Serenity in Ngangane, the second city’s outskirts

Christinah Motlhabane
NGANGANE LODGE: The serene swimming pool area (Top), and the Lounge (Bottom)

A bumpy 30-minute drive down the Old Matsiloje gravel road lies one of Botswana’s hidden gems: Ngangane Game Reserve.

Last Thursday, it was my great fortune to spend a night at the lodge as part of a Francistown media team invited to tour the facility.

Despite not sleeping till late the previous night as we put that week’s paper to bed, I was too excited to lie in and was up at day break – even though Ngangane Manager, Henry Fana Kangootui would not be picking us up until lunchtime.

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Serenity in Ngangane, the second city's outskirts
Myself seating where the Europeans like to chill

By the time he finally arrived in the company’s Quantum, I was more than ready for the adventure to begin. It was certainly worth waiting for!

‘Ngangane’ is a Kalanga name meaning ‘argument’ – which is a bit odd as we were all in total agreement: the place is awesome!

Sitting on 17, 000 hectares (that’s about 42, 000 football pitches!), land that comprises of bush, rocky outcrops and several small hills, with the mighty Tati River sandwiched in between, the reserve is owned by a Spanish-German couple. They spend most of their time in Europe, however, leaving the day-to-day running of the business in Kangootui’s capable hands (see Meet the Boss, pg 2A).

The reserve even houses an airstrip, for international guests to fly straight in. There is also a thriving farm on site, which is heaving with tomatoes and watermelon.

Although Nganagane employs over 200 people, it only has seven rooms: six standard doubles and one deluxe family room, giving the place an exclusive feel.

We arrive at the reception, a five-minute drive (in which we pass hundreds of impala) from the main gate, greeted by a beautiful woman with a warm smile and a fruit juice for everyone. Some of our party grumble that they’d prefer alcohol but I’m happy with my refreshing drink, served in champagne flutes.

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Serenity in Ngangane, the second city's outskirts
IDYLIIC: Water Lillies, Impalas and plenty Giraffes

I’m shown to my room, which is alive with colour, the towel cleverly folded into the shape of an elephant head, flowers spread across my queen bed to spell out ‘Welcome’.

A single night here, with breakfast and supper included, will set you back P3, 380 per person.

‘I need to start saving’ I think to myself wistfully, before hoping into the spacious shower to freshen up in time for our evening game drive.

The safari experience is a big part of Ngangane’s appeal and our professional guide sure knows his stuff. With the setting sun splashing the sky in red and pink, we see giraffe, gemsbok, zebras, wild beasts and more impala than it’s possible to count.

We park at the top of a ridge, which gives us a perfect view of the landscape, bushy, green and magnificent beneath us.

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ROOM WITH A VIEW: Enjoying the sunset

The breeze carries the calming melody of chirping birds through the air and we all talk in hushed tones, not wanting to disturb the peace.

Once darkness takes over, we drive back to the lodge, the tiny eyes of critters shinning back at us in the car’s lights before they dash off into the bush as our vehicle gets closer.

Supper is to be had at the fire place, built into the deck which overlooks the River.

The chefs have prepared a juicy and tender T-bone using the German braai stand – it is a quiet beautiful, user friendly piece of machinery which our male comrades seem to take great delight in.

T.bone-with-potato-salad-and-mushroom-soup
YUMMY: T.Bone with Potato salad and mushroom soup

Accompanying the meat was potato salad and mushroom soup, which goes down very well, as does desert: Banana Banoffee pie.

A few drinks later and yesterday’s deadline finally catches up with me and I retire to bed at around 2200hr, leaving my colleagues chatting happily around the fire.

I slept like a baby, only stirring at dawn by the sound of singing birds – ‘certainly beats the alarm’ I yawn, feeling very much at home surrounded by nature.

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The place is good for soothing troubled minds, a perfect retreat from the big city.

This morning we’re going on a self-drive through the reserve. Nganagane pride themselves on allowing visitors the freedom to explore on their own by car, bicycle and even on foot. Although they are leopard and hyena about, I’m assured this is perfectly safe.

After our game drive, the highlight of which are baby impala and warthogs sipping at the waterhole, as well as the huge abandoned old mines, we return for breakfast.

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Starving, a Full English is just what I need, and sets us all up for our bike ride.

The reserve is so big that we almost got lost; it seems none of us can read the map as we inadvertently end up on the other side of the reserve. It’s alright for me, a fit young(ish) Kalanga girl but some of my chubbier colleagues are in need of a rest.

We snack on Moretologa fruit, which grows freely here, before riding back to base, where we chill out by the pool, surrounded by luscious lawn, palm trees and water lilies.

Serenity in Ngangane, the second city's outskirts
BUSH LIFE: Harvesting Moretologa

Surely I’ve died and gone to heaven!

A few retire inside to shoot some snooker, but I prefer to remain in the outdoors, wishing we could stay a bit longer.

All too soon, our time at Ngangane has come to an end; completely seduced, I’ve already started saving up my Thebes and I will be back!

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