River Dance Lodge: Our full report
Opened in 2010, River Dance Lodge is built high in the riverine forest that lines northern Namibia’s Kavango River. This small, owner-run property has strong community links, with many of the staff hired from local villages. Guests at River Dance are invited to soak up the view, relax on the river and learn more about the Caprivi’s prolific birdlife.
River Dance Lodge has just five wooden cabins, built on cantilevered platforms atop stilts, which makes them feel part of the forest canopy; it also affords excellent views through the foliage to the river and across to Angola.
The design and shape of the rooms and decks are unique to each cabin, but their facilities are similar throughout. Each is tastefully decorated, their muted stony and sandy tones lightened by pastel blankets and cowskin rugs. The beds – twins or a large double – are covered with mosquito nets to keep biting insects at bay. You will also find a chaise longue, built-in storage, an electric fan, a mini-fridge with complimentary drinking water, and a tea and coffee station.
All of the cabins have their own bathrooms, most of them in an adjacent cabin, perhaps down a step or two on a different deck. In each you’ll find a large free-standing bath, a separate shower, his and hers basins and a toilet.
At the front, both the bedrooms and the bathrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the Kavango River, giving the cabins a light, airy feel. Sliding doors open onto a private viewing deck with a couple of chairs from which you can enjoy the river and attendant birdsong, or read a book.
The two rooms furthest from the main area can be combined via an interlocking door to create a two-bedroom family or honeymoon unit. This comes with two separate bathrooms and its own seating/braai area down by the river, as well as its own parking spot.
The path between the cabins and the main area at River Dance is winding, uneven and, for the lower numbered cabins, quite long. If you think you would struggle with this, we suggest that you request a cabin closest to the main area.
The main area itself is made up of a dining area, reception, bar and lounge. Like the cabins, it is built on stilts and it shares similar views and styling. Outside, on a deck overlooking the river, there are some very comfy sofas around a firepit: the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner or – weather permitting – breakfast and dinner.
Next to the main area, surrounded by a manicured lawn and the trees of the riverine forest, is a small but delightful pool with a few sunloungers. If you are lucky you might spot the lodge’s semi-tame duiker, which we were told on our last visit, in December 2016, likes to play with the owner’s dog.
Lower down you’ll find a covered viewing deck set with chairs that overlooks the river and the lodge’s pontoon/boat launch. We think that this would make a great birding platform.
Activities at River Dance naturally focus on the river, with its high number of resident and migratory birds. Guests may take part in sundowner and early-morning cruises, as well as fishing trips. You can also experience local culture with a village tour, take an island walk, or drive to Popa Falls (35km) and Babwata National Park (45km), either in your own vehicle or with a guide from the lodge.
Our viewWith views of the river, a tranquil setting and excellent birdlife, River Dance is a great spot for birding, fishing or simply taking in the setting. On our last visit we so enjoyed the ambience and food that we wished we could have stayed longer. The only down side seems to be the lack of proximity to the Caprivi’s national parks. That said, as a place to kick back and relax River Dance would be hard to beat.
Ideal length of stay: River Dance is perfect for a one-night stop over, but to enjoy the tranquillity two nights would be better.
Directions: River Dance lies about 30km west of Divundu.
Accessible by: Self-drive
Owner: Tino & Karin Punzul - owners
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: When we last stayed at River Dance in December 2016, the food was excellent, perhaps the best we had on that trip.
Breakfast was a continental style buffet with a good selection of fresh breads, pastries, fruit, cereals and juices. A cooked breakfast may be ordered on request.
On our last visit, we didn’t have lunch here, but the sample menu that we saw featured savoury pancakes, toasted ham-and-cheese sandwiches and chicken schnitzel, all served with salad.
Dinner was a set menu with a starter of Cape smoked salmon served with cream cheese and a cheese soufflé. This was followed by beef steak with a mushroom sauce, gem squash, green beans and baby roast potatoes. Our meal was rounded off with mini toffee apples in a caramel sauce.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £5-10
Drinks included: Drinks are not included, with the exception of the complimentary bottled water. Tap water is filtered but comes from the river and is unsuitable for human consumption. Bottled drinking water is provided in the fridge in your room.
Further dining info: Room Service is not available.
Birdwatching: More than 430 bird species have been recorded in the area around River Dance. That’s over 70% of the bird species in Namibia, making it a birding paradise. The lodge is actively involved in bird conservation, taking an annual population census and ringing individuals to track migratory patterns.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Namibia
Attitude towards children: The lodge welcomes children of all ages.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: None
Equipment: Children's beds and cots can be provided on request
Generally recommended for children: River Dance Lodge has an adult feel and we do not consider it suitable for young children.
Notes: The buildings at River Dance are set up on stilts, there is an unfenced pool and the pathways are uneven, so young children would require supervision at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There are electrical failures here, especially when it rains so there is a back-up generator.
Communications: There is free WiFi in the main area and cell reception throughout.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: All rooms have hot and cold running water, flush toilets and plumbed showers.
Health & safety
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Divundu (30km away), and there is a hospital in Rundu, some 185km away.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: The lodge has a lockable gate that is manned during the day and locked at night. The owners also sleep on site.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are provided in each of the rooms and in the main areas.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an additional charge for guests staying at least two nights. Underwear will not be washed.
Money: There are no safes in the rooms, but you can leave valuables with the manager for storage in the office safe.
Accepted payment on location: Payments may be made using Visa, Mastercard or Amex. Alternatively US dollars, Namibian dollars and South African rand are accepted for cash payment.