May 13 – 15, 2018
Chobe National Park, Botswana
|Spoonbills by the Chobe River|
I had assumed, because I’d heard so much
about it, that the Okavango Delta would be my favorite stop of our second
It WAS wonderful, but I
think Chobe National Park in northern Botswana ended up at the top of my
personal best list for this trip.
that the location of our thatched cabin had a lot to do with this.
We sat perched on a hillside overlooking a
canyon that created a natural pathway for a parade of various animals walking
to the Chobe River below and to our right, and from our little deck, we could easily
watch the changing show.
|Rob in front of our "treetop" cabin.|
|We actually never had trouble with mosquitoes on this trip, but it was comforting to have the netting.|
|View of the Chobe River from our cabin.|
|The canyon below was a natural pathway for a variety of animals to travel to the river.|
|Roxanne and Joan take in the view below.|
|Can you spot the kudus in the canyon?|
|Here they are!|
|Water bucks below our cabin.|
But let's back up a bit. Our arrival in Chobe took place after a
long morning of travel. Three small
planes picked us up at the tiny Kafue airstrip early in the morning and flew us
to Livingstone, Zambia where we boarded a bus for the journey.
|Leaving Kafue Park|
Before leaving Livingstone, we visited Dambwa Market, an authentic local market - dirt streets of stalls filled with produce, home goods, dried fish, and pottery. Our tour group looked a little out of place in this neighborhood marketplace, but we were welcomed warmly by the young woman selling the brightly decorated chitenges - the long skirts worn by almost all of the Zambian women. Several of our group, myself included, purchased as least one of these multi-use garments.
|Chitenge staff at Dambwa Market|
|Sue considers a chitenge pattern|
|I liked this one.|
|Household goods at Dambwa Market|
|Lou and Rob explore the market.|
|Some of our group members in the marketplace|
|Chitenges are used as baby slings as well as for skirts.|
After the market visit, we continued on to a crowded wharf on the Zambezi River. Like the four states at Four Corners in the
American southwest, this was a spot where four countries meet. We stood in Zambia. Zimbabwe and Botswana were across the river,
and Namibia lay to our right.
Finally, our transport paperwork was finished and
we boarded the boat that carried us across the river to the visa office in
Botswana. A final bus ride took us to the
Baobab Lodge where we were once again warmly greeted by the staff and shown to
our hilltop cabins.
|The staff of Baobab Lodge welcomes our group with song.|
|Charles and our Lodge manager hand out the room keys.|
Once we were all
checked in to our rooms, we boarded our Land Rovers with our new drivers, Moses
and Six, for an evening game drive along the banks of the Chobe River. Chobe National Park is a lovely spot of
forested hills filled with blossoming teak trees and dotted with baobab
trees. As you approach the Chobe River
below, the trees thin out into more open hills and plains. The riverbanks are filled with wildlife: families of elephants drinking and bathing in
the cool water, hippos bubbling in the grassy pools, crocodiles lounging in the
shallows, and a profusion of water fowl and other birds.
|Entrance to Chobe National Park|
|A collection of horns and antlers at the entrance to Chobe National Park|
|Half of our group in their Land Rover|
|The forest roads were a deep, fine, red sand|
|Blossoming teak tree|
|An animal trail through the teak tree forest|
|Baobab trees of varying sizes and shapes dotted the Chobe landscape|
|This large baobab still had all of its leaves.|
|Many of the baobab trees showed damage from elephants.|
|The forest thinned as we reached the Chobe River|
Our days were filled with the usual
rhythm of the African safari. Up early
for breakfast and a game drive in the cool of the morning, lunch and a long
rest back in the camp, then a late afternoon drive until sunset. But in spite of the regular schedule of each
day, there was no boredom because our days were always filled with such
glorious sights. Giraffes,
Cape buffalo, wart hogs, black-backed jackals and spotted hyenas, and herds of antelopes: the ever-present impalas,
kudus, red lechwe, and water bucks dotted the hillsides of the park. It is hard to describe the joy of seeing so many animals thriving in their natural environment.
|Red-billed ox peckers keep the giraffe free from pests.|
|A "tower" of giraffes.|
|A lone cape buffalo stays cool...and safe from predators.|
|Cape buffalo enjoys some river grasses|
|Cape buffalo and red-billed ox pecker|
|A "gang"of cape buffalo in the shade|
|The local people say that wart hogs "pray" when they eat.|
|A "sound" of wart hogs graze by the Chobe River.. (I love learning the group names.)|
|A warthog has a face only a mother could love - but to me, there is something appealing about them.|
|A pack of spotted hyenas|
We encountered the lovely, graceful impalas everywhere in the park, sometimes alone or in small groups of males, the "losers" in the battle for a harem, but more often in herds.
|These two young males had a little battle right in front of us.|
|Herds of impalas dotted the hillsides...|
|...and the plains along the river.|
|The herd keeps an eye on a wandering warthog|
|We frequently encountered the impalas on the road.|
|A male and his harem|
|Impalas by the river|
|This ox pecker actually stuck his head in the impala's ear to find ear ticks.|
The kudus also ranged throughout the park, although not in such great numbers.
|A large male kudu has impressive spiral horns|
|Mother and calf kudu|
|A twist of kudus|
The red lechwe is a semi-aquatic antelope that often swims out to the islands in the river for safety.
|Herd of red lechwe|
We could identify the water bucks by the "target" on their backside.
