Words by Patrick Cruywagen Pictures by Patrick Cruywagen and Alison Cole
The town of Kasane in Botswana is the gateway to the Chobe National Park, and lies on the banks of the Chobe River. There aren’t many experiences that beat a sunset boat ride on this river: Guides will take you to within metres of crocs that are longer than your boat or right up to hippos grazing the lush green grass on the banks.
But this is a popular wildlife paradise and as a result the town never stops growing. Park authorities will soon be implementing measures to restrict the numbers of visitors who have access to the river frontage, be it by boat or 4×4. I normally avoid staying in African towns as they attract all sorts of people (sometimes the dodgy kind) so I generally drive through Kasane and push on another 18 kilometres towards Nata. My destination: Senyati Safari Camp.
This venue is far enough off the main road between Kazungula and Nata to ensure that you won’t hear the trucks at night. It lies in Lesoma Valley in the Kasane Forest Reserve which borders the Chobe National Park. During the dry winter months the animals move north in search of water and it’s then that Lesome valley and Senyati Safari Camp offers you a wildlife experience second to none.
The floodlit waterhole is busier than the Stellenbosch McDonald’s drive-through after the bars close. Speaking of matters alcoholic, if you arrive in the late afternoon you’ll more than likely be met by owner Oom Louw, who’ll invite you up to the bar where he’ll press an ice-cold beer into your hand. From here, there are lovely views over the watering hole and the adjacent bush. The bar operates on an honesty system: when you take something out the fridge you just write it up in Oom Louw’s file.
One of Senyati’s greatest attractions is the campsite setup. Although there’s one big ablution and braai place for groups, they also boast nine individual self-contained thatched campsites. Here you have your own flush toilet, hot shower and, most importantly, a 220V power point so that you can crank down your fridge/freezer’s temperature without flattening your car battery, and also charge whatever has to be charged. There are also baboon-proof bins for your rubbish.
If you don’t want to camp, you can pull into one of Senyati’s self-catering chalets; these are fully equipped with power points, fridge, stove, cutlery, crockery, towels and bedding. Each chalet has a lekker braai place outside facing the watering hole so you won’t miss a thing as you turn your tjop or wrestle with a fat coil of boerewors. When I last visited Oom Louw showed me their new family chalet.
This has two rooms which can each sleep two plus a lounge area which can comfortably house a kid or two or three. It’s much bigger than the other chalets and has a nice outside braai area too. People come to Kasane to enjoy the river and Senyati offers a host of activities from game drives in the Chobe to tiger fishing trips to photographic safaris. I don’t ever pass this town without getting onto the river at least once – it’s the perfect way to relax after a long day behind the steering wheel.