Muchenje Safari Lodge is positioned high on an escarpment and...
Muchenje Safari Lodge: Our full report
Located in the Chobe Forest Reserve, to the west of Chobe National Park and about 50km from Kasane, the traditional Muchenje Safari Lodge sits high on an escarpment overlooking a seasonal floodplain and the Chobe River, with Namibia’s Zambezi Region (formerly the Caprivi Strip) in the distance. From this peaceful spot, the lodge has the advantage of running game drives in a relatively quiet area of the Chobe Riverfront.
Muchenje combines traditional style with a down-to-earth feel that is rather relaxing. The main communal area, positioned to maximise the view, is a large, thatched, split-level building, with 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, 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’s 11 comfortable thatched chalets also make the most of the view towards the river from atop the escarpment. All are similar in design, solidly built with traditional high thatched roofs and cream-painted walls. Although some of the chalets are 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 small lounge area with a couple of wooden chairs, a writing table, tea- and coffee-making station, minibar stocked with bottled water, ceiling fan and electric safe. Each room also features a minibar that is stocked with bottled water. Air conditioning is a welcome addition for the hotter summer 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 downstairs, two single beds in the 'loft' area, and two bathrooms.
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. But if they wish to wake a little later (breakfast is usually served at around 8.30am) and then relax by the pool all day, 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 6.30pm 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 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. Watch this space!
On our most recent visit, in October 2016, we opted for the full-day boat cruise and game drive in Chobe National Park, which we thought was absolutely brilliant! During the boat cruise, the guide can get you very close to the various islands in the Chobe River, which are teeming with wildlife during the dry season. In addition to huge numbers of elephant, we saw numerous hippos, crocodiles and general game such as tsessebe and impala, and we were able to take superb Cape buffalo pictures based on our proximity to the game and the calm nature of the animals. During our drive back to Muchenje, we found a pride of eight lions preparing to go on a buffalo hunt at sundown. As we were in the national park, we could not stay to witness the hunt, unfortunately, but seeing the lions getting ready for the hunt was an amazing experience!
Although strict rules mean that walks are not possible within the boundaries of 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 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.
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, 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, and there is often game to see along the road.
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 has generally been 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, such as chocolate muffins or toast.
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. On our most recent visit, in October 2016, we enjoyed omelettes with diced tomatoes, onions, peppers and cheese on both mornings we were at the lodge.
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 then be a picnic on board the boat. On our boat trip, lunch was lovely, with a carrot and raisin salad, roasted chicken legs and wings, and vegetable lasagne.
For lunch at the lodge you can expect something like quiche or lasagne accompanied by fresh salads, rounded off with a cheeseboard and fresh fruit salad.
Dinner is served at around 8.00pm, allowing guests to head out on a short night drive at around 9.00pm if they wish. Each night we started with soup (butternut and tomato soup, specifically), which was followed by a buffet. We enjoyed lamb shank with roasted vegetables one night and beef seswaa with sautéed spinach on the second night. For dessert, you can expect perhaps apple tart and custard, or a tasty bread-and-butter pudding.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
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.
Further dining info: Private dining can be arranged on request.
Family holidays: For a family safari in Botswana, Muchenje has a fantastic guide with boundless enthusiasm, Paul Molesend, who has 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 more ideas for Family holidays in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children of eight years and over are welcome at Muchenje. Families with younger children will be considered on request.
Special activities & services: Special family safaris are available, but a private vehicle will usually need to be booked.
Equipment: 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 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
Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator.
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.
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. '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.
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.