The year 2018 brought good rains to Zambezi region. Some areas were flooded, including the road to Chobe River Lodge. Guests had to be transported by boat to the tented lodge which is situated on the banks of the river bordering Salambala Conservancy. Beaven Sinvula, a tour guide, ferries the guests on a first free boat cruise on the Chobe, which separates Namibia from Botswana, and tells them that it is the only river in the world that flows in two directions.
For 10 years Beavan used to work for Salambala Conservancy as its secretary. For a farm boy, the great benefit of the conservancy was the extensive knowledge about wildlife he gained by being exposed to conservation. Thanks to the conservancy and its relationship to the lodge, he now earns an income and has been given the opportunity to do what he loves best: teach people about wildlife and share his knowledge.
As Beavan lifts the cases and rucksacks out of the boat, Beauty Mbala, the Guest Relations Officer, welcomes the visitors and gives them a brief introduction to the lodge and surrounding area. As the face of Chobe River Lodge, she does this with an inviting smile on her face and with the same vibrant energy every time guests come in. She makes sure that the people feel at home and serves them with respect and humility. The lodge is strategically located opposite Botswana’s Chobe National Park where they have front row seats to view the wildlife.
Next morning, as the sun rises and glistens over the waters, with the sky painted in a gradient of orange and yellow, Beauty is up bright and early, sweeping the open plan reception and lounge area. With birds singing in the background, she sweetly hums the hymn of Sweet By and By, “we shall meet on that beautiful shore”, a song resonating with the tranquillity of the landscape.
As we chat about her work she says, “I love my job. I enjoy learning from the guests who share information about their different countries and I share my culture with them. In that way we get to share ideas.” Chobe River Lodge is a joint venture with Salambala Conservancy. Beauty is not a member of the conservancy, but she understands how the joint venture with the lodge works. Like other lodge workers she benefits from the wages she earns. The conservancy brings other benefits, she adds: “I have seen that the conservancy is good because it is protecting our animals, so our future generations can see them.” The greatest migration of zebras in the world takes place in Salambala, a magnificent sight for tourists which never loses its wonder for locals like Beavan as well.
For those who are interested, Beavan can explain that the Chobe River is a backwater of the Zambezi, and it flows east when the Zambezi floods. As the water recedes the Chobe is filled from water from the Kwando, which originates in Angola, and the water flows west. Whichever way, after an afternoon of game viewing on the river, gin meets tonics and tourists talk about elephants and giraffes. Beaven prepares for the next day, viewing the vast array of birds, and sharing information about the wildlife in the area. Although it’s the same river, tomorrow and always, the wildlife and the people will be different.