Botswana: Chobe on Wheels

Botswana was the best country of the nine we visited for game viewing along the roads. As soon as we crossed the border into Botswana we started to see elephants everywhere, a few giraffes too. They were scattered along the sides of the highway, causing traffic to slow down and often come to a stop when the large mammals decided to cross the road. As most traffic kept puttering along, not phased by the elephant sightings which occur regularly for them, we stopped to take photos. The giants came right up to the edge of the highway, where we were parked. Our first close up encounter.

We arrived in Kasane, where we would be camping for the next two nights, in time to get a few groceries and exchange our left over South African Rand into Botswanan Pula. We all signed up for an early morning game drive and the evening sunset cruise before heading to set up our tents. We drifted off to sleep that night to the deep sounds of the hippos grunting down by the river.

The grunts and groans coming from our tents the next morning sounded much like the hippos in the river. No one was wide eyed for our 5 AM wake-up call but we dragged ourselves out of bed and packed our bags full of water, snacks, and spare camera batteries then headed to the parking lot where our jeep was waiting to take us through the gates of Chobe National Park.

The first half hour of our game drive we didn’t stop for long to look at much, “We have to hurry if we want to see the lions.” Our guide kept saying. We, who had only seen the paw of a lion in the far off distance at Addo Elephant Park, didn’t argue.
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We made short stops for photos of a group of impalas, an eagle in a tree, the hippos on the bank, then, of in the distance, there were lions. They were just tiny flecks at first. I zoomed my camera all the way in to get a better look.
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As we sat and watched, the lions walked closer.

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And closer.
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And closer.

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It was a pride of eleven, females and young. They had just been to the river for their morning drink and were headed back into the brush, walking directly towards us.
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My heart started racing as they got too close for my zoom lense. They were beautiful, and I’m not even a cat person. The lions walked within mere feet of our jeep, giving us no more than the odd glance as they strode off into the trees and out of sight.
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Or driver hit the gas and zipped away from the shoreline, hoping to cross paths with the lions again. He found them easily and we got our second dose of lion induced adrenalin. Enough to hold us over for a little while. When the lions disappeared again we left them in peace and headed off to see what else we could see.

We spent the rest of the morning oohing and aahing over giraffes and baboons, more impala, and even a couple dung beetles rolling away with their ball of dung. We spotted vultures in a tree, then not much further along vultures on an elephant carcass. We saw no other elephants that morning but we made kept our hopes high for the evening cruise we were to go on. We all still had jitters as we drove back to camp, excited to tell our trip guides what we had seen on our drive.

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