The large mammals were the most obvious residents of the area, but there were other little gems hidden in the park.
|Water Monitor Lizard on the riverbank|
|A Chobe dragonfly|
|This African tree squirrel poked his head out of the tree just in time for me to snap his photo.|
Chobe is also known for one of the highest concentrations of elephants in Africa, with a population of up to 50,000. We saw them frequently, especially along the riverbank where they enjoyed drinking, bathing, even swimming!
|Elephants in the forest|
|This elephant just enjoyed a mud bath|
|Moses shows us an elephant skull by the side of the road. |
Elephants grind their way through several sets of molars in a lifetime.
|The honeycomb structure of an elephant skull helps reduce the weight of their great head.|
|Our group arrived at this spot just in time to see a parade of elephants heading to the river.|
|Drinking in the river|
|Enjoying an evening dip|
|We learned that elephants are good swimmers.|
And, of course, there were the birds –
nesting eagles and vultures, lots of my favorite little lilac breasted rollers,
a rare sighting of the secretary bird, and a large variety of the shore birds
that live along the banks of the river – ibis, egrets, herons, plovers, spoonbills, and
more. We saw only a fraction of the more than 450 species of birds found in Chobe.
|Nesting fish eagles|
|What a handsome pair!|
|Unidentified. This might be a juvenile tawny eagle|
|Unidentified - I think it is a juvenile African fish eagle|
|Nesting white-backed vultures|
|Short Tailed Eagle opens his wings for warmth and to get rid of parasites.|
|The double banded sand grouse is well camouflaged.|
|Green wood hoopoe|
|Cape Turtle Dove|
|Red-billed Ox Peckers|
|A "confusion" of guinea fowl (the best group name yet!)|
|Lilac breasted roller|
|Little Bee Eater|
|Yellow bellied greenbul|
|Juvenile yellow billed stork|
On the second full day of our stay, some
of our group took a hike down to the bridge that crosses the Chobe River and
connects Botswana to Namibia. It was a hot afternoon, so Rob and I chose to stay and rest. But two of the most memorable animal
encounters took place right back in our camp!
During our siesta time on the first full day, a herd of elephants
clustered around the large conical termite mount just below our cabin. One of the elephants had pulled a water pipe
and hose right out of the ground and poured the water flowing out of the
pipe directly into his mouth. It was
fascinating…but also a bit of a problem, as this was the camp’s water
supply. After about 10 minutes, camp staff in two vehicles approached the herd cautiously. The elephants were quite happy with their
discovery and were reluctant to leave.
It was unsafe for the staff to get out of the vehicles while the
elephants were circling, so one of the vehicles revved up its motor and moved
in, succeeding in scattering the herd so the staff in the other vehicle could
repair the damage. The frustrated
elephants watched from the upper hillside, but finally moved on toward the
|This clever elephant discovers he can get a nice cool drink from this handy hose.|
|The herd starts to gather around|
|Lining up for a drink.|
|Here comes the camp staff to spoil their fun.|
|The elephants scatter while the staff repairs the damage.|
|Well, if I can't get a drink from the hose, there's always Mom!|
|The elephant family finally gives up and heads to the river instead.|
The next afternoon brought more laughter when
a large boisterous family of baboons moved in and entertained us for a good
long time. Some of the elders sat alone surveying the scene, while others clustered in pairs or small groups to groom
one another, carefully parting hair and removing any pesky parasites hiding
inside. Children scampered rapidly
around the canyon floor, wrestling, leaping up into the trees. Tiny baboon babies clung to their mothers,
sometimes timidly venturing out to see what their older brothers and sisters
|Susan and Lou watch the baboons from our Lodge balcony above the canyon.|
This stay also included our introduction
to the history of Botswana and the local culture. On one afternoon, two women
from nearby Mabele village brought some of their beautiful woven baskets and
jewelry and demonstrated the intricate weaving techniques and the natural dyes
The next afternoon, we learned more
about the history and government of Botswana - which, by the way, should be pronounced with a long O (Boat-swana). Our guide, Six, told us
that the country is in the top 10% of African developing nations, with income
coming primarily from diamonds, tourism, and beef. Once known as the British protectorate of
Bechuanaland, Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966, but
had a more peaceful transition that its neighbors. Six showed us the nation’s flag, explaining
that the large black stripe represented the 97% of the population that is black,
but the narrow white stripes recognize the 3% of the citizens who are white. The country is not without its problems. Unemployment is still high, and there are
whispers of corruption in under the last president, but Botswana does appear to
be more stable than the other countries we visited on this trip.
All three of our evenings in Chobe ended
with gorgeous sunsets…fitting ends to such special days!
|Elephants by the Chobe River|
|Sundowners on Evening Two|
|The view over the river as we returned to camp.|
And, as in each of the camps, our last evening included a special time of sharing dancing and singing with the camp staff.
|This was a special celebration, as it was also Elizabeth's birthday!|
|The gorgeous and unforgettable view from our cabin on our last evening in Chobe National Park.|