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Chobe River Adventure

With our bags packed again we were ready for our departure via Simonga Village to Kasane where we would board the Ichobezi River Boat (now called the Chobe Princess). I had visited the Tongabezi School and Simonga Village two years before and spent time with the elders and children. It was such a wonderful experience that I wanted to share this with my parents. This time we decided to bring “Pack for a Purpose” items that we would donate to the local school because I knew that the Tongabezi School was subsidized heavily by the guests staying at Tongabezi Lodge, whilst the local school relied on government support or donations from the odd tourist. We were lucky that our visit was at the beginning of our trip so we could bring a lot more items than normal.

I had made arrangements to have a guide from Tongabezi Lodge to take us across to the village school. This would allow us to have a translator as well. We drove over to the school and were welcomed by the children. I decided to head down to the open area near the school to put the drone up whilst I had some space to test it out before heading onto the Chobe River. After taking some great footage with the children and showing them how the DJI Phantom 2 works we then headed up to the school where I was welcomed by the principal.

Mum and dad had already gone up with the Tongabezi Guide whilst our driver who happened to be from Simonga village stayed with me. When I joined them we were shown the classrooms and I spoke to one of the classes where I told them a little bit about us and what we had donated to the school.

I was a little concerned with the items we were donating actually making it to the children. My mum had pulled me aside and said that my parents were asked to speak with the principal in her office on the pretense that they needed to sign the school register. Once there, my parents were told a story from the principal saying how expensive it was for her to commute from Livingstone to the school each day and a number of other “guilt laden” stories. This seemed to be a ploy to have my parents “donate” money to the principal.

When mum told me this outside the classroom I informed her that the government gives the teachers/staff money to make the commute from the town to Simonga and the Tongabezi guide and our own local driver also backed this up. I then became very concerned that everything we were donating was going to go home with the principal and not the children. After speaking with the children I asked to see the register of gifts book that the guests sign when visiting the school (as I had done two years previously) and was handed an exercise book which my parents had signed. I made it very clear to the principal that I had visited previously and I knew there was another book that listed all donations from foreigners to the school. She looked very flustered and then went “searching” for the book, which she happened to find after a minute. I looked inside the book and saw that my details and signature was there from my previous visit but that the items I donated did not have a description of where they had been distributed. I questioned this with the principal and made sure that the Tongabezi and driver saw what I was doing. I made a point of writing down everything we had donated and made it clear that I wanted to see that the children received these items and not the staff. In my heart I knew that the kids were only going to see maybe 25% of our donations. It made me think to donate the items directly to the children and not to the school so that they can take the items home themselves. A sour note was felt as we left the school and continued our way to the Kazungula crossing where we would complete our Zambian formalities before taking a boat to Botswana.

Once we arrived in Kazungula we completed the customs formalities and loaded up the boat that we would use to cross over the Chobe/Zambezi River to Botswana. Upon our arrival on the Botswana side of the river we then had to go through foot and mouth checks where we walked on a mat that was wet with some solution to prevent the spread of the disease. We then completed our Botswana customs formalities and continued our drive into Kasane where we would then leave Botswana (more border formalities) and take a boat to drop off our bags before heading to Impalia Island to finally complete our day of custom stamps by getting our Namibian entry stamps.

The boat was already at the Kasane customs area when we arrived and the lovely guide was loading our bags whilst we went to get our passports stamped again. We then made our way down the dilapidated ramp to the lovely photography boat that I was able to secure for our time on the Chobe. Like many photography boats it was flat bottomed with 6 custom made swivel chairs and heavy duty mounting that had a quick release base plate. I was super happy to have access to this during our stay and it allowed my parents and I to have plenty of space with great stability.

After we completed our Namibian customs formalities we headed back to our home on the Chobe for the next 3 nights. I was absolutely delighted in my choice of the Ichobezi (now Chobe Princess). When first looking at this part of the trip I was worried about the heat during February and the lack of air con in our rooms. Thankfully, the boat had just gone through a full revamp and each of our rooms had air con and were kitted out with new beds, linens etc. My parents were ecstatic with their room at the front of the boat, which allowed them to open the double sliding doors and access to a small landing at the front.

We went upstairs to the main communal area with a stunning 360 degree view of the Chobe and its surrounds. The lounge area had some lovely comfy chairs and sofas, a self serve bar behind us with cold drinks, a long table for 8 was close by for our communal meals and outside on the open deck was sun lounges and a small spa that was ideal for putting your feet in whilst cruising. The views were stunning and I shed a happy tear to be so lucky to enjoy such an amazing location on such a fantastic boat. Mum and dad were speechless and just sat down to enjoy the views with a lovely meal and a cold drink. Unbelievable way to the start of our African mega trip.

Be prepared:

When travelling from (or vice versa) Livingstone to a Chobe River Cruise there are many more border formalities than normal because you are leaving Zambia, entering Botswana, leaving Botswana and entering Namibia.

Foot and mouth is prevalent in the Caprivi Region so there are precautions taken for this including having your car sprayed underneath (depending on where you have come from) and walking on a mat to eradicate any of the disease on the soles of your shoes.

To travel to Kasane you will be going by road and boat. Be prepared for the onslaught of touts at the Kazungula border check. There can be a line up at the customs office so give yourself about 30 minutes to complete the formalities if you don’t have an assistant with a “friend” inside the office.

Kasane has a good little grocery store if you need to buy ice, snacks, water etc. Money exchanges, atms and petrol stations are also available. There is also plenty of tourist offices to book any kind of service or hotel etc you could need.

Where we stayed: Ichobezi Riverboat is now the Chobe Princesses (they are now under the umbrella of the Zambezi Queen group)

Unbelievably brilliant riverboat experience. This was at the start of our mega African trip and we were spoilt beyond belief! My mum is still talking about our time spent whiling away along the Chobe River and the delicious food that was provided. The added benefit of unlimited drinks contributed to a stress free holiday experience (not the same conditions now from what I have seen on the website). The game viewing was wonderfully comfortable from the upper deck of the riverboat where my parents enjoyed plenty of elephants from the comfort of their lounge chairs or from the luxury of your own little boat. The staff were very accommodating and available anytime to assist. The rooms were newly renovated and had air conditioning which added to comfortable sleeps. I would definitely recommend booking at least 3 nights on the boats but I think 4 nights would be better to really relax and enjoy the boat. Prices have increased significantly since February, 2015 and there is also now a higher single supplement.

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