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 luxury 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 Chobe National Park’s riverfront area. The lodge was originally made famous by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who chose to marry there in the mid-1970s.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, in the entrance lobby is the reception desk and the 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 themed barbecues at their purpose-built boma on the banks of the river. 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. All have air conditioning, but their décor feels somewhat dated nowadays. 43 standard rooms, some of which are interleading, are furnished with twin or double beds, 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 sunloungers.
Additionally, there are four suites, all with views of the river, and each incorporating a separate lounge, a large balcony and a plunge pool. We understand that there are plans to refurbish the suites and turn one into a honeymoon suite and, possibly, the others into family suites.
A relatively new addition prior to our most recent visit in September 2012 was a long boardwalk running parallel to, and overlooking the river. In keeping with the lodge’s aim to restrict its environmental footprint, the walkway is built entirely from recycled plastic, but it looks and feels like wood! There are strategically placed seating areas and it makes a very pleasant place to observe the river and the wildlife it supports.
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 back-house tour of the facilities, which include a BioGas plant to generate methane from biodegradable waste to use in the kitchens, the 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’.
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, the 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 May and October. That said, this ‘Riverfront’ area of Chobe National Park can also be very busy indeed with people during much of this time. There is a large number of lodges and hotels around Kasane, and also an influx of visitors on day-trips to Chobe National Park from Victoria Falls and even Livingstone.
Activities here include morning and afternoon game drives in specially adapted 4WD vehicles. The location of the lodge, which is several kilometres inside the park guests, does make a real difference in this respect. Morning game drives from here are able to start ‘ahead of the crowd’, and thus can often have less crowded game viewing experience than visitors who stay outside the park.
Chobe Game Lodge also 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. Our experience is that there are far fewer boats on the water here than further east on the river, near Kasane, and we and our fellow guests more or less had this section of the river to ourselves. On our most recent visit, 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 ViewChobe Game Lodge has an enviable location in the Chobe National Park. It is undeniably large and some of its buildings and décor feel a little dated, but it's an excellent hotel. Its attitudes are far from dated; we are 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 come here knowing that Chobe National Park is busy, so expect to see other vehicles on game drives and remember that 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: South African Airlink and Air Botswana operate regular flights between Johannesburg and Kasane Airport. It is then about a 25–30 minute road transfer to the lodge. Alternatively, it’s about a 2,5 hour overland transfer from either Victoria Falls or Livingstone, depending on the border crossing.
Owner: Chobe Holdings. Part of the Desert and Delta portfolio of camps in Botswana.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals are usually served à la carte, although if there is a larger group – as on our most recent visit in September 2012 – then the lodge may serve buffet-style meals,. While there was a very good variety, and most dishes were well-prepared and tasty, not every dish was top quality.
Breakfast is served prior to the morning activity, with a selection of cereals, yoghurt, fresh and usually also stewed fruit, toast and muffins, as well as a cooked option, alongside fruit juices, tea and coffee - even cappucino!
During our stay, lunch was a buffet with a wide choice of dishes: pizza, a variety of salads (with the option to make up your own from individual ingredients), roast meats, pasta dishes, various meat dishes including curry, freshly baked breads, cheese and cold meats, as well as a dessert buffet with mousses, ice cream, fresh fruit and chocolate fudge cake. We tried a selection of the dishes and while the pizza was quite doughy and greasy, we loved the chocolate fudge cake.
Around three times a week, weather permitting, the lodge may 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.
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. That said, it’s a fairly adult-oriented atmosphere on the whole, and there are few concessions for children. Thus we wouldn’t recommend it for youngsters.
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: Mains Electricity
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.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers are 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. 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.