 2015 and, in a relatively short time, has made inroads into the international market. The fact that he exports his premium 031 Vodka to a country like Sweden where vodka is not so much trending as entrenched in social culture says a lot.

He is a gentle giant- charming, charismatic, passionate, perceptive, driven and open to ideas and experiences. That’s a great checklist for someone who continually researches and experiments in his quest for excellence. His introduction and taste for spirits was more about quantity than quality (student daze), but a trip to Scotland ignited an interest in- and passion for- distilling. Fast forward and this once brand manager for Unilever found himself with his own brand, an urban distillery (Durban’s first craft distillery) and in cahoots with like-minded entrepreneurs in establishing Durban’s first urban renewal district- Station Drive, off Umgeni Rd.

Rall is passionate about more than quality hooch. The name, Distillery 031 (031 is the local dialling code), hints at his love of his roots. Hence the distillery being in the city and the many indigenous elements that infuse the business- from bottle labels to botanicals and the raw materials from which the spirits are crafted. These include sugar cane, baobab fruit, indigenous wormwood and rosehip, coffee cherries (cascara) and imphepho, a medicinal herb used by sangomas to summon the ancestors.

Local is Lekker

“Durbanism” is a thing- an inclusive thing. An evening at Station Drive’s 1st Thursday monthly happenings would give you a better picture. I’m not sure if Durbanism stems from Rall, but he’s a glowing example. If he didn’t have export/import/sales/admin/investors and all the not-so-fun bits about owning a business to attend to, he would be at the still and behind the bar every day, sharing his extraordinary knowledge of all things Durban and walking the talk. And the talk is great.

I’ve attended many, many wine tastings/ pairings etc- I even conducted tastings and tours in my youth. I’ve also toured impressive distilleries, but I’ve never had such an entertainingly educational occasion as in Distillery 031’s industrial-chic tasting room.

A group of German tourists and I exited the tasting room in a haze- a haze of newly acquired tastes, knowledge about spirits in general and Distillery 031’s products in particular. Like my companions, deciding which were new favourites was top of mind. The histories and development of gin, tonic and absinthe were especially interesting to me, the whole experience a treat- the complimentary welcome cocktail, the tasting and the gourmet burger meal in the bar-cum-eatery while eyeing out the gleaming bits and bobs (which I could now identify) in the distillery.

“Local is very lekker” I thought (Afrikaans for “nice”). So too the Germans, who were researching how best to acquire 031’s products in Europe.


So, how much did I really like Distillery 031 products? Enough to have been conducting tastings there for a year or so. After the COVID-19 enforced alcohol and tourism shutdown, the distillery is again open for group tastings of eight or more — I’ll drink to that!

Visit: or The Foundry, 43 Station Dr, Durban, South Africa
For bookings:

Val Du Charron

Q’s Review- Simonsig’s restaurant Cuvée

Nakai Beach Homestay- a way of life

New Life, New Views

Diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma cancer, Claude Venter was given six months to live by medical specialists. Seven years later, he looked relaxed and happy as he recounted his journey and explained how his decision to seek an alternative remedy saved his life- and changed his and that of his partners, Grant Horak and Paulo da Rosa.

Claude probably thought me ADD as I kept bobbing my head left and right. Whales, dolphins- lots of them, cavorting in the ocean beyond the deck at Nakai Beach Homestay. Nakai means “on the beach” in Polynesian and the gorgeous boutique retreat that the three are rightfully proud of is perched high above Trafalgar Beach on Kwazulu-Natal’s lower south coast.

What a view! What a stunningly situated property. What a turnaround for all three. This team of very successful interior designers and landscapers are really walking the talk. Their search for a purified environment to aid Claude’s recovery led them to this special part of KZN, where the clean air is oxygen and ozone rich. The water, both drinking and general usage, is purified. The food is nearly all organic- and delicious. There are two kitchens- one for vegans and the other for whatever is flavour of the day, so vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores will be equally delighted.

As it happened an ex-chef friend commandeered the kitchen for dinner so hard working Grant, the driving force behind Nakai- and chief cook and bottle washer, was excused boots. Nor did I taste his cooked breakfast in the sun filled Gauguin Café and Juice Bar since I opted for a flipping delicious cacao and superfood smoothie, yoghurt and berries.

