We bid farewell to tranquil Impalila Island and returned to Kasane where we met our driver for the short run to Chobe Bakwena Lodge, the nicest lodge yet but . . . I think I have said that about each one of them. All of the lodges have had their own unique character and charm but what set this one apart was the staff. So friendly, always smiling, aiming to please; with each our arrival and departure they came out to welcome us with smiles and a song or to bid us farewell – how lovely is that!
We settled into our cabin and relaxed until tea time then, our first game drive in the park about a 30-minute drive from the lodge. Chobe National Park, the first national park established in Botswana remains one of the largest with 4,500 square miles. The vast size allows for incredible diversity of terrain from floodplains and marshes to forest and mopane woodlands. More than 50,000 elephants call this park home making it one of the world’s largest populations.
The number of visitors are limited each day so at the gate the driver’s had to check in and get a permit for our chosen route, the first afternoon it was the river road. Our days followed the same pattern as the other camps, early morning drive and late afternoon drive. We retraced our steps on some days but always found a different mix of animals and each drive was rewarding. The early morning drive into the park was cold and we were all bundled up, some with hats and gloves, everyone with fleece or coats. By 8 or 9 the sun began to warm us and the layers came off.
Driving out of the forest toward the river we could see lots of animals scattered across the floodplain, hippos, Cape buffalo and farther down what looked like elephants judging from the size.
The days were hot so in late afternoon the animals move down to the water for a drink and to cool off, including large herds of elephants. On this day we caught up with the elephants just as they were crossing the water, landing right where we had parked. The herd came uncomfortably close to our vehicle, everyone still a bit on edge after our close call in the delta but they appeared quite calm and unconcerned with our presence. Our guide reassured us it would be okay but they came really close and while it was thrilling we were all still nervous to be so close to these enormous animals and their young. The smallest baby was about 2 months old with big “Mickey Mouse” ears, very cute.
Moving inland we saw a wide variety of animals and birds, the park is rich with wildlife. A leopard had been spotted in one area but we were unable to find it, not for lack of trying. Here is what we did find.
Once again, you never know what is around the next bend in the road.
We sat and watched this pride of lions until they tired of us and disappeared into the bushes. In all there were about 11, a number of juveniles still showing some of their spots.
Then there are the not so cute but ever present wart hogs, here you can see the “warts” – the males have two on each side of their face and the females one. I love watching them run with their tails straight up like antenna, sometimes the tail is the only thing you can see as they moving through the tall grass.
Let’s not forget the sundowners
The rivers were swollen with flood waters so happily we did not see as many crocodiles but they were around and once in a while we would run into one; they grow them big here, up to 19 feet long, too big for my liking!
We watched this giraffe for a very long time as he surveyed the area making looking for predators. Once he was comfortable and felt safe he bent to to drink, a very vulnerable position. He walked away from the water 3 or 4 times before finally coming back to take a drink.
Chobe was an awesome park but then I repeat myself. Our evening on the river was amazing, same animals but from a different perspective and of course sunset on the river is always a beautiful, in Africa – unbelievable!
Chobe Bakwena Lodge
Our guide and the lovely ladies of the Chobe Bakwena Lodge singing farewell as we leave this little piece of paradise and prepare to leave Africa all too soon.