Ngoma Safari Lodge: Our full report
The small, smart Ngoma Safari Lodge lies along the edge of an escarpment high above the Chobe River, with ...... outstanding views across the floodplains towards Namibia. Light and airy, it is set on several levels across the hillside, making the most of the magnificent views. It is one of a handful of lodges in this north-eastern corner of the Chobe Forest Reserve, close to the quieter, western end of the Chobe Riverfront, which is the focus of most of its game-viewing activities.
Ngoma was built in 2011 as a joint community and privately funded venture in collaboration with the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT). In August 2019, Ngoma acquired new owners – with sister camps in the Okavango Delta that we know well and we're very fond of; Gomoti Plains, Kiri Camp, Machaba and Little Machaba.
The thatched entrance shelters the main office and reception area, a light, open space attractively decorated with wooden African artefacts. Step down to the open-sided main area and you’ll find a long, relatively narrow space, rather like a thatched veranda. On one side is a small sitting room and bar, with comfy sofas and a rather superfluous small wood burner; on the other a linear dining room. And always those tantalising views.
More steps lead down to a series of wooden decks, sometimes used for dining on warm evenings; food here is a real highlight. Slightly further down, a small plunge pool is built amongst the rocks, with a couple of sunloungers, and down again are more seating areas with deckchairs. The various decks create relatively intimate areas where you can sit and enjoy the panorama and watch wildlife down on the plains.
Lined up along the ridge, Ngoma Safari Lodge's eight thatched chalets are connected to the main area by gravel pathways. Each chalet has its own small patio, with a table, deckchairs and a private plunge pool– marvellous in the hotter months (and said to be popular waterholes for the local elephants too!).
Inside, the split-level chalets feel quite modern, their décor in muted tones with touches of blue and rust, and with one wall lined by large glass windows to make the most of the views. On the lower level, adjacent twin beds within a large mosquito net face the windows, flanked by a small seating area with comfortable armchairs.
A couple of steps lead up to the en-suite bathroom behind the bed, where there's a (large and comfortable) bath, his and her basins and a big separate shower, as well as plenty of storage space and a small hanging rail. It's all very contemporary and airy, but note that only the toilet is in a separate cubicle with a door; the rest is completely open to the bedroom. An outdoor shower, screened by a wall of wooden poles, is somewhat quirkily set across the patio with views down to the river.
The hot water system at Ngoma is very efficient indeed – delivering very hot, powerful showers and quickly filling the bath with plenty of steaming, crystal-clear water. Each chalet also has air conditioning, a ceiling fan, a tea and coffee station including a Nespresso machine, and a minibar with a small selection of snacks. Visiting in early 2019, we found that all had WiFi, too, and phones that connect internally within the lodge.
Like most of the lodges near Chobe National Park, activities at Ngoma Safari Lodge focus on 4WD game drives and boat cruises along the Chobe River. However, because of its location Ngoma is also able to offer night drives and guided walks in the Chobe Forest Reserve – which are not permitted within the national park. The bush walks are led by an armed guide and will usually take place within the vicinity of the lodge. The night drives are normally offered as an extra (and included) activity for an hour or so after dinner. Ngoma can also arrange village and school visits.
The Chobe Riverfront is a prime game area, especially in the dry season, between around July and October. Large herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and other animals come here out of the dry Kalahari to spend the hottest, driest months within reach of water.
However, it can also be very busy with visitors – with particularly large numbers of vehicles during the dry season coming into the east side of the park from Kasane, and even on day-trips from Livingstone and Victoria Falls. Ngoma’s position, just outside the quieter western side of this riverfront, is a big advantage – generally giving guests a much better game experience than the lodges to the east.
Boat cruises from Ngoma Safari Lodge are usually offered as part of a full-day of activities, with precise arrangements depending on water levels and the season. Often guests begin the day with a game drive to the jetty at Kasane, then spend the middle of the day on a (covered) boat, usually including lunch, before returning to Ngoma on another game drive. Depending on the time of year, one of these drives may be on the (quiet) tar road – to keep the activity within the park rules. These trips – part boating and part driving – make great days, although they are long and some may find them tiring.
Since 2018, Ngoma has had use of a second, private jetty which is much closer to the lodge. So when water levels are high enough, there is now more flexibility in boat cruises.
On our most recent visit, in 2019, the management was very good and attentive, and the service at Ngoma was friendly and efficient – albeit sometimes a little slow. Activities were arranged with great flexibility and the safari guides were professional and experienced, although their explanations were sometimes a little limited.