Home From Home

Nakai Beach is a homestay. The partners and Grant’s mum Lorraine live there along with dogs Maui, Kona and Milo so it’s their home, a showpiece for their impeccable design skills and a five star retreat in one package. It is a restorative and rejuvenating space in which to heal, relax and bliss out.

The bedrooms- with balconies- are sublime and individually themed, though the general feel is consistent throughout. Bold colours, clean lines, beautiful fabrics, finishes and the OCD touches that being a good designer requires. Paulo is proudly afflicted and even the kitchen drawers are a testament to this and to care filled design. Everywhere, inside and out, the eye delights in visual feasts that feed the soul.

I was in the vibrant Amazon themed room and found myself lulled to sleep by the surf below unexpectedly soon after I arrived- and for many total relaxation is the reason to visit.

Stir Your Stumps

You can opt to do as little as possible, lazing by the infinity pool, soaking up the sun, the views, the tranquility, though most opt for Paulo’s yoga sessions on the deck or in the brand new yoga studio, complete with underfloor heating. Paulo has dedicated his life to the path and enjoys all disciplines. He offers classes, different retreats, hosts guest teachers of other disciplines and is always on hand.

Steps off the deck take you down through the stretch of coastal forest reserve and to the pristine beach. Trafalgar is a marine reserve and, unusual for the south coast, the beaches are long, straight and flat, with black rocks and shallow pools galore. If you traipse to the main, blue flag beach there are life guards and shark nets. The partners took it upon themselves to jolly up the lifeguard huts and benches with colourful paintwork. The surf is often great and snorkelling too, with 90 million year old fossil beds not far from shore.

There are fossils on land too and the beach below Nakai has been in the news a fair bit as it is (then isn’t, then is) a naturist beach. It’s safe to say that if you take your kit off nobody will bother- and in any case you will probably have the beach to yourself.

Claude’s cancer and recovery completely changed his outlook. “I was all about the six pack, the look” he chuckles. That’s not to say he won’t notice a six pack but he’s at ease, at peace- and that peace and pleasure in life is what guests take away when they reluctantly depart this gem.

Bahia Mar Boutique Hotel- Sunny Side Up


Wilderness Safaris- Unparalleled Okavango

The Delta Delivers

I have long been intrigued by the Okavango Delta. As a sprog in the 70’s a school chum regaled me with fabulous tales. In the 90’s my late friend Steven Morris was a chef at a camp- and spent a month alone on an island on a personal quest.  Would I find some of what Steven did I wondered as we flew due North from Johannesburg  to Maun in Northern Botswana?

The flying was a breeze, leaving ‘Maritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa aboard an Airlink flight, changing without having to recheck baggage at OR Tambo in Johannesburg, and in Maun by lunchtime. Seemingly endless, uninhabited desert and semi- desert  had been the view for much of the trip to Maun, then some glistening water, scrub and tress as we approached the airport.  Once through the hot tedium of customs/immigration at the small but busy airport, changes came rapidly.

Superlatives may just be word on a page until you’ve experienced them, but our experience with Wilderness  Safaris/Air was filled with them.  This is one very slick, professional outfit packaging exceptional adventures. We were greeted with smiles, scented cool facecloths, whisked ahead of queues and were soon winging our way, hopping from airstrip to airstrip en route to our first camp- the premier Vumbura Plains.

Gobsmacked, Thoughts Flowing Like The Water

Water glistened, shimmered and shone under the hazy blue sky as we flew. The Okavango Delta- where the Okavango River dissipates into the Kalahari sands- is a phenomenon words can’t adequately describe. Each year approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water spreads over the 6000-15000 km² area. What I kept asking myself was “how does it flow?” since there is a less than 2 metre variation across the Delta. Nevertheless flow it does. But, at first, words did not. Initial impressions of the Delta are thoughtful for most it seems- a time to simply take in its immensity. Words do eventually flow- unspoilt, pristine, primal for example. The water is 97% potable, filtered by the white sands. It appeared in a myriad aspects: glinting from between reed rafts and papyrus, festooned with lilies, fingering through grasses and over contrasting coloured bottoms of innumerable channels, marshes and lakes. The waters were punctuated with small islands, palm trees and many other (as yet) unknown plants, blobby grey elephant, swaying giraffe and other game.

