Muchenje Safari Lodge: Our full report
From high on the escarpment, Muchenje Safari Lodge overlooks a seasonal floodplain of the the Chobe River.From this peaceful spot within Chobe Forest Reserve, with Namibia's Zambezi Region (formerly the Caprivi Strip) in the distance and about 60km west of the bustling town of Kasane, this traditional lodge has the advantage of operating game drives in a relatively quiet area of the Chobe Riverfront.
Muchenje combines traditional style with a down-to-earth feel that is decidedly relaxing. The main communal area, positioned to maximise the view, is a solid, thatched, split-level building, with a series of canvas 'walls' that are usually rolled up to allow a through breeze. As well as a large central bar and plenty of comfortable seating, there's a sizeable dining table where meals are usually taken as a group. Upstairs on a mezzanine level 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, and the surrounding area.
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. Further down again is another small viewing deck, overlooking the floodplain, while tucked to the side of the main area is a good-sized swimming pool, complete with sunloungers
Muchenje's 11 comfortable chalets also make the most of the view. All are similar in design, solidly built with high thatched roofs and cream-painted walls. Although some are relatively closely together, they are interspersed by areas of bush that do quite a good job of ensuring privacy, albeit without always screening the whole neighbouring chalet from view.
Ten of the chalets have double or twin beds with a mosquito net, a wardrobe for storing luggage and clothing, a small lounge area with a couple of wooden chairs, a writing table, tea- and coffee-making station, minibar stocked with bottled water, electric safe, ceiling fan and air conditioning – a bonus in the hotter months. Sliding doors lead out to a wooden veranda where a small table and a couple of chairs catch the sun for most of the day. The en-suite bathrooms are quite small and simple but well-maintained, with a shower, flush toilet and his and hers washbasins.
The two-storey family chalet, sleeping four guests, has a double bed in the living area, two single beds in the 'loft' area above, and two bathrooms – one with a large bathtub.
Activities at Muchenje are varied and quite flexible. If you want to be woken at 5.30am for a nature walk or early-morning game drive, then that's exactly what you can do. But if you’d rather wake a little later (breakfast is usually served at around 8.30am) and relax by the pool all day, that's perfectly possible too. Options include half- and full-day 4WD safaris in the park; walks and night drives in the forest reserve; boat cruises on the Chobe River; and visits to the nearby Muchenje village.
On our most recent visit, in July 2017, we opted for a full-day boat cruise and game drive in Chobe National Park, followed by a night drive, with an early drive into the park the next morning. As the boat trip begins in Kasane, this is incorporated into a full-day activity, with a game drive through the park, followed by time on the river, and culminating in another game drive back to Muchenje – though one of these drives is likely to be on the tar road. Note that all vehicles must leave the park before nightfall, so in the winter months afternoon game drives return to camp by around 6.30pm.
Our full-day trip was great, though quite a long day. The hour-long drive to Kasane was on the tar road, and although we did spot some elephants, it was very cold in an open-sided safari vehicle in early July. (Note that this journey is now run in a closed transfer vehicle so much warmer!). During the boat cruise, we approached close to various islands that were teeming with wildlife, from huge numbers of elephant to hippos, crocodiles and antelope such as tsessebe and impala, and plenty of Cape buffalo. After lunch on board, we drove back to Muchenje through the park, where we spent some time watching a pride of lions that was feasting on a large male giraffe.
The highlight of our early-morning drive into the park, when we also saw hyena and elephant, was watching around 200 buffalo crossing the Chobe River. What a great way to end our safari!
Since our latest visit we also understand that long-standing plans to build a new jetty closer to the lodge have materialized. This is being used as part of a new morning boat activity, which begins with a drive of around an hour through the park and then a gentle boat trip on the flood plains of the Chobe river. This boat trip will be flood dependent and we expect it to be possible from around February to September, but please ask us for details.
Although walks and night drives are not permitted within Chobe National Park, both are possible in the private forest reserve around Muchenje are possible. During our night drive, lasting around an hour, we were lucky enough to glimpse a hyena, three small-spotted genets and a wildcat.
On a previous visit, our guide led us on a walk to a perfect viewing spot to observe a herd of elephants making their way up the ravine below us – completely unaware of our presence. And not long after, a herd of buffalo followed suit!
Although Muchenje is at the quieter western end of the Chobe Riverfront, the area to the east is very busy. Full-day excursions from Muchenje that incorporate the boat trip tend to spend some time in this busier eastern side, whereas morning or afternoon game drives typically stick to the western side of the park, where you are less likely to see other vehicles.
