Chobe Game Lodge
42 rooms, 4 suites
Best for aged 8+
Chobe Game Lodge is a well-established hotel in the bush. Just a 40-minute drive from Kasane, it occupies a stunning position beside the Chobe River and is the only permanent lodge within the riverfront area of Botswana’s Chobe National Park. The lodge was originally made famous by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who chose to marry there in the mid-1970s, and has since been substantially upgraded.
The entrance to Chobe Game Lodge is a little imposing, much like a hotel, and perhaps unsurprising for a lodge of this size. But the welcome you will receive is quite the contrary – personal and intimate – and the staff strive to make their guests feel as though they belong.
This entrance lobby is home to the reception desk and a lounge, with a separate desk for the activities co-ordinator. Walk a little further, though, and you’ll be greeted by glimpses of the Chobe River through the lush foliage in the gardens. You’ll notice a distinctly Moroccan theme running through the décor in the public areas; it could feel a little out of place in Botswana but, oddly, we think it works.
Tiled stairs lead down to a very large lounge with several comfortable sitting areas, opening onto a terrace overlooking the landscaped garden. The Moroccan theme here is very distinct, in the fabrics, carved wooden tables, trunks, mirrors and ornaments, Persian carpets and lanterns.
The lodge has two bars. In the Linyanti bar, directly off the lounge, dark red walls and canvas draped from the ceiling are evocative of a Bedouin tent. It was a little too dark and pokey for our liking, but a good spot for a pre-dinner drink and tasty nibbles. Discreetly located above the dining area, the Tshwene bar feels more like a cigar lounge, with dark wood and leather chairs. It features a full-sized billiard table, a large-screen TV, and double doors onto a terrace with views over the Chobe River.
Chobe Game Lodge also has a small spa, a well-stocked curio shop, a swimming pool with a rock feature and small waterfall, and even a small, but reasonably well-equipped, air-conditioned gym.
The dining area is an open-sided terrace, with individual tables and the option of sitting under cover if the weather is inclement. Their purpose-built boma on the bank of the river, which makes the most of the riverfront views, hosts regular barbecues – weather permitting of course. The marimba band, who play regularly at these evenings, is very entertaining, if sometimes a little loud for those seated nearest to them!
Overlooking the river at the front of the lodge is a long boardwalk that incorporates strategically placed seating areas, making it a very pleasant place to observe the river and the wildlife it supports, perhaps with a drink in hand. Afternoon tea is often served here, and private dinners may be set up either on request, or as a surprise for guests celebrating a special occasion. The walkway looks and feels just like wood, but in keeping with the lodge’s aim to restrict its environmental footprint, it is built entirely from recycled plastic!
Chobe Game Lodge’s 46 rooms and suites face the river across manicured lawns grazed by warthogs, but the dense tree line means that not all rooms have views of the river.
Each of the 42 standard rooms, some of which are inter-leading, opens out onto a small terrace with deckchairs. On our most recent visit in November 2015, the lodge was in the process of renovating and redecorating these rooms, with completion expected by July 2016. All guests will be staying in the new rooms! We stayed in two of the newly renovated rooms and were very impressed! The old terracotta-tiled floors have been taken out in favour of polished screed floors. Gone are the wicker furniture, dated beds and dull fabrics, to be replaced with soft armchairs, very comfortable beds, crisp white linen and bright throws and cushions, giving the rooms a far more contemporary feel. Facilities are what you would expect in a hotel – from air conditioning and a ceiling fan, to an internal telephone, a desk with international plug points and hairdryer, a full-length mirror, tea and coffee station, a large cupboard with plenty of hanging space and shelves, umbrellas, dressing gowns and slippers, an electric safe and a minibar with complimentary drinks.
Bathrooms in the new rooms have been extended by about two metres and completely redone. You’ll find a free-standing bath beneath an enormous mirror, twin basins beneath twin mirrors, a toilet (flushing of course) and a large walk-in shower. Complimentary Charlotte Rhys toiletries include soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, a vanity kit and a sewing kit.
Four suites, all with river views, are very similar in style to the rooms, but boast a separate lounge, and a large balcony with a plunge pool. Two of these suites have an inter-leading gateway, accessed from the terrace, which allows guests to occupy a suite and a standard room – a good set up for families with older children, or friends travelling together.
The team at Chobe Game Lodge are very proud of their eco-tourism certification, one of only a handful awarded by the Botswana Tourism Board, and we believe deservedly so. Guests are offered a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities, which include a BioGas plant to generate methane from biodegradable waste to use in the kitchens; an above-ground closed sewage treatment plant which turns sewage water into irrigation water through Bio-Ozonation (don’t worry, it doesn’t smell!); and even recycling all glass bottles on-site by crushing them and converting them to innovative and strong ‘glass bricks’. On a previous visit in 2014, the lodge had just built a family house in a nearby village using these bricks.
With its eco-credentials in mind, Chobe Game Lodge has embarked on a journey to be the first lodge in Africa to operate an entirely electric safari fleet. This was kick-started in November 2014 when they launched an eco-friendly safari, making use of a CO2 emission-free, silent electric 4WD game-drive vehicle (a converted Land Rover) and a silent electric safari skimmer boat – the first safari lodge in Africa to do so.
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, Chobe Game Lodge is also very proud of its professional and enthusiastic all-female guiding team – the ‘Chobe Angels’, headed by a resident environmentalist.
Activities at Chobe Game Lodge run a little differently from most safari camps in Botswana. An activity co-ordinator prepares a suggested itinerary for each guest in order to help them make the most of their time here – although nothing is set in stone and guests are very welcome to chat to the team if they have any requests or concerns.
While the day will usually start with a short early-morning game drive, guests may – depending on the season – come back to the lodge around 8.30–9.00am for breakfast, before heading out on a mid-morning boat cruise, when Chobe’s wildlife tends to head to the riverfront.
