Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Botswana, River Safari Chobe National Park


My first safari in Africa begins along the Zambezi river in Botswana. Our tour starts around 10am in a ten passenger flat bottom boat that has a canopy cover to protect us from the already scorching sun. We are told Botswana is one of the hottest countries in Africa and for now I do not disagree.



IMG_4433Leaving the dock area, we pause for a short safety briefing under the silence of the now tranquil river.

I am fixated by the natural beauty of the area and cannot believe I am not on a Hollywood Studio movie set.




An approaching buzzing sound brings me back to reality as a low flying helicopter passes overhead.

Continuing down the river, we approach Sedudu Island a once disputed territory between the countries of Botswana and Namibia. Botswana won the legal battle in The World Court and is proud of it's ownership of this flat mash island covered in grass.




IMG_4434Sedudu Island


Sedudu is where many of the animals find their way for feeding because of it's rich resources.



IMG_4437A pair of eyes stares at us from just above the surface of the water and a warning grunt is heard as we approach a pair of hippo's.

You know what they say about a hippo with a big head, a big body that can be dangerous.



In fact, of all the animals in the wild, hippo's kill more humans. We keep our distance.



IMG_4444To our right a trashing sound that produces small white caps draws our attention to the nearby shoreline of Sedudu Island.  It's a huge crocodile feeding on a dead fish.

Again, no need for us to get any closer than necessary.  


My first animal thought when thinking about a safari is usually about one of the Big 5. However, there is also a group around here know as the Ugly 5. We spot one of them, a warthog grazing along the main shoreline. Having  watched The Lion King a few times, I am glad we keep upwind of it. I must say “Pumbaa” is a lot cuter than most of his other relatives.



IMG_4440Snake Bird


On the other hand, Zazu could be proud of his family members here although a few of them like the “Snake Bird” are a little weird.

Cut, Cut, Cut! African Safari, River Scene, Take Two. Quiet, Lights, Action, Camera. But wait, I don,t see Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton around. Where are the lights, the cameras, the actors and actress?



IMG_4490All I see are a pair of crocodiles cooling off under the shade of a huge tree as baboons freely pass by.







IMG_4482A few baby baboons hold on for dear life to the belly of their mothers while others get to ride on the backs of their parents like miniature jockeys.






IMG_4488Ronald McDonald Impalas



McDonald's Impalas graze on a patch of grass as there slender bodies shine under the morning sun. No tummy tucks, liposuction or airbrush tricks. This is pure nature at it’s best. Look at the black arches on their rear end and you'll see why they have earned the local name.




IMG_4493Back across the Zambezi river towards Sedudu Island, we land near a herd of Cape Buffalo’s that our oblivious to our presence. I not sure that they are even aware of their white feathered stalkers or bothered by the hundreds of flies around them. I know I would be!



Many of the animals spend a lot of time on Sedudu Island including birds and monitor lizards. Looking in the distance from the island, groups of one of the Big 5 can be seen. No doubt we will have a closer look at the species that produces the largest mammals on land.



IMG_4518In the wild some animals are shy (like me) and hide themselves very well.

We are fortunate to find one of them alone in the open. A black antelope!




For some of the animals here it is difficult to estimate their population. For others, like the elephant it is estimated that Chobe has over 100,000 of them, the largest population in Africa.

Although they are cute and cuddly, the elephants here are destructive to the environment. There is a heated debate about a solution to this problem. From allowing hunting of them to relocation and birth control pills for the females, it's a situation that has defenders on all sides of the issue.



IMG_4546For now, I cannot help but be in awe of them as I watch a herd stand around in a muddy pool of water.

The babies and youthful ones really seem to enjoy it while others seem to question why they are standing there.





IMG_4547One of them has his trunk lopsided over a tusk and we are told this is a sign of stress or anxiety. I hope he is just trying out a new trunk trick. As close as we are to the herd, I would hate for him to freak out and to “go elephantal” on us.






IMG_4540African Elephant



Our tour continues around the other side of Sedudu Island where we are just a few hundred yards from the shores of Namibia. A pod of hippo's are floating nearby and we cruise pass them headed for our afternoon lunch break.

To all of our surprise, lunch is at Chobe Safari Lodge an upscale hotel on the Zambezi River. The avocado salad along with the lettuce and ham salad is delicious.



IMG_4566Oh, did I mention desert?








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