One has to go a long way to eclipse an overnight houseboat experience on the quiet, meandering Chobe River in Northern Botswana: the total tranquillity combined with complete relaxation, along with many opportunities for close-up bird and wildlife creates a safari at its very best for photographers,wildlife lovers, and those simply needing respite from their busy lives….
Each of these superbly equipped houseboats is manned by a highly enthusiastic and extremely competent crew who attend to one’s every need, be it close-up game and bird viewing excursions by motorboat or simply relaxing and enjoying the unfolding panorama around one, while sipping one’s favourite sundowner ahead of a superbly presented three-course evening meal.
In fact, it is almost an ethereal experience as day draws to a close and the setting sun settles in the west above the milling herds of elephant and buffalo that have come down to quench their thirst and sport about in the shallows of Elephant Bay.
All around herons, storks, cormorants, kingfishers and bee-eaters of various kinds settle into the riverside trees for the night, while skimmers crease the surface with their scarlet bills, and fish eagles herald the close of day with an on-going duet of yelping calls…
It is indeed the classic depiction of Africa of old, free of any obvious form of western intrusion, in what is still a totally unique and very special environment of quiet lagoons and lily covered backwaters surrounded by rafts of drifting papyrus.
All meals are served from the upper deck, with superb views of the floodplain in every direction, while the glassed in cabins offer the unique opportunity of experiencing the quietly unfolding break of day with a mug of coffee in hand while still enjoying the comfort of one’s bed…
Best of all, the operating concession provides for the houseboat to remain within the Chobe National Park at its assigned mooring for the night, while all other tourist craft have to vacate the waterways by dusk.
This special conservation ruling ensures complete privacy and the unique opportunity to pick up on the undiluted sounds of lion and hyena on the prowl in the riverine bush, while hippos cavort and grunt in the darkness and elephants trumpet in the distance.
Add to this the churring of nightjars and the plaintive whistling of plovers and thick-knees on the surrounding sandbanks, along with a splash of a crocodile in the papyrus, all under a crystal clear star-studded sky, and you have some idea as to why a night or more on board a Chobe houseboat is such a special, almost ethereal, African safari experience.