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, particularly 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 in a relatively quiet location, and is one of our favourite lodges here. It won't be to everyone's taste and if you are looking for luxury, there are better options. However, for knowledgeable guiding, hospitable hosts, great views and a relaxed atmosphere all set within comfortable surroundings, Muchenje offers excellent value for money, and we're happy to recommend a stay here for a few nights.
- Chobe National Park, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- Because of the variety and flexibility of activities, we'd recommend a stay of at least two or three nights at Muchenje.
- 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, and there is often game to see along the road.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our most recent visits, including in July 2017, the food at Muchenje has generally been hearty and very good. Vegetarians and those with many other special requirements can be catered for with sufficient notice.
If you’re heading out on an early-morning activity, the day starts with tea and coffee, and a light snack, such as chocolate muffins or toast.
Back at the lodge, around mid-morning, breakfast is varied and very tasty with a good variety of fruit, cereals and yoghurt, as well as cheese, bread and cold meats. There is also the option of eggs, fried tomatoes, bacon and sausages, all cooked on a gas hob in front of the guests. On both mornings, we enjoyed omelettes with diced tomatoes, onions, peppers and cheese.
For guests on a full-day trip, breakfast is usually served a little earlier than this, then lunch is a picnic on board the boat. Our lunch was fresh and simple but nonetheless delicious, with a carrot and raisin salad, homemade pizza slices, meatballs and vegetable pasta salad.
For lunch at the lodge you can expect something like quiche, lasagne or spaghetti bolognese with fresh salads, rounded off with a cheeseboard and fresh fruit salad.
Dinner is served at around 7–8.00pm, allowing guests to head out on a short night drive at around 9.00pm if they wish. On our first night, a long, candlelit table next to a large fire had been set up in a clearing in Muchenje’s private reserve. We enjoyed singing and dancing from the staff, then sat down to a barbecue of chicken wings and drumsticks, droëwors sausages and lamb chops, with potato salad, a selection of vegetables, rice and maize pap. The next evening we dined communally around tables at the lodge. Our starter of butternut and tomato soup was followed by a choice of oxtail stew or breaded bream with vegetables and rice. For dessert we enjoyed apple tart and custard, but could also have opted for bread-and-butter pudding.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Private dining can be arranged on request.
- Drinks included
- Most 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 available only on request, and will cost extra.
Fresh bottled mineral water and glasses are kept on a stand by the bed and are normally re-stocked in the room's minibar.
- Family holidays
- For a family safari in Botswana, Muchenje is a fantastic option with guides who specialised in guiding children for years. The lodge has a family room with two single beds in a 'loft' area (albeit up a fairly steep stepladder).
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Children of eight years and over are welcome at Muchenje. Families with younger children will be considered on request.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Minimum age eight years.
- Special activities & services
- 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 two-bedroom family chalet.
- Generally recommended for children
- The relaxed approach and variety of activities should make this a good place for families to stay.
- Dangerous wildlife moves frequently through the lodge's grounds. 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.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Muchenje Safari Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Muchenje Safari Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back-up generator.
- 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.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The chalets at Muchenje are fully plumbed with running hot and cold water, and flushing toilets.
Muchenje Lodge: Connecting locals and tourists
Set in a peaceful corner of a private concession within the Chobe River area, Muchenje Safari Lodge prides itself on over 20 years of experience in eco-friendly tourism, and one of Muchenje’s biggest strengths is their commitment to create a balance between unique guest experiences and support for the local community, showcased through their daily donation of food waste to farmers, and an on-site gift shop selling local arts and crafts. Also, during visits to local villages, tourists have the possibility to meet a local family in their homestead, allowing locals to display their way of life by offering a tour of their traditional homes.
Muchenje Safari Lodge’s main sustainability effort is through its support of the local Mabele Primary School, which guests are welcome to visit during the children's’ break time - the children enjoy showing guests around. Should guests wish, Muchenje is a sponsor of the ‘Pack for a Purpose’ programme, encouraging tourists to ask prior to their arrival about items to bring for the school.
See more great sustainability projects in Botswana
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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. 'Fog horns' are provided in the chalets to summon help in case of emergency.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are situated outside every chalet and around the lodge.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included.
- There are safes in all the rooms.
- Accepted payment on location
- 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.
Other lodges in Chobe National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.