Beside the Boabab – Ngoma Safari Lodge
Words by Gillian McLaren
Alongside an ancient baobab in Northern Botswana, close to the Chobe National Park, stands an unfenced lodge where game roams freely. It is a strong contender for having the best view in the Caprivi Strip area.
From the ridge where each of the eight thatched suites is situated, the view is spectacular. It is an expansive panorama down to the perennial Chobe River running through the vast Caprivi flood plain, where elephants, hundreds of migrating zebra and buffalo as well as impala gather and graze. It is mesmerisingly beautiful, a constantly changing scene enhanced by the play of different light during the day. At night the river is a silver ribbon in the moonlight.
As the lodge was built next to game paths and is unfenced, there is a stream of game passing right past the rooms. Lazing on your king-sized bed or sitting in your private sanctuary area, which includes a patio with plunge pool and outdoor shower, you can see anything from thirsty elephants thundering down to the river to a slender mongoose. Giant ground geckos laze on the rocks. Guests have even seen lions drinking from their pool. The suites have been placed to ensure total privacy, with a pathway behind, so no one ever encroaches on your space. Staff sound a gong before bringing you anything to your room.
Suites are spacious and comfortable, with a combined lounge and bedroom area backed by an open bathroom. Colours are neutral with natural finishes and touches of earth tones. Décor is ethnic and rustic with some humorous elements, like beaded warthoghead wall lamps. A pleasant feature is the glass and wood windows from floor to ceiling across the entire front, which open widely but have to be closed at night (because of the presence of game), when you can use the quiet air-conditioning.
A guard escorts you to and from your suite at night, and it is not unusual to be delayed mby elephants browsing on the greenery around the lodge precincts. This is a remote wilderness experience.
A 500-year-old baobab presides over the central area of Ngoma Safari Lodge, like a sentinel. Its branches are full of Buffaloweavers’ nests. Raptors use its branches as a vantage point to scour the area for prey.
This space is appealing and has a special atmosphere. I found myself kicking off my shoes and spending much time there on the pool deck with its plunge pool and rocky water feature, or on the game viewing deck. The area has clever architecture with decks on several levels, all leading to one another, including the bar, covered dining area and sitting room. This area sports chandeliers with alternating beaded Sable and Kudu over each globe, giving the effect of an African carousel. Photos of rosy-hued Chobe baobabs hang on the back wall.
Sunset from the central deck is splendid. Double-banded Sand Grouse pass by on their journey from the river to their roosting spots. Groups of guests chat animatedly about what they have seen on their game drives or river cruise in the nearby Chobe National Park. Many linger until dinner is served. Lanterns are dotted around the deck and a fire is lit in an old plough disc moulded onto a concrete base, adding to the enchanting ambiance. Tables in the covered dining space or on the open deck are set with white tablecloths, each decorated with a wire baobab tree. Small salt and pepper cellars are adorned with beads. You may gaze at game drinking at the floodlit waterhole as a tasty three-course meal is served. Seating is individual or in small groups, according to preference.
The staff are exceptionally friendly and warm, a unified and contented group, who care about your comfort and well-being. They are all from the local communities, which have part-ownership in the lodge and share the profits. Each guest contributes to a Community Fund.
After a fulfilling breakfast (a cold buffet presented in Penzo ceramic crockery, followed by cooked fare), game vehicles drive into Chobe National Park. Informed and enthusiastic guides delight in finding breeding herds of elephants with hairy babies that can’t quite use their trunks yet, majestic Sable and Roan antelope or large aggregations of giraffe. Lion and leopard sightings never fail to thrill. The bird life is phenomenal, and even seasoned birders are likely to tick off many lifers on their list. Red-billed Spurfowl, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and African Marsh Harrier are frequently sighted.
River cruises are a unique way to watch intimate animal behaviour. You are likely to see hippo snorting, yellow-skinned crocodiles so close up you can see blood on their teeth and baboons cavorting at the water’s edge. Puku – a pretty antelope – is endemic to the area. If you enjoy photography it is the ideal spot to take iconic African sunset shots of elephants against a red sun or buffalo with their reflections in pink water. Waterbirds are prolific, and you can enjoy Fish Eagles, many species of egrets, herons and iridescent Malachite Kingfisher.
The longer your stay, the better at Ngoma Safari Lodge, as it has such a congenial atmosphere – plus a magnificent view. After rewarding game and birding activities it is the ideal place to relax to enjoy one another, after the exertions of your wedding. Share in the romance of gazing at the silhouette of a baobab, raising its branches into the softly fading light.
Flame of Africa
To visit several lodges in the Chobe area you may have to crisscross borders between Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which all meet here. Let Flame of Africa smooth the transitions and transport you in comfort.