Let's take a walk through a brand new day.
Part 9: African Adventure 2022
Botswana and Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park is listed in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and I certainly know why. We began our journey into Chobe NP with a cruise down the Chobe River. For me, the most exciting part of this river safari was the close proximity to the elephants. Our first sighting of the day was this giant crocodile but I’m not very fond of crocodiles so I only took one picture of him. I know he has a very important role to play in the ecosystem but for some reason crocodiles are not very appealing.
One of my favorite videos from this day is of an elephant who has eating down to an art form. He pulls the grasses up with his trunk, shakes all the dirt and yucky stuff off by slinging it back and forth and then puts only the tasty clean grass into his mouth.I loved watching him eat.
My next favorite thing was watching the elephants swim. I’ve seen them swim before but had never seen them swim underwater for such long periods of time.Technically, they could swim underwater for as long as they desire because they have their own built in snorkel.
Elephants form deep family bonds and live in herds with a matriarchal head. This means the oldest, and often largest, female in the group will lead the herd. A family usually includes the mother, her sisters, daughters and their babies. Hmmmm…..what’s missing from this family? Where is the daddy? Male elephants grow up and leave the herd. The elder bull elephants are responsible for teaching the young males. We learned that teenage males are the ones to be most wary of. We actually had to back the jeep down the roadway to get away from one young male who was strutting his stuff. The guides don’t take chances. This is one of my favorite pictures of a baby elephant.
We watched as an elephant herd crossed the river with the mother leading the way, the baby close behind and the aunts right behind the baby. Elephants cross a river in single file in order to protect the young. There is a concerted order and they all file into position. After all, those crocodiles are lurking everywhere. The videos on this blog post only show 4 or 5 elephants crossing but we witnessed an entire herd. who were all scattered out on land, methodically and slowly creating a long line as they crossed the river together. Each elephant has his position and waits until his turn to cross.
Hippos were lounging around in the water as we cruised down the Chobe River and didn’t do too much moving. They just sort of stay in one place and seem perfectly comfortable around the elephants and other animals in the water. They stand up occasionally, give a giant yawn, and then go stand in the water. We learned that if a hippo ever gets after you, head for deep water. They don’t swim but rather walk on the bottom. If you head for land, the hippo will win every time. Hippos are very territorial and take care of anything in their territory. The word I would use for hippos on the days we saw them is lazy!
Close by the hippos were the Water Buffalo. They didn’t bother even looking up at us. They just kept eating and eating and eating.
Bird sightings were a big part of the wildlife we saw. The most unusual was a rare sighting of a Goliath Heron. These are fairly rare to see on safari and one just strutted his stuff in front of us for quite a while right on the river bank. We also saw Magpie Shrike, Kori Bustard, Crowned Hornbill, African Eagle, Lilac Breasted Rollers (my favorite) and Go Away Birds (called this because that’s the call: Go Away, Go Away, Go Away).
This was a late afternoon safari drive and we ended the day with a traditional sundowner. This time our sundowner was on a boat. The boat was eased into an area where we could watch the sun set and drinks and snacks were set out for all to enjoy. Wine, Gin and Tonic, Soft drinks, fruit juices and the usual nuts, popcorn, dried fruit and biltong. We are all addicted to the dried fruit and we enjoy the dried meats as well. Everything here just seems extra healthy. No preservatives and additives in the food. The sun really showed out tonight and gave us an incredible sunset!. Then we headed back to Chobe Safari Lodge.
After a restful night of sleep we were out on safari again the next morning at 6am which is the standard time for a safari drive to begin. They are prompt with departure so being on time is a must. David and I were always early because we were eager to start the day and find out what awaited us in the savannah or river. We are SO glad that we didn’t miss today’s drive because what we saw was AMAZING!
We were driving through the savannah looking for animals and our driver, Samson, was educating us about different animals, behaviors, and habitats. All of a sudden he stops talking, puts the jeep into drive and takes off at an alarming rate of speed. We had no idea what happened but then we heard the word “leopard”. We sped through the savannah on a “Ferrari Safari’ and we had no idea what we were about to witness. But….Samson did!
Someone had radioed him in his earpiece that there was a leopard on the prowl in a certain area. With Samson’s expert driving and maneuvering we ended up with front row seats watching a leopard in hunting mode…shoulders down, body long, quiet strides, and an unwavering focus. Just watch it in the video below. What a beautiful animal and what focus he had. Samson later told us that leopards are incredible hunters because of their stealth and focus.
Down by the river were lots of monkeys doing their morning grooming. I had fun watching a little baby monkey run away from its daddy, play with the other monkeys and then run back to daddy to protect him. He would just wrap his little arms around daddy and hold on tight. You might wonder how I knew it was daddy. Well…..he showed us.
In the sand were remains of giraffes and water buffalo . I’m getting quite an education about nature. The giraffe skull you see in the picture below is a remnant of a kill from 2018. All that is left are the ossicones of the skull. The big animals eat their fill of the meat, the vultures come in and eat the remains and then the hyenas finish off the bones for the calcium. Nature works perfectly, even if it isn’t pretty, when man doesn’t interfere. The Cape Buffalo horns were very interesting to see up close.
The night ended with another beautiful sunset and we enjoyed the nightly sundowner.
We returned to the lodge at dusk and it was beautiful with the lights shining as we brought the boat to shore. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and had a southern delicacy. They spell it a little differently though. We had a good laugh and made some corny jokes about the dumblings. But, they tasted good.
After our exciting day, we couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow might hold.