What do you call an exploding monkey… A baBOOM!
Chobe National Park is just a hop skip and a jump from Vic Falls (ok, almost). A short drive to the river/border crossing (30 mins depending on your lodge), a very short boat (less than 5 mins) then a short drive to where you are staying. A Chobe extension to any Zambian and Malawian adventure is an easy add on.
There are fantastic activities on the Chobe river, including the famous elephant crossing and seeing hippo out the water during the day, it can be a real highlight of any trip. In my opinion, water safaris are some of the best for a unique and relaxing way to see the animals up close, seeing magnificent elephants swimming is so extraordinary, it shouldn’t be missed!
I started my journey with Sanctuary’s Chobe Chilwero, based at the edge of the park (with only one lodge inside the NP), it is about as close as you can get. The animals realise this too and I am told they had regular sightings of a male leopard within their own fence! Sadly I didn’t see any spots but I did have regular sightings of warthog, bushbuck, mongoose and baboons, all outside my room on a daily basis.
Arriving early, my room wasn’t quite ready so they sent me to the spa for a foot massage. Let’s be honest unless you are on a walking safari your feet don’t get much action on these trips but who was I to argue with the angel that proceeded to massage my weary feet. Chilweo is a really stunning lodge, the rooms are private and each one is massive. The unique bathroom had a large stand-alone bathtub in the middle and huge walk-in shower with a proper vanity station. The bathroom looks outside to a cordoned off area which allows you to look at the trees whilst you wash, nothing except the baboons to look in – pervs…lol!
The real draw of Chobe is the elephants crossing the river onto the islands within, and, the hippos out grazing during the light hours. On my first evening, we headed out on the boat – I must say Chobe can be quite busy with large boats and many tourists but the more expensive lodges do utilise smaller boats and head a little further from the crowds to get exclusive sightings! Seeing elephant and hippo cruise around without having to worry about predators (except crocs which can take the babies if big enough) is really beautiful. The elephants splash around as they swim across the channels using their trunks as a snorkel if the water does get deeper.
The birdlife around the river is also flourishing, from colourful kingfishers to majestic fish eagles, to all the specialised ducks, jacanas, cormorants etc. For twitchers’ Chobe is a must-visit destination.
Game drives in the park also focus around the river but further up the banks where you can search for big cats and wild dogs. Sadly whilst there, the rains came so most of the cats were hiding, however, we saw a large male on the last day roaring for his brother!
My next stop was Chobe Game Lodge, anyone who has met me knows I’m a strong feminist, and, to find out they had an all-female guiding team was an absolute win! Having guided myself I know the challenges facing women in the industry. As a male-dominated sector with dominance fights, territorial disputes and khaki fever only working one way, the challenges of having a family in the bush can be tough for a female guide to make her mark.
Chobe is a great place where women can guide, with Kasane not far from the park and most of the lodges outwith, you can be with the family after the evening game drive and even between activities if needs be, limiting the dominance disputes to the park itself. For those that may wonder what sex has to do with guiding, I commend you. Strength to change a tyre, eyes like a hawk and the ability to understand what is in front of you and interpret to a client are all devoid of gender.
The team at Chobe Game Lodge is a great one, and, with an emphasis on inclusivity, they have wheelchair access rooms, a low carbon imprint with electric boats and a huge variety of yummy foods on offer, catering to all diets. I thought my guides were great and I enjoyed chatting to the girls about life in the bush and how they balance their home life with work. I was treated to meals with their manager who went through the history of the lodge and the brilliant sense of family they have. Despite it having a few more rooms than your average lodge in Malawi and Zambia, I always felt at home, the staff were incredibly helpful and I never felt as if I was one of many clients, always special.
From Chobe Game Lodge I headed back out the park to Chobe Bush Lodge. One of the bigger properties, it is more of a hotel than a lodge. With lots of rooms and different meal options from buffets to a la carte, the food here was delicious. They outsource the game drives to another company so be warned you may be in a car with lots more guests and unfortunately due to a scheduling error I wasn’t able to experience the boat cruise with them.
For larger groups and budget conscious guests, this is a great option but for those who want a more personal touch, it is better to spend a little more money elsewhere.
My final and favourite (I know, we aren’t allowed to have favourite’s but I am making an exception here) stop was with Pangolin Photo Safaris, a photographic safari company. With a side hobby of photography, I was looking to sharpen my focus, zoom in on my skills and walk away with some epic shots. I am pleased to say I picked up a whole lot more!
The lodge is set in Kasane so it’s not a bush lodge per se, but, with a specialised editing room where you can edit pictures under your guides expert training, it is the perfect place to hone in your photography skills. Pangolin really is for everyone, they even lend out Canon 5D iii to all clients with a sigma 100-600mm lens, so you don’t need your own equipment and you don’t need any experience.
Whilst I was here, there was everyone from novices to those who knew a bit and wanted to improve and those that knew it all and had cameras and lenses worth more than your average house. With specialised vehicles and boats, you can have views on both sides and swivel around on your chair for all angles on the boat. I learnt so much from my guide, Janine – she was brilliant, patient caring and got just as excited about guests taking good shots as they did.
We had meals together discussing sightings, African adventures, photography and of course just about ourselves which was nice to have a communal meal after dining alone previously. We were lucky enough to be in the company of the ex-president of Botswana who was staying with his wife. We had great discussions about the conservation issues that Botswana and Malawi are currently facing.
If you don’t want to edit photos between activities there is still plenty to do, from the cocktail bar to the swimming pool or resting in your room, or as Lisa and I discovered a rehab centre down the road. With rescued bush babies, birds, snakes, genets and even a caracal and honey badger. It’s a great way to see some animals up close and support the locals who are trying to conserve their species and rescue those that need a bit of help.
Sadly, my trip had come to an end. I’m really glad I was able to get to see the highlights of Chobe it’s an easy add on to any trip in Malawi and Zambia you can easily connect via Livingstone. For those that want to take pictures of a lifetime, Pangolin in Chobe is the perfect place to start your African adventure.
It is a quick drive across to Livingstone (around 90 minutes) and from there you can fly onto Lusaka/Mfuwe/Jeki/Liuwa and then either drive to Malawi or fly into Lilongwe.
If you would like to know more about Chobe, please email me at Chloe@malawianstyle.com.