‘Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last.’ So warbled Simon & Garfunkel in the 1960s. Or how about this? ‘When the weather is fine you know it's the time for messin' about on the river.’ That was a ditty sung by Scottish folk singer Josh MacRae also in the 60s. Seems they were on to something. Or maybe they were just on holiday here? On the boat? On the Namibian side of the Chobe River. With the wind in your face there's no finer place than messin' about on the river.
Each morning you’ll chug along, moor up in the afternoon and stay the night. You’ll watch the world both from the boat and from tenders. These are smaller boats which get you closer to the wildlife. The Chobe Princesses can accommodate up to one child under the age of 8 sharing with their parents.
You eat all your meals on board. Tea, coffee and home-baked goodies are also available at the bar area of the entertainment deck any time you fancy it.
Two of the houseboats have four cabin suites while the third is slightly larger with five suites. The main focus is the large sliding window. That’s going to give you quite the view. And it’s ever changing. From your bed if you feel like it. Each cabin sleeps two either in a king-sized bed, or in two singles. There is malaria here, so, those are mosquito-proofed windows (although, clearly take your own precautions too). The cabins are air conditioned with an en-suite shower, toilet and basin.
You're basically living on safari. A water-based safari.
Every morning you'll clamber into the tender boat to see if any of the huge herds of elephant, buffalo, lion, crocodile and zebra wear contact lenses. You do get a close up view with your guides... You'll also see a lot of plants and birds.
If you want to totally overdo the wildlife come in the drier winter months from May to October. This is peak animal package tour time, mammal school holidays, they pack the joint out. In the summer months from November to April the birds go wild as the summer migrants swan up. If you like to fish come whenever you like. It's good all the time.
Some say no trip to the Chobe is complete without trying your hand at a fishing safari. Hook a tiger fish, one of the many bream species, African pike, tilapia, catfish or upper Zambezi yellowfish. Miles and miles of messing about on the Chobe River. Rods, tackle and bait all supplied. You put a tiger fish back if you catch one.
For bird lovers there are over 450 species which lounge around the Chobe River. Birding season starts in September, when the first migrants arrive. Go off with the guide in a tender boat for your birding safari. This will mean spending many hours spotting birds such as African skimmers, rock pratincoles and the African finfoot as well as cattle egrets, fish eagles, open-billed storks, lesser-striped swallows, pied kingfishers and the carmine bee-eater.
If photography's your thing make sure you ask for the customised photographic safari boat when you make your booking. There's only one houseboat customised for photographers and you'll want it. There are 6 special swivel chairs that give you greater stability and 360-degree views. Every seat has a mounting for resting SLR cameras of all types and you'll get your own experienced guide. The optimal lens to bring is an 80-400mm zoom.
Another option is to travel by tender boat to Ijambwe, a local Namibian village on the floodplains of the East Caprivi. It's a 100-year-old village. You can meet village elders and locals and learn about their traditions and how they live. You can buy woven baskets, beaded jewellery, carved wooden animals. If you want to give the children something bring school stationery, books and clothing. There will also be a display of traditional dancing and singing.
Want to get off? Ok. Try the walking tour. You'll wander off to meet a 2,000-year old baobab tree. You'll learn about the medicinal and spiritual value of Impalila Island's flora.