As the plane leaves Johannesburg Kasane bound, I try to remember the last time I visited this part of the country. It’s been at least ten years I work out, and I can’t wait to have my feet back on Botswana land.
On arrival and having cleared immigration, a warm welcome has me in the car for the hour’s drive to Camp Kuzuma where I will spend two nights. The weather is warm and I shed layers as I watch the everyday scenes from the car. On route, we spot two elephants casually feeding on the side of the road, an apt reminder of how wonderfully wild it really is here.
About 90km in and a 4×4 safari vehicle awaits us at the side of the road, the last stretch with guide Gary and tracker Beer, forming part of our first game drive. And there it is as we take a turn on the jeep track that winds through long grass, Camp Kuzuma with the manager Jaco Kok and his team waiting to greet us.
With only five suites in the private concession that traverses over 20000 hectares, the lodge offers an intimate African safari experience under a canopy of Mopane trees. Accommodation is in luxury tents that are literally right in the bush, and have giant king-size beds, outdoor showers and Victorian baths that speak of safaris from days gone by. As I’m shown to mine I can’t help but express with delight – ‘this is right in the bush’.
The area had just experienced unprecedented rains and water lies shimmering in the Autumn sun as we enjoyed game drives and time cruising the Chobe River. There were elephants at the water hold by night, bird viewing was at its best, the plains game delighted and during our stay, the focus remained on the sheer wilderness, moody skies, trees and lesser-known creatures that make our world a place to be appreciated.
In the evenings the sky turned a deep orange, the light softened and the pace slowed to that of the African bushveld. On my second night, we gathered around a fire in the boma, just meters away from the watering hole. Chef prepared a delicious dinner on the open flames and we exchanged stories of memorable safari moments. Jaco pointed out a diminutive Scops Owl in the tree above us and in the distance, I recognised the call of a jackal on the prowl. This I realised, was about as close as you can get to staying in the bush, with every luxury and spoil considered.
Definitive moments like these leave me in awe of the place that I am in.
Camp Kuzuma details
Located about an hour from Kasane airport and discreetly camouflaged under a canopy of Mopane trees, not only is this 5-star lodge private and exclusive but you can watch games from the pool. Kuzuma means ‘hunter’ in Setswana, but thankfully the only shooting in the area these days is with a camera.
The camp has a strong co-operation with Elephants without Borders to ensure their survival and offers an idyllic spot at the water hole, to which they are drawn to drink and whether you are having an outdoor shower, sitting on the deck with a sundowner or being pampered with a back massage in the open tented spa – they are never more than a short distance away.
With only five luxury tented suites in the private concession and traversing rights to over 20 000 hectares, the lodge offers an intimate African safari experience. Each luxury tented suite has a sundeck, with super king-size beds and overhead fans. A nostalgic ambience prevails with safari memorabilia and furnishings reminiscent of the days of legendary explorer David Livingstone and en suite canvas bathrooms with high-back Victorian baths, double basins, double internal showers as well as cool, refreshing outdoor showers.
The main lodge area is home to an open plan bar, lounge and dining area which serves sumptuous African cuisine. The main area extends onto a large wooden deck that overlooks a floodlit waterhole that is frequently visited by an abundance of wildlife including herds of elephants and lion prides. The sunken fire pit just off the deck welcomes guests and offers an opportunity to find solace and comfort whilst reading a book in the cool afternoon breeze, or whilst enjoying a fine dining experience under the African stars.
Activities on offer at the lodge
From the lodge you can enjoy game drives on the Kuzuma Plains, heading out in the early morning and late afternoon as the wildlife is more active during the cooler hours of the day. A spectacular diversity of game moves through this immense wilderness, including breeding herds of elephant, leopard, lion, spotted hyena, giraffe, large buffalo herds, roan antelope and sable to name a few.
Night drives offer the chance to encounter nocturnal animals such as lions, leopards and hyenas – we were lucky enough to see scrub hair and jackal on the prowl. On request, guided walks with an armed ranger will give you an even close look at nature. Bird watching is excellent here, with 380 different species recorded in the region.
What I loved is the time Gary took to point out all the little details, teaching more about the various trees and the qualities they hold, the beetles and spiders, the birds and their calls and the time we were allowed at the sightings of the game we came across. The pace was fitting to the setting, slow and respectful and at times it felt like we were alone in the world
Activities on offer beyond the lodge
You would be forgiven for not wanting to leave the pristine Kazuma Forest reserve or the lodge, but if you do these are some of the additional activities available at an extra cost to you.
The Morning or Sunset Chobe Boat Cruise offers a special experience that will have your game viewing and bird watching from the water. About an hour drive away, you arrive at the water frontage to meet your guide who escorts you to the flat-bottomed boat from which you will enjoy the cruise. The Chobe River is vast, especially in flood when the water levels push up into the reserve and diminish the size of its many islands.
On our cruise skipper and guide, KC pointed out numerous crocodiles baking in the sun, pods of hippo curious as they came up for a closer look, shy game peering out tentatively from behind the trees in the reserve as they came down for an evening drink. The cormorants dried their wings in the last of the sun and water monitors could be seen skulking between the rocks. The add further ambience, the fish eagles perched in the trees were calling their distinctive cry.
The water itself offers an incomparable tranquillity, and camera in lap we settled into the slowed pace as we headed upstream, sundowner in hand, eyes ever peeled on the lookout for the next sighting. In the dry season, elephants come down to the water’s edge by the hundreds, hold each other’s tales with their trunks as they cross through the river onto the lush islands to graze. What a sight that must be to behold.
Additional activities that I never got to on this visit include day trips into the Chobe National Park in search of game, or to Victoria Falls to visit one of the natural wonders of the world. The drive from Camp Kuzuma to the Victoria Falls is approximately 2 hours, with a border crossing into Zimbabwe. Fishing expeditions and cultural tours to schools, markets and to meet the headman are also available on request, all making the lodge an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding area.
A bit about the location
Camp Kuzuma borders the Chobe National Park in Botswana to the one side and the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe to the other, an area that is home to the largest elephant population in the world and 200 000 elephants are said to roam in this busy trans-frontier corridor. Located in northern Botswana near the vast Okavango Delta, it is also known for its large herds of Cape buffalo drawn to the Chobe Riverfront in the dry months. Lions, antelopes and hippos inhabit the woods and lagoons around Linyanti Marsh. The floodable grasslands of the Savuti Marsh attract numerous bird species, plus migrating zebras. It’s a special place.
Camp Kuzuma itself is located in the pristine Kuzuma Forest Reserve where the owners Stefan du Plessis and Rudy Visser have turned a 3-hectare concession into a five-star luxury lodge and in strong cooperation with the authorities, promote ecotourism. The animals are free to roam across the 11 800 hectares of traversing rights and on the surrounding open plains of the Kuzuma Pans, you can see wildebeest, buffalo, roan antelope, the very beautiful and rare sable, giraffe, lion and leopard if luck is on your side.
The feel-good perspective
It is not surprising that Camp Kuzuma was voted one of the seven best boutique lodges by the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). The award celebrates Africa focussing on local experiences and eco-tourism, something I was happy to hear is close to the team’s heart.
In conversations with Jaco and Gary, I learn that Camp Kuzuma currently have 68 solar panels installed, 97 batteries holding the charge, an impressive water purification system and the ability to dispose of almost all of the waste generated at the lodge. Currently, they are entirely eco friendly, intending to be fully eco by the end of the year, after a few more upgrades.
Here is a small hands-on team and you can feel the camaraderie and friendship between them. With Jaco at the helm, Gary the honorary ranger, the tracker Beer, Chef creating wonderful meals, Edwin pouring refreshing G&T’s and Tshenolo and Mercy ensuring every detail is attended to in the tents and public areas.
Its fitting in a country that leads the way with their commitment to conservation and wildlife, clear laws of protection, anti-hunting stance and dedication to tourism, that this team is so good at what they do.
How to get there?
It’s easier than you think to get to this beautiful part of the world, with daily 1hr 40min flights on FlyAirlink.com between Johannesburg and Kasane. The clever schedule has you landing in time to transfer to your lodge for high-tea and an afternoon game drive, while on departure you can enjoy a last precious morning in the bush, before breakfast and your transfer for the flight out. It couldn’t be easier.
You will find that Kasane itself is a small frontier town with the unusual distinction of being the meeting point of four African countries: Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana and is the nearest airport to the world-famous Chobe National Park. Kasane is one of 37 destinations covered by FlyAirlink.com‘s convenient regional routes, and I love the airline for getting us to the more remote and inspiring destinations with such ease.
Some useful travel info for your visit
– The best time of year to travel to the Kasane area is from May to September, during the dry season when it is slightly cooler, but each time of year offers its own unique beauty.
– I am told by Gary and Jaco that elephant and game viewing is better in the dry months when the animals converge on the watering holes. With the heavy rainfall before my visit, they had water all around them and did not need to travel the distance. Of course, it is Chobe, and there will always be elephants to enjoy.
– The lodge runs very good free wifi from the lounge area – but not the tents, which is perfect. You can treat your time there as a digital detox, with the option of checking in should you wish to. The perfect balance.
– There is an ATM in Kasane to get some local Pula for gratuities and extras, which I recommend. It is standard practice to leave something for your guide and tracker and the general staff.
– Drinks are included here, of course not the imported premium brands, but you don’t need those when you have a selection of fine South African wine, MCC, spirits and soft drinks to choose from. They also make the most delicious iced tea.
– Wondering what to pack, comfortable walking shoes, a sun hat, sunglasses, sunblock, cameras and binoculars, light, neutral coloured clothing, a swimming costume, and light rain jacket in Summer, adding warm jackets/windbreaker and scarf in winter. I also recommend mosquito repellent, even though they do supply. Bear in mind that it can get really chilly on the game drives and water, in the winter months.
– Keep an eye out for the SADC rates, which make it an incredibly good value for South Africans. There is also a pay for 2 nights stay for 3 special as well as pay for 3 nights stay for 4 offer, which will allow you enough time to enjoy the camp and explore more of the surrounds. Do note the generous rate inclusions.
– Camp Kuzuma closes annually during the wet season.
Camp Kuzuma and #FlyAirlink Contact Details.
For more information or to make a reservation at Camp Kuzuma, contact Tel: +27 60 9618584 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For direct contact with the Lodge Manager Jaco Kok call +267 75861842 or mail email@example.com. With my thanks to FlyAirlink.com for the extraordinary opportunity to return to an area that I love. Also to The Roving Ambassador for taking care of all land arrangements. (Top pic supplied)
Blissed out on the water, bush, elephants and wildlife around me. Africa is my happy place.