I’ve been on rainy drives in South Africa and seen naught. At Ngoma Safari Lodge in northern Botswana, the animals are perhaps used to the rainy season and nine lions, almost within touching distance, and a pack of wild dogs were all our fellow guests could talk about.
This beautiful, thatched hilltop lodge within the Chobe Forest Reserve, borders the western edge of Chobe National Park and overlooks the Chobe River and floodplains, with Namibia across the way.
With just eight luxurious, private, river-facing suites it’s for a select few. All suites have spacious internal and external living areas, a bath, an inside and outside shower, air-conditioning, a mini-bar and excellent tea/coffee facilities.
No TVs anywhere but wi-fi is available and why have TVs when there is a wide-screen nature channel, right in front of your bed and its fine linen?
In addition, each suite has a private plunge pool from which you might spy the famous Chobe elephants, migrating zebra or buffalo grazing on the floodplain below. The lodge terrace too, with pool, fire pit, ample seating and baobabs, is another great sit-and-stare spot.
The game gets a lot closer, since the lodge is unfenced - and an ellie was noisily browsing right next to the lodge bar, so at night you need an escort.
Accommodation is on an all-inclusive basis, and activities include a full day safari - a cruise on the Chobe River, driving within the Chobe National Park and a picnic lunch and drinks - with night game drives and relatively short excursions on the concession.
After a splendid dinner a drive was a thrill for me in as much as we spotted three normally elusive but sleepy bat-eared foxes, very close to the road, also unfenced.
Similarly, the next morning, on the way to our boat on the Chobe River, we stopped many times to view hunting dogs, elephants, giraffe, kudu and a magnificent sable antelope, merely slowing for impala and baboons. Pink flowering Zambezi teak added beautiful splashes of colour. I’ve never seen Africa so green.
On the Chobe, with man mountain Bevan as guide and superbly skilled boatman, it just got better - blue cheeked bee-eaters, African marsh harriers at eye level (there are over 450 bird species), hippos and crocs galore.
Once off the river and aboard our vehicle in Chobe National Park, I at last got sightings of gorgeous carmine bee-eaters, never mind all the usual suspects. Elephant roadblocks are common and close up and, in the lush breeding season, the impalas and other predated species seemed oblivious to danger. We almost had to shoo them out of our way. Even usually obstinate Cape buffalo were chilled.
I visited Ngoma Safari Lodge when it had just opened over five years ago and was thrilled then. It has got better since - especially the food. I don’t generally like chicken livers, but I love them Ngoma-style. With so much beautifully prepared and presented grub, along with great bar and in-room snacky bits, plus beverages on the house, you really need to watch out unless you are trying to gain weight.
I can’t fault the impeccable service from our hosts Frances and Jarryd, to the chefs, waitrons, barman and Philemon, who dodged shongololos and other creatures on the trips from and to Kazungula border post. Africa Albida Tourism’s engagement with the local community makes all the difference. Hats off to chairman Dave Glynn and chief executive Ross Kennedy for their vision in all aspects of this superb gem.