July 2016 saw the opening of a new boutique lodge, Chobe Water Villas on the Namibian bank of the Chobe River. Fiona McIntosh headed out for an experience to remember…
First appearances suggest a conventional thatched African bush lodge. But once you step ashore you realise that it’s quite extraordinary, as is its history.
- The design of the lodge, with its stilted chalets over the flood plain and water’s edge, is turning heads. But 95% of the staff who built the lodge were locals – mainly fishermen – who had never built anything before in their lives.
- The interior décor represents physical and cultural elements typical of the region. You check in under the “African Sun”, order a drink under sociable weaver’s nests and dine under a rain storm. And the lounge has skeletons in the closet.
- Don’t get a fright if you see someone swimming in the croc and hippo-infested Chobe river. They’re actually in the 17m-long rim flow pool!
- The lodge overlooks Sedudu Island, part of Chobe National Park. Botswana Tourism estimates the elephant population of the park at 160,000. It’s hard to believe that the species is classified as “vulnerable”.
- Every afternoon, from your chalet or the public areas, you’ll see great herds of elephant trooping along the southern edge of the island. Quite why is anybody’s business!
- Airlink – the Regional Feeder Airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA. Airlink have daily, direct scheduled flights from O.R. Tambo to Kasane.
- Flight Bookings: Online, booking agent or SAA Central Reservations on +27 11 978 1111, www.flyairlink.com
- This is the perfect weekend escape. Thanks to the proximity of the airport, lodge-assisted immigration facilities and a speedy boat ride (assuming you don’t get too distracted by all the game and bird sightings) you can be at Chobe Water Villas within 2.5 hours of taking off from O.R. Tambo.
- Alternatively you can self-drive to Kasane, from where it’s a quick boat transfer to the lodge.
Pictures: Fiona McIntosh, Shaen Adey and Supplied