Being on Safari is hard work! Since I arrived here yesterday, I’ve hardly time to scratch myself. I’m staying at Chobe National Park Game Lodge which is a very nice resort in the Chobe National Park in Botswana. This lodge was featured on the TV program ‘Getaway’ recently.
I, and a very nice Italian couple (Frederico and Canella) from Rome, were picked up from our hotel at Victoria Falls late yesterday morning and driven for about an hour to the border between Zimbabwe and Botsawana. At a very typical third-world border post, we cleared immigration / customs, walked through the boom gate with our baggage and then picked up our ride in safari vehicles to the national park. We arrived here just in time for a late lunch and from then, our activity has been non-stop.
The lodge is offering us a very active program of activities. It began with a sunset cruise along the Chobe River (a tributary to the Zambesi). The first thing we saw was a large family of elephants drinking at the river. This park is renowned for its elephants; 50,0000 of them in total. There is a lot of bird life and we also saw hippos, which are the most dangerous of all African animals, killing over 1500 people each year. We sat out in the middle of the river in our boat with a glass of wine as the sun set and then it was back to the lodge for dinner.
The food at the lodge (here, in the middle of nowhere) is as good as anywhere that you can imagine. The only thing that is a bit unusual is a family of mongoose that appear almost anywhere and a couple of warthogs that keep the grass from getting very long. The perimeter is marked by a rugged looking electric fence that is designed to keep the elephants out. Everything is included in the price except for premium drinks and internet access. I’m currently making use of the free laundry service!
This morning, we were up at 5.30 am for coffee and a muffin before leaving for a game drive at 6.00. It was much cooler than I had expiated as we headed out over the very dry and barren landscape that clearly shows that it is late in the dry season. There is very little grass and the trees have lost most of their leaves. I’m glad that I have my warm fleece jacket with me.
The roads here are just sandy wheel ruts, but are obviously well used as every intersection has a sign post to some where. We travelled them relatively easily in our four wheel drive safari vehicles with three tiered rows of seats. Along the way we saw a large group of baboons, which our guide in Vietnam would have referred to as ‘very smelling’. Obviously the impala (antelope) are a dime a dozen as we drove straight through several herds without stopping for a photo. Eventually we made a stop and noticed that their hind markings look like a large ‘M’ shape. That’s why they are known locally as the ‘McDonalds’ of the bush.
The four vehicles from our lodge all kept in contact by two way radio and at one stage our driver tok off at a great rate of knots telling us that a lion had been spotted. There are very fews of these animals in this area, hence the large herds of Impala. After a few bends and lot of swerves to miss rough sections of the road, there they were – a young male and a female string quietly in the middle of the road, surrounded by a ring of about ten safari vehicles.
There was a lot of camera clicking as both the lions sat nonchalantly looking at us with as much interest as we had in looking at them. On the way back to our lodge, we came across a large herd of buffalo (one of which had just lost a fight), one solitary Kudu, a few giraffe, elephant and lots more Impala.
After morning tea, we were off again on another river cruise. we saw more birdlife this time, in the missile of the day, than we saw on the previous evening. There were a lot of crocodiles – one was enormous at about 5 metres long, but he slid back into the water before our boat was able to get very close. There were a few hippos in this section of the river and, again, a lot of elephants. They seem to have the same photographic qualities as do icebergs in Antarctica; there is always a need for another photo of the same thing from another angle!