Exploring a shining African star
By Adrian Rorvik
Gaborone - Fabian Mwilima nosed the boat gently forward on to the sand of Elephant Bay on the banks of the Chobe River. Botswana’s Chobe National Park has a burgeoning elephant population and we were mere metres from a family group.
A teenager flapped his ears and took a few steps in our direction to indicate who was in charge, but otherwise they paid us little attention. And that is how it is when game viewing from a boat. I have never been so close to so much wildlife – in particular birds. Fish eagles cry at regular intervals along the river. Pied kingfishers and their cousins, vultures, storks, herons, cranes, cormorants, jacanas, Lilac breasted Rollers, gulls, swifts and African Skimmers abound along the banks.
The Chobe River during the dry season is shallow and clear. Animals are forced by the conditions to head to the river for water, grass, and whatever other food they can find. Some, like elephants and buffalo, cross regularly from Chobe National Park on the Botswana side of the Chobe River to the Namibian bank to feed. How fortunate for us then that the Nguni Voyager houseboat, our home for a couple of nights, was moored within metres of the main crossing point.
How fabulous it felt, Namibian brew in hand while heading towards a spectacular sunset, having been back home in Durbs just that morning. SA Airlink fly from Durban via Nelspruit and on to Livingstone, Zambia, before lunch. We were whisked from the airport courtesy of Flame of Africa and followed the Zambezi roughly 70km upstream to the Kazungula ferry crossing, where an avenue of trucks lined the road, awaiting their turn to cross the 400m-wide river.
Thank goodness for the transfer folk as there are three border posts – Zambia, Botswana and Namibia – with a couple of stretches of road and river to negotiate.
After that it is so relaxing, zipping from the last customs office to the Nguni Voyager, where skipper Mike Kalonda and crew welcomed us aboard before sending us out again with our guide. Fabian had just the right boat craft to enable snappers the best shot possible – and game viewing from a boat is so much more comfortable than trundling on a 4x4.
We encountered loads of game up close: hippos galore and more crocs than I have seen in the wild. We saw antelope and buck, baboons, water monitor lizards, and a huge rock python. Giraffe remained a way off, probably to avoid ending up like the dead elephant the crocs were nudging about like an oversized ball.
Night-time saw us swopping experiences around the table with a smorgasbord of international travellers occupying the other four cabins (Switzerland, US, New Zealand, Australia), while lions coughed and hippos snorted.
If there was a complaint, it was the overabundance of food (though no one skipped meals), leaving time only to recover before the next complimentary excursion, either more game viewing or fishing or both.
Nguni Voyager also affords guests the option of baking on the rooftop deck, or lounging in the shaded Jacuzzi, but none of us did, zooting off instead on one of the little flotilla of boats.
All too soon our Chobe adventure was over and we crossed the border posts once more before winging our way to Kruger International Airport.
As airports go, KIA is unusually attractive, closely resembling a thatched game lodge. We were out of the airport in short order in our Hertz car and even more soon thereafter I was skidding to a halt (sorry Hertz) because I had overshot the entrance to our next abode, Likweti Lodge.
The entrance gate is within walking distance from the airport. The lodge itself is some 15 minutes further on in the private reserve, past river, bush and game.
Likweti Lodge may have four-star grading, but the luxury suites are very much five star. Vast, inviting rooms under high thatch roofs with lovely artwork, including bespoke ceramic panels and a variety of tiles, creative lighting, and a most useful countertop with sink, filter coffee/ tea and delicious biscuits, with bar fridge below. The ablutions almost stole the show. Indoors a church-like layout leads you from the nave that is the bedroom, via the double basins to the left, giant bath to the right, towards the apse-like shower, domed and lit by a skylight. Very clever. Outdoors, on the private veranda with views towards the distant Swazi mountains, is another shower with a view plus a plunge pool.
The main lodge has a rimflow pool for lazy days, a lovely open lounge area, conference facilities and a comfortable restaurant.
I recommend early rising as there is so much to see and do.
Likweti is a great base from which to visit both the high and lowveld. We visited the Botanical Gardens in Nelspruit (Mbombela) en route to Berlin Plantation via the scenic Kaapsehoop road for horserides with a view.
What a trip!
If You Go...
Established in 1958, Flame Lily Holidays has provided package holidays to Victoria Falls for generations of travellers. In 2006 sister company Flame of Africa was established. Offering the full travel service to Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, it owns a luxury Kariba houseboat and a fleet of transfer vehicles in Vic Falls and Kasane.
For more information, call 031 762 2424 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.flameofafrica.com
Nelspruit Kruger to Livingstone Zambia.
Airlink, the regional feeder airline, connects you to two of Africa’s most sought-after destinations – Nelspruit/Kruger National Park and Livingstone, Zambia.
You have the freedom to view the majestic Victoria Falls and enjoy an African safari experience on the same day. Travellers using Airlink’s direct Kruger to Livingstone service are able to enjoy an early morning game drive and breakfast at their bush lodge before travelling to Livingstone and, on the same day, a relaxing sunset cruise on the Zambezi.
Return travellers from Livingstone to Kruger are able to enjoy a walk to the falls in the morning, breakfast and midmorning activities, before travelling to Kruger to enjoy their first night in the bush.
Airlink’s direct convenient service operates on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The flight departs from Nelspruit Kruger at 11.35am and arrives in Livingstone at 13.10pm. The return flight departs at 13.45pm, arriving in Kruger at 15.25pm.
Airlink also offers convenient daily direct flights from Nelspruit to Cape Town, Durban and Joburg.
Call 011 451 7300 or visit www.flyairlink.com - Sunday Tribune