Issue 27
Bushy Tales
At the point where four African countries meet there is magic all around
By Jo Kromberg  ·  2016-08-01  ·   Source:

Photos by Willie Smit

 

"Nowhere on earth will you see this sight, lady and gentleman!" announces our captain as he expertly steers us across the river on our tiny pontoon - for all of the two and half minutes the crossing takes. I jest not. Blink and it’s over.

 

But resist the temptation because he’s right; on this fine late June day we find ourselves in the only place on earth where four countries meet, on this here intersection of the Chobe River and Zambezi River and it’s called a quadri-point: two tri-points that are very close where Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet at approximately the same place, in Kazungula.

 

From there it’s another 60 km or so on to our destination at Ngoma Safari Lodge on the Chobe River in Botswana. Opened by Africa Albida Tourism in May 2011 in partnership with the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT), the lodge is a five-star bush property, perched on a ridge. The lodge consists of eight luxury suites designed with an emphasis on space, peace and luxury. Set in the Chobe Forest Reserve just outside the Chobe National Park, the Lodge has an elevated view of the legendary Chobe River and game-rich Caprivi floodplains. The classic thatched lodge, swimming pool and various viewing decks are superbly placed amongst magnificent baobab trees to best showcase the magical scenery. Incorporating rustic and ethnic accents, as well as natural materials and finishes, each suite features spacious living areas, a deep bathtub, indoor and outdoor showers, and an open lounge area with a "refresh and relax pool" that maximizes the beautiful views. The magnificent river vistas continue in the guest area, set beneath the spreading boughs of an ancient baobab. Guests can idle away the hours in the comfortable sitting room or indulge in evening cocktails in the elegant bar. Meals are served in the thatched dining room or on the open decks. A sparkling swimming pool with an adjacent sun deck offers refreshment. A viewing platform provides game viewing opportunities without leaving the comfort of the lodge. Adventures on offer include game walks, game drives and full day game adventures on land and water, as well as visits to the local village, clinic and school.

 

Exceptional game viewing

 

Our hosts Peter and Judy welcome us warmly and Judy leads us into the restaurant area where the sweeping view truly takes your breath away. In fact, we are looking into another country - Namibia lies in the hazy blue on the horizon. We delight in excellent fresh bream for lunch before being shown to our luxury chalet. It’s a fabulous space, with all the indulgent treats and amenities you can imagine. And the Wi-Fi in the room is a definite plus if you have to catch up on work.

 

I almost fall asleep next to my little pool as the soft, warm wind carries the barking of zebra and the songs of myriad birds below in the valley up to hills. But a game drive with our guide MK awaits. Game drives in the Forest Reserve or Chobe National Park take place each morning and afternoon, although a full day can be spent game viewing in Chobe and on the Chobe River with a picnic lunch in a wild and beautiful spot.

 

Game viewing in Chobe is exceptional during the dry winter months July - October. Moreover, being based in the Forest Reserve allows guests to enjoy guided walking safaris and night game drives, two activities not allowed in the national park. Ngoma Safari Lodge is a member of a community trust established to help the local community benefit from tourism and resource management.

 

We spot giraffes, kudu, elephant, zebras and buffalo interspersed with what seems like thousands of bird species and MK tells us fascinating stories about each creature. The giraffe, for instance, is the only animal to parallel walk. "A bit like Miss Universe, eh?" he says.

 

The zebra migration from the Savuti has already started and we are practically surrounded by zebra all the way. So why does a zebra have black and white stripes? To regulate their body temperature, says our new very knowledgeable friend MK.

 

We also see the so-called "Ugly Five" - the Marabou stork, warthog, hyena, blue wildebeest and vulture.

 

Boat cruise

 

At dinner that evening the chef Eva introduces herself to the table before telling us about the delectable menu - crumbed mushrooms, roast lamb, chicken Ballantine and home-made ice cream for dessert. The thing I love about the food at Ngoma is the fact that it’s simple, honest absolutely delicious fare. And the portions are manageable!

 

My taste buds are dancing the polka by the time the heavenly ice cream arrives. Back at the room we decide on a night cap on the patio only to almost jump to Namibia at the sound of an elephant trumpeting meters from the room. The footprints the next morning bears testimony to the midnight visitor...

 

After breakfast we merrily cruise down the Chobe on a safari boat cruise. MK warns us not to stick appendages out of the boat. "This is the only river where you swim just once." And as if to make his point for him, a crocodile the size of America’s foreign deficit slithers into the water just then, within reaching distance from us. We also spot hippos and come very, very close to a lone bull elephant taking his morning ablutions.

 

The cacophony of sea birds makes the river sound like Cape Town’s harbor. MK tells us that hippos can stay under water for up to six minutes because they can slow their heart rate down. "This is what I came to Africa to see!" says our travelling companion Gotham gleefully who hails from the United States.

 

Celebratory dinner

 

Back in my chalet I have a nap and when I wake up, the setting sun bathes the entire room in golden copper hues through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The almost day-glow pink ball of fire grows bigger as it enters the horizon, like a last call to this wonder. My breath catches in my throat at this spectacle of nature. Below me a few zebras bark at the waterhole and far on the horizon the pink ball of fire is now gone, leaving a blue grey mist in its wake.

 

The evening’s feast is again a cornucopia of delight - asparagus and blue cheese soup, camembert tart, fillet with mushroom sauce, Chobe bream and ice cream. Presented with a flourish and deeply satisfying, the food and service at Ngoma is second to none.

 

It is Gotham’s 50th birthday and the staff puts on a fabulous traditional dance display. I look over to him and see that he has tears in his eyes. And it’s not hard to understand why. Ngoma will stay with you long after the dust of Africa has been washed away. I will return...

 

Contact:

 

Ngoma Safari Lodge—http://www.africaalbidatourism.com/safari-lodges/ngoma-safari-lodge

 

Getting there:

 

There are currently no direct flights between China and Botswana. Take a direct flight from china to South Africa with Air China and take a Fastjet flight from there to either Zambia or Zimbabwe. It’s an easy hour or two by car from there—http://www.fastjet.com/zm/en/destinations  

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