African Elephants

Part 4: Muchenje Campsite, Chobe National Park

We left Nata early, as it was a long drive (around 300km) along another stretch of potholed-riddled tar road to Kasane in the north. Situated where Botswana meets Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Kasane has a brand new airport, a huge selection accommodation and is an ideal base for Chobe River cruises, Chobe National Park game drives and even day trips to Victoria Falls.

We arrived by midday, restocking on groceries at the local Spar supermarket and refuelling at Shell. Based on a tip we read in a guidebook, we headed over to the Chobe Safari Lodge where cruises departed. As they had no private boats available for us that arvo, they called a third party operator who promptly met us at the lodge and sent us off earlier than the regular sunset cruise crowd.

Nile Crocodile at Chobe
Getting up close and personal with a local riverfront resident.

Pro tip #1: If you’re a keen photographer or wildlife lover, it’s worthwhile getting your own boat so you can approach the animals you want, commence and conclude your excursion at leisure and have space to manoeuvre your equipment around.

Our guide Mr T, whose real name meant “lion cub” in Setswana, was great as he found us some fabulous wildlife, including a huge hippo out of water (an unusual sight during the day), kudu, crocs, many elephants and lots of birdlife including tiny, exquisite bee eaters. Being in a quiet boat allowed you to approach animals very closely including normally skittish female elephants with their babies. It also provided good perspective of the landscape, which is quite densely forested in parts and scrubby in others.

As we only left Kasane at 6pm, we had to transit through Chobe National Park at dusk to get to our next stop, Muchenje Campsite. This property was at the quieter western end of the park, just outside Ngoma Gate and we arrived at the exit just past sunset. We got to campsite just fine but I really wouldn’t recommend doing this as there are plenty of wild animals on the road we took including huge herds of buffalo and your insurance is void if you have any vehicle accidents after dark.

Pro tip #2: Base yourself in Kasane if you’re keen on a river cruise. Boats don’t depart from inside Chobe NP unless you’re staying at Chobe game Lodge, which is a top notch riverfront luxury lodge close to the middle of the reserve.

Muchenje is beautiful in that most campsites face the floodplain, including ours, no. 2. However, I’d pick perhaps no. 1 which strangely, isn’t directly next door. Ours was lovely, shaded by a spreading albida tree but we had campers keep walking into it, lost and unable to find their sites. One especially rude European couple drove their vehicle in really fast and nearly knocked us over.

Avis Safaris Ford Ranger Group L
At Muchenje Campsite.

Would I stay here again? Yes, for these reasons:

  1. It allows you to get into the quiet western end of Chobe NP first so you can get a head start on game spotting, particularly if looking for predators who are active at dawn.
  2. The ablutions are clean, and well set up. There are four separate bathrooms containing a toilet, sink and shower in each.
  3. There is a central pool and free Wifi in the reception area.
  4. Each campsite has a washing up area, fire pit and charging point.

All of this appears to be standard in Namibian “luxury” campsites but they aren’t in Botswana. In fact, sites cost more here but you get less. What makes up for this is better roads and fabulous wildlife.

Pro tip #3: Spend a night in Kasane, one at Ihaha and one at Muchenje to access each sector of the park. In Kasane, you can do a boat cruise, from Ihaha inside the park you can game drive through the game-rich central area and from Muchenje, you can enjoy the secluded western corner of Chobe NP.

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