Chobe Game Lodge has several pontoon motorboats for morning and sunset cruises, with seats that can be swivelled to the optimal position and direction for viewing wildlife. Boats are launched from a pontoon in front of the lodge, where there are far fewer boats than near Kasane, so we and our fellow guests more or less had this section of the river to ourselves.
Unusually, the lodge’s game-drive vehicles have four rows of three, so that eight people have the chance of ‘window’ seats. It is worth noting, however, that at busy times there may be more passengers on the vehicle, so a window seat is not guaranteed.
The area around Chobe Game Lodge has a dense concentration of wildlife during the dry season, which gradually builds up between about June and October. That said, this is also when the ‘Riverfront’ area of Chobe National Park can be very busy, with the combined impact of a large number of lodges and hotels around Kasane, and an influx of visitors on day-trips to Chobe National Park from Victoria Falls and Livingstone. The lodge tries to limit the impact of this by conducting many of its activities in the quieter, western side of the park. Its location, several kilometres inside the park, also makes a real difference, as on morning game drives, they are able to reach prime wildlife areas much earlier than visitors staying outside the park, and on afternoon game drives they don’t have to rush back to exit the park gates before they close at sunset – though under park rules they still need to be back at the lodge by then.
During a previous stay, in September, we saw an incredible amount of wildlife, including large breeding herds of elephants in and out of the water, buffalo, giraffe, kudu – and a few enormous crocodiles. Our guide was very open to all of our questions, and we particularly enjoyed her gentle sense of humour. Our last stay, in November 2015, demonstrated the differences between the seasons in Chobe – while there were some good game sightings, we certainly didn’t experience the enormous herds and prolific sightings that you’d normally find here during the dry season (between June and October).
Chobe Game Lodge has an enviable location inside the park. Although undeniably large, it is an excellent lodge and well run, where they strive to make guests feel welcome as individuals. Their new rooms are looking fantastic; a far cry from the outdated rooms of the past. The lodge’s attitudes are far from dated, too; we were impressed by its modern approach and pro-active efforts to reduce its environmental impact. But for us, it was the team that made it special – and, of course, the wildlife. Just be aware that the park gets busy, so expect to see other vehicles on game drives – and on the water.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of 2–3 nights, especially during the dry season (around June–October) when game densities are higher.
Directions: From Kasane Airport it is about a 25–30-minute road transfer to the lodge. Alternatively, it’s about a 2½-hour transfer from either Victoria Falls or Livingstone, depending on the border crossing.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Chobe Holdings. Part of the Desert and Delta portfolio of camps in Botswana.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: During various stays over the years, we have been offered a very good variety of food, and most dishes have been well-prepared and tasty.
Breakfast will vary depending on what time you’re heading out on your morning activity. If it’s an early game drive at around 5.00am you’ll find tea and coffee in the lounge, with either muffins or rusks, and some fruit. If you’re heading out a little later, then you’ll be met with a selection of cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, toast and muffins, as well as a cooked option, alongside fruit juices, tea and coffee – even cappucino!
During our stay in November 2015, lunch was a mixture of a buffet and an à la carte menu: pizza, a variety of salads (with the option to make up your own from individual ingredients), pasta dishes, various meat dishes, freshly baked breads, cheese platters, as well as a dessert buffet with mousses, ice cream, fresh fruit and chocolate fudge cake. From a selection of main dishes on the à la carte menu we had the lasagne that was delicious.
The lodge has a lovely large riverside boma area where, weather permitting, there is a regular buffet dinner, usually including local dishes like ‘pap’ and ‘seswa’, along with a choice of pork, steak, chicken and even lamb cooked on the barbecue. We had some rain and very strong wind during our most recent stay, so we ate in the dining room, where the buffet included plenty of food catering for taste buds from around the world. Fillet steak, pork ribs and chicken kebabs, cooked on an open grill, were served along with oxtail stew and chicken curry. The salad bar was enormous, with a selection of green salads, potato salad and individual bowls of lettuce, tomato, feta etc, and there were mussels, calamari and a selection of cooked vegetables too. Desserts included the option of fresh fruit, ice cream and chocolate mousse, with tea and coffee to round off our meal.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra. Each room is provided with glasses and bottled drinking water that is replenished daily.
Wildlife safaris: The Chobe River is a magnet for elephant and buffalo in huge herds during the dry season. From its location within Chobe National Park, Chobe Game Lodge offers the opportunity to steal a march on the crowds and to explore relatively quiet sections of the river during a wildlife safari in Botswana.
Attitude towards children: Chobe Game Lodge welcomes children of all ages. However, families with children aged six years and younger will need to book private activities at additional cost.
Equipment: There are no special activities or services for children.
Generally recommended for children: We think this lodge would suit children with an interest in wildlife and nature – and the lodge is big enough for them to have space to explore.
Notes: Dangerous wildlife often moves through the grounds of the lodge. The pool is unfenced. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: Mains with a generator back up.
Communications: Telephone, fax and email are available at Chobe Game Lodge. There is usually cellphone coverage, and WiFi is available throughout the lodge.
TV & radio: There is a television in the upstairs bar at Chobe Game Lodge.
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: All rooms have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flushing toilets.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The managers are usually first-aid trained and the nearest doctor is in Kasane, which is about 40 minutes’ drive away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a telephone in each room to call reception if help is required. The rooms all have locks on the doors. Guests are not automatically escorted to their rooms at night as the site is well lit, but an escort can be provided on request.
Fire safety: There are fire detectors and fire hoses across the site. There is also a fire assembly diagram on the back of the door of each room.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included.
Money: There is a safe in each room. There are no currency exchange facilities. MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.