Travel

THE THRILL OF CHOBE WATER VIL­LAS IN EASTERN NAMIBIA CAN BE FELT THE MO­MENT YOU AR­RIVE – AND IT LASTS THROUGH­OUT YOUR VISIT

Destiny - - Contents - BY Phakama Mbonambi

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.”

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