Text and photographs Elzanne Erasmus
Text and photographs Elzanne Erasmus
“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.”
Hemingway’s words never rang more true for me than when I awoke to the soft ‘huh huh huh’ of a hippo slightly downriver from my villa. The gentle lapping of the Chobe waters caressing the soul, the excitement of the day to come rising with the African sun.
The day before I had arrived at O&L Leisure’s new resort, Chobe Water Villas, by way of a stylish speedboat transfer from Botswana’s safari town, Kasane. After a quick stop at the customs office along the river – after all, we were about to leave Botswana – we were off at an exhilarating pace toward the northern side of the Chobe. Along the way we came upon at least 10 to15 other vessels, packed to the brim with excited explorers, marvelling at the herds of buffalo and elephant lazily grazing in the floodplains of Sedudu Island. Cameras poised and at the ready, you could tell they were eagerly snapping away at the sight of the large elephant bulls a few metres from their boats, getting that “Look what I saw in Africa!” shot. Taking the special moment home with them. As we rounded a bend in the river, a row of thatched villas came into view. Perched on stilts that extend over the water’s edge, they are framed by tall green Acacia trees and do not for a second seem out of place in their wild setting.
A welcoming committee of people and nature awaited my arrival at the wooden dock. In fact, my very first greeting came from a Pied Kingfisher perched on a wooden beam. A quick survey of my surroundings revealed a beautifully designed space, at once setting the mood for the spectacular African experience to come.
THE POETRY OF DESIGN
The lodge’s layout and design astounds, as if right from the pages of some fancy interior magazine where the purpose of each conceptual choice is to awe and inspire. Details are stuffed into every nook and cranny, and the overall effect is overwhelming. The lodge’s assistant manager, Nerise, later explained how each detail of the interior has a hidden meaning and how choices were made to coincide with a theoretical “sense of place” experience. There is poetry in each element. From the decorative support beam named “The Spiral of Life” to “The African Sun” reception chandelier, cultural patterns and elements from nature and aesthetic concepts were combined to deliver a beautiful visual symphony.
WATCH THE SKIES CATCH FIRE
My adventures into the wonders of the Chobe area started with a sunset boat cruise. Gin and Tonic in hand, the cry of a Fish Eagle overhead, and a herd of elephant crossing the river in front of our two-decker riverboat made for quite the experience. At times the river got so deep that only the very tips of the elephant trunks broke the water surface. Hippos shook droplets from their ears as they came up from where they had been submerged to peak at us passing. Crocodiles basked in the day’s last rays of sunshine. A family of kudus stepped down to the bank for some refreshment. And the sun disappeared behind the lodge, setting everything on fire in a bright orange glow the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a very long time. With dusk came an evening chill and a bright full moon, and a sense of awe crept through me as I sat atop a boat on this majestic river and absorbed all the wonders of this wild place.
Chobe Water Villas is an O&L Leisure establishment that was opened in July 2016. The lodge is situated inside the Kasika Conservancy on the Namibian bank of the Chobe River. The lodge boasts 16 water villas and is well located to link attractions in the area, including Chobe National Park in Botswana and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Be sure to visit our website for a visual journey through the interior design concepts that fill Chobe Water Villas with such splendour. For more info on the lodge visit their profile on our site: www.travelnewsnamibia.com/plan-your-trip/chobe-water-villas
Your stay at Chobe Water Villas includes quite a few trips across the river and back if you partake in all the activities the lodge has to offer. These jaunts include inevitable visits to the Botswana customs office. The immigration office is quick and efficient and it takes barely any time to have them stamp your passport as you cross back and forth between borders, but be sure your passport has sufficient page space. The lodge managers take care of your immigration routine on the Namibian side. Your visit to Chobe Water Villas includes two activities per day, and with so many to choose from I’d recommend staying a week! See all the activities on offer at the lodge at www.chobewatervillas.com.
ELEPHANTS… ELEPHANTS EVERYWHERE
A game drive into Chobe National Park on the Botswana side the next morning reconfirmed what I had already established… Chobe has elephants. Lots of them. Everywhere. The gentle giants dot the floodplains and Sedudu Island that lies between Namibia and Botswana. Here they feed during the day before making their way back across the river into the main part of the park before nightfall. Hundreds move along the river in large family herds, dark brown with mud and water, so unlike the white ghosts that roam Etosha National Park in central Namibia. Over 160,000 elephants call this area home, and seeing these stately Goliaths move back and forth along the river left me to marvel at their sheer size and numbers.
A COLONY OF KINGS
About 100m to the west of Chobe Water Villas the watersides are alive with a flutter of wings. Here, colonies of Pied Kingfishers (Ceryle rudis) have constructed their nests in the walls of the riverbank. Flashes of black and white skim across the surface of the water as they flit between home and hunting ground. A graceful upward arc and a momentary mid-air hover prelude their dive into the water. Among the reeds dispersed along the river course, the small and vibrant Malachite Kingfishers (Alcedo cristata) perch on thin branches, low enough over the water to make their dive-and-catch a quick and efficient practice. For the bird lover, or ‘twitcher’, Chobe is a haven of aviary delights, with over 460 species to tick off your lifer list! Yellow-billed storks, Openbills, Spoonbills, Black, Grey and Purple Herons are but a few of the larger water birds permeating the riverfront and marshes.
FIND ME WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Whether you are an avid nature lover, photographer, birder or just looking for peace and serenity somewhere where nature surpasses all else, Chobe Water Villas is an utterly enchanting experience. It has brought the wonder of the Chobe area, so long dominated by Botswana’s Kasane foothold, to Namibia’s river shores. It is a raw and authentic African experience through and through and I will always remember feeling the wild energy seep through me as I lounged on the veranda of my villa, watching elephants gallivant across the river. There is magic to be found in such wild places.
Just east of the lodge is the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers where four countries meet: Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Whether you are an avid nature lover, photographer, birder or just looking for peace and serenity somewhere where nature surpasses all else, Chobe Water Villas is an utterly enchanting experience.
This article was first published in the Travel News Namibia Spring 2016 issue.