CHOBE RIVER - Opposite the renowned Chobe National Park and the safari town of Kasane in Botswana, one finds a little piece of a perhaps unheralded paradise.
Situated privately in the 150 km2 Namibian Kasika Conservancy in the Zambezi Region, directly on the banks of the Chobe River, this little piece of paradise is a lodge named Chobe Water Villas, which falls under O&L Leisure Properties.
Our two-hour drive from the airport was made pretty smooth by our benevolent driver who introduced himself as N’Jay. He shared his knowledge and experience as we drove through the park, waiting for us with a very big smile at immigration was our boat driver Gilbert.
Both these encounters were a prelude to the rest of our stay.
From the images I had seen, I knew the lodge was beautiful, but we weren’t prepared by how breathtaking it would be once there. The boat ride to the lodge transcends one into an alternate universe of just you, your thoughts and nature.
One returns to reality at the docks as Brigit Heckmair, the assistant manager, personally welcomes her guests. “Watch your steps,” another friendly reminder from Gilbert as we disembark.
As we walk up the flight of stairs, the sound of the birds and the calm of nature are momentarily sent to the background with traditional drums being played and all the staff members who are gathered outside welcoming us with songs.
My mother, who I gifted this trip, could not contain her excitement as she goes on to give everyone a handshake mid-performance, which surprises everyone.
We were ushered in and given welcoming drinks.
The décor of this place is out of the world, incorporating elements of nature. Heckmair’s smile gets even bigger when she realise I’m the winner of the grand prize from the O&L 100 year celebration launch.
We arrived just in time for lunch, a light one as they call it. This was the perfect meal a new visitor could ask for - the wings are made to perfection, the cheese platter had my taste buds doing a happy dance and a spinach and cheese pastry bake that looked like pizza had my mother – herself a cooking devotee - needing the recipe.
The friendliness that envelops the lodge is heartwarming. “Dit voel soos ‘n groot familie hierso,” complimented my mother on the reception and amazing people around us as other staff members came to our table, including the chef.
Brigit’s husband, Peter, the general manager, personally gave us a grand tour of our luxury villa.
They were luxurious with the en-suite villa built on stilts in the water with a private deck that has a 180-degree view of the river.
As Peter opens the curtains, he tells us there are no televisions in the room. “The unobstructed view of the river and Sedudu Island will be your TV during your stay here, ” he said with a chuckle.
The Heckmairs reminded us the weekend is for us to enjoy, in their words “julle moet eet, drink en ontspaan.”
High tea is served in the afternoon just before we head out for a sunset cruise, which included sundowners and a river safari. Whoever said that Namibia has beautiful sunsets told no lies, but for proper conviction, one needs to see it from this part of scenic country.
The area is a playground for many species of wildlife on both the Namibian and Botswana side. My mother who has never been on a safari drive appreciated seeing the big five (except the rhino) during the drive.
Dinner over the weekend is served as a three-course meal, and not once did they disappoint, our taste buds were truly treated. The exclusive lodge has 16 villas and had 13 guests while we were there. From where we were seated, everyone got treated like kings and queens.
The infinity pool with the view of the river is the ultimate cool off area, watching my mother swim and have the time of her life. I was saddened that I couldn’t enjoy the moment with a cocktail since no one was able to make one but that did not take away from the experience and Brigit did promise that they were working on getting someone in. As a professional photographer, the lodge and all the activities they offer us made it the ultimate mecca.
One day when O&L offers leisure cards, I will most certainly be going back.