THE THRILL OF CHOBE WATER VILLAS IN EASTERN NAMIBIA CAN BE FELT THE MOMENT YOU ARRIVE – AND IT LASTS THROUGHOUT YOUR VISIT
If you throw open the double doors and step onto the porch of your luxury villa after waking up in the morning, you’ll be greeted by the soothing chirping of birds or the trumpeting of elephants frolicking across the Chobe River in the distance.
The place is enveloped in unparalleled tranquillity and the scenery’s delightfully idyllic, ensuring that visitors unwind fully and leave feeling fully invigorated, as I discovered on a recent visit.
Chobe Water Villas is located in what was once known as the Caprivi Strip – now the Zambezi Region – and boasts wonderful five-star amenities. The lodge is at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers, just across the town of Kasane in Botswana, and is accessible only by boat. To get there from SA, visitors fly to Kasane and then cruise to Namibia to clear customs, before continuing to Chobe Water Villas.
Along the way, the breathtaking natural beauty, remoteness and silence give the place an almost otherworldly feel and the varied aquatic life – birds, hippos and crocodiles – is captivating.
Once we’d disembarked at the lodge, we received the warmest welcome from Nerise Coetzee, the General Manager.
Each of the establishment’s 16 villas is on high stilts, facing the Chobe River and the Chobe National Park. In the immediate foreground is world-famous Sedudu Island, which teems with wildlife, as if nature’s staging a play solely for guests’ enjoyment.
Each porch of the villas – where the magic happens – has been thoughtfully provided with tripod-mounted binoculars that make it easy to observe all the action across the river. I spied elephants strolling on the island and the park, as well as pods of hippos basking in the sun before making a dash for the water to cool off.
Meanwhile, on the river bank, a plover bird fearlessly perched on a crocodile’s open mouth and fed off debris stuck between the beast’s teeth in one of nature’s intriguing, symbiotic relationships.
Due to its strategic location, Chobe Water Villas ensures easy access to four neighbouring countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This enables the lodge to offer visitors a host of exciting activities. For example, we went on a threehour morning game drive through the Chobe National Park, on the Botswana side, in an open 4x4 vehicle. While we didn’t spot any of the Big Five, I was thrilled to see a plethora of antelopes, such as the red lechwe and puku, as well as different species of birds, including the roller and the red-billed hornbill. Occasionally, we saw dried-up bones or horns of long-dead animals, giving the place a surreal atmosphere. This is the reality of the battle for survival in the wild.
Other activities which Chobe Water Villas can arrange for visitors include enchanting sunset cruises on the Chobe River. On ours, we got up close with nature and tried to spot hibernating crocs on the river banks. The Chobe River is also a primary attraction for those staying in other establishments in the Zambezi region – as the swarms of tourist boats attest.
A word of warning, though: if you’re here at the height of summer, no matter how oppressive the heat, don’t even think about diving into the river, paddling in it or even dangling your legs in it. “What would happen?” I asked our host as we sipped bubbly during our cruise. “You’d be tuna for the crocs in a flash,” she said bluntly.
With the abundance of aquatic life here, Chobe Water Villas can arrange for naturelovers to go on specialised photographic river safaris, guided by renowned photographers. It can also organise cultural tours to nearby Kasenu village at Kabulabula or guests can venture as far afield as the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, a six-hour trip.
Not that you’d necessarily want to leave the lodge, which is a delight in itself. For starters, the decor’s modern and tasteful – from the reception area to the lounge, bar and guest rooms – and pays homage to the natural beauty of Namibia and its people.
Then there’s the warm hospitality and attentive service of the staff, who ensure your every whim is indulged, serving sumptuous food and ice-cold drinks. Guests can also lounge around the pool with a book from the lodge’s library.
Coetzee says this relaxation is what Chobe Water Villas is all about. “We want our guests to leave feeling that they’ve experienced the heartbeat of Africa. We want them to feel as if they’re part of our family and are taking special memories back home.”