Ngoma’s open-sided main area and glass-fronted rooms make the most of its spectacular views, while air-conditioned chalets, private plunge pools and first-class food add a touch of class. This is a great lodge for couples, offering a few days of luxury combined with boat and 4WD safaris into some of the quieter areas of the Chobe Riverfront.
- Chobe National Park, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- As you might expect from a riverine environment, the Chobe Riverfront is a fairly linear game-viewing area – which results in limited variation in the game-drive routes. Because of this, we’d recommend two or three days for a stay here, either at the start or end of your safari in Botswana. Game densities along the Chobe Riverfront usually build from the last rains (typically in April) to their peak at the end of the dry season, in October. That said, so do numbers of vehicles in the park.
Visiting off season, in April 2019, we found plenty of game, albeit not a fraction of the high animal densities normal in October. The game that we did see though was exceedingly relaxed and very habituated to vehicles; a large family of giraffe and many antelope beside the road scarcely moved as our vehicle passed.
- It's roughly a 50-minute drive from Kasane Airport to Ngoma Safari Lodge, largely along a quiet tar road; transfers are made in an air-conditioned minibus.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- When we visited in April 2019, all dining was done individually, with no shared, communal dining tables. Meals were served at flexible times, to suit individual diners and depending on the timings of your safari activities, which tend to run to a slightly different format than on a standard safari. The food was a real highlight – interesting, imaginative and of a high standard throughout. Vegetarians and other special requirements can be catered for with sufficient notice.
Breakfast is served before the morning activity or full-day excursion. As well as yoghurt, cereal, fruit, muffins, tea and coffee, there is an à la carte menu cooked to order. Alongside the usual “full English” option, with choices of bacon, sausage, baked beans and sautéed mushrooms, there are innovative suggestions like Bell Pepper and Onion Scrambled Egg and Eggs Benedict. Our favourite, Sammy’s Ngoma Breakfast Stack’, was described as:
“Whipped fluffy cinnamon and roasted crushed sesame seed egg white topped with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, herbed grilled tomato and garlic sautéed button mushrooms drizzled with chopped herb pesto.”
It was very good – and we speculated that the egg yolks not used in this breakfast would have gone to make Ngoma’s excellent home-made ice cream.
Lunch, served after the morning game drive, is from an à la carte menu, with a variety of options, including a burger with many trimmings, bream and chips, and a delicious Moroccan couscous salad. If you are on the full-day excursion, however, your guide will take a packed lunch: a variety of picnic treats such as cold chicken wings, quiche, potato salad, ribs, bean salad and fruit.
Dinner is a three-course set-menu with two options per course. Our dinners were consistently delicious. A typical meal would be a starter of very tasty butternut and ginger soup with croutons and freshly baked bread, followed by a main course of lamb curry with poppadum served on a bean risotto, and rounded off by a delicious apple strudel with fresh custard.
- Attitude towards children
- Children aged 12 years and over are welcome at Ngoma Safari Lodge.
- Two of the rooms can be converted into triples.
- Generally recommended for children
- Ngoma has a smart, adult atmosphere with no concessions made to children, and is better suited to couples than families. We would recommend it for well-behaved older children, above about 12 years’ old, who would be comfortable dining in a fairly smart restaurant.
- Due to the presence of potentially dangerous wildlife around this unfenced camp, children must be under the constant supervision of their parents. The pool is unfenced and there are steep drops in front of many of the chalets and viewing decks.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Ngoma Safari Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Ngoma 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
- Ngoma is connected to the mains power supply from Kasane.
- There is usually some limited cellphone coverage as well as WiFi in the main area and each of the chalets. When we visited most recently, in 2019, this WiFi was efficient for emails and general comms – though (as expected) slow for transfer of image files.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV or radio at Ngoma.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The chalets at Ngoma have fully plumbed showers, indoor and out, as well as a bath – all with an impressive supply of crystal-clear and very hot water.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest doctor is in Kasane. Management and guides are first-aid trained and medical evacuation is available in case of emergency.
- 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. Mobile, electronic “panic buttons” are provided in the chalets to summon help in case of emergency.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers at all the chalets 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.
- No exchange facilities are offered at Ngoma. There are sizeable electronic safes in all the chalets.
- Accepted payment on location
- Mastercard and Visa credit cards are accepted, as are Diners and Amex cards. 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.