Our Travels: Mokoros, Elephants & the Chobe River

Giltedge Senior Consultant, Chemoné September, recently visited Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Khwai Concession, before hopping across to Ichingo Lodge on the Namibian side of the Chobe River.

We join her as she touches down at Xugana Island Lodge, a water-based camp deep in the delta.

Xugana Island Lodge, Okavango Delta

“The adventure begins as soon as you land. You’re met at the lodge airstrip, and helped aboard a motorboat which whisks you along clear, reed-lined channels. Birds nest in the surrounding reeds, and if you’re lucky you may see hippo or crocs. Then the channels drop away, and you find yourself crossing an open lagoon before arriving at the lodge itself. Such a great introduction to the Okavango Delta!

Xugana Island Lodge
A motorboat transfer takes you to Xugana Island Lodge, hidden away in the Okavango Delta.
Mokoro and walking safari at Xugana
Most destinations offer game drives. Xugana is different; here the focus is water-based and walking safaris.

“That afternoon we went on a water-based safari. Mokoros explore the shallower water (so no hippo!) and are a relaxing way to see the delta’s colourful birds and waterlilies. For the deeper channels, we switched to a motorboat safari which included a fantastic sundowner stop. Guided nature walks are also offered, and the next morning we set out on foot to get close with nature as our guide and tracker pointing out animal spoor and chatted about the medicinal uses of plants.

“Xugana is a small lodge with just 8 reed-and-thatch chalets. Rooms are comfortably furnished and have an old-school camping feel. Large travel trunks sit at the ends of the beds, and there are camp chairs out on the chalet decks and main deck. In the evening, dinner is served family-style around one long table. The atmosphere is fun and social as guests swap their safari stories of the day.

Xugana Island chalet and deck
Inside my chalet at Xugana, and the main lodge deck which overlooks a permanent lagoon.

“We travelled in December, which is not the best time of year for game viewing. Still, Xugana’s guides kept us interested and entertained. One of my guides Robert, an older gentleman, has a wide smile (with a few teeth missing) and jokes that will definitely put a smile on your face!”

Good to know:

  • Arriving by motorboat is brilliant! A complete different feel from the usual transfer.
  • Xugana is a small lodge with an intimate feel. Good for couples.
  • The focus here is on water-based safaris.
  • Setting out in a mokoro was a highlight for me.
  • I’d recommend staying at a land-based camp first.

Hyena Pan Tented Camp, Khwai Private Reserve

“Hyena Pan Tented Camp is located in Khwai Private Reserve, which lies between Moremi and the Savuti Region of Chobe National Park. We landed at the Sable Alley airstrip, about an hour’s drive from Hyena Pan. Pulling up at camp, we were welcomed by the staff singing and dancing. Then, to top it all off, we walked through the lodge and were greeted by the sight of elephants at the waterhole. Quite overwhelming!”

Waterhole at Hyena Pan Tented Camp
Elephant are a common sight at the Hyena Pan waterhole. Great for an ‘armchair safari’!
Hyena Pan tent and splash pool.
My tent at Hyena Pan. And the lodge splash pool, which also overlooks the waterhole.

“The waterhole lies right in front of the lodge. There’s a splash pool and lots of sitting areas with comfortable armchairs and couches. I could happily have spent the day there, watching elephant drink and splash about. Hyena Pan has 8 simple but comfortable tents. I noticed a couple of niggles (the beds need mosquito nets and the floorboards creak) but the tents were about to be refurbished.

“We went to visit the new underground hide, about a 45-minute drive from the lodge. Sure to be a hit with photographers, the hide gives a unique, ground-level view of wildlife at the waterhole. Also near the hide are 3 SkyBeds and a Sundowner Deck. Set high on a raised platform, these outdoor bedrooms – while very basic – offer an unforgettable night under the stars.”

Hyena Pan SkyBed
Each SkyBed platform has an enclosed bathroom on the first floor. Drinks on the Sundowner Deck.

Good to know:

  • Walking into the lodge, you’re struck by the sight of elephant at the waterhole.
  • Staff are warm and welcoming, and seem genuinely happy to be working there.
  • They were still busy with the hide, but when finished it’ll be great for photography.
  • A night at the SkyBeds is a fantastic option for couples and special occasions!
  • Hyena Pan runs off borehole water which is slightly salty on the skin.

Ichingo Chobe River Lodge, Chobe River

“To get to Ichingo Chobe River Lodge you cross into Namibia. We flew into Kasane Airport and were transferred to Kasane Immigration. There we were met by welcoming lodge staff who took us on a boat transfer to Namibia immigration (on Impalila Island). A short walk and passport stamp later, we were back on the boast and on our way to the lodge.

“Ichingo Chobe River is a fishing focused lodge. It was my first time tiger fishing, and I really enjoyed the experience. The lodge has all the equipment you need, including a cooler box stocked with your favourite drinks. The fishing guides are excellent, and if you’re a complete novice they’ll happily teach you the basics like how to cast.”

Ichingo Chobe River Lodge
Arriving by boat at Ichingo Chobe River Lodge, tucked amongst trees on the bank of the Chobe River.
Tiger fishing and a Chobe River safari
Even though I didn’t catch a ‘tiger’, I still enjoyed by first attempt at fishing. Our boat safari.

“I found the boat safari really relaxing. Had it been Botswana’s dry season we would have seen loads of elephant, but there were still plenty of hippo, birds and a stunning sunset on the Chobe River. The island walk was really special too. We walked through the local village, and ended at a large baobab tree which the more adventurous tried to climb.

“Ichingo Chobe River Lodge sits on a fast-flowing section of the river, so you can hear the water rushing by. I found the lodge is a little dark, but loved the large lounge areas with peaceful river views. Being a smaller camp (8 tents) you tend to mix with the other guests.

“After a day on the Chobe River there are always good stories to share, and the staff present gifts to guests who have completed challenges such as catching a tiger fish or climbing the baobab tree. Great fun!”

Ichingo tent and Chobe River sunset
Each tent at Ichingo opens onto a deck overlooking the river. A stunning Chobe River sunset.

Good to know:

  • Chobe River is famous for its large herds of elephant (best viewed May to October).
  • The highlight for me was my attempt at tiger fishing.
  • Fun atmosphere with guests being awarded gifts at the end of the day.
  • Ichingo can be combined with a lodge in Botswana or the Kruger Park.
  • Ask to stay close to the main area, as the walk to the other tents can be a bit far.

Contact us for more information on these and other Botswana and Chobe River lodges.