Muchenje has beautiful views overlooking the Chobe river
Muchenje Safari Lodge: Our full report
Located in the Chobe Forest Reserve, to the west of Chobe National Park and about 50km from Kasane, Muchenje Safari Lodge sits high on an escarpment overlooking a seasonal floodplain and onwards to the river in the distance. Muchenje isn’t as luxurious as many of the lodges in the Okavango Delta, nor does it try to be; the lodge has a down-to-earth feel. It certainly has the advantage of a much quieter location than the lodges further east on the Chobe Riverfront.
On our last visit to Muchenje in June 2011 we felt that it was in need of refurbishment. So were delighted to hear that extensive renovations were completed towards the end of the year, after we visited. Although we have not returned since then, initial reports have been positive. We’ll be returning soon, but for now we’ve written this review based on the pre-renovated lodge but taking into account subsequent reports.
Muchenje has 11 comfortable chalets. Refurbished in 2011, but remaining traditional in style, these are positioned to make the most of the view towards the river from atop the escarpment. One of the chalets is a family unit, sleeping four guests, with a bathroom and two bedrooms spread across two floors. The others are all similar in design, solidly built with high thatched roofs and cream-painted walls. Although some of the chalets are positioned relatively closely together, they are separated by areas of bush that do quite a good job of ensuring privacy from your neighbours, albeit without always screening the whole neighbouring chalet from view.
Each chalet has a double bed with a mosquito net, and a wardrobe providing plenty of space for storing luggage and clothing. There is also a writing table – a perfect space to update a journal or pen a postcard home – plus a tea- and coffee-making station, a ceiling fan and an electric safe. Sliding doors lead out to a wooden veranda with a small table and a couple of chairs that catch the sun for most of the day. The en-suite bathrooms are quite small and simple but clean and well maintained, with a shower, flush toilet and his and hers washbasins.
Those in search of something more luxurious might first consider one of the other lodges in the area, such as the new, neighbouring Ngoma Safari Lodge.
The main communal area at Muchenje is again positioned to maximise the view. It’s a large, split-level building, also thatched but more open than the chalets. As well as a central bar and plenty of comfortable seating, there’s a large dining table where meals are taken as a group. Upstairs is a small seating area with a few books and board games. Muchenje’s gift shop, also located in the main area, is well stocked with local arts and crafts as well as some very relevant books on birds, wildlife, the Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta.
A few steps lead guests down to the firepit, where pre- and post- dinner drinks are often taken: a great place to unwind and recant the day’s events. A little further down the slope again is another small viewing deck, overlooking the floodplain. Tucked to the side of the main area is Muchenje’s swimming pool with a few sunloungers and a small ‘gym’ incorporating a couple of pieces of cardio equipment.
Activities at Muchenje are varied and quite flexible. If guests wish to get a 5.30am wake-up call and then head out on a nature walk or early-morning game drive, then that’s exactly what they can do. However, if they wish to wake a little later (breakfast is usually served at around 8.30am) and then relax by the pool all day, then that’s perfectly possible too.
Options include half- and full-day 4WD safaris in the park; guided walks in the private concession around the lodge; night drives in the forest reserve; boat cruises on the Chobe River; and visits to the nearby Muchenje village. It’s important to note that because daytime game drives are conducted inside the national park, the afternoon drive will return by around 6.00pm in order to leave the park before nightfall. The boat trip begins in Kasane and so this is incorporated into a full-day activity, leaving camp on an early-morning game drive through the park to Kasane, and followed by another game drive back to Muchenje.
Although Muchenje is at the quieter end of the Chobe Riverfront, there is no escaping that further east, where most of your game drives will take place, is very busy. Travellers arriving at Muchenje from the more exclusive and remote private reserves of the Okavango Delta or Linyanti region of northern Botswana may be disappointed by the number of other visitors they see, although probably simultaneously cheered by the density of animals. Hence we often recommend Muchenje as a place to ease into your trip, at the beginning of your itinerary, rather than than to finish one.
Whilst the Chobe Riverfront as a whole is a busy area, Muchenje is one of our favourite lodges here. It won’t be to everyone’s taste; if you are looking for luxury then there are better options, but for knowledgeable guiding, hospitable hosts, great views and a relaxed atmosphere all set within comfortable surroundings then we’re happy to recommend a stay at Muchenje for a few nights, ideally at the beginning of your trip.
Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend a stay of 2–3 nights at Muchenje.
Directions: It’s a 40-minute drive from Kasane Airport to Muchenje, along a tar road; transfers are made in an air-conditioned minibus.
Owner: Matt and Lorna Smith
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Muchenje on our last visit was of mixed quality – some of the meals were excellent while others were distinctly average.
Breakfast was varied and very tasty with a good variety of fresh food, cereals and yoghurts. There was also a cooked option which included eggs, fried tomatoes, bacon and sausages all cooked on a gas hob in front of guests.
Lunch was also varied. An enjoyable main course of meatballs in a bolognese sauce was accompanied by salad, pasta and vegetables. This was rounded off with a cheese board and fruit salad.
Dinner when we visited was disappointing. The noodle soup was nice enough, and a dessert of ice cream and guava was enjoyable, but the main course consisted of a watery beef and chicken casserole accompanied by some unimaginative sweetcorn and mashed potato.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks including house wine, beers and local spirits are included. Premium brand and imported spirits and liqueurs as well as fine wines and champagne are not included and are available only on request.
Attitude towards children: Children of eight years and over are welcome at Muchenje, with under eights considered on request. Special family safaris are available.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: Telephone, fax & email are all available at Muchenje, which also has cellphone coverage.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The managers and a number of staff are first-aid trained. The nearest doctor is in Kasane.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are security guards on patrol at night as well as locks on doors.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are situated around the lodge.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Included
Money: There are safes in all the rooms.