Windhoek - I’m not a morning person, but with the Zambezi River a flycast from my private poolside lounger, fish eagles crying, and hippos grunting - how could I not take in the sunrise with a cup of good filter coffee.
The aptly named Cascade Island Lodge, on a private Namibian island, offers a hard-to-beat setting and a lot more. But while the lodge is an inviting place to laze away the day, we were keen to explore.
First up was Impalila Island. Manager Chrispin Simalrumba took us on the briefest of boat rides to a sister lodge, Kaza, where we boarded a game vehicle and headed through little villages and bush to a 2 000-year-old baobab tree.
This massive tree, with an amazing root system stretching out for tens of metres in all directions, has had a hard life. Careless South African soldiers emptied hundreds of rounds into it, leaving bulging pock marks as a result. They even mounted a heavy gun in the tree. Today if you climb it, you can see the only place in the world where four countries (Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) meet.
Lunch was next, but not at the lodge. Instead we zipped back by boat up the Kasai channel towards the Chobe River, to Flame of Africa director Brett Mcdonald’s river eatery, The Raft. This new restaurant made entirely of salvaged and recycled bits and pieces, was a wonderful, relaxed way to lunch - with an unexpected treat that is not on any restaurant menu.
The Chobe River during the dry season is silky and lakelike, 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 to the Namibian bank to feed.
How fortunate for us then that The Raft is moored within metres of the main crossing point, and that you can almost set your watch by the elephants’ 2pm crossing.
After the show, we set off. Simalrumba nosed the boat ever-so-gently forward, kissing the sand of Elephant Bay on the banks of the Chobe. We were metres from a family of elephants.
We sat ever so still. A teenager flapped his ears and took a few steps in our direction to indicate who was in charge, but otherwise they paid us no attention. And that is how it is when you go game viewing from a boat.
I have never been so close to so much wildlife - in particular the abundance of birds. Fish eagle cries punctuated the hazy air frequently and they pose at regular intervals along the river. Hovering pied kingfishers, vultures, storks, herons, cranes, cormorants, jacanas, lilac breasted rollers that reminded me of Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat, gulls, swifts and African Skimmers all abound.
We meandered up a backwater as the sun began to set. Hippos started to slowly and noisily get their large butts into gear for their nocturnal wander, hungry crocs no doubt wondered if the skimmers would ever skim right into their jaws, lions grunted and the beauty of the hazy sunset in the dust laden air silenced all in our boat.
That quietude remained all the way back to Cascade Island Lodge, where we gazed reflectively into the firepit as Stephen Mjejema proudly prepared another superb dinner, while Simalrumba produced a very nice bottle of red to round off another idyllic day.
Three nights is the minimum I’d recommend at for a stay at Cascade Island Lodge. It gives you time to pack in the activities, but also time to relax completely.