Early morning: bushbuck tiptoeing past the river facing rooms, the sounds and smells of cheerful staff preparing breakfast.
The Chobe River, glistening in the morning light, awais our early departure from the jetty of Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa. Breakfast is delayed in case we’re late returning (though coffee and muffins were provided) and we’re off on the silky, calm waters.
First, a quick visit to the rapids at which the resort is perfectly sited, away from the bustle of the town of Kasane in north- eastern Botswana. The Chobe rapids create an exciting ecosystem of their own; pratincoles, nesting storks and cormorants. Then we head for the Chobe National Park.
Mowana is a 10-minute drive from the North part of the 11 700 square kilometre park. Arguments that rage as to whether the elephant population is 60 000 or 120 000 don’t really matter, as the sight of herds numbering in the hundreds is one you will never forget.
No early morning game drive. Instead, we smoothly glide up really close to wildlife at the water’s edge. Then, after breakfast, cruise in an enclosed, air-conditioned game drive vehicle to areas of the park that other game drive vehicles usually don’t reach.
The Park is quiet, the day is ours. The whole day, since Flame of Africa introduced meals on 4x4 wheels, with a proper, freshly prepared sit-down lunch in the park. No “Ferrari safari” this! Rather, one that affords the best opportunities to see lions, for example, as they slowly get ready for the hunt in the afternoons.
Game for adventure?
Flame of Africa occupies the activities desk in the Cresta Mowana entrance foyer.
Activities include an all-day outing on the luxurious double decker Chobe Style or a day aboard the triple decker Chobe Explorer, both highly recommended. Unlike the usual lodge boat afternoon circuit, you can really explore, at leisure. A day aboard the Chobe Explorer is the best way to take it all in.
Then there’s fishing. These particular waters are home to the voracious, most powerful power to weight ratio fresh water fish in the world- the tiger fish- a true delight to every serious or amateur angler.
Flame of Africa have partnered with AirVentures to offer balloon safaris- a first in Botswana- over the Seloko Plains, 45 minutes away, between May and September.
The Seloko Plains is an important wildlife corridor and its diverse habitat incorporates large tracts of forest which open up into wide open grassland plains, making it perfect for balloon safaris.
Fancy a round of golf? Watch the vast elephant population surrounding the only course in the area at Mowana, trimmed by warthogs and other wildlife. Holes 1 and 2 play down towards the river, the 2nd green sticking out half island like into the river itself, and the 3rd, a long Par 4, with stroke 1 playing over a dangerous water hazard into the green. Magical.
You’ll quickly find there’s really no rush - unless it’s to bring your camera or binoculars to your eye in this fabulous game viewing destination. Chill, catch a cocktail, as you enjoy views from the beautiful grounds across the river and the floodplains into Namibia on the far side.
Mowana, more elevated than other lodges on the Botswana river bank, has arguably the best views, with all 112 bedrooms and four suites having sliding glass doors opening onto a private patio with views of the Chobe River, though you may have to share the patio with vervet monkeys or a warthog or two, especially if you have fruit. The upstairs bar is the place to be if you want to see the most beautiful African sunsets.
There’s a warm, nurturing atmosphere under the welcoming outstretched arms of the central mighty Mowana (baobab) tree. The high, thatched roof of the lobby directs your gaze treeward and lodge buildings circle it- at a respectful distance.
There’s a sparkling pool and, away from the main buildings, a rimflow pool adjacent to the spa and in front of the gym- perfect for a few laps before sunset and dinner.
Refreshed and refreshing
Taking inspiration from the river and the surrounding vegetation, I would definitely say the overall tone of “luxury meets nature” has been achieved and, having visited before, appreciate the new decks, the decluttering, the clean, contemporary surfaces with minimalistic organic elements like chandeliers and iconic pieces of furniture and wall sculptures.
Fresh blues and greens with greys and white lighten everything and create a cool, calm, refreshing feel which complements the warmth of the thatch and terracotta flooring. The tech upgrades are much appreciated, with an improved Wi-Fi experience and many more plug points.
A full day outing to Victoria Falls, where Zimbabwe and Zambia meet, is a moving must-do, if you’ve not been (even if you have). Also, take advantage of the recently opened bridge at the conjunction of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It’s made cross-border excursions so much easier.
Impalila Island, straddling the intersection of where the countries meet, has a huge 2000-year-old baobab tree riddled with bullets from when South African armed forces used the tree as both a lookout, a heavy machine gun placement and- clearly- target practice.
That Mowana outlasted all- and, I’m sure, your memories of Cresta Mowana Safari Resort will similarly linger.
In conjunction with Flame of Africa and Airlink, we are giving away a three night, full board stay for two, sharing, in a standard room at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa, with flights ex- Johannesburg and a smorgasbord of activities including: a three hour game drive, three hour boat cruise, a tour of the new bridge over the Zambezi linking four countries.
Airlink is a privately owned premium full-service regional airline. With more than 50 commercial jetliners, Airlink offers the largest route network connecting travellers to more than 45 destinations in 13 African countries. Airlink is also proudly ranked as the most punctual South African airline year to date with an on-time performance above 95%.
Airlink operates direct flights between Johannesburg and Kasane, Botswana, offering multiple itinerary options on and around the Chobe floodplain and Zambezi River. With a short road transfer to Victoria Falls come options to add to one’s itinerary a flight on Airlink from Livingstone to Johannesburg, or from Livingstone to Nelspruit, the gateway to Kruger National Park, and from Nelspruit direct to Johannesburg or Cape Town. www.flyairlink.com
Book Direct: www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-kasane
Getting about :
Flame of Africa, passionate about Southern Africa, provide expert advice and superb service- from road and boat transfers, day activities, camper van hire, to land and water safaris at the best prices. Call 031 7622424 and visit flameofafrica.com to find out about their special offers.