Unexpected Luxury, Elegance, Design

Sadly almost, we made our last landing and were soon warmly welcomed at the gracious, designer delight that is Vumbura Plains. This is bush elegance of a high order. Attention to every detail- once your preferences are assiduously assessed you will find your preferred tipple as a nightcap in your suite, for example. And what suites! They are enormous canvas and shadecloth sided, thatched extravagances raised (for safety) above the ground – split level with a sunken lounge, plunge pool alongside lounger under a huge tree on the large, private deck with its covered, outdoor lounge.  The luxury and views made it tempting to do not much more than lounge- or arrange for a massage with elephants browsing metres away.




















Nature Like Never Before

The star attraction- the Delta- awaited however and so, after dragging ourselves from the exceptional afternoon “tea” spread, we were whisked off by the charming Lazarus Maolosi for our first excursion. Ebony and Kalahari Appleleaf, Jackalberry and Rain trees, ubiquitous hornbills and plovers, starlings, bee- eaters and the gorgeous Lilac Breasted Roller.  I am not a twitcher (birder) or budding botanist but was fascinated by the make-up of our surrounds. We saw game in greater numbers, and at closer proximity, than I have ever seen. Wild dogs and hyena are generally elusive and retiring. Here they could have been mistaken for domestic pets.  Lechwe and Tsessebe are not to be seen back home. Elephant are- and buffalo too- but I’d not seen such numbers. As much as the game sightings were wonderful, the lessons on the ecology were especially rewarding. The symbiosis between species for example- with the hugely important role micro-termites and their massive mounds play particularly illuminating.












The water levels were rising and we spent time zipping through channels in a motorboat, as well as poling placidly in the fiberglass version (to save trees) of the traditional Mokoro dugout among bobbing lilies and spectacularly bright Angolan Reed Frogs. Two very different, but equally delightful, ways of enjoying the Delta waters.







Back at camp we shared our delights with fellow guests and staff over leisurely feasts and fine wines.  Later, after an outdoor shower under the stars (or the fabulous open- plan indoor shower), we were lulled to sleep by those same frogs, tinkling like distant chimes against a backdrop of profound silence.










Savute, Savuti- Continuing Education

All too soon our Vumbura visit was over and we headed out of the Delta to Savuti Camp on the Savute (sic) Channel- a river system 35 minutes away by air. It’s different here in many respects- hotter, drier. Savuti makes the most of its perch above the extravagant sweeping bend of the Channel. It had a different feel – more “traditional Safari”- and is one of Wilderness Safaris’ Classic camps, with great food and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s perhaps “greener”, with a thermos flask instead of kettle in the room, no fridge, no private plunge pool.  “It’s bound to be even quieter” I thought, sipping Amarula and watching the firefly show, with frog accompaniment, before turning in after a hugely fun evening in the boma. Flopping catfish and munching hippo proved me wrong, but they had a good, metronomic rhythm going which worked just fine.

We were in the care of Goodman Ndlovu, the antithesis of Lazarus. Lazarus was quite the cowboy, Goodman the careful, precise “schoolmarm”. Whatever the character (both were charming), what made our Wilderness experience exceptional was the standard of guiding. I was deeply impressed by the guides’ knowledge and commitment.  I was beyond thrilled while at Savuti to have close, separate sightings within 26 hours of three leopards, to witness the display of the huge Kori Bustard, and chortled watching a massive troupe of baboons sharing a riverbank stage with charging young Impala. Quieter delights included Snowflake Grass- Christmas in Africa in the right light- and trees “decorated” with giant communal spider nests.


We learned a lot- in particular to reawaken and utilise our city numbed senses so as to understand and appreciate what the bush was teaching. This meant being still, attentive and so, in those and other ways I guess I did indeed discover some of what my friend cane here for. It wasn’t all Zen of course- like the time when, safely out of earshot (I hope) I whooped and punched the air, singing “Heaven, I’m in Heaven…”

You can understand why our fellow guests were abuzz about Wilderness Safaris’ African Residents Programme-  a loyalty programme which offers  whopping discounts. To find out more about member benefits visit or e-mail Visit

Getting There

Airlink connects you to Maun with direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Airlink, now connecting you to 37 destinations in nine African countries. Book your flight direct on Spread your wings- fly Airlink.

The Royal Portfolio, South Africa

Chobe – What’s The Buzz?