We take it for granted that all African countries are home to varying wildlife, and that we can see the Big Five and more in any of the countries’ national parks.
This is not always the case, and sometimes visitors on game drives leave disappointed at not having spotted as many wildlife species as they’ve hoped.
However, one country that delivers beyond expectation in this regard is Botswana.
I’ve wondered about the fascination Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have with Botswana. Upon seeing for myself, I found that Botswana is the perfect escape for nature-lovers, and the go-to country for a romantic, luxury bush-break.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the country does not believe in fencing in wild animals and has zero-tolerance for hunting that allows it to flourish in an abundance of nature.
Whatever the reason may be, when you make your way through Botswana’s Chobe National Park expect to see the greenest and lushest flora, various species of animals by the dozens at a time, myriad of birdlife (certainly the largest I’ve ever seen) – all in a climate combining humidity and sunshine, with roaring grey clouds and sudden bursts of rainfall. It truly is an authentic experience in the wild.
Elephants cool down under a tree in Chobe National Park, as a storm brews in the horizon. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
50 Shades of green
Chobe National Park is home to the largest elephant herds on the planet. The small town of Kasane in Botswana, which is between the Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibian borders and the Chobe National Park, is the gateway to the Park.
Here, one can opt for accommodation at a campsite or more luxurious, private lodging. However, do note that camping in Chobe “is a true wilderness experience” as camps are unfenced and open to wildlife roaming freely. So, only if you dare sleep through a leopard possibly wandering around you at night, then this option is for you!
However, if you prefer more peace of mind while sleeping, and would like to enjoy a bubble bath and fine dining while still being fully-immersed in the wild, then one of the ideal places to stay while on a Chobe adventure is Ngoma Safari Lodge.
The luxurious and intimate Ngoma Safari Lodge. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
Nestled in northern Chobe within the Forest Reserve, the remotely located Lodge is 55km from Kasane and 135km from Victoria Falls.
The Lodge only has 8 suites and offers private and exclusive attention to guests, fine dining, spectacular sunsets overlooking the Chobe River and Namibian border, and luxuriously rustic rooms that ooze with romance and tranquillity.
Ngoma Safari Lodge oozes with romantic luxury in the depths of the wild. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
While you can lock your doors and windows, there are chances of having elephant, leopard and other wild cats, various species of monkey and many types of insects and bird life roam around your suite.
In fact, due to this, the Lodge has a horn in each room to use if elephants get too close and refuse to move, and guests are not allowed to walk outside alone at night – they have to call security to escort them should they need to leave their room.
Each room also has its own ‘dipping’ pool, an inside and outdoor shower and breathtaking views of the Chobe River and floodplains.
View from a suite at Ngoma Safari Lodge. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
Rates at the Lodge are inclusive of up to four game activities per day – night drives, day game drives, walking in the wild, boat tours.
Birdlife is prolific, and keen bird-watchers have the opportunity to view more than 450 species, while flora-lovers can spot a variety of plants, as well as the baobab.
Cruising the Chobe River
One of the main activities to enjoy as part of the tour package is to cruise the Chobe River by boat, with a professional tour guide who will share valuable information about the biodiversity found at this river flowing between Botswana and Namibia.
Boat cruise along the Chobe River. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
Learn about the water lily which has a stem that grows up to 2-metres long and is used to determine the depth of various parts of the River, as well as to make jewellery.
Chobe River water lillies. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
See various animals basking in the river such as hippo and crocodile, watch many types of birds soar in their glory or build their nests, and spot land-based animals come to River to bathe, frolic or get a drink of water – including buffalo, elephants, impala, kudu and warthogs.
Hippo yawns never get old. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
Up close with the wild
Whether you choose a night or day game drive, expect to get up close with wildlife at every turn of the expedition, and when you least imagine.
Massive herd of impala spotted during a game drive at Chobe National Park. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
Keep your eyes peeled, your cameras ready and binoculars out as you can get to watch big cats such as lion stalk their prey in broad daylight, spot elusive wild cats come out at night to hunt, have elephants surround your safari vehicle, and have the pleasure of viewing large herds go about their natural way of life.
Traveller24 tip ---> Try to wear camouflage colours and do not move while taking photos of more dangerous animals like lions and hippo who may react to any fast movements by unknown objects. Always keep all body parts inside the safari vehicle and pay attention to what your tour guide has to say.
Chobe game drives make for magnificent photo safaris, and allow guests the ultimate, intimate experience with wildlife in their natural habitats, without harming any animals or getting them out of their comfort zones – making it difficult to understand why people still choose to visit enclosures rather than enjoy a game drive.
Up close with elephants at Chobe. (Photo: Kavitha Pillay)
It is a truly exhilarating experience as its non-intrusive and completely unpredictable, while also being therapeutic as you get immersed in a natural environment, far from man-made comforts.
For travellers who want a unique wildlife escape, a visit to Chobe National Park proves to be the ultimate safari adventure that provides a balance between luxury and the wild.
*Disclaimer: Traveller24 content producer, Kavitha Pillay, was hosted by Africa Albida Tourism, Take Note Reputation Management and fastjet on this border-crossing break.