We had visitors, Rob and Sue, fresh out from London, so one of the best places to take newcomers to Africa is to Botswana and Chobe National Park. Sadly, Zambia cannot compete with Chobe unless we go to Luangwa, Lower Zambezi or northern Kafue – and they are far, far away.
Kasane can get busy so, for a quieter experience, it is good to go to the Ngoma end of the Riverside Section of Chobe and that is one of the reasons we chose to go to Muchenje Lodge. But it was not the only reason – Muchenje is also first class in food, hospitality and service.
The lodge is just outside the western end of the park and perched up on a ridge overlooking the Chobe floodplain. The area around the lodge is protected land too so the animals come and go from the park, visiting the lodge as well.
We left Livingstone at 10am. After the pontoon crossing we headed west through the park. This is a pleasant journey of around 60km with the chance of seeing quite a bit of wildlife. It is a good tar road but speed is restricted to 80 km/h.
We arrived just after 1pm and were told that lunch was on the table – we should eat, then go to our rooms and be ready for a game drive at 3pm. Muchenje is like that – no time to spare in between the activities. We did as we were told and it wasn’t long before we were on a safari vehicle and on our way into the park. Our guide was Rambo, a Subiya from a nearby village. He had had plenty of experience as a guide in Chobe having spent 5 years at Chobe Safari Lodge before coming to Muchenje. His training had been at a college in Maun.
After booking in at the gate we took the sandy road down to the river. Our first encounter was with a giraffe. Our visitors from England, Rob and Sue, were enchanted by their first real sighting of wildlife and we spent a while watching this lone giraffe. Of course, we were to see many more … but the first one is always the most special. Our drive continued through the park, mostly along the river. The water was high so some of the roads were inundated. But, because there was plenty of water, the water birds were great.
We saw a lot of wildlife, Rambo getting quite close. This is not something I can do or anyone else should attempt – it is only the trained guides who are experienced and know their animals.
Returning to Muchenje there was just time to wash our faces and get to the dining area for dinner. The lodge was full so we joined many other people sitting around the large tables. Rambo joined us and we continued our chatting throughout the meal … which, of course, was delicious. Rob and Sue wrote the menu down in their journals so that they wouldn’t forget …
Rob and Sue followed their dinner with a night drive … Muftau, Lois and I had a better idea and went to our rooms to sleep.
In the morning after breakfast we joined Rambo again who was to take us out all day into the park. We took the road to Kasane and then boarded a boat for a cruise.
Boat rides are very popular in Chobe because much of the wildlife comes down to the river to drink, so viewing is excellent. Because the water was high and there was still plenty of water in the bush, we were not able to see heaps, but we had some good sightings.
Following the cruise we took the road through the park to see what was happening there. Rob wanted to see lion but, although Rambo tried to find some, we were unlucky.
We did find a herd of giraffe with two young males bashing their necks against each other – their way of fighting and hence the reason why giraffe have long necks – to increase their chance of winning a fight.
We had another interesting evening at the lodge as elephants decided to visit. Rob and Sue were coming along the footpath from their chalet and Sue found herself, in the dark, walking towards an elephant bottom. She quickly ducked down a side path to get away, leaving Rob surprised but intent on not spilling the glass of wine he was carrying. He also quickly got out of the way and they waited for the elephants to move off.
Rob wanted to find the elusive lions … We hadn’t been in the park for long when we came across a dead elephant lying by the side of the track. The lions had been there … In the distance we could see a pride of three female lions and two cubs watching their meal … and watching us … hoping we would just get out of the way so that they could come back.