Muchenje Safari Lodge 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. The lodge has a down-to-earth feel, and has the advantage of a much quieter location than those further east on the Chobe Riverfront.
The main communal area at Muchenje is positioned to maximise the view. It's a large, thatched, split-level building, with canvas ‘walls’ that are usually rolled up to allow a breeze to drift through the building. 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, 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.
Muchenje has 11 comfortable thatched chalets. Traditional in style, these are positioned to make the most of the view towards the river from atop the escarpment. All are 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.
All except the family chalet have double or twin beds with a mosquito net, a wardrobe for storing luggage and clothing, a writing table, tea- and coffee-making station, a ceiling fan and an electric safe. Air conditioning is 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 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 downstairs, two single beds in the 'loft' area, and one bathroom.
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 incorporated into a full-day activity, leaving camp on an early-morning game drive through the park to Kasane, followed by time on the river, and culminating in another game drive back to Muchenje. There are plans underway to build a boat station on the western side of the park, allowing the boat trip to be part of just a morning or afternoon activity, rather then a full day, although this is still in planning stage, so watch this space!
Although strict rules mean that walks are not possible within the boundaries of the Chobe National Park, guided walks in the private forest reserve around Muchenje are possible. On a previous 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 western end of the Chobe Riverfront, but there is no escaping that the area to the east, is very busy. Full day trips at Muchenje which incorporate the boat tend to spend some time in this busier eastern side however morning or afternoon game drives tend to stick to the western side of the park, which generally significantly reduces the extent to which you 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.
Our viewWhilst 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, then 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, ideally at the beginning of your trip.
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.
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.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
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 stays was generally hearty and very good. Vegetarians and many other special requirements can be catered for if sufficient notice is given.
For those heading out on an early-morning activity, the day starts with tea and coffee, and a light snack – on our most recent visit, in May 2014, we had chocolate 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 the option of a hot breakfast, 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 be woken later and have breakfast at the lodge before departing on a full-day trip. Lunch will be a picnic on board the boat. We were offered a selection of cold meats, quiche, hard-boiled eggs and fruit.
For lunch at the lodge, there was 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. To start we enjoyed a butternut squash soup with fresh bread; for main the choices from the buffet included a grilled fish in a milk sauce (very nice) or a game meat casserole, both accompanied by roast vegetables, rice and a selection of salads. Dessert was a tasty bread-and- butter pudding.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor 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.
Further dining info: Private dining can be arranged 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.
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: The rooms at Muchenje have fully plumbed showers. Toilets are flushing and there is running cold water in the en-suite bathrooms. Fresh bottled mineral water and glasses are kept on a stand by the bed.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Most of 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 around the lodge.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.
Money: 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.