Another plus is that you have a head start on the usual afternoon mass launch, seeing plenty of wildlife, without any jostling for photo opportunities.
If you have an eye for natural beauty, you’ll know as soon as you reach the Chobe River, in northeastern Botswana. It’s a wildlife lover and nature photographer’s dream. For elephant lovers and safari fanatics, the great elephant concentrations on the Chobe River occur during the winter months.
For birders, the wet summer months are the drawcard, when the migrant birds are in full colour and antelope start dropping their young. Any time of the year, the Chobe provides the most spectacular sunsets.
Game viewing in the dry season pretty much guarantees excellent sightings, since animals have to visit the river to drink when all the water holes dry up. Viewing game from the water is an experience. And possibly the nicest way to do that is aboard Flame of Africa’s Chobe Explorer. On board this triple-decker, spacious, wood-cladded river cruiser, you have what my fellow “shipmates” described as their best Chobe experience ever – between us we’d had over 50 such experiences.
Skipper David Twembuchi, barman and charming front-of-house manager Ronald Rungwe, with Kabelano, Mercy and Malebogo running the kitchen, were warmly welcoming. Then, it was a short hop from the Flame of Africa jetty in the town of Kasane to the boat nudging in at the Chobe National Park offices to gain an entry permit to the park.
The cruise is on the Chobe River and there are, happily, no immigration formalities. After our welcome briefing and drinks from Rungwe, we were sedately on our way. Drinks glasses became prism glass, as guests reached for cameras when Twembuchi got us up surprisingly close and personal – especially considering the boat’s size – with a plethora of wildlife.
One such involved a massive bull elephant swimming across a river channel and then taking a keen interest in the long grass at the boat’s prow, causing an evacuation of the lower dining deck. After 1½ glasses of Nederburg Brut bubbly, backing off from one sighting was a giddy delight as Twembuchi spun the big vessel almost 360o.
The dining deck is where we enjoyed a superb lunch: delicious Botswana beef steak, boerewors, chicken, various salads, potato bake with excellent freshly made bread, followed by a delightful dessert and accompanied by a selection of wine.
The five adults at our table – repeat visitors to the area and one a riverside resident – repeatedly exclaimed that this was their best Chobe River experience. Exclaimed may not be the correct term. We were too laid back for that, lulled by the sumptuousness and the pace. And it is the pace, together with the service and the space afforded, that sets the Chobe Explorer apart.
Another plus is that you have a head start on the usual afternoon mass launch, seeing plenty of wildlife, without any jostling for photo opportunities. Above the dining deck is the bar and lounge, with comfortable couches which seemed even comfier post-lunch, and the top deck has a formation of suspended, luxurious loungers which really top off the show. Gently swaying atop a boat is the dreamiest way to top off the day.
Having launched around 11am, it was on the stroke of 6pm that we nudged up to the jetty again – pretty much the whole, glorious day. I shamelessly plug Flame of Africa. It was a Google search for a transfer company that kicked it off. I have extensively used them for transfers between Kasane and Victoria Falls, 80km distant, and/ or Livingstone. I’ve also experienced the lodges they market and activities they provide in the Chobe area.
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