I recently spent the most amazing 8 days in Botswana visiting Chobe and the Pangolin Hotel, Kasane Botswana. Pangolin Photosafaris and the Chobe River have been on my bucket list for so many years, having followed them for the past, I think 4 years plus, even before the hotel was built.

I jumped on the early morning flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg. It was so easy as FlySafair Booked my luggage in and it went all the way to Kasane without me having to collect and recheck it. The service and friendliness of the airline was great, and as a photographer and birder, I loved the food boxes featuring our Sunbirds 😊. Then a quick stopover before I headed from Johannesburg to Kasane Airport in a small little plane but handled the sky like a champion and had one of the best landings I have ever had.  

Pangolin Photo Safaris, Chobe, Kasane, Botswana with Melanie C Fine Art Photography

Kasane is a lovely little airport and Border control was a breeze. I grabbed my luggage and walked down the passage where I was met with a big smile and a board with Pangolin Hotel written on it to welcome me.

Mrs B collected me from the Airport and after a very short drive, we pulled into the Pangolin Hotel parking area. There was a whole bunch of really friendly faces ready to welcome me with so much energy and fun, I felt at home the minute I stepped out of the vehicle, and they became like family by the time I left.

Ndibo and Dan showed me to my room settled me in and showed me the hotel. I was handed a welcoming drink by Lee and given a QR code that I scanned with my phone which was quite nifty, it gave me details about the hotel, contact details for the reception, learning Setswana basics for communicating with the locals during your stay and sooooo much more plus a FREE online Lightroom course if you wanted to tweak your editing skills during your stay. I was also welcomed by a very special little bird a Collard Palm Thrush that has made the hotel it’s home, I had many interactions with this great little bird during my stay.

The hotel is designed in the shape of a Pangolin. Buying any of their merchandise, entering their photo competition or donating toward this cause YOU too can make a difference, in the much-needed Pangolin conservation effort, for one of the most highly trafficked wildlife species on the African Continent. You can learn more about their efforts and donate to Pangolin.Africa on the link.

Pangolin Photo Safaris, Chobe, Kasane, Botswana with Melanie C Fine Art Photography

The tour of the Hotel was fabulous, with a beautiful entrance hall decorated with locally made statues and images from many excellent photographers, including the owners of Pangolin, Toby and Guts. These images really are inspiring and by making use of your app you can walk to these images and the Photographers will talk you through each of them. At the end of the entrance hall is a door that leads you to the underground hide, where you can enjoy animals coming to drink at the waterhole while looking at them at eye level. There is an editing room where the Photo Guides can help guests with the processing of their images. The Dining area is welcoming, leading you to a deck with a sunken firepit and an eco pool.  The bar area is upstairs, serving all of the favourites including some of the locally produced alcohol and the famous Pangochino, a heartwarming cappuccino with a special touch while enjoying views of the Chobe River and the Caprivi Floodplains. Pangolin Safaris also offers a houseboat experience where you can also stay on the Chobe river for a night or two.  

My room had two Queen beds in it, which I must add was so comfortable, the décor was rustic and tasteful. There was a kettle and coffee/tea and all other essentials were beautifully presented to make my stay comfortable.

I was given a lovely afternoon snack, beautifully presented and really tasty before I grabbed my gear for my first Chobe Boating Safari.  Having followed the Photography Guides over the years on social media I felt that I had got to know them before actually meeting them in person. My Photo Guide for the next few days was William Steel a multi-award-winning Photographer, I spent most of my time with Will, what I loved about him was he notices all the small things and has a very unique creative flair and is a keen birder. The staff helped us into our vehicle, making sure we were comfortable before we set off to the Chobe River, extra care was given to the elderly in our group, which I thought was great. It is only a short drive to where the boats are moored. I spent time with several groups of guests during my stay and it was so great spending time with like-minded people from all over the world, great conversations were had, some really good laughs and friends made!

We were guided down to the boats where we all took our seats, with a Gimpro Gymbal by each seat, where you can mount your camera securely with the freedom to swing it in any direction needed to get your shot, and offering you the stability when needed. I was blessed to use both a Canon 1Dxiii with a 600mm F/4 Lens as well as Canon 5Div and 100 – 400mm L series lens, and they were both equally adequate for the trip. Each guest is allocated a Camera body as well as a telephoto lens with a number for their use during the stay. I think this is great for those who don’t own telephoto lenses or want to have the hassle of lugging heavy gear around especially if they are busy with an Africa Tour. Will took the time to make sure everyone was set up based on their current weather conditions and time of day and we set off.

