African paradise: Chobe Bush Lodge
I thought as we glided toward a herd of elephants, surrounded by buffalo and birdlife, “what a wonder-filled world we live in”.
I set my camera down, took a sip of my gin and tonic and took it all in as our skipper expertly manoeuvred our boat around once hotly disputed Sedudu Island, which marks Botswana’s border with Namibia on the Chobe River.
He knew just how to position the big craft for the best snaps of the abundant wildlife.
Sedudu, he explained, means “group of hippos in shallow water”.
There were plenty of those grumpy sorts, too, snorting in annoyance when we got too close (which is any distance, really).
That shallow water becomes several metres deeper in the wet season and the islands are submerged, the game that is forced to visit the river in the dry season scarcer (from a boat), but the scenery arguably even more beautiful.
Viewing nature from the sundowner boat cruise on the Chobe provides a different experience from on land: elephants swimming across the river and greeting each other as long-lost friends.
Being able to glide in close to them or buffalo, hippos and crocodiles, with sunset framing the scene, is special. I love the area, I loved the vibe at Chobe Bush Lodge where I was a guest.
Relatively new kid on the block, Chobe Bush Lodge is part of Under One Botswana Sky and part and parcel of older Chobe Safari Lodge, right next door.
It’s all under thatch and the 42 rooms are tastefully, and unusually, hotel-like for a bush lodge.
No complaints from me or my fellow Aussie guests who, like me, were rather chuffed with the elegant grey-and-white colour scheme, the spacious suites and ablutions with separate bath and shower.
TV too and free wi-fi.
I was even more chuffed with the friendly staff, from the moment my Flame of Africa transfer dropped me off. They have a lot to do with the vibe, the energy.
So, too, do happy campers returning from a boat cruise, or alighting from another game drive with amazing sightings in the 11700km2 Chobe National Park, literally over the fence - so expect to see wildlife from your room and lock the screen doors lest baboons make themselves welcome.
The high-roofed lobby leads to a sprawling, open-plan lounge, dining room, bar area and out-to-terrace seating and two-tiered swimming pools, one splashing down into the other.
Rooms are in a wing to the left and two double-storey buildings ahead.
Early morning and sunset game viewing here is superb. Impala and other prey species are remarkably chilled.
The elephants, too, thank goodness. We had a swishing tail-in-the-face close encounter with a young bull, asserting his dominance and clearly showing what he thought of us - rear in the vehicle and all.
I’m glad he didn’t communicate with a fart, part of their array of communications skills - only some of which humans can hear (or smell).
Best was when an excited male, with an extra “leg”, trundled past after a female. “Oh my!” gushed the mom behind me in a flushed schoolgirl tone. “He’s interested in her,” guide Walter said. “Isn’t he just?!” was the response as hubby tried to distract the kids.
Our guides were all top-drawer, “edumacating” us with interesting facts and anecdotes about the birds and the bees and plenty else when there wasn’t game in sight, often more interesting than the Big 5.
Post-drive buffet breakfasts offer plenty of fresh fruit, omelettes and some very good cheeses.
Lunches are not too shabby either and the a la carte dinners are even better.
I mostly went with the waitress’s recommendations (mostly meat, though vegetarians were well looked after), which did not disappoint. Great ribeye and impala chops - enough for two. A great time, any time of the year.
Visit http://underone botswanasky.com