Part 6: Machaba Camp, Khwai River – Moremi
April 15, 2015
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Machaba is a mid-range tented camp – with some nice luxury touches – located in the Khwai region of Botswana, on the edge of the Moremi Game Reserve. Machaba makes a good first impression because of its excellent location on an elevated spot overlooking the Khwai River.
There is a spacious lounge and dining room to the left and right of the entrance area. We enjoyed a light lunch of baked tilapia with potato and beetroot salad & green salad, fresh bread & macaroni & cheese. All very tasty.
Then we were shown to our room #6 – one of the two family rooms in this very child-friendly camp which is happy to accommodate kids of any age.
The room is a combination of two large tents with one king and two twin beds. The bathroom has an indoor and outdoor shower.
Unfortunately the room opens and closes with zippers, which can get very tedious very quickly. Also the tents are relatively close to each other – we could hear our neighbors, although indistinctly, thank goodness. Another feature lacking was a ceiling fan – the room was quite stifling by mid-afternoon and a ceiling fan would have made a big difference.
As it turned out I spent about an hour checking and responding to e-mail – the outdoor WIFI hotspot worked very well – and then went straight to a game drive.
The game drive was successful with good sightings of elephant – several – and a solitary lion – a rather scruffy individual. Plus lots of lechwe, zebra, wildebeest and kudu.
Much of the information provided by our guide Leopard was superfluous to anyone who had been on safari before. However he gave a good pre-departure briefing, was very thorough and at all times concerned about his clients’ well-being. After sundowners a short distance from camp, we returned to camp at around 7:40P.
Dinner at 8:00P was a festive affair with lanterns adorning a dead tree in front of the lounge. There was an open outside bar. After a bit of socializing in typical Botswana safari camp fashion, the dinner menu and choice of wines (a chenin blanc and a cabernet sauvignon) were announced.
Compared with lunch, the food was disappointing. The cauliflower was undercooked and the green peas overcooked. The beef curry did not have much flavor, with a distinct lack of spices. The curry side dishes which included coconut, a yoghurt mix, a tomato relish and a cucumber raita were good, as was the basmati rice and baked pumpkin. All in all the most forgettable meal so far on the trip.
Mixed results on game drives at Machaba
Our morning game drive started slowly but picked up about 90 minutes later when we came across a large herd of buffalo. Unfortunately we had lost much of the nice morning light by then. On the way back to camp we stopped to observe two elephants dunking themselves plafyully and jousting with each other tusk to usk. It was truly a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ sighting as the two behemoths went at each other for what seemed like the longest time. We were all thrilled to see it play out. Minutes later someone else drove up and asked if we had seen anything. We just looked at each other and nodded affirmatively. We sure had!
The afternoon game drive was very slow. We were all keen to find a leopard so spent more than 2 hours bumping around the bush in search of one – but found not a thing. In the process I watched in dismay as the perfect late afternoon light (the golden hour) came and went without an opportunity to point a lens at anything.
I think guides would be well-served to find something – anything – to light up for that one perfect morning and afternoon hour (cloud cover permitting). Impala, lechwe, kudu, elephant – there is not an animal out there that doesn’t look good and photograph well in great light.
Overall the game-viewing at Machaba was unsatisfactory. No reflection on our guide Leopard who tried valiantly. We realize that seasonality comes into it, and that game-viewing is better in the dry season, with not as much vegetation which obscures one’s view and with more animals concentrated around water.
Had we been able to drive into the adjacent Moremi Game Reserve – where African Painted Dogs and leopard had been seen – this might have turned out differently. However the lodge has what appears to be a self-serving rule that only guests staying 3 nights or longer are allowed to enter the Moremi Game Reserve.
In my opinion, it makes no sense not to fully utilize this asset. Most guests would be more than happy to pay the park entry fee which is less than US$20.00 per person.
I would likely recommend Machaba for the dry season when game viewing is at its best. Hopefully the camp can sort out the Moremi Game reserve access issue so that guests who spend only 2 nights there will also be able to enjoy it.
On our last morning there – December 4 – the game drive was really very slow. I barely took the camera out of its case which is frustrating. Again, we were in search of leopard but to no avail. I did get a few useful pics of a couple of young hyenas at their den and some zebra.
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