Ngoma Safari Lodge, Botswana
Our commute from Choma to Ngoma took up most of our day. The return trip to Livingstone was on a not-so-luxurious bus, but it does the job (we now appreciate the extra $2 equivalent for the business class fare). We are met on arrival at the Livingstone bus depot to be taken to the border crossing at Kazungula. Our driver escorts us through customs on the Zambia side of the river and a small craft approaches from the other side to collect us. The boat driver delivers us to another driver on the Botswana side who is taking us to Kasane airport, which is the collection point for Ngoma Safari Lodge. We get our passports stamped and then have to wash the bottom of our shoes in a trough to sterilise against foot-and-mouth disease. It had all sounded like a long and complicated day, but our transfer has been handled with great precision and we arrive at Ngoma around 3pm.
Driving on a dirt road through thick scrub, I am not seeing anything resembling a luxury safari lodge until it appears out of nowhere, unimposing on its environment. You could quickly misjudge it as simple and basic, then through the open entrance you glimpse a dramatic view of the Chobe flood plain. We are greeted by Babs and John, the lodge managers and a number of staff. A warm welcome is accompanied by fresh towels and cool drinks.
Our stay here is indulgent and expensive (relative to our travel budget for a year), but well worth it. There are only 8 individual bungalows on the property with no security fences. Animals roam freely, hence we are not able to do so at night without one of the security guards. We are in villa number one, which is adjacent to one of two natural corridors the animals use to make the evening pilgrimage to the water. Our plunge pool is apparently popular with the elephants fussy about water quality!
We have our first game drive that evening. Bevan will be our guide for our stay. He takes us down to the floodplain and the waterfront is alive with impala (of course), elephants and giraffe. We thought we had been lucky at Black Rhino to see a couple of giraffe in the distance, now we have dozens all around us. Watching them spread their gangly legs out to reach the minerals in the soil or take a drink, is a treat. Bevan also shows us the lion tracks they found that morning in front of the lodge. Our chances of seeing any cats was meant to be slim, perhaps we will get lucky!
Day two: with such a spectacular view laid out in font of us, we leave the curtains open and wake with the sunrise. Out our window is a ‘tower’ of giraffes feeding just below us and making their way back up the corridor. Don makes coffee (he is such a good hubby) and we rug-up to sit outside and watch them. It is a magnificent site and one that did not repeat itself during our stay.
John comes to tells us they have spotted two lions down near the floodplain and Bevan will take us down there. Several other vehicles are already watching a male and female lion lolling in the grass, these two are more interested in mating every 20 minutes than in the spectators. Bevan’s knowledge of the area and expert driving skills gets us within pouncing distance – I learn this when I stand up to take a photo and the lioness responds by sitting up and staring directly at me. Bevan quickly recommends I sit down, so I obey (the photo was well worth it)! We sit and watch them for about 20 minutes, until they are going at it again – of course Don wants to come back in his next life as a lion!
Today is a full day drive through the park along the Chobe river for about 80kms, we will then take a water safari to see the hippo. We view numerous birds and animals along the way, including waterhog and water buffalo, who stand on the track unconcerned by our presence. You would think that giraffes, what with their long necks, couldn’t hide, yet they seem to be able to pop out of nowhere; and of course lots of elephants, Chobe is renowned for its elephants.
On the river we are spoiled by the number of hippopotamus (did you know a group of hippo is called a ‘crash’?). You should never get between a hippo and water, as it will charge you – hippo are one of the biggest killers in Africa. One hippo, standing on the bank gets a bit feisty with us, roaring angrily. It starts heading out towards us and Bevan backs the boat out of its reach. We see elephants wading out in the water to feast on the rich grasses and alligators baking in the sun. The bird life is plentiful and the contrasting scenery from the water is well worth the trip.
Day three: Much to the surprise of our hosts, we decline a morning drive and declare today a rest day. We make full use of our luxury surroundings, lazing around, catching up on emails and making use of our private plunge pool. In the afternoon Bevan takes us back to the river for ‘sundowners’. We watch the giraffe and elephant make their way down to the water and also see a lone sable antelope milling around. We watch the glorious sunset as we sip our rosé and nibble on biltong (African dried beef) – a perfect end to the day.
If you are thinking about coming to Africa we can’t recommend more highly staying at http://www.ngomasafarilodge.com/