Ngoma Safari Lodge: Our full report
Situated overlooking the Chobe River and an adjacent floodplain Ngoma Safari Lodge is relatively new to the Chobe Forest Reserve, having opened in early 2011. It's one of only a handful of lodges along this western section of Chobe, which receives less visitors than the area to the east which is closer to Kasane. The entrance of Ngoma comprises a thatched building, consisting of the main office and reception area, it is an open space nicely decorated with wooden African artifacts. Steps lead down through to the main area of camp. To one side is a small sitting room and bar, with sofas, chairs and a coffee table and a small wood burner, all positioned to optimize the view of the Chobe River. The lodge has a very classic safari feel, tastefully decorated without being over the top.
The dining room sits on the opposite side from the sitting area, also taking in the magnificent views onto the floodplains and Chobe River. Both the sitting area, bar and dining area feels like they are positioned on a thatch topped verandah. Further steps lead down to the first of a number of multi level platforms. The first level is paved and tables are set up for dining in the evenings, weather permitting. A couple of further steps down a small plunge pool also sits to one side for guests to use when the weather gets warm, with a couple of sun loungers to relax on. Further steps lead down to a few more seating areas with deck chairs, where a striking baobab tree stands. Each level makes the most of being situated upon the ridge, giving semi private and cosy little areas for guests to sit and enjoy the views and wildlife overlooking the escarpment.
Ngoma Safari Lodge’s eight thatched chalets are joined to the main area by gravel pathways. Each chalet has a large double bed with mosquito net and looks out towards the flood plain through big glass windowpanes as well as a small seating area with comfortable lounge chairs. The chalets feel quite modern, decorated in muted tones with touches of blue and green. Each chalet has air conditioning, a ceiling fan, a tea and coffee station and minibar.
The en-suite bathroom is found at the rear of each suite on an elevated mantle. Here there's a bath set into the wall, his and her basins at each end and a large separate shower off to the side, as well as plenty of storage and a small hanging rail. The bathroom is very nice open and airy but not private, the bathroom overlooks the bedroom with only the loo in a separate cubicle with a door.
Each chalet also has a small outdoor patio area, with a small table, deck chairs and a small private plunge pool – which we particularly enjoyed! There's also an outdoor shower somewhat quirkily set on the patio with views down to the water but well screened by a wall of wooden poles.
Like most of the lodges in Chobe, Ngoma's activities focus on the 4WD game drives and boat cruises along the Chobe River. However, because of their position in the Chobe Forest Reserve, Ngoma are able to offer privately guided walking safaris accompanied by an armed Professional Guide as well as night drives in the Forest Reserve, which the camp overlooks.
These activities are only possible for those lodges situated in the western part of the park that have access to the Forest Reserve. The lodges to the eastern part of the park cannot due to the strict National Park rules, which do not allow night drives or walking. Ngoma can also arrange village and school visits to a nearby village. During our stay in May 2014 they were very keen to offer us night drives after supper, it was nice to see the guides and management enthusiastically promoting everything on offer.
Because the boat station is located near Kasane boat cruises are offered as a full-day activity. Guests begin the day on a morning game drive through the park to Kasane, the afternoon is spent on the boat which is then followed by another game drive back to Ngoma. The afternoon game drive won’t necessarily take the Park route the entire way back – it depends on the time. Often guests will be driven back on the tar road for the last part of the trip in order to make it out of the park before sunset (park rules). We have enjoyed these day trips in the past – however they certainly make for long days and some guests in the past have found it quite tiring.
There is talk that a second boat station will be built much closer to the western side of the park – however until then boat cruises from Ngoma will continue to be full day activities.
Our viewNgoma Safari Lodge is a newer addition to the quieter western end of the Chobe Riverfront area, an area of Chobe which is a favorite of ours. Being in the forest reserve does allow the lodge to offer a wider variety of activities, of which they are very enthusiastic. Ngoma is one of the more luxurious lodges in this western area, with more 'frills' than most. Its large 'suites' are light, airy and well-designed with superb views. Ngoma has a very laid back friendly atmosphere, while maintaining high services standards through its great team. Even with its air conditioning and plunge pools it feels closer to a safari lodge then many of the other options further east. Combine this with the area having relatively lower densities of visitors than further east on the riverfront, and we think Ngoma makes for a great lodge!
Ideal length of stay: Two or three nights, either at the start or end of your safari in Botswana, especially between July and October when game densities tend to be higher in this area.
Directions: It's roughly a 50-minute drive from Kasane Airport to Ngoma, largely along a tar road; transfers are made in an air-conditioned minibus.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food during our stay in May 2014 was fabulous, well presented and very tasty!
Because activities tend to run on a slightly different format then the standard safari meals tend to follow a slightly different schedule depending on what your activity is for the day.
Breakfast of yoghurt, cereal, fruit, muffins, tea and coffee is served before the morning activity or full day excursion. As well as eggs cooked to order with sides such as bacon, sausage, baked beans and sautéed mushrooms. We particularly liked the way that the muesli ingredients were served in separate bowls so you could mix to your taste!
If you do not take a full day excursion on the boat Lunch is served after the morning game drive, this is off an al a carte menu, with a variety of options. We had a yummy chicken quesadilla.
If you take the full day excursion then the guide takes a packed lunch which is a delicious mix of a variety of picnic treats, such as cold chicken wings, quiche, boiled eggs and fruit.
Afternoon tea is a selection of a savory and sweet snack such as mini quiche, and chocolate orange cake.
Dinner is a three-course meal and was delicious. To start we had a very tasty butternut and ginger soup with croutons and freshly baked bread.
For the main meal we had lamb curry with poppadum’s served on a bean risotto. For pudding we had a very filling apple strudel with fresh custard.
Vegetarians and many other special requirements can be catered for if sufficient notice is given.
Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Premier champagne and premium imported brands will cost extra and must be requested well in advance.
Attitude towards children: Children aged 10 years and over are welcome at Ngoma Safari Lodge.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Ngoma for older children aged around 14 years or more, who have a keen interest in wildlife. Ngoma strikes us as being a little more suited to couples.
Notes: Due to the presence of potentially dangerous wildlife around this unfenced camp. 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.
Communications: There is usually cellphone coverage at Ngoma as well as WiFi in the main area.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at Ngoma.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Kasane. Management and guides are first aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their chalets after dark as dangerous wildlife is known to wander through the camp. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. 'Fog horns' are provided in the chalets to summon help in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at all the tents and in the main area.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included. Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered at Ngoma. There are small safes in all the tents.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.