After an amazing trip into the Okavango Delta by canoe (read here), as part of our Cape Town to Victoria Falls adventure (read here), we had a stop over at the Elephant Sands Lodge. We had seen plenty of elephants at Etosha National Park (here) as well as in the Delta, so I wasn’t too excited, despite our marvelous guide telling us that it is a really great place to spend the night… and she was right!
Location: The Elephant Sands Lodge is located about halfway between Maun, the gateway to the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls – which makes it pretty far away from the greatest attractions in this region, but a great stop over, if you are traveling in the region independently. It is just off the A33 highway, making it reasonably accessible. It is a sandy road leading to the lodge, so make sure you are comfortable driving a 4×4! The camp is located in a private game reserve and is not fenced, so wild animals are roaming around undisturbed through the camp. There is a water hole at the center of the camp, pretty much ensuring that you will see animals during your stay and that they will stroll by your huts on the way there!
Service: This is Africa (TIA) and you are heading to a safari lodge, so a welcome amenity or the threadcount of your sheets are not that high on the list. The staff was friendly in a rustic kinda way and the check-in as well as service at the restaurant were quick and got the job done. A much more essential part of the service is that an armed ranger will bring you back to your room after dark – and that is a mandatory service! He sure made me feel much safer, after having watched elephants at the water hole over dinner, passing between the restaurant and my room!
Room: You have a choice between a campground, staying in your own tent or vehicle, with access to shared showers and toilets, or private chalets. We stayed at the chalets, which are basic huts with comfy beds (after sleeping in a tent and a bushman hut previously) with private bathrooms. The furniture and fixtures are pretty basic, there is electricity (for lights, but no power outlet), but not much else. There was no working lock in my chalet, so you should leave your jewellry at home!
Restaurant/Amenities: The Elephant Sands Lodge has a good restaurant and bar, where we had dinner and breakfast. The beer was cold and the food basic, but hearty. It won’t earn any Michelin stars, but it served its purpose. You are not here for the food, but for what is the main “amenity” and attraction: The waterhole right in front of the restaurant and bar! I had seen lots of elephants on this trip already, but having them stroll between the chalets to the waterhole to drink, right from your restaurant table is a pretty unique experience. While similar to Etosha National Park in some way, knowing that there are no fences and the animals are free to walk everywhere made it very special. Seeing the elephant droppings right outside my chalet the next morning was proof that they were a lot closer than I ever thought! There were lots of other animals around, although most of them I just heard outside my chalet during the night – and I didn’t really feel like venturing out to meet them on my own! If you have spent a lot of time in the dust, you might also appreciate the pool available near the main building! There is also (spotty and slow) internet available at the lodge (not in the rooms), which is more than you can say of most of the places we stayed at. The hotel does use solar energy – and an open fire to heat the water in the morning, so be nice to the staff and hope they stoke the fire before you get up!
Overall, the Elephant Sands Lodge is one of the most unique hotels I have ever stayed at! Even the rooms and food are pretty basic, the experience of staying at a private reserve with animals roaming around the grounds is stunning and worth adding to your personal bucket list. If you are exploring the Okavango Delta, Chobe or Victoria Falls, the Elephant Sands Lodge makes a good stop-over. Most of the photos are courtesy of their website – you can find more information about the lodge here.