Under One Botswana Sky's latest addition is a fresh take on the traditional Chobe safari experience.
As its name suggests, Chobe Bush Lodge shifts the focus away from the ubiquitous river back to where it more properly belongs: the magnificent African bushveld.
It is true that there are other lodges in the Chobe region which lack river views - but that's just it, with them it tends to be a lack, an absence, a gap that is not quite filled no matter how pretty the garden and surrounds. Chobe Bush Lodge, on the other hand, is constructed in order to deliberately foreground the vast expanse of the Chobe National Park. The pool area opens onto its perimeter. The restaurant, cocktail bar, lounge areas and rooms all overlook it.
And that's not the only thing that sets this lodge apart. Another definitive aspect of the Chobe Bush Lodge experience relates to its size. Chobe Bush Lodge is small, retaining something of the intimate feel and individual service of the boutique hotel in its daily operation. It is a deliberate departure, in other words, from the larger and busier Chobe Safari Lodge next door, and this distinction is palpable from the moment one first steps into the spacious entrance hall to be personally welcomed by the friendly front-desk staff.
The smaller, more intimate nature of Chobe Bush Lodge is perhaps most in evidence at the restaurant. The only buffet to be found here operates during the breakfast service. Aside from that, the menu is à La Carte, and Executive Chef Mogorosi Moremong regularly switches things up to keep his guests' palates guessing. In general, though, his menus make use of fresh locally-sourced ingredients and masterful culinary technique, resulting in a mouth-watering combination of dishes that are truly worthy of the term cuisine.
During our stay, we sampled a range of offerings from the delicious and visually appealing beetroot carpaccio (pickled beetroot, radish, horseradish mayonnaise, orange segments, and rocket) to perfectly prepared steaks (sirloin and rib-eye when we were there), fish dishes and even a cheese platter which boasted a superb home-made marula fruit preserve. Each was more impressive than the last, the Cape wines were excellent, and the service was seamless, prompt and topped off by warm and friendly staff.
The setting could not have been finer, either, and aside from the tasteful and atmospheric décor of the restaurant itself, the view out over a pair of under-lit acacias and the dark brooding mass of the Chobe National Park, resounding with the calls of insects and nocturnal birds, lent the evening an authentic bushveld feel. Not just fine-dining, in other words, but an exceedingly pleasant overall experience.
The rooms at Chobe Bush Lodge are cool, comfortable, inviting and aesthetically understated. They seem calculated to provide a respite from the sensory assault of an average day out and about in the Chobe region, and in our experience this delivered just the sort of restfulness and calm we needed after spending a relaxed afternoon by the pool, a pleasant evening out on the river, and a jaw-droppingly delicious dinner in the restaurant downstairs. Standard rooms are ensuite and open out onto a balcony overlooking the park and - with a bit of luck - Sedudu Island too. Family suites are available on request, and, aside from an extra ensuite room with twin beds (separated by two doors and a short passage from the master bedroom for a little extra privacy), they come with the added comfort and convenience of a spacious lounge area.
The lodge design, right down to the individual rooms, has clearly been very well thought-out. There is a an air of careful consideration about the place, resulting, on the one hand, in a certain intimacy in the communal areas - making it the kind of place you might sit and swap stories of your day's sightings with other guests - and in a feeling of being personally looked after by the staff on the other. If the bustle of a busy lodge turns you off, if the thought of daily queueing in buffet lines tends to impact negatively on your appetite, then this might just be the lodge for you. There is much more to this region than the river alone - Chobe Bush Lodge turns this idea into an ethos.