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A giraffe contemplates the Chobe flood plain. Picture: Stephen Scourfield

Nams shows me the plunge pool and outdoor shower. Inside the elegant, thatched, African-style room at Ngoma Safari Lodge, she shows me the bath, the coffee maker, and how to use the air-conditioning.

And then, at the foot of the huge four-poster bed with its white drapes and nets, she elegantly sweeps her hand across the window of six floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

"And this . . . is your television."

Indeed, it is far better.

Ngoma's six private suites perch on a bluff overlooking the plains of Botswana, down to a river that draws big herds of elephants and buffalo, and families of lions that come to drink.

And, early next morning, in the golden glow that comes as dawn touches the African continent, a dazzle of zebras and a single, twig-legged giraffe pass my room, tiptoeing carefully down the slope towards the Chobe River. Chobe was Botswana's first national park and is still its second biggest, covering some 11,700sqkm and with plenty of wildlife. The lodge is just 5km from the main Ngoma Gate of the unfenced Chobe National Park.

There are no traffic lights out here but plenty of zebra crossings. And elephant ones too, for that matter.

While it is often officially said there are 50,000 elephants in the park, locals say it can be more like 100,000. At one point, on the full- day drive that is included in the cost of a stay at Ngoma along with two hours in a boat on the Chobe River, I sit in an open safari vehicle with local guide Bevan Machira as a herd of 50 elephants passes by, and around, us.

The best times of year for wildlife are May, June and July - though it is cooler, it is also the dry season, compressing wildlife around the Chobe River and waterholes. Bevan tells me that the river is often lined with elephants.

On our day in the park, we see many herds of elephants, hippos, buffalo, waterbuck, sable antelope, impala, baboons, black-backed jackal and many of the park's 450 bird species, from the spectacular lilac-breasted roller to the carmine bee eater. It is a birder's delight.

We watch dung beetles rolling elephant waste, then the female opening it to lay eggs inside before it is dug into the Kalahari sand.

And then, in the hot afternoon, we ease towards a tree where a pride of two adult lions and three cubs dozes in the shade.

A little later, elephants parked under the shade of small trees. One, with three elephants hidden under it, looks rather appropriately like it has 13 trunks.

And after a day of wildlife and landscape, I sit out under Ngoma Safari Lodge's giant boab tree for dinner with manager Judy Hepburn, whose husband Pete has a long connection with Chobe National Park, which was established in 1967. The food is first-class at Ngoma and all meals and drinks are included.

But behind the comforts and professional welcome of Ngoma Safari Lodge is another story.

For, like Nams and Bevan, and Dorcas and Johane, the staff here are drawn from five villages.

The sign by the lodge's front door starts to tell the story. "Ngoma is a community-owned lodge . . . your stay at Ngoma Lodge supports local development projects and the conservation of wildlife in this area." And Judy Hepburn says of the lodge, which was joint community and privately funded and opened in 2011: "It really works. It's been successful and is a great role model for this kind of thing to carry on."

People in the villages of Mabele, Kavimba, Kachikau, Satau and Parakarungu benefit not only from employment, but from a land-lease fee and bed levy.

They joined together in the 1990s to form the Chobe Enclave, and profits are funnelled through Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust. Profits are shared equally, but not in cash - each of the villages suggests development projects to a board, and it is the approved projects that are supported. Each village is represented on the board and is involved in its management.

The original tribal people here were the San bushmen, known in Botswana as Basarwa. While they were nomadic hunter-gatherers, and their paintings remain in the park, the people of the five villages are, like most people in Botswana, involved in agriculture and, increasingly, tourism.

I leave the curtains of my great windows drawn back, and wake and sleep and enjoy the night. As the creamy, blue light of the full moon gives way to the first amber rays of sun, a new day dawns in Botswana.

FACT FILE

Bench International has itineraries throughout southern and east Africa. A stay at Ngoma Safari Lodge, and time in Chobe National Park, couples well with a stay at Victoria Falls, 135km away. Phone 1300 237 422, visit benchinternational.com.au or email info@bench international.com.au. Bench International is based at level 4, 55 York Street, Sydney.

South African Airways flies seven days a week from Perth to Johannesburg and connects to the rest of Africa. SA281 leaves Perth for Johannesburg at 11.45pm and SA280 leaves Johannesburg at 9.20pm, arriving in Perth the following day at 12.55pm. See flysaa.com and travel agents.

A life of promise in Botswana

The village of Mabele is one of the five involved in Ngoma Safari Lodge. “See this. This is Dorcas’ place,” Bevan Machira says as we pass a small house edged with a stick and brush fence. Dorcas is one of the staff at Ngoma — behind the bar, playing drums to summon everyone for dinner; one of those generally doing just about everything.

Mabele village, near Kasane in Botswana, has been here a long time. People still herd goats and cattle, and fish, but times have changed, even here. Mobile phones, of course. A store and bottle shop. A jail — well, a small room with no windows “where people are put if they are naughty”, Bevan explains. A clinic with two nurses and one ambulance. English is taught in the school, with children often walking 5km there and 5km home again.

Education is good in Botswana and Bevan, who is from one of the other five villages, says there are more Botswanan teachers and doctors — people going right through the education system and then staying to contribute to the country and its people.

While Bevan is a first-rate guide at Ngoma Safari Lodge, as we chat he reveals he is also a chef. “My chicken is marvellous,” he whispers.

He is saving his money and buying cows — they used to be cheap but now a good cow might cost $450. He already has two on a plot of land, and wants to build up a herd, and then grow green and red and yellow peppers, he says.

Ultimately he would like to start his own restaurant, and use his produce.

“It is my dream,” he says.