Chobe Game Lodge is set beside the Chobe River, the only permanent lodge in the national park
Chobe Game Lodge: Our full report
Chobe Game Lodge is a well-established hotel in the bush. Just a 20-minute drive from Kasane, it occupies a stunning position beside the Chobe River and is the only permanent lodge situated within the riverfront area of Botswana’s Chobe National Park. The lodge was originally made famous by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who chose to marry there in the mid-1970s.
The entrance to Chobe Game Lodge is a little imposing, perhaps unsurprising for a lodge of this size. Much like a hotel, the entrance lobby is home to the reception desk and an activities co-ordinator. Walk a little further, though, and you'll be greeted by glimpses of the Chobe River through the lush foliage in the gardens. A couple of years ago, the main buildings underwent refurbishment and you'll notice a distinctly Moroccan theme running through the décor in the public areas. Perhaps a little out of place in Botswana but, oddly, we think it works.
The open-sided lounge is large, with several sitting areas and a terrace looking out onto the garden. The lodge has two bars, one directly off the lounge and another discreetly located above the dining area. The latter features WiFi access, a full-sized billiard table and a large-screen TV. There is also a small spa, a well stocked curio shop and even an air-conditioned, reasonably well-equipped gym.
The dining area is an open-sided terrace, with the option of sitting under cover if the weather is inclement. Chobe Game Lodge also hosts regular barbecues at their purpose-built boma on the banks of the river, which makes the most of the riverfront views. The marimba band, who play regularly at these evenings, were very entertaining, if a little loud for those seated nearest to them!
Chobe Game Lodge's 47 rooms face the river across manicured lawns – although not all have views of the river. Air conditioning is standard, but their décor feels somewhat dated.
- 43 standard rooms, some of which are inter-leading, are furnished with twin or double beds, a complimentary minibar and an en-suite bathroom with flushing toilet, washbasin and shower over the bathtub. Each room opens out onto a small terrace with deck chairs. On our last stay in May 2014 the lodge had started renovating the bathrooms to make them much more spacious and modern.
- Four suites, all with river views, boast a separate lounge, a large balcony and a plunge pool. Two of these suites have an inter-leading gateway, accessed from the terrace, which allows guests to occupy a suite and a standard room – a good set up for families with older children, or friends travelling together. There are plans for these to also undergo an extensive refurbishment.
Overlooking the river at the front of the lodge is a long boardwalk that incorporates strategically placed seating areas, making it a very pleasant place to observe the river and the wildlife it supports, perhaps with a drink in hand. The walkway looks and feels like wood, but in keeping with the lodge's aim to restrict its environmental footprint, it is built entirely from recycled plastic!
The team at Chobe Game Lodge are very proud of their GREEN+ eco certification, one of only a handful awarded by the Botswana Tourism Board, and we believe deservedly so. Guests are offered a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities, which include a BioGas plant to generate methane from biodegradable waste to use in the kitchens; an above-ground closed sewage treatment plant which turns sewage water into irrigation water through Bio-Ozonation (don't worry, it doesn't smell!); and even recycling all glass bottles on-site by crushing them and converting them to innovative and strong 'glass bricks'. On our last visit the lodge had just built a family house in a nearby village using these bricks.
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, Chobe Game Lodge is also very proud of its professional and enthusiastic all-female guiding team, headed by a resident environmentalist. An activity co-ordinator prepares a suggested itinerary for each guest in order to help them make the most of their time here – although nothing is set in stone and guests are very welcome to chat to the team if they have any requests or concerns.
The area around Chobe Game Lodge has a dense concentration of wildlife during the dry season, which gradually builds up between about June and October. That said, this is also when the 'Riverfront' area of Chobe National Park can be very busy, with the combined impact of a large number of lodges and hotels around Kasane, and an influx of visitors on day-trips to Chobe National Park from Victoria Falls and Livingstone. The lodge tries to limit the impact of this by conducting many of its activities in the quieter, western side of the park. Its location, several kilometres inside the park, also makes a real difference, as on morning game drives, they are able to reach prime wildlife areas much earlier than visitors staying outside the park.
Activities at Chobe Game Lodge run a little differently from most safari camps in Botswana. While the day will still start with a short early-morning game drive, guests may – depending on the season – come back to the lodge around 8.00am for breakfast before heading out on a mid-morning boat cruise, when Chobe’s wildlife tends to head to the riverfront.
