Chobe, or not Chobe...that is the question.

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
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Trip End Feb 13, 2011


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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Following a few days recuperation in Victoria Falls, Mark was feeling almost like his old self again as we packed up camp ready to cross another border to Botswana.

           Unfortunately Barbara (our truck) had other ideas. Our poor driver Steve had spent most of the last four days tinkering underneath her and now on our morning of departure he had to drive her for a checkup. However this delay was well received by everyone as we used the time to buy souvenirs. Throughout our entire stay at Vic Falls, any time we left the gated campsite we were immediately pounced on and followed by hawkers selling various curios for a "special price". One flamboyant character was “King George” a boy of no more than 12 or so years old who was particularly persistent with his old Zimbabwe Dollars that he was selling.

            So after a morning of haggling we set off comparing deals in the back of the truck to see who got ripped off! On to Botswana!

            That afternoon we went on a sunset cruise along the Chobe River. As par of the course in Africa we were delayed a while as our boats battery had dies and we had to wait for another boat to return so that we could use theirs. However, soon we set off at a leisurely pace for our cruise. Chobe national park is home to many animals but we were warned not to expect to see many from the outskirts where we were gliding along. So we all sat back and began soaking up the amazing scenery. However, before we'd gone more than 10 minutes or so we floated past an ENOURMOUS buffalo relaxing n the river bank. We couldn’t believe our luck and our driver switched of the boats engine and we watched the massive animal relax whilst being groomed by a few tiny white birds which perched around its nose and mouth.

            After a while we set off again where further up river another boat full of tourists was staring at a seemingly deserted river bank scattered with a few bushes here and there. Naturally we pulled up beside them and whilst trying to respect safari etiquette by being as quiet as possible we whispered over-“what are we looking at?” The reply came back “A leopard!”

            This was very confusing. Leopards are famous for being one of the hardest animals to spot- but the only tree (the type of which they are normally found lounging in) was quite bare and there was clearly no leopard in it. But we hung around and sure enough- from behind one of the small shrubs a leopard strolled out and began walking across the bank! Now our boat driver was gob smacked. Leopards are barely ever seen, he himself had only ever seen 3 in his life, let alone in daylight, let alone walking around as opposed to hiding high in the branches of a tree! We all watched in awe as the big cat casually strolled across the bank right in front of us and then disappeared into the bush.

            After that we were all on a high, but the sightings weren’t over yet. Just a little further up river we saw a huge crocodile basking in the late day sun (in fact a gazelle walked right behind it and began grazing, we spent a tense 10 minutes watching convinced that was the end of the gazelle but it eventually just ambled off and the crocodile didn’t move.) We then drifted past a family of hippos splashing around next to our boat and then past a massive herd of elephants all coming down to the water to drink. In fact, there was so much game viewing that we were running behind and we had barely turned around to begin the trip home when the setting sun began plunging behind the horizon with the alarming speed we are yet to get used to in Africa. The sunset was magnificent and we floated home on a high in darkness eager to get back and tell our tour leader (who after years of traveling Africa has yet to see a leopard) all about it!

            Needless to say he was most put out that he had missed the cruise but we were all very grateful because while we had been away he had set up the kitchen and cooked us an amazing chicken curry dinner! (It is actually our responsibly as passengers to cook dinner on the truck and we normally take it in turns within groups so this surprise was much appreciated!) We quickly set up out tents in the dark and then got stuck in. However, as we sat around under the kitchen camp lights we suddenly heard a massive crack behind the trees to our right. It happened again and again until an employee from the campsite came over and informed us that there were some elephants in the campsite! And by the sound of it they were pretty close.

            We were all a bit on edge for the rest of the night- trying to peer into the darkness beyond our camp lights, trying not to stray to far from the truck (a bit hard as the toilets were about a 200 meter dark walk beyond the truck!) Our confidence was even further shaken as our driver and tour leader suggested rearranging the tents to allow a clear passage so that if the elephants came through they were less likely to trample anyone! Throughout the night the cracking branches and shuffling sounds continued however, we had a very early wake up the next morning so as thankful as we all were to wake up alive- we were still in the dark and had a jumpy breakfast before quickly piling into the truck for our next destination!

            Our next campsite was just outside a town called Maun, and was the base camp for trips to the Okovango Delta. Most of the group went on a 2 day excursion into the delta where they road narrow canoes called mkoros and bush camped. Mark and I, along with an American couple and our Dutch lady friend, chose to stay behind and spent the next few days relaxing, visiting town to try and use the internet (wishful thinking!), eating, drinking and doing not a lot else. It was really nice, especially as we blew the cook group budget for the few days on meat for one night which we barbequed and washed down with some Amarula hot chocolate!
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