I have to admit I arrived here a bit jaded. After the amazing time in the private concessions, we moved to a largish lodge that had room for 48 guests. I was concerned it would be too big and not very intimate. Chobe Game Lodge is still in the national park, and across the way you can see the Captiva Straight and Namibia. Pretty cool if you think about it. The lodge is in the moorish style and is beautifully decorated and appointed. James Wilson, the Travel Trade and Branding Development Manager, has been wonderful to us from the start. We did not know him at all – however, he made us feel like we were VIPs.
We wanted to spend Christmas somewhere magical. Given that Botswana itself is quite remarkable, I was looking for that amazing experience of being somewhere unique. Christmas Eve here was unlike any other. As we went from the airport and into the Chobe Reserve, we spotted the tail and paw of a lion, and herds of elephants and giraffe and the usually JAFI (slang for Just Another F$&8ing Impala). Impala are also known as the McDonalds for predators because if you look at their tushes you will see an M. This area is known for large herds, and is not disappointing.
When it comes to places to stay – Jacques has learned a valuable lesson. He stands outside the room while I do my inspection. It is best this way so that he will not get too attached to anything if I decide the room is not suitable. In all our travels it is a discipline that I practice with efficiency and scrutiny. In this case, the room was perfect. From the comfortable bed with the crisp white linens, to the mini bar, coffee service, safe, robes and terrific soap products. Everything was clean and in good working order. We were on the main floor, so we had a view of the river in front of us, and the cheeky family of mongoose (mongeese?) to entertain us. Oh yes, and AIR CONDITIONING!
After the drive and settling in, we went to grab a few drinks at the bar. We had something called a ginger square, which was comprised of ginger liqueur, brandy and ginger ale. Delish. We walked (stumbled) to the al fresco dining area, where we are greeted by name, and told that we were being seated for a special dinner. Huh?!? We looked at each other and thought it best to just go with the flow. We were guests in an amazing country with gracious hosts – who are we to argue? We were escorted out to a boardwalk where there was a private table, candles everywhere, and our own personal waiter. We were presented with the Chefs menu, champagne and an evening to last a lifetime. The choir of staff strolled over and sang us the traditional welcome and wedding songs. Dishes included impala, kudu, prawns and the famous Botswana beef. We giggled like newlyweds as we toasted one another, joked with the staff and simply enjoyed the sounds of the night. I wanted magic and there was no shortage of it here on Christmas Eve!
A tremendous storm hit later that night killing the power, but hey, who cares, we were sleeping soundly in our soft bed. As with all camps, wake up is at 5 am for a quick coffee and then a jump into the trucks for a game drive. After 10 solid days of doing this in previous camps (and perhaps a bit too much wine the night before), we opted to skip the game drive and breakfast. Given that it was Christmas day (and perhaps some hints from the staff) we were saving ourselves for a huge Christmas lunch was coming.
At 10:30 am we jumped on a pontoon boat for a cruise down the Chobe River. The most exciting thing was coming a bit too close to the hippo pod of about a dozen of them. The river had a strong current and I think the guide freaked out a bit as it took us way too close. She was the consummate professional however, and did not show fear or hardship and she managed to just dodge the hippos. Jacques and I looked at one another knowing that this was the most dangerous creature in the area, and we would not want to tick them off. The rest of the folks in the boat (5) thought it was marvelous and were oblivious to just how close a call we just had.
Christmas lunch did not disappoint, with flowing champagne, duck, salmon, turkey, ham, ox tails, lamb and roast beef. Not to mention all the salads, veg and desert. Thankfully, we did not have to do much in the afternoon, as I booked us in for massages. We have had our share of those as well. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to be so well treated. The therapist was a solid masseuse and I know as I waited for Jacques to finish she did an excellent job by the snoring coming from the room.
One of the most wonderful aspects of our travels is meeting fantastic and intrepid people. We often find ourselves having drinks and sharing meals with folks from all over the world. Chobe Lodge was no different, and offers a wonderful way to connect with nature and people. The stunning beauty of not only the natural surroundings but the Lodge itself, coupled with the phenomenal attention to detail and service – allowed us to enjoy ourselves without complaint.
Jacques and I decided not to exchange gifts this year, as this trip was our gift. While we miss family and friends and the tradition, nothing could have prepared us for just how special Christmas could be here. We unwrapped a fantastic day.