Pangolin Photo Safaris, Chobe, Kasane, Botswana with Melanie C Fine Art Photography

What a stunning cruise down the Chobe River, for those who have seen videos and images, there is nothing like experiencing this in person. I went quiet for the first part of the trip, just taking in all this beauty, from the very welcoming call of the African Fish Eagle to the 1000’s of water lilies, dragonflies, animals, and birdlife. The fresh air against your face and the quietness of Africa at its best was really breathtaking. 

Shuur our Safari Guide, and the one, that I spent the most time with, had a great sense of humour and was very knowledgeable about the animals and a great spotter too. During my whole stay all the Guides knew exactly where to go and how to position the boast and the vehicle perfectly for us to get the best images of the sightings.

Pangolin Photo Safaris is not only for photographers but for anyone who enjoys nature. Being in a boat on the Chobe river gives you a lovely perspective and a unique way of game viewing.  

Pangolin Photo Safaris, Chobe, Kasane, Botswana with Melanie C Fine Art Photography

I was impressed by the way all the guides took their time with the guests, helping them with settings and sharing in their enthusiasm when the guests got an image they were really proud of. After each image guests were reminded to change their exposure as the situation or the subject changed. They also collect rubbish that might have found its way into the river and discard it, but I must be honest I did not see much in the time spent there. What another great conservation initiative.

It was so beautiful watching all the Elephants in the water tossing the Waterlillies about as they were eating them. We had a Fish Eagle swoop down and catch a fish at speed and then proceeded to eat it on a dead tree in the middle of the River. There was just so much to see and experience and I was so overwhelmed by this dream come true. As the light started to fade and the African Sky lit up in its true fashion we stopped the boat to enjoy sundowners while watching the Sky Change colour.

We headed back to the Hotel, where we were once again greeted by the whole Pangolin team. We even got a dance and smiles, after which they helped the guests disembark from the vehicles. I later learned that this way of greeting the guests is not a requirement for Pangolin, but that the staff really enjoy working there and love people. Most of the staff have been with Team Pangolin from day one, and that really tells you a lot about an establishment and its management, not that I doubted that in any way.

There was such a fresh clean smell when entering the hotel, something I am sure not many notice, but something I am quite attuned to. We were given a few minutes to put our gear down, freshen up and grab a drink from the bar, before the very welcoming sound of the bell ringing for supper.

We went to the dining area where the fire pit was blazing and much welcomed, as nature’s aircon decided to grace us with its presence as soon as the sun dropped. There was a long table set out for all the guests, with candles giving a great ambience which I think is one of the best ways to enjoy supper under the African Sky. Once we are all seated and handed a glass of wine, we were welcomed by Chef Rabson and the host for the evening. Rabson who I believe is a guide himself, was a great entertainer and involved all the guests, not to mention his talented cooking! Brilliant Chef!. He did not serve me anything I did not thoroughly enjoy during my stay. He comes out talks to the guests and checks that everyone is enjoying their meal. Each night I was served something different with Pizza evening being my favourite, followed by the perfectly cooked steak and potjiekos.

Pangolin staff also went out of their way to cater to those who had unique dietary requirements. Each group that joined, that I was part of had one person who had some unique dietary requirement, and they catered for everyone’s needs. As I later called him, Dan the Man is one of the best managers I have ever seen at an establishment. Dan is so down-to-earth and makes things happen to help each guest feel as comfortable as possible. Kasane can sometimes run into shortages being so off the beaten track, but Dan always makes a plan. I even needed some sinus meds while there and low and behold, when I got back from my afternoon drive it was waiting in my room.

We enjoyed our supper under the African skies with great laughs, I have not laughed as much as I did during this trip for years! The evening ended with a lovely dessert. Everyone moved upstairs to the bar area where the chatting and laughs continued until we all turned in for the night.