Chobe Game Lodge has several pontoon motorboats for morning and sunset cruises, with seats that can be swivelled to the optimal position and direction for viewing wildlife. Boats are launched from a pontoon in front of the lodge, where there are far fewer boats than near Kasane, so we and our fellow guests more or less had this section of the river to ourselves.
Unusually, the lodge’s vehicles have four rows of three, so that eight people have the chance of ‘window’ seats. It is worth noting, however, that at busy times there may be more passengers on the vehicle, so a window seat is not guaranteed.
During a previous stay, in September, we saw an incredible amount of wildlife, including large breeding herds of elephants in and out of the water, buffalo, giraffe, kudu – and a few enormous crocodiles. Our guide was very open to all of our questions, and we particularly enjoyed her gentle sense of humour. Our last stay, in May 2014, demonstrated the differences between the seasons in Chobe – while there were some good game sightings, we certainly didn’t experience the enormous herds and prolific sightings that you’d normally find during the dry season.
Our viewChobe Game Lodge has an enviable location inside the Chobe National Park. Although it is undeniably large, and some of its buildings and décor feel a little dated, it's an excellent hotel and very well run. Its attitudes are far from dated, too; we were impressed by its modern approach and pro-active efforts to reduce the lodge's environmental impact. But for us, it was the team that made it special – and, of course, the wildlife. Just be aware that Chobe National Park is busy, so expect to see other vehicles on game drives – although you may have a little more exclusivity on the water.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of 2–3 nights, especially during the dry season (around June–October) when game densities are higher.
Directions: From Kasane Airport it is about a 25–30-minute road transfer to the lodge. Alternatively, it's about a 2½-hour transfer from either Victoria Falls or Livingstone, depending on the border crossing.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Chobe Holdings. Part of the Desert and Delta portfolio of camps in Botswana.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We were offered a very good variety of food, but while most dishes were well-prepared and tasty, not all were top quality.
Breakfast is served prior to the morning activity, with a selection of cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, toast and muffins, as well as a cooked option, alongside fruit juices, tea and coffee - even cappucino!
During our stay, lunch was a mixture of buffet and an a la carte menu: pizza, a variety of salads (with the option to make up your own from individual ingredients), roast meats, pasta dishes, various meat dishes, freshly baked breads, cheese and cold meats, as well as a dessert buffet with mousses, ice cream, fresh fruit and chocolate fudge cake. From a selection of main dishes on the a la carte menu we had the homemade steak and mushroom pie, which was delicious.
The lodge has a lovely large riverside boma area and, weather permitting, regularly serve a buffet dinner in their boma. As well as some of the local dishes, including 'pap' and 'seswa', we had a choice of pork, steak, chicken and even lamb cooked on the barbecue. There were also other meat dishes and a variety of fresh salads and cooked vegetables. A selection of desserts included the option of fresh fruit with a little ice cream to round off our meal.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra.
Further dining info: Room service is available in the suites
Wildlife safaris: The Chobe River is perhaps Chobe National Park's greatest attraction, a magnet for elephant and buffalo in huge herds during the dry season. From its location within Chobe National Park, Chobe Game Lodge offers the opportunity to steal a march on the crowds and to explore relatively quiet sections of the river.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Chobe Game Lodge welcomes children of all ages. However, families with children aged six years and younger will need to book private activities at additional cost.
Equipment: There are no special activities or services for children.
Generally recommended for children: We think this lodge would suit children with an interest in wildlife and nature – and the lodge is big enough for them to have space to explore.
Notes: Dangerous wildlife often moves through the grounds of the hotel. The pool is unfenced. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Combination of power
Communications: Telephone, fax and email are available at Chobe Game Lodge. There is usually cellphone coverage, and WiFi is available in the upper bar area.
TV & radio: There is a television in the upstairs bar at Chobe Game Lodge.
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: All rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flushing toilets. Each room is also provided with glasses and bottled drinking water that is replenished daily.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers are usually first-aid trained and the nearest doctor is in Kasane.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a telephone in each room to call reception if help is required. The rooms all have locks on the doors. Guests are not automatically escorted to their rooms at night, but an escort can be provided on request.
Fire safety: There are fire detectors and fire hoses. There is also a fire assembly diagram on the back of the door of each room.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.
Money: There is a safe in each room. There are no currency exchange facilities. MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.