Missed Part One of my little adventure in Chobe, Botswana? Catch up here before reading on: https://jainisdiaries.com/2016/01/20/chobe-part-one/
After a great start to a day in picturesque and lavishly green Chobe, I was more than excited for the next activity. Once we rested upon returning from our little shopping spree, at around 2:30PM in the afternoon, we headed down to the river jetty. We had booked an afternoon river cruise down the Chobe River, hoping to spot some elephants. I can never get enough of elephants! 😉 I had transferred to the manual wheelchair that Bushtrack Safaris had left with me.
After a few minutes of waiting in the blistering heat, a few people came to lift me down the steep stairs of the jetty and straight onto the cruise boat. It was a medium-sized boat with several lounge chairs arranged. Diva and I sat at the back near the Captain on one edge of the boat.
Once the boat filled up, we slowly left the jetty and started sailing down Chobe River at a leisurely pace. Flowing for 731 kilometers, the Chobe River rises from the Angolan highlands and then gushes down through the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari, as it winds its way to the colossal Zambezi. The Chobe, which is skirted with riverine forests, floodplains and open woodlands, forms the northern boundary of the Chobe National Park and also an integral part of Botswana’s border with Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. Of course, the three-hour river cruise only accessed a few kilometers of the riverfront, but the rewards were huge. The Chobe River is the scene for some of the best game viewing in southern Africa, so I have been told, and as this post proves it’s a haven for elephants.We slowly left the jetty and started sailing down the river at a laidback pace. We had left from the Botswana side and right on the opposite side was Namibia. The boat guide immediately started spotting various birds, including the African fish eagles among others. We then started cruising around the Sedudu Island (known as Kasikili Island in Namibia), a green, grassy island approximately five square kilometers that both Namibia and Botswana famously fought over. The case even went to the ICC at The Hague in Netherlands. Today, the island is officially in Botswana.As we cruised down the river, we saw many, many hippos chomping away on the abundance of plants on the green island, while others swam in the shallow ends. More than I had ever seen in my entire existence. We also spotted some aquatic, swamp antelopes and several crocodiles on the island. The island was free of predators and so it is a preferred safe haven for the swamp antelopes (sitatunga or marsh buck) from October to March, when the island is still not immersed by the annual floods.Still mesmerized by the sheer huge size of the hippos, I suddenly noticed that the scorching hot sun suddenly disappeared and the rain-pregnant clouds took cover of the sky as it started drizzling.The river cruise is touted to be the ideal way to see elephants by the riverfront. Even the guides from the early morning game drive had guaranteed me that we would see some elephants on the river cruise. Having seen none for more than one hour, I was growing impatient and couldn’t resist asking the guide if and when we would spot some of my favorite mammals. He blatantly told me that we would probably see none as the rains meant that the elephants had no reason to cool off in the river as the blazing heat had temporarily disappeared.The sky soon cleared up and as the sun shone again, we spotted three elephants in the distance. The guide, however, was busy with his bird-watching, that only a few people were really interested in. Thinking we would miss the much-awaited elephants, we asked the Captain to take us to see the elephants. We arrived just in time to see them drinking a few sips of water and rubbing dust onto their skin.Far off in the distance, while we were watching this family of three (a mother and her two young ones), we caught sight of a herd of what seemed to be twenty elephants walking along the length of the river. We then raced there to find other cruise boats at the same location.Excuse the cliché, but it was a sight to behold – about thirty-five elephants (two to three herds). While some frolicked in the cool waters, others played in the mud as they bathed themselves. It was exactly what I had in mind when I had decided to go for the river cruise. Honestly, it was the highlight of my trip.
After getting our fill of viewing this fantastic spectacle, we turned back and headed back to the lodge.
Since the pictures only show you a tiny snippet of the Chobe River cruise, here’s a little video for you!
While we only did the sunset river cruise and the game drives, there are wide range of activities that one can indulge in Chobe, ranging from fishing and visiting villages in Namibia to day trips to the nearby Victoria Falls and Okavango delta (by flying) to photographic and dinner river cruises on the Chobe River to an excursion to the local snake park in Kasane.
Back at the lodge, exhausted, we all took a short nap before heading down for dinner. It was Christmas Eve, so each place setting had a festive cracker containing a small toy (as per tradition) and a paper crown. We wore the paper crowns and ate as we relived the long, but exhilarating day. After dinner, there was only one place that I could think of being at, and that was my comfy bed, where a small chocolate square lay waiting on the pillow. My day just got better and better!
A good night’s sleep later, the next day we woke up at 5:30AM, and headed for another early morning game drive. This time, we asked the driver to take us on the Upper Route. As I mentioned earlier, the park’s riverfront area is divided into three, one-way routes where only 25 cars are allotted per route at one time.
The route starts from the Sedudu gate and then runs through a Zambezi teak woodland. The whole route consisted of the forest full of fresh, green trees growing up to 50 feet in height and the ground consisted of iron-red Kalahari sand (due to the excess iron oxide in the sand) that runs up to 200 feet into the ground, not the usual soil or slit as one would expect. This habitat is ideal for the teak trees to grow with its excellent growing conditions for the deep-rooting trees.As we drove through this forested area, I realized that never before had I seen such a habitat because it doesn’t exist in Kenya. Soon we spotted a few impalas and then a herd of elephants that crossed the road ahead of us. As they crossed over, they fed on the tree leaves, when one of the female matriarchs trumpeted at us, warning us to leave them alone. Another first! Never had I seen another elephant trumpet at us in the wild.
We then kept driving on but we just passed by the teak trees, seeing the occasional African fish eagle. I started questioning if it was really worth sacrificing my sleep if we weren’t going to see any game.
The best time to visit Botswana for ideal game viewing is during the dry winter months of May to October. However, I visited in December, where the rains had already started meaning plenty of greenery alongside an abundance of newborn animals.
Fighting the urge to sleep, as we turned a corner, I spotted a pride of lions lounging, under the shade, as the sun was shining brightly. The guide told us that since the park was so lush and green, it was rare to see lions as many had gone deeper into the park, and in fact, they hadn’t spotted lions for a long while. We watched them in awe for several minutes.
Then we drove ahead towards the borehole – an artificial waterhole for the animals – dug to help them survive the dry weather, to see if they were any around there. The guide told us that a month ago, he found a pride feasting on a baby elephant that they had killed.
We didn’t find anything there so as we returned to the pride we had seen earlier, we saw another pride in the distance, hidden in the bush. Once we reached the lion pride, several cars came up to view them. Since many cars were not allowed to crowd around the lions to avoid overwhelming them, so we drove away.
While we were approaching a designated “Stretch Point”, the guide pointed out that all the cars in the Chobe riverfront area had come to see this rare sight of lions. Spotting the pride of lions had definitely made my Christmas!
At the “Stretch Point”, where we were served tea, coffee, and rusks, we marveled at what an exciting game drive it turned out to be, despite the boring start.
Whilst returning back to the lodge, we spotted a few more elephants down by the river.
Once we got back to the lodge, we had breakfast, got ready and quickly packed up. We left the lodge at 11AM.
Driving through Kasane on the bus provided by Bushtrack Safaris, the bus driver pointed out this absolutely immense baobab tree behind the police station, with a hollow hole big enough for humans to enter. It was once used as a prison by colonial administrators; it was full of mosquitoes. I’d definitely want to avoid that tree as much as I can!
DID YOU KNOW?
Botswana (where almost everyone speaks English) is the world’s third-biggest diamond producer, behind Russia and Canada.
We reached Kazungula (Botswana) and went through customs, and then traversed the Zambezi River by boat to Kazungula, Zambia. We bought this beautiful, Teak wood carved elephant from one of the vendors at the border.
After going through immigration customs in Zambia, we embarked on the one-hour journey to Livingstone, on which we all snoozed, weary from the day’s early start.
Photos for this blog post are provided by Diva and Hitesh Shah. Special thanks to Mikhil Shah for assisting in video production.