There is something special about drifting on a river near herds of elephants and buffalos, while surrounded by pods of hippos and hungry crocodiles…

It is an amazing way to see wildlife from a different angle, and to enjoy the spectacular scenery and sunsets. We were enjoying the experience from a boat on the Chobe River, on our daily sunset safari with Ichingo Chobe River Lodge. It was wild and wonderful.

Ichingo Chobe River Lodge is a tented lodge on the edge of Impalila Island, at the end of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. It is part of the Zambezi Queen Collection, which includes the luxurious Zambezi Queen and Chobe Princess Houseboats. With the gushing rapids of the Chobe River on the one side and the forest on the other sides, this region is natural and unspoiled – a wildlife, birding and fishing paradise. The lodge itself is so well camouflaged by the riverine canopy that you wouldn’t even know it was there, were it not for the motor boats on the banks below.

To get there, we travelled to Kasane in Botswana from the Victoria Falls in Zambia, which is less than two hours away. Four countries meet in this area: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.  You can also fly directly to Kasane International Airport, which is 10 minutes away from the embarkation point. Evans, our friendly guide, met us at the Kasane Immigration Office, and took us by motor boat to our lodge.  We were welcomed by Kennedy, the friendly Front House Manager with chilled drinks, then served a hearty lunch on the deck overlooking the river.

(Image source: Sara Essop)

The lodge has eight spacious, air-conditioned Meru Safari tents built on stilts

We had a family section consisting of two adjacent tents, each with its own modern bathroom and private balcony. Our tent had a huge bed, a desk and chairs. My children’s tent had two double bunk beds and could easily accommodate four children. The tents were comfortable, and we felt as though we were glamping in the forest. At night, the sound of the gushing river would lull me off to sleep.

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The public areas consist of the open-air dining area, the comfortable lounge area and a small swimming pool with sunbeds, all with views of the river.  Wi-fi is available in these areas. Meals consist of good old-fashioned comfort food that will leave you feeling satiated. We enjoyed vegetarian casseroles and pies, grilled fish, and delicious desserts. Rates at the lodge include accommodation, all meals, soft drinks and specified activities.

Activities are not fixed here, and the focus is more on what you want to do and when you want to do it. Your options include river safaris, fishing, birdwatching expeditions, and touring the island. On your final morning, you are taken on a game drive in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, one of Africa’s top safari destinations.

(Image source: Sara Essop)

Because of the lodge’s unique location, it offers some of the best fishing in Africa

However, we’re not fishermen, so we chose to do the river safaris and explore the island instead. We would go on three-hour water safaris through the Chobe River on a specially equipped photographic boat, and enjoy the sightings from our vantage point, returning only after sunset

One morning, Evans took us on a tour of Impalila Island. Most of the island consists of forests and fields. We saw baobab trees that were over 2 000 years old, the village settlements, the school, the clinic and the military base. It was good to know that the lodge has a strong focus on training and employing local residents.

Ichingo Chobe River Lodge won the award for Namibia’s Leading Tented Safari Camp at the World Travel Awards in 2017 and 2018, testament to the unique experience it offers. I’ve been to many lodges in Southern Africa, but this felt the most authentic to me. It is an experience that will allow you to completely unwind and enjoy the sights and sounds of a true African river safari.

(Image source: Sara Essop)
(Image source: Sara Essop)