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 or Chobe, 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.
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 one bathroom, a double bed in the living area downstairs and two single beds in the ‘loft’ area. 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, albeit without always screening the whole neighbouring chalet from view.
Each chalet has a double or twin beds with a mosquito net, a wardrobe for storing luggage and clothing, as well as a writing table, tea- and coffee-making station, a ceiling fan and an electric safe. Shortly after our most recent visit in September 2012, Muchenje completed the installation of air-conditioning units in all the rooms; a welcome addition for the hotter summer months! 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.
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 usually taken as a group. Upstairs is a small library with a few books and board games. Muchenje's gift shop is well stocked with local arts and crafts as well as books on birds, wildlife, the Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta.
A few steps lead down to the firepit, where pre- and post- dinner drinks are often taken when the weather is cooler: a great place to 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 outdoor '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; 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, so this is often 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 strict rules mean that walks are not possible within the boundaries of the Chobe National Park, guided walks in the private concession around Muchenje are possible. On our most recent visit, we headed out early and our guide led us to a perfect viewing spot to observe a herd of elephants making their way up the ravine below us – completely unaware of our presence. Not long after, a herd of buffalo followed suit!
Muchenje is at the quieter end of the Chobe Riverfront, but there is no escaping that the area to the 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, especially during the drier months between around June and October. Hence we often recommend Muchenje as a place to ease into your trip, at the beginning of your itinerary, rather than one to round it off.
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 and if you are looking for luxury, then there are better options. However, 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. We think it offers excellent value for money.
Ideal length of stay: Because of the variety and flexibility of activities, we'd recommend a stay of at least 2–3 nights at Muchenje.
Directions: It's roughly a 50-minute drive from Kasane Airport to Muchenje, largely 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: Although variable on previous visits, the food at Muchenje on our most recent stay in September 2012 was generally hearty and very good.
For those heading out on an early-morning activity, the day starts with tea and coffee, and a light snack – we had lovely spiced muffins.
Back at the lodge around mid-morning, breakfast was varied and very tasty with a good variety of fruit, cereals and yoghurt, as well as cheese, bread and cold meats. There was also a cooked option, which included eggs made to order, fried tomatoes, bacon and sausages, all cooked on a gas hob in front of the guests.
Note that if guests are on a boat trip, they'll usually wake up later and have breakfast at the lodge before departing on a full-day trip. Lunch will be a picnic on board the boat.
For lunch at the lodge, we really enjoyed the quiche accompanied by fresh salads, pasta and vegetables. This was rounded off with a cheeseboard and heaps of fresh fruit salad.
Dinner is served at around 7.00pm, allowing guests to head out on a short night drive around 9.00pm if they wish. Following a tasty tomato, the choices from the buffet included a very good chicken stir fry with a fairly average beef casserole, both accompanied by cooked vegetables, rice and a green salad. Dessert was crème brulée, which we didn't try ourselves (no room!), but was reportedly quite good.
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. Families with younger children will be considered on request.
Equipment: Special family safaris are available, but a private vehicle will usually need to be booked. There is no children's equipment but there is a family room.
Generally recommended for children: The relaxed approach and variety of activities should make this a fun place for families to stay.
Notes: Dangerous wildlife does move through the lodge’s grounds frequently. The pool is unfenced and there are steep drops in front of many of the chalets and viewing decks. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: Telephone, fax and email are all available at Muchenje, which also has cellphone coverage as well as WiFi in the main area.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio at Muchenje.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers are first-aid trained. The nearest doctor is in Kasane, which is approximately 50 minutes’ drive from the lodge.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are locks on doors and security guards on patrol at night.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are situated around the lodge.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.
Money: There are safes in all the rooms. MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.