Chobe National Park, Botswana

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!

Chobe Bakwena Lodge

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.

River Road

The River Road

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.

Baby Hippo

Baby Hippo

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.

P1070022

P1070062

Cape Buffalo

Leaving the river

Leaving the river

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.

Impala

P1070465

Waterbuck

Vervet Monkeys

Juvenile Baboon

Once again, you never know what is around the next bend in the road.

P1070165

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.

P1070382

Let’s not forget the sundowners

P1070157

Sundowner

P1070623

Bee Eater

Bee Eater

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

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!

P1070456

P1080055

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.P1080060

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!

P1080123

Chobe Bakwena Lodge

P1060827

Communal Area

IMG_7928

Dining Room

Pool

Pool

Our beautiful cabin

Our beautiful cabin

Outdoor shower, there was also an indoor shower

Outdoor shower, there was also an indoor shower

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.

http://www.chobebakwena.com

https://goo.gl/maps/GIxD6

Advertisements

Okavango Delta, Botswana

From Johannesburg we fly to Maun in northern Botswana and board a private flight to the Okavango Delta where we transfer from the airstrip to the camp arriving in the afternoon in time for our first of many game viewing drives.

Kana Kara Tented Camp

The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland deltas covering 5,700 square miles and home to a rich assortment of species and terrains and where we will camp for the next 4 days.

Our days will be devoted to an in-depth exploration of the delta.  Each year nearly 3 trillion gallons of water pour into the delta, and none of it flows out again into rivers.  With less than 6 feet of height variation across its thousands of square miles the delta holds the water like a vast pool in season. That huge volume is all simply evaporated or absorbed by the thirsty earth.  Yet, there are also times when the parts of the delta become arid plains where moisture is scarce.  That’s because it is nestled in the Kalahari Desert, and its seasons fluctuate wildly from heavy rains in the African summer that causes flooding, to the hot spring seasons that parch the land. Visitors seeking the rain-fed foliage join resident species, which thrive here year-round.

The rhythm of our days follow the pattern of a morning game viewing, followed by a return to camp for lunch and following afternoon tea, we’ll depart on our next game-viewing excursion or bush walk, returning to the camp for sundown and dinner.

Leopard suffocating an impala

Leopard suffocating an impala

Zebra

Zebra

Hippos

Hippos

Giraffe

Giraffe

Ostrich

Ostrich

Wart Hogs

Wart Hogs

All of our encounters with the animals were up close and peaceful, they allowed us to just sit and watch them without regard until we rounded a corner and came upon a herd of elephants with babies.  The matriarch soon showed her displeasure by flapping her ears and trumpeting; their usual habit is to fake charge when they are upset.  This lady, however, was in no mood for fake anything, she charged us, chasing us for what seemed like an eternity, getting very close to the jeep.  Our driver yelled “HOLD ON” and he drove as fast as he could through the bush, zigzagging, taking narrow cuts through trees, anything to throw her off but she just kept coming.  Finally, we thought we lost her and he slowed down a bit and took inventory to see if everyone was okay only to have her come charging out of the bush a few minutes later.  We were all quite rattled by the experience but did manage to get away . . . lesson learned!

Angry Elephant

Angry Elephant

Not to far from the “elephant incident” our jeep became mired in mud – totally stuck – even the jack sank.  This was not a good day and we were all still rattled by the encounter with the elephant, wondering if she might come charging out of the bush again but we waited quietly near the jeep while OC and Mr. T. tried to free the wheel, it didn’t look good.

Now, if this had been a movie what happened next would be so unbelievable –  I certainly wouldn’t have believed it – a tractor appeared out of seemingly nowhere and rescued us.  Mind you, we had not seen any people in two days other than our own group and camp staff and now, here comes a tractor.  He had been sent out by one of the other camps in the delta to find someone who was missing and just happened to see us.  No questions asked, he easily pulled us free to our great joy and we returned to camp with stories to tell . . . open bar tonight.

The delta is home to a stunning variety of birds, a total of 400 species that live here year-round, here a small sampling.

Malachite Kingfisher

Woodland Kingfisher

Grey Lourie

Grey Lourie “go away” bird

Saddle-billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork

Coppery Tailed Coucal

Coppery Tailed Coucal

Gray Heron

Gray Heron

Our days in the delta were full of discovery, hippos would serenade us at night while spending their days submerged in the delta waters; herds of kudu, impala and elephants grazed on the grasses.  The leopard sighting was the most amazing, seeing her kill and then drag the impala to safe ground.  We returned each day to see her and found on the second day that she a cub who scurried into the bush as we neared so we only caught a quick glimpse but what a beautiful animal, I could sit and watch her all day long.

One afternoon we explored by canoe and then a bush walk to a nearby island.  The waters are glass-like, filled with water lilies and birds nest on the reeds.  It is a lovely way to travel through the delta.

IMG_7738

IMG_7727

Tea Time

Tea Time

P1040245

Sunset return to camp

Sunset return to camp

Remember the elephant incident . . . at the airstrip we met a family who also encountered the angry mamma but were not as lucky as we were, she made contact with their vehicle and while everyone was okay she made quite an impression.

Point of contact

Point of contact

Kana Kara Tented Camp

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx3W6I2GNMRhcHUwTU1RYXpsZlU/view?usp=sharing

https://goo.gl/maps/If2Gf