During the night I was woken by a sound, first I thought I was hearing things and then realized it was a Hyena calling. I rushed to my window that overlooks the waterhole, and there he was a Spotted Hyena. To me this was really welcoming and special, I then crawled back into bed and slept so well. During my stay, we were also visited by Impala, Elephant and warthogs who came for a drink of water.

The next morning breakfast and coffee was served, from fresh fruit and yoghurt to cereal and toast, before we headed out on our next adventure to the Chobe National Park. This had become our daily routine, out on the boats or the game drive vehicles early in the morning, with nature’s aircon on full blast we were kept warm by the lovely ponchos handed to each of us until the heater in the sky arrived. This was followed by lunch and some time to relax before we had a light lunch and off to our afternoon activity.

Every single day in Chobe was different, I even met up with Lyn Francy a local birder and guide to do some local birding which was great to help my twitching numbers grow. I also got to spend time with the Photo guide and brilliant photographer Charl Stols, who shared his technical knowledge and shooting style with the guests offering the guests creative ideas like panning when lions came down to the river as the sun was dropping to make sure that guests at least got a decent image despite the light fading, of this great sighting. Our Safari Guide was Dan, and we had a good laugh as he lost his hat during the previous evening’s boat excursion as well as on this drive, everyone has such a good sense of humour! Spending time with the different guides gave me a great perspective on how diverse and special the offering of Pangolin Photographic Safaris really is. I briefly met the other guides, who were either coming back from or going to other Photographic Destinations with their guests. The guides are highly trained and knowledgeable about the area, and the animals in the area, and all the Photo Guides are well-known and renowned photographers with a passion for sharing and helping others get the most out of their time in Chobe.  There is also a great educational channel on the Pangolins website where you can be inspired and learn more about wildlife photography.

On my last night there chatting to Guts over a Pangochino, I decided to extend my stay by 1 night. Just when I thought life could not get any better.  I had never visited Victoria falls and this was the ideal time to go. Pangolin Safaris don’t only offer safaris in Chobe but they extend their packages to Zimbabwe and the Vic Falls, the Okavango Delta, Kenya, Kalahari, South Africa, and even a Mauritian Catamaran Charter. It was cutting it close as I needed to change my booking and get it all sorted before my return from the morning activity. When I arrived it had just-just been arranged by team Pango, as Botswana had a public Holiday. I was told on arrival, sorry it’s time to go home by Ndibo in true Ndibo style as she was always making jokes, I called her the crazy one, only to burst out laughing! I was taken to the Aiport to go and change my flight, had a bite to eat and grabbed my passport and was driven to the border by Phenyo, one of the funniest guys around, he made us all laugh including the staff with his stories. After a quick flip through the border control I was collected by Walter, and off to Vic Falls. In just over an hour we were there! To give you some perspective on how special this side of the world is the African Quadripoint is found here, the only place in the world where the corners of 4 nations meet. Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nambia, with a short drive or flight you can visit all 4 of these countries.

Victoria Falls was one of the most special places I have visited. If you love rain and water as much as I do this place is heaven. The walk takes about an hour and a half, and you meander through the paths, experiencing the falls from all the different lookout points. There were the most beautiful butterflies flying around, from deep purple to bright yellow, birds a plenty and the locals were so friendly, enjoying the falls just as much as the rest of the tourists. I even found a double rainbow to my delight. I got completely soaked and loved every minute!  

There were so many highlights in my stay with Pangolin that I could write another 3 pages about my experience. There is often so much hype on social media with regards to a certain place or attraction and I can honestly say this place is everything and more, I was not disappointed in anything and it exceeded my expectations by far. This is something everyone should experience once, twice or even 92 times 🙂 in their lifetime. All the reviews and the stories all over social media are a true reflection of the authentic experience they offer. I would like to thank everyone at Pangolin Safaris from Mandy who helped with the booking to Toby and Guts the owners who are hands-on in creating a wonderful unique Safari experience for visitors from all over the world, Dan the man, Will and Charl, and all the other staff members for making my bucket list experience an unforgettable one. Not to mention all the conservation efforts towards trying to preserve the African Pangolin for generations to come. Thank you! 

A Day in The Chobe National Park is an excellent compelling must-watch video that covers the Pangolin Hotel, Staff and Activities in the Chobe National Park. I have watched this so many times since my return!

© Quintin Mills / Pangolin Safaris

Melanie C

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