Built in the 1970’s, Chobe Game Lodge was the first five star safari lodge of its kind in Botswana. With is impressive arches, high ceilings and expansive interiors the 46 roomed lodges was built in a distinctly moorish architectural style. It is the only safari lodge inside the Chobe National Park and enjoys one of the best views overlooking the mighty Chobe River.
In 2012 Chobe Game Lodge was awarded the highest ecotourism level by Botswana tourism for their efforts in sustainable ecotourism. The ecotourism certification program was developed by Botswana Tourism in 2002 as part of their strategy to be the leading sustainable tourism destination in Africa. To date only 15 lodges have been awarded certificates with 12 lodges being awarded the highest honours. All of the 12 lodges, with the exception of Chobe Game Lodge, are small (less than 20 rooms) luxury tented safari lodges with relatively small ecological footprints. So how did a large 1970’s safari lodge manage to obtain the same honours as these smaller luxury tented camps?
Last year October I spent several days at Chobe Game Lodge as part of my #ThisIsChobe campaign and learnt first hand how they’ve turned this traditional lodge into one of the most sustainable safari lodges in Botswana. Here are some of their most notable projects.
Waste management is a vital part of any safari operation and Chobe Game Lodge has developed several initiatives to deal with the waste they produce on a daily basis. The one which stood out most for me was their brick making initiative which involves mixing crushed glass with cement to make bricks. The bricks have been used in a variety of in house projects, including the construction of their biogas plant but the most notable use is the construction of a two bedroom home in one of the local Kazungula communities.
In September 2013 Chobe Game Lodge embarked on a new project to produce biogas from their kitchen waste. It is an ongoing project which I was fortunate to see in progress while on my back of house tour. Producing gas from the plant is a delicate process and while it is still being fine tuned they are successfully managing their own food waste on site, rather than having to transport it out of the reserve to the waste management site in Kasane.
One of my best features of Chobe Game Lodge is their large boardwalk and expansive deck, offering magnificent views over the Chobe River. What makes this deck unique is that it has been built using recycled plastic bags. Some wood was used in the supporting structures but this was sourced from a sustainable forestry company. While a lot of wood was saved in the construction of the deck, what I like most is that it is virtually maintenance free. With its close proximity to the Chobe River its good to know that no chemicals will ever be used to maintain it.
Something that makes Chobe Game Lodge unique is their all female guiding team aptly named the Chobe Angels. Guiding in Botswana (and throughout Africa) is traditionally a male dominated job which is something Chobe Game Lodge wants to change. I enjoyed several game drives and boat cruises with the Chobe Angels and thoroughly enjoyed each experience. The ladies were in tune with their natural surroundings and showed excellent awareness to each of their guests. Its the first time I’d been guided by a team of female guides and was impressed by their professionalism and warm hospitality. As part of their commitment to staff training, Chobe Game Lodge has developed an intesive guide training program which each guide must go through before working at the lodge. The program also includes regular refresher courses to ensure their guides are constantly developing their skills.
The latest ecotourism initiative launched by Chobe Game Lodge is their fleet of electric vehicles and boats. I unfortunately just missed the official launch of the first game viewer and electric boat, so I didn’t see them in action but I did follow the press release with much enthusiasm. The investment in this fleet is a clear sign of Chobe Game Lodges commitment to leading the way in responsible tourism in Botswana.
Out on safari
Of course the Chobe Game Lodge experience is about so much more than the lodge itself. Being one of the largest national parks in Botswana and enjoying some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa, the Chobe National Park offers a safari experience second to none.
I enjoyed several game drives and river cruises during my stay at Chobe and managed to capture moments which I will cherish forever. October is the end of the dry season in Botswana and with the Chobe River as the only source of water in the region, large herds of game congregate along the waters edge. Its a destination every wildlife enthusiast should experience at least once in their life.
While there are many ways to experience the Chobe National Park, if you enjoy all inclusive safaris and are a conscientious traveller, you’ll love the Chobe Game Lodge experience.
Words: Stuart Parker
Pictures: Stuart Parker | Chobe Game Lodge