A New Cruise on the Chobe River
By Marianne Betts
As the sun sits at its highest in a cloudless blue sky, which seems to mirror the wide expanse of water of the Chobe River, our small group arrives at the newly built jetty at Ihaha in Chobe National Park.
The cruise I am about to experience is available to guests of Ngoma Safari Lodge, and just two other tourism operators, so it will be very different from the popular game viewing cruises at Kasane. Here tranquillity is guaranteed, and I can’t wait to try it.
The new activity started earlier this year, and as Ross Kennedy, chief executive of Africa Albida Tourism (the hospitality group operating Ngoma Safari Lodge), says, it allows for a variety of cruise options to be offered.
“This includes birding trips, early morning, lunch and afternoon trips, with meals served on board, and flexibility to meet guests’ preferences depending on their length of stay,” Mr Kennedy says.
“It also means guests may enjoy a game drive through the Chobe National Park before or after the cruise, so experiencing the wildlife from both river and land,” he adds.
The first thing that hits me as we board Ngoma Safari Lodge’s new cruise boat is the wide-open space that surrounds us, the river gives way to grassland, then a tree line, before meeting the horizon.
The second thing I notice is the delicious lunch which awaits us … a cheese platter, cold chicken pieces and a selection of beautifully presented salads – all to be washed down with a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc, of course!
Apart from our small group, there is not another soul in sight.
Our guide Johane explains that the cruise will take us east up the Chobe River, which divides Botswana and Namibia, and runs through some safety instructions, including warning us not to dangle legs or arms overboard!
“We do have crocodiles and hippos in the river… no standing when the engine is running… you can easily find yourself in the water, and you will only swim in this river once,” Johane says.
“Now that we are on the water we will focus on animals coming for a drink. You will also see hippos, crocodiles and lots of birds, especially water birds.
As we spot different birds, we learn of their habits, like the curious gender role reversal of the jacana, where the male takes care of the eggs, and then the young chicks, as well as the monogamy of the iconic African fish eagles.
“They pair for life. If one partner dies, the remaining partner is going to stay single for the rest of its life,” Johane explains.
We spot giraffe and zebra on the banks of the river, as we cruise a few kilometres upriver, and then stop at a baobab to stretch our legs, before turning around.
As we head back in the direction of Ihaha, we approach a crocodile lying lazily on a grassy bank, and as we near it, it moves with surprising lightning speed into the safety of the water. Never be fooled by a crocodile.
We then look up to see what we have been waiting for …. a herd of elephant have arrived on the water’s edge for a drink … we watch mesmerised as two young brothers frolic playfully together.
Far too soon we are back to where we started after spending a serene couple of hours immersed in a unique show by Mother Nature, which could just be called … “Africa at its Best!”.