If you’ve been self-driving your way through Botswana, you will have encountered many different things. Things like the heat, the dust, the dry conditions and the rudimentary lodgings (mostly a bare patch of ground under a thorn tree). This is not a criticism of local conditions, but rather, what you came here for, to test your mettle against the unforgiving African landscape. Throw in the prospect of running into lions or angry buffalo and it adds a level of exhilaration that is hard to match.

And by the time you’ve made it this far north, travelling the length of Botswana, you will be blown away by the mighty Chobe River. An impossibly wide expanse of water – especially when compared to the Savuti Canal, which is, not. Not at all for quite a while now.

Large trees line the banks and everything just looks so… green! There’s also far less of the fine dust that seems to accompany you everywhere you go. And Kasane itself is like a mini-Maun, with all the amenities you might need, like supermarkets and somewhere to replenish the beer stash. The beer stash that kept you alive and hydrated in the Kalahari!

It isn’t extremely big, maybe a third as big as Maun, but it serves as a gateway to Chobe National Park and the proximity to Kazungula makes it a border town, and entry point for Namibia, Zambia AND Zimbabwe. The location along the Chobe River also makes it an ideal place to put down numerous lodges. Lodges like Chobe Safari Lodge.

Chobe Safari Lodge

We first visited the lodge about five years ago and were mightily impressed. This time it didn’t disappoint, although with a slight diversion. The main lodge area (if you’ve been here then you will know) was a very large, high-ceiling thatch area overlooking the pool and river beyond. This was now off-limits and closed for renovation.

We were diverted to Chobe Bush Lodge on the other side of the entrance road. Not on the river itself, but equally grand and a spectacular reception area, with impossibly high thatch and completely open to the elements (I don’t think winter is especially harsh around here). Large restaurant and lounge areas overlook the pool, which looks very inviting.

Service is impeccable with dozens of smiling staff greeting you. And the cool face towel and ginger drink as a welcome… is most welcome indeed. It is all so very civilised when compared to the basic camps we had been through. And I don’t mean that it is better – just different. The contrasts in the camps are amazing, from Mbudi Camp to Palm Afrique in Ghanzi for example, and now this!

Campsite full access

As campsite guests, we have access to all the facilities at Chobe Bush Lodge (while renovations are ongoing). The campsites are near the river, next to Chobe Safari Lodge, and it is a pretty good deal, all told). The size of the sites varies according to group size. We had number 5 which was large enough for perhaps six trucks, so easily gave our three vehicles enough room.

The shower/toilet facilities were very nice, all very well maintained, neat and clean, and there was even warm water (talk about taking everything to a new level). The ‘old’ ablution building has now been turned into the restrooms for the new Sedudu Grill (this basically meant blocking off the showers, so toilets only).

The Sedudu Grill now sits on the open space that used to be next to the Sedudu Bar. If you turn your back to the river and walk out of the Sedudu Bar you will enter the large, open stretch tent that serves as a charming venue for dinner. This is a buffet-style braai and grill, with a very good menu! Service is, once again, on a different level, and we counted perhaps the same number of staff as guests. You are made to feel quite special as dinner commences at sundown. And what a sundown, overlooking the Chobe River looking towards Namibia.

The Sedudu Bar has retained its charming space and you can enjoy a sundowner literally on the water’s edge, or a pre-dinner drink before walking all of twenty metres to your table. The local St Louis beer is, of course, the beer of choice for this, but they can mix you any number of cocktails from the well-stocked bar while you try and figure out how far London is from the many arrows pointing to different destinations.

A very chilled vibe, and a perfect spot while camping – the campsites are literally behind the Grill (and closer than any of the rooms, although there is a complimentary shuttle golf cart that will deliver you to your room). Once again, all very civilised indeed.

Victoria Falls

What you can also do from here is organise a shuttle to visit Victoria Falls. Door-to-door service that was booked at reception and facilitated by Chobezi and Shearwater. A van picks you up in the morning and drops you at the border post. After the paperwork, you jump aboard a bus for an hour’s drive through Zimbabwe. You have five hours at Vic Falls (plenty) and then the routine is reversed to deposit you at the lodge in time for sundowners. Much easier than the supposed hassle at the border with your own vehicle.

Sunset Cruise

The other must-do is a sunset cruise on the Chobe River. Not exactly sunset, as you will be back around then (and back into the Sedudu Bar), but you leave at three p.m. for about three hours on the river. It is here that we saw elephants swimming to cross the river, and many buffalo and hippos grazing in the sun! Armed with a gin and tonic this was a most pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Floating along we learned quite a lot from our host and the captain of the boat.

In effect you do a lap of Sedudu Island, stopping numerous times along the way to view a couple of elephants swimming to the other side, fairly oblivious, or at least trying to ignore the gaggle of boats. There is a lot of bird life here, as well as baboons, wildebeest, giraffe and the ever-present impalas. It is quite nice to get a different view from the water onto the bank.

We even spot many safari vehicles following the riverside route from Ngoma to Sedudu gate. A route we had taken a few days before, and were very impressed by the amount of wildlife and game spotting. There were numerous elephant herds with very young calves, very encouraging to see along with many herds of giraffes and large gatherings of marabou storks.

African Charm

They often say a business runs on its staff. And I can’t express how engaging and friendly all the staff are, from cleaners to security to reception and waiters. There’s always a smile and a quick comment on the weather, and the African charm just shines through.

Add the very pleasant surroundings, quick access to Kasane if needed and a very enjoyable (anniversary) dinner gifted by our good friends Rob, Diana, and Naomi at the Sedudu Grill. The poolside drinks service feels very pampered, the river is just perfect for sitting back and watching, the campsite is well run, clean and neat (including the resident warthogs and bushbuck), the option to go anywhere on safari, in any form of transport just a quick enquiry at reception away, and the general good vibe going on here and I can’t recommend Chobe Safari